In the history of sports, only a handful of events stand out as some of the best.
Dale Earnhardt’s victory in the 1998 Daytona 500, the New Orleans Saints‘ Super Bowl XLIV triumph, and the USA’s upset of the Soviet hockey team in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid come to mind.
But looking back at those underdog stories, or those feel-good stories, none of them measure up to 20-year old Trevor Bayne’s win in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 today.
When you think about all the events in sports history to come up with the best, you have to look at three very important factors: Popularity, surprise, and excitement. When it comes to some of the greatest stories, most of the greatest events don’t have all three of those factors.
Earnhardt’s win in the 1998 Daytona 500 was special to so many people. After the race, every member of every crew was down on pit road congratulating Earnhardt as he drove past. That win was the last thing he needed to accomplish to say that he had truly done it all in NASCAR.
But Earnhardt had his haters, and lots of them. His aggressive style on-track turned many fans against him, and there were a lot of people who probably weren’t as ecstatic to see him get that trophy. On top of that, it wasn’t much of a surprise. For Earnhardt, in top-notch equipment and so much already accomplished, it was only a matter of time before he won the 500.
The Saints’ story is a little different. When the Saints won the Super Bowl, many people outside the city of New Orleans felt good for those who had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina just over four years prior. For the first time, one victory brought an entire city closer together and gave them something to cheer about.
But even though the people outside New Orleans felt good about the Saints’ win, it wasn’t one of those moments where everybody was on their feet cheering for them. It was surprising, and it was popular, but for those outside New Orleans, there really wasn’t much at stake.
The closest thing I can compare to Bayne’s win is the USA hockey team’s triumph over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympic Games. It was a truly special moment, especially to any American who was around to see it.
But another thing we have to take into account is, was everybody happy to see it? The answer, seeing as there are many countries who, for some reason or another, don’t like us, is no. Even though we were going crazy, across the pond there were many people in many different countries, particularly Russia, who were throwing up.
Trevor Bayne is the true Cinderella story. He came from seemingly nowhere, except to those who watched him race in the Nationwide Series. He was driving for a team with so much history, yet so little funding.
In this day and age, where a sport like NASCAR is dominated by one over-funded super-team, and in a country where the little guy seems to constantly get kicked around by corporate America these days, watching a guy like Trevor Bayne win the biggest race of them all while driving for the little guy on NASCAR’s grandest stage gives us all hope.
It shows us that not only can we accomplish anything we set out to accomplish, but if we work hard enough we can do so under any circumstances.
And if there’s anything else that can be learned from 20-year old Trevor Bayne, it’s that with God’s help, and with a little faith, we truly can do anything. Impossible is nothing. Nothing is impossible.
Trevor Bayne’s win in the Daytona 500 told us all a story so great, it simply cannot be put into words. It taught us so much, and it contained all of the factors I mentioned above, and then some. It was popular, it was surprising, it was exciting.
And it had a moral.
Trevor Bayne has no haters. He had little funding. He had no wins of any kind in NASCAR. Now, he has two very special things: A Daytona 500 win, and a story.
There’s something to be learned from Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win, and there was something in that win for all of us.
In my opinion, that makes Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win the greatest sports victory ever.