Baseball is "America's Pastime," and the Cubs 2016 World Series win was epic. The New England Patriots rallied to win the Super Bowl on what has become an unofficial American holiday. Sunday's crash-filled Daytona 500's last-lap lead change defines what America is all about for some folks.
But this year's 89th Academy Awards, which also had a crash-marred finale, gave us the quintessential American experience.
While "Hollywood" has become code in some quarters for spoiled, clueless, rich, white, weird, godless and narcissistic, Sunday's Oscars show gave us every ingredient it takes to serve up a slice of Americana. Like our nation, it was far from perfect but gave us dashes of gratitude, grace, humility and hope.
The characters couldn't have been more representative of America if they had been picked by Lynn Stalmaster, the 89-year-old white guy who grew up in Nebraska, made a career as a casting director and won an honorary Oscar in a group that included Jackie Chan, a 62-year-old martial arts actor and comedian from Hong Kong; Anne V. Coates, a 91-year-old British-born film editor; and documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, 87, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Russia.
What other venue gives shoutouts to a 98-year-old black woman (Katherine Johnson, the former NASA mathematician whose work inspired the movie "Hidden Figures") and an 8-year-old boy (actor Sunny Pawar from the film "Lion") from India?
When "O.J.: Made in America" won the Oscar for Best Documentary, director Ezra Edelman, 42, didn't pat himself on the back. "I want to acknowledge that I wouldn't be standing here tonight if not for two people who aren't here with us: Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown," Edelman said, honoring the former Buffalo Grove resident and O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, whose savage murders led to that sensational arrest and trial.
One of the largest ovations went to presenter Michael J. Fox, 55, the Canadian-born star of the "Back to the Future" movies, whose Parkinson's disease has transformed him into an advocate for people with disabilities.
When Mahershala Ali, 43, won Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Moonlight," he didn't brag about being the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar. "I want to thank my teachers, my professors," said Ali, who graduated from St. Mary's College of California and is the son of a Christian minister.
A dropout of Catholic high school, Emma Stone, 28, won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in "La La Land" and praised other actresses, thanked her family, friends, co-workers and others before noting, "I still have a lot of growing and learning and work to do."
Winner of the Best Actor Oscar for his work in "Manchester by the Sea," white actor Casey Affleck, 41, the son of a teacher and a handyman, also praised other actors and let loose with emotional thank-yous for his family and friends. So did Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis, 51, who grew up poor in Rhode Island. "Thank you for putting two entities in the driving seat: August and God," the teary black actress said to director and co-star Denzel Washington for reaching out to the Almighty and to playwright August Wilson, who wrote the play that was made into the movie "Fences."
Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, 44, skipped the ceremony "out of respect" for those affected by the president's immigration crackdown, according to a statement read by Iranian-American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space.
Perhaps the most American moment came when Warren Beatty, 79, and Faye Dunaway, 76, opened a wrong envelope and incorrectly announced "La La Land" as winner of the Best Picture. When the mistake became evident during heartfelt speeches, "La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz broke in.
"There's a mistake. 'Moonlight,' you guys won Best Picture," said a gracious Horowitz, 36, still clutching the statue. "I'm going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from 'Moonlight.'"
In a turn of events that made the Cubs' World Series comeback look pedestrian, Barry Jenkins, 37, director and a writer for "Moonlight," accepted the Oscar for his film about the coming of age of a gay, black man. Only in America.
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