Van Wilder. Was married to Scarlett Johannson and now married to Blake Lively.But seriously, it's Dick Van Dyke. No question. (2nd place: Tim Van Patten, fabulous director and ninja master.)
The 1972 equivalent is Fischer/Spassky, da? So, if the analog is "America stuns the world," and I can think that only a US win of the World Cup would do.
I put in Morrison and then realized you said American. So please forgive my error, in case it shows up. As a result, I'm going with Dick van Dyke but I feel very, very strongly about van Halen as well. But you can't overlook Dyke.
Surely the contemporary equivalent is whatever Rodman is doing in Pyongyang this week. You'll see!
Morrison is Irish, Wilder is Canadian, Dyke and Halen are parts of last names, so I don't think they should count. But by those rules, the only one I can think of is Van Jones, and while I'm all for green energy, I doubt he has wide enough appeal. So I think it's clear that the only real choice we have for "America's greatest van" is the Mystery Machine.
Van Dyke Parks. He finished "Smile" with Brian Wilson; worked with Frank Zappa, the Wainwrights, U2, Frank Black, Bonnie Raitt, Fiona Apple, T-Bone Burnett, and Harry Nilsson, among others; arranged "The Bare Necessities" from "The Jungle Book"; acted on "The Honeymooners" and "Twin Peaks"; and (my favorite) wrote the music and lyrics for the "Harold and the Purple Crayon" TV series.
The World Cup is kind of close, but it doesn't have the "America beats the Evil Empire" sort of factor that existed in US/USSR relations at that point.
An Irainian kid winning the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee? I mean, you know, WE'RE the "Evil Empire" at this point, right? Who else really is there?
Did he ever really reach "master" status? I mean, the guy was really good at getting thrown through windows, but still...
C'mon, he had a really b****ing van! And a gerbil!