Thursday, January 25, 2018

Minneapolis miracle

In my cities our football team hoped to go to the Superbowl. This year it happens to be held in our own home stadium so making it to the finals would have been extra special. We had a good team and a fair shot at it too. But in the playoffs leading to the Superbowl the Vikings were down with mere seconds to go and only the thinnest ray of hope was hanging on. They had but one tiny last ridiculous chance.

One play, with the end zone 61 yards away, the Viking's quarterback heaved a desperate pass.

The wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught the ball up in the air. Having merely to tackle him to win the game two defenders collided awkwardly into each other instead and fell away. Diggs landed off-balance, kept his feet, stayed in bounds, and ran into the end zone to win the game.

They called it the Minneapolis Miracle.

We were doomed.

I have learned in years of watching sports that you never, ever, ever want to use a miracle up too early. Seventh game of the World Series walk off grand slam? Yes! Sixth game walk off grand slam to get to a final game? It's probably not going to work out for you. You want to end your season with a miracle, not prolong it. The prolonging it suggests your team needs extraordinary help. And when you play the next day you are still that team that blew a lead, fell behind, or looked hapless for eight innings.

I'm not so much a football fan, but I do follow the brilliant Barcelona soccer team quite closely. Ridiculously closely. Obsessively closely. So I saw this principle in action last year. They called it The Remontada. A year ago everyone in soccer knew about The Remontada. In the round of 16 in the biggest yearly tournament in soccer, an uneven Barcelona team was crushed by the Paris team 4-0. But this competition was played over two games. So though clearly inferior in the first game Barcelona could, if they won by five, move on. Long story short, through a combination of dicey calls, great soccer, and the collapse of Paris, Barcelona scored three utterly unbelievable last minute goals to win 6 to 1 and go forward in the tournament.

It was amazing. Unforgettable. Except for the fact the everyone is kind of forgetting it now because Barcelona went on to get thrashed in the next round. It was a big moment, but a less than memorable team.

And so there you have it. If you have a miracle it's probably best to walk away into the sunset, author of said miracle. Don't let anyone test you too long once you danced with the gods. If you have to come back to mop up it all starts to look like a fluke. 

And the sweetness pales, and fills with asterisks.

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