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The Turf Weighs In

The Turf Weighs In: 8 Greatest Miracles in Sports

The Turf Weighs in on 8 of the greatest miracles in sports history.

The Turf Weighs In: 8 Greatest Miracles in Sports

Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Happy Hanukkah everyone! Even if you don’t celebrate Hanukkah, I think this year we could all use a miracle. For those of you who need a brief refresher on the holiday, I’ll give you a one-sentence recap. There was only supposed to be enough oil to light the Second Temple of Jerusalem for one day, but due to a miracle, it lasted for 8 nights! In honor of the holiday, I asked eight team members at The Turf for their favorite miracle in sports history. These are events that were so unlikely they had no business taking place and they are etched in our minds forever.

Terry Cudmore – “The Pennant”

To me this will always be the ultimate sports miracle. I am sure there have been other events in sports that were mathematically more unlikely than this. But this doesn’t take into account the emotional aspect of how defeated Red Sox fans felt. To go down 3-0 after the heartbreak of the 2003 ALCS just felt plain mean. The chances of coming back, or of ever being a happy Sox fan, felt non-existent. Then the Roberts steal, the Ortiz heroics, the bloody sock, and the Sox Home Run Barrage in Game 7 secured the biggest sports miracle I have ever seen.

Craig Kaufman – “The Interception”

There have been plenty of miracles for Boston sports fans over the last decade. But I chose one individual moment that is the definition of a miracle – Malcolm Butler’s game winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX. Malcolm Butler had never had an interception in his career before that play. During the 2014 NFL season, 109 passes were attempted from the one yard line. Until the final play of the season, not one of them had been intercepted. Only a miracle could have saved the Patriots from a last second defeat in Super Bowl XLIX. Final Score: New England 28, Seattle 24

Jason Barash – “The Golden Goal”

There have been so many amazing Pittsburgh sports miracles throughout the years it’s hard for me to choose one. So I’ve decided to go a completely different direction. The 2010 USMNT was supposed to be the team that put US men’s soccer back on the map. Unfortunately they would not make it as far as we had all hoped. I do believe one goal is responsible for getting Americans excited about soccer. That was Landon Donovan’s last minute goal against Algeria to win the game and the group in extra time. I watch this video anytime I need a pick me up. It’s so dramatic, it’s so beautiful, it’s the perfect miracle.

Justin Colombo – “The Shot”

There have been plenty of incredible last shots taken in the NBA Playoffs, with most of them coming off the fingertips of Michael Jordan and Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry. Those are just the shots that win the game, like Christian Laettner’s “The Shot” or the every clinch the entire series, something that Jordan is most known for. There are countless other last minute shots that almost go in. There’s Patrick Ewing’s missed layup in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pacers, and Gordon Hayward’s last minute prayer in the NCAA finals for Butler. 

This shot lives in both realms. It’s an absolute prayer, and yet after the second bounce, you just know it’s going in. Kawhi Leonard should not have made this shot. Not in a regular season game, not in a playoff game, not in a practice game. This ball takes four bounces to fall. When was the last time you saw that? And to come against a borderline super team in the 2018-19 Philadelphia 76ers makes it all the more miraculous. 

You can feel the entire city of Toronto hold their breath as this ball teeters on the edge. It’s a perfect sports miracle, and will be for the rest of time.

Katie Pierce – “The Home Run”

I’m not sure if this qualifies as a “miracle” so to speak but it surely isn’t something you see every day. It was definitely the single coolest sports moment I’ve experienced live. On a hot summer night filled with cold Canadian beers and the buzz of a ballpark that is so sorely missed right now, I got to both start and finish the night with a celebration. With the 1984 champs looking on, there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1984 World Series win, after celebrating it was the 2014 Tigers that would leave a lasting memory that night.

Playing in front of a now sparse crowd, things looked bleak for the home team in the bottom of the 9th against the Oakland Athletics. After a few lucky breaks the bases were suddenly loaded and a win was within reach when former A, Rajai Davis stepped to the plate. In my mind there were 2 outs and with a full count but in reality it was just one out and 1-0 count but details shmetails. You know when you can hear a home run almost immediately? This was one of those moments. As the ball carried over the bullpen into the seats the sound was so loud it was almost quiet. 12,000 people sounded like 40,000.

It’s a moment I’ll never forget even if I kind of blacked out for a minute. And in these strange days it seems almost bizarre to imagine high five’ing and hugging strangers. I would give everything to be back in the moment.

Christian Heilman – “The Statue of Liberty Play”

You can’t talk miracles and leave out the David and Goliath tail. The tail of when Boise State upset Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The game saw the underdog Broncos up 21-10 at the half only to have the Sooners climb back to tie the game 28-28 late in the 4th quarter.

With Boise driving in control of their destiny, Broncos QB threw an ill timed interception to Marcus Walker. The cornerback returned the ball for what many assumed would be the game winning touchdown. What followed were 3 plays that would shock the football world. Boise now down 35-28 facing 4th and 18 with :18 would call a play they named Circus, more commonly known as the hook and ladder. The wall was thrown to the Boise wide receiver across the middle of the field, only to be quickly lateraled back to another player break the opposite way. They would score the game tying touchdown with on :07 seconds remaining and forced OT. The Sooners would get the ball to start overtime.

Adrian Peterson would quickly rip off a 25 yard touchdown run putting Oklahoma back on top. On Boise’s possession they would shift quarterback Zabransky wide. Half back Vinny Perretta would take the ball and pass 5 yards into the end zone for the touchdown. Perhaps tired of playing catch-up to the Sooners, Boise made the ‘Guts and Glory’ call and went for two. Zabransky dropped back and faked the screen pass to the outside. With no ball in his throwing hand, he handed it off with his left hand behind his back to tight end Derek Schouman who ran it in for the game winning 2 point conversion. The Statue of Liberty Play. The play you run in your back yard, or see lampooned in some wacky cartoon football skit, won it for Boise State.

Andrew Wilhelm – “The Hail Mary”

Miracles. Sometimes they are an “act of god” and sometimes they’re an act of League interference. Or at least that’s what it can seem like to the losing side. December 3, 2015. The Miracle in Motown. For those that don’t twitch every time they hear (or see) the play, it’s something that’s brought up every time a Hail Mary is completed in the NFL these days. Because it is in some ways THE Hail Mary.

The Detroit Lions led the Green Bay Packers for an entire 60 minutes and still lost the game. Pretty miraculous, no? A dubious at best facemask penalty on an attempted end-of-game lateral play gave Aaron Rodgers one last play from the Packers 39 yard line. What followed was a bomb that hung in the air for an eternity, eventually ending up in the hands of Green Bay TE Richard Rodgers Jr. in the endzone, leading to a Packers victory. (Coincidentally, Richard Rodgers Sr., father of the Green Bay TE, was involved in “The Play” as one of the players to lateral the ball for Cal before “The band is on the field!”).

With the penalty call, the length of the time the ball was in the air, the fact the Lions didn’t put Megatron in the end zone on the Hail Mary to swat it down, and a team winning a game they never technically led are all in their own way miraculous. I think it’s good to remember that for every “miraculous win” for one team, there’s another team whose trombone player is getting trampled. 

Kevin Morin – “The Hat Trick”

On May 8th, 2019, Tottenham Hotspur traveled to Amsterdam to play Ajax in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final. Spurs had tumbled out of title contention in the league and nearly out of the top 4. They entered the game without their Talisman, Harry Kane. They went into halftime down 2-0 (3-0 on aggregate). What happened in the final 40 minutes of the game was remarkable. Lucas Moura kicked it into high gear and scored two quick goals in the 55th and 59th minutes. Then, in the 95th minute, as the clock hit 5 minutes of the 5 minutes of added time, he completed the hat trick. He sent Tottenham to the Champions League Final in Madrid, and left so many fans, including Steve Nash (and myself), weeping tears of pure joy.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Jason moved to NYC for 9 years and gained a wife, a child, and career then decided to go back to the Steel City. A sports fan since birth, he follows the Pirates, Duquesne basketball, Pens, Steelers, and Pistons (Grant Hill would have been better than Jordan if he had stayed healthy...prove me wrong). He enjoys playing in various sports leagues and throwing his money away on fantasy sports. Besides that, a good book and video games for a day would be just fine with him.

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