Thursday, February 23, 2012

180. A moment can change your life

For me, one of the interesting things about the Super Bowl, beside the commercials, is the legacy left on the players and coaches. In a "win-at-all-cost" sports society, the label of "Super Bowl Champion" or "Super Bowl goat" lasts seemingly eternal. Unfortunately, often the margin between victory and defeat is ever so slight, because one play, sometimes even a few inches, can change the outcome of a game or a career.

There is a difference in a moment that changes the course of the game and one that changes the outcome of a game. The former often happens early in the game, and may affect strategy or momentum, but ultimately does not by itself decide the game. The latter has a direct result in the outcome of the game. In other words, had that one moment, that one play, or those few inches, gone the other way, the outcome would have been different.

Not surprisingly, this Super Bowl had its share of moments. There were many plays that changed or could have changed the course of the game. The Giants fumbled several times, and the one time the Patriots recovered it, they were penalized and the turnover was negated. There were also plays that changed the outcome of the game--the most obvious being the pass that Wes Welker dropped in the fourth quarter. Had he made that catch, it is likely that the Patriots would have won.

The fate of a team often lies on these moments, and some of sports' greatest achievements relied on some good fortunate. These "game changers" are often the result of a bad bounce, bad call, or bad play (like missing a kick or dropping a pass)--something the benefitting team did nothing or very little to cause. In another word, "luck."

Looking at this playoff season in particular, both the Patriots and Giants had some breaks along the way. It's easy to look back, such as if Tony Romo of the Cowboys connects with a wide open Miles Austin in their regular season game against the Giants, the Giants likely don't even make the playoffs--and none of this ever happens. Other moments include the two 49er fumbled punts against the Giants and the field goal miss by the Ravens in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Today Eli Manning is a hero and maybe even a Hall of Famer, but he could have easily been sitting at home watching the entire playoffs on his couch.

It's these moments that change the outcomes of games that can frustrate sports fans, and Cleveland fans are no stranger to "The Shot," "The Fumble" and "The Drive"--all of which changed the history of Cleveland sports.

Conversely, through Browns-colored glasses, it seems that the Steelers have had their favorable moments over the years--some of which changed the course of the game; others that changed the outcome of a game, or even a season. The dropped pass by Jackie Smith of the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, the Immaculate Reception, the bad call against the Oilers the 1979 AFC Championship Game, more bad calls in the Super Bowl against Seattle and even Arizona, and of course, the pass Dennis Northcutt dropped that cost the Browns a playoff victory against the Steelers in 2002.

Teams will often say that the game should not come down to one play, but it often does. What often also happens is the overreaction of winner and loser. Some will humbly admit that the ball bounced their way, but few apologize for the spoils of victory. I always thought that if the game is close at the end, we risked a bad break determining the outcome.

And, every year, despite the fact that the losing team made it to the Super Bowl, and may have been champion except for a couple of key plays, we see the post-game overreaction. I suppose it is a result of the stage they are playing on that we often experience the exaggeration of the loss.

Sports are often a microcosm for life. We all have moments that change the course of our lives-the chance meeting of our spouse, the car accident that would not have happened if we did not have to go back in the house for our keys, or the winning lottery ticket we purchased with our last dollar. These are things we likely could not have controlled--but yet affected the course of our lives. Fortunately, in most cases, we have time to affect the outcome of our lives--and have that Super Bowl moment.

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