What Keeps Great Sporting Championships Alive?

The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the NFL team that wins the Super Bowl Championship
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the NFL team that wins the Super Bowl Championship
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the NFL team that wins the Super Bowl Championship
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the NFL team that wins the Super Bowl Championship

Coconut Creek, Broward County, Florida – What keeps great Sporting Championships alive, as living moments, is the realization that mini-miracles are forged in the white hot foundry of expecting the unexpected. Particularly when crucial events unfold as classic memorable last plays. Who will forget first baseman Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox having a rolling ground ball slip through the wickets of his legs giving the New York Mets a turn around victory on their way to the 1986 World Series.

Then, again, what about the Boston Celtics Larry Bird accomplishing something so joyously remarkable when he intercepted a Detroit Piston’s inbound pass as time ran out on the clock. Then made one of the greatest plays in the history of the NBA in dishing off a brilliant pass teammate D.J. Johnson who scored the winning basket. A play for the ages.

Yet in the last minute of this weekend’s Super Bowl two plays were forged the likes of which which will certainly not re-appear –in tandem to one team’s victory,the other team’s demise–again in this century. Or, ever.

To set the stage. Tom Brady and the Patriots of New England had just scored a go ahead touchdown to lead the Seahawks of Seattle. No small feature in this gridlock, tipsy turvy match. For the Paddies had been down by ten points.The Time clock was garnering all the lingo sports broadcasters will speak of when such a tremendously huge Championship is on the line.”Right now, the clock is like a grim Reaper calling on one of these teams.” Or, “following the two minute warning–coming up–Seattle will have all their final chance to go in for a TD and reclaim their Trophy won just a year ago.”

And therein, the Shakespearean stage “of what is before us, will come.” Bill Belichick, New England’s coach, had said at the half, “there is no mystery in football. The players who play the best in the second half will win.”

During this ultimate ticket to this year’s Championship Bowl the Patriots had inserted first year defensive safety Malcolm Butler. He is slight by NFL standards. Yet amazingly quick. Seems at times to have enough bounce in his legs that he might be coming off a trampoline. However, the Seahawks seem to have found a way to gain long yardage by sending taller, shifty, players on deep patterns against Butler.

Looking at what was occurring one could see where Seattle’s coach Pete Carroll was creatively gearing up for the Seahawks last ditch efforts to score and reclaim their bragging rights on Mount Olympus.

An ensuing NFL odyssey in one of the most phenomenal receptions ever made in the history of this glorious sport ensued. Seattle’s quarterback Wilson lofted a long air mail ball so deep towards the Patriots’ goal line. Stunningly, in watching the tangle of arms with helmeted going up for it, Butler had deflected it first. Knocking it away. It seemed. There would be a return to the line of scrimmage and the Seahawks would challenge again from there.

But, improbable as ever there would be a highlight TV moment like this here it was. Butler

tumbled aside. The ball had ricocheted off the Seattle receiver who was landing on the grass –on his back–the pigskin was still in the air. A teammate of Butler’s had come to assist. Likely, now, thinking the ball would eventually roll out of bounds. Not so. One can see him jumping to avoid contact with anyone. And, by the same turn of fate not be inclined to kick or push the ball elsewhere. Somehow still, this football was deliriously alive hovering above the Seattle receiver. It was as easy as a baby in a cradle, now, for the Seahawks to put both hands safely around it claiming a first and ten success drive for Seattle just outside New England’s end zone.

The Patriots anticipation of an incomplete play–suddenly–like a magic, majestic gift sponsored a rejuvenating, newly ignited spark to Seattle’s offensive force.

Butler, and his defenders, were seen as so distraught. There would be no-way anyone might

have written a fictional synopsis like this to one of the largest sorting circles in the world. If one reviews it on video, the intrepid abracadabra of this sequence is truly a touch of merriment for one side. For the other, their ghosted faces behind the bars of their headgear said it all: “we are a doomed team, now!”

It was easy to imagine Seattle converting their winning TD and Butler having to go through the endless diatribe of interviews regarding a play that will be in U tube, no doubt, for weeks to come. Butler must have been looking for a place to hide…how quickly, he must have been thinking, can I get off this field when the Seahawks score and pandemonium reigns in their repeating their Super Bowl success?

Well…the teams got set following the chess-like, timeout, stages to playing on. It was really, now, only a going through-the-motions routine to Coach Carroll’s team taking home this as their top honour within a very venerable season he had scripted quite craftily.

Who can then say…”I knew it…” when Malcolm Butler saw what was coming. A spiralling ball aimed for the Seahawks receiver juxtaposed to him. And, with a flare of incredible fortitude Butler got his mitts on the ball first. He must have hung in to it like it was the last loaf of bread on earth. He’d rebounded to finally succeed. It was such a reversal of fortune. His sultry moment had now become a gleaming star bonus of success to be talked of forever. There were only seconds left on the game clock. Brady would take a kneel down last gig and, in the end, New England would claim top spot. How absolutely uncanny.

Butler’s coach had been so adroitly correct pencilling rookie Malcolm Butler into this starting lineup. The intrigue of it all will be motivational lessons ongoing. In all places. In work places Colleges and schools, and churches. A humble hero was forged after a, seemingly, devastating experience seen by millions on satellite. Butler was speechless. He was enveloped in the loving, admiring hugs of his teammates. He possessed a shyness that was so refreshing compared to all the smash mouth, over the top, bravado of so many other victors in front of the media. A brilliant desert sunset was visible in the Arizona skyline where the game was held.

Where we were, I could only reflect on a word Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, had come up with following the nefarious claims his side had endured before this captivating huge contest. He had coined a new sports moniker in saying, in the final, we will…

NOT…become Defla-TRIOTS.

Ronn Hartviksen

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