From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / January 12, 2000

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”Yogi Berra’s axiom is obvious but few truer words have been spoken.

Sports fans have learned over and over that the game is not over to the final out has been made or the final second has ticked off the clock.

– With Boston leading in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Red Sox were one out away in the 10th inning for their first World Series title since 1918. The scoreboard at Shea Stadium even flashed”Congratulations, Red Sox.” But Boston never got to sip the champagne asthe New York Mets rallied in that game and won Game 7 the following day.

– In a NBA game in 1972, Milwaukee led New York, 86-68 with 5 1/2 minutes left. The Knicks then ran off 19 unanswered points for a 87-86win.

– Just this past September, Europe led the United States, 10-6, on the final day of the Ryder Cup and needed just four points to retain the cup.

The United States rallied for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory, capped by Justin Leonard’s 50-foot putt that halved his match with Jose Maria Olazabal.

Leonard had been four-down to Olazabal after 11 holes.

– Earlier in the golf season, Paul Lawrie trailed Jean Van de Velde by 10 strokes entering the final day of the British Open. Lawrie rallied to winthe claret jug in a playoff. Nick Faldo rallied from six back of Greg Normanon the final day to win the 1996 Masters.

– The New Orleans Saints, Miami Hurricanes and Michigan Wolverines have been victims of Hail Mary passes by Cleveland, Boston College and Colorado in recent years.

– In the 1987 AFC Championship game, Denver trailed Cleveland in the final minutes and had the ball at its own 2-yard line. John Elwayproceeded to direct the Broncos 98 yards for the tying score with Denver winning in overtime.

The most recent example of why fans should stay in their seats to the very end came this past Saturday in the AFC playoff game between Buffalo and Tennessee.

Buffalo appeared to have a 16-15 victory sewn up after Steve Christie converted on a 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds left. That would proveto be 16 seconds too many for Bills fans.

Christie pooched the ensuing kickoff with Lorenzo Neal grabbing it at his won 25. Neal ran right and handed off to Fran Wycheck. Wycheck turned andflipped a pass to the left sidelines to Kevin Dyson who followed a convoy down the sidelines for an improbable 75-yard game-winning touchdown return.

The game was still not decided as referee Phil Luckett, he of the infamous coin toss snafu of Thanksgiving 1998, reviewed the play to see if Wycheck’s toss was a lateral or an illegal forward pass. The call oftouchdown stood, giving the Titans perhaps the most improbable final- play victory since the Cal-Stanford kickoff return of the early 1980s. Itwas also perhaps the most controversial post season ruling since Don Denkinger’s safe ruling in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.

But controversial or not, one has to wonder how the Bills bit so hard on the play. There were no Bills close to Dyson when he took the lateral andwent down the sidelines. And just how often do you think the Titanspracticed the play much less had it work in practice.

But that’s one thing that makes us so love sports – the unpredictability of it all. Real life is often more dramatic than any script that could bewritten up. And for the Tennessee organization, “Home Run Throwback,” asthe play was called, was a case of poetic justice. After all, it was theHouston Oilers, the Titans’ predecessors before they moved to Tennessee, that were involved in another example of “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Itwas the Oilers who were involved in the biggest comeback in NFL postseason history, blowing a 35-3 second-half lead to the Bills in the 1993 AFC playoffs and losing in overtime.

And somewhere, Yogi Berra is smiling, knowing once more that the wisdom of his words have been proven.

Return To Sports Stories

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

Internet services provided by NeoSoft.

Best viewed with 3.0 or higher