Sunday, December 6, 2009


Little things, seemingly inconsequential things, can change the course of our lives--dramatically. In life and in sport. Sport is a valuable metaphor for revealing this.

Yesterday was the best day for college football fans. As opposed to the spurious bowl championship series which is a meaningless alternative to a meaningful playoff system, yesterday several conferences held championship games. In college basketball these conference championships are the vestibule to the big dance. In college football these championships beget a series of bowl games and only one of these is meaningful.Nevertheless, the championship games are exciting because they can determine which teams are invited to the lone bowl game that is meaningful.

A goat is a term used in sports to refer to someone who, as opposed to a hero, blundered in a way to cost the team the game. In an early game yesterday, Pittsburgh went ahead 44-38 on a fourth quarter touchdown. However, the holder on the extra point attempt dropped the ball and there was no extra point. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh's opponent, then scored a last minute touchdown, executed the extra point and won 45-44. The holder, in that game, is said to wear the goat horns.

However, there never ever would have been a bigger goat than the quarterback for Texas in the late game. Miraculously, he was saved from going down in Texas lore as the goat of all time. Losing 12-10, he led his team into position to make a field goal that would win the game for Texas 13-12. With seven seconds left and a timeout, the quarterback rolled out and threw a pass out of bounds to kill the clock and allow the kicker to come in. Inexplicably, though, the quarterback, took the better part of forever to throw the ball out of bounds, and when he did it seemed as if the time in the game had expired. Nebraska players were out on the field happy to have won. A replay showed that there was one second remaining despite the knucklehead play of the quarterback. With one second left, the kicker came in and won the game.

Afterwards, the quarterback was saluted for his leadership. Had the referee ruled that time had expired, today would be a sad day indeed for the young man. Instead he likely has a bounce to his step, that the holder for Pittsburgh does not. A tiny thing is making this Sunday special or miserable. Same as tiny things are making this Sunday special or miserable for all of us.

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