Sports are designed to be dramatic. They are a form of entertainment in which the outcome is unknown, which makes those incredible finishes (the Miracle on Ice, the Saints’ Superbowl win*, Secretariat) seem paradoxically more predestined. Athletes are our performance artists, putting their bodies through incredible trials with the hopes of creating some lasting beauty.

American Football, as I’ve noted this week, is no stranger to drama. While the first half of a game can fly by, the last two minutes can drag on for a half hour if the game is close. Sometimes teams will try anything to win it in the last minute, and sometimes a little razzle-dazzle goes a long way. Known just as “The Play,” a series of lateral passes kept a 1982 college football game alive between the UC Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal, ultimately upending the score, injuring a tuba player, and inspiring teams forever afterward to lateral the ball as the clock ticks down in hopes of recreating that drama. In the clip, my favorite part is the extreme disbelief and amazement on the part of the announcer; you can hear the adrenaline in his voice inspired by the spectacle unfolding before him.

While hundreds of plays qualify as thrilling football finishes, I will leave you with arguably the most important finish of the 2010-2011 regular season. In Week 15, the Philadelphia Eagles were trailing the New York Giants 31-10 with 8 minutes left to play. Michael Vick led a remarkable comeback that left the two teams tied at 31 with just 14 seconds left in the game. The Giants, expecting to settle the matter in overtime, punted to the Eagles’ Desean Jackson. His punt return is one of those plays that remains unbelievable no matter how many times you watch it. But the play didn’t just result in an Eagles victory. If the Giants had won, they would have finished the season 11-5, ahead of the Green Bay Packers thereby precluding the Packers from reaching the playoffs.

If the Packers win the Superbowl this Sunday, I think they should give Jackson an honorary ring.

*Boo.

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