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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

Magic at Manitou

By Joel Stjernholm
Sports Editor

Friday, September 17, 2004

Much to my chagrin, I awoke last Saturday morning earlier than I had hoped. Unable to go back to bed, I dressed and departed for the library. As I waited for the Mohn Hall elevator, I noticed St. Olaf running back Bobby Andrade 07 sitting nearby. As a football enthusiast and sports writer, I was unable to resist an opportunity to discuss the season opener with the former LA Times Redzone Player of the Year. As our conversation concluded, I offered a parting Good luck, to which Bobby replied, It should be a good game. Little did he know what lay in store.

Needless to say, the team endured a difficult first half. As I walked away from Manitou Field last Saturday for a 2:30 appointment with some friends, I struck up a conversation with a first-year student who was exiting the stadium. I had known this student in high school, and after exchanging pleasantries we discussed the game. Clearly displeased with his first St. Olaf football experience, this first-year was lamenting the performances of specific players, hurling the typical epithets at our defense, running backs, and quarterback. Indignant that anyone would so brazenly affront Ole athletes, I vigorously defended the team. Weve had so many turnovers that our defense has been on the field almost the entire game, and Luther hasnt had to drive very far to score, I told him. Our quarterback has put the ball on the money almost every time, and one of those interceptions was a complete fluke. Furthermore, the running game has been on and the line has been getting great push, but our offensive drives have simply been cut short by turnovers. Im betting that our guys will regroup at halftime, stop the turnovers, and allow our defense to shut down Luthers offense. If our offense can get rolling, mark my words: we will win this game.

Had I known at the time that winning the game would require mounting one of the largest comebacks in NCAA history, I may not have been so bold. However, when I jogged back to Manitou to catch the last four minutes of the game, the scoreboard indicated that my half-time prophecy was being fulfilled. Jason Wilseys 06 picture perfect pass to Horace Gant 08 evened the score, and Paul Fortman 08 nailed the point after to give the Oles one-point lead. An interception by the Ole defense would soon dash Luthers last hopes for victory.

Think about this: we dont believe in sporting miracles because the outcomes of many sporting events are somewhat predictable. The Yankees usually win, Greg Norman usually chokes, and Eden Prairie usually recruits the best football team in the state of Minnesota. Similarly, spotting your opponent a thirty-one point lead in the second quarter lead usually means youre going to lose.

Sporting events are, by-and-large, anti-climactic. For every game that ends with a buzzer-beater, an overtime field goal, or walk-off home run, there are hundreds of contests in which the last few minutes slip off the game clock without any significance. For this reason most sports fans, if they were to answer truthfully, would answer no to Al Michaels famous question, Do you believe in miracles? Its why my fellow sports fans dont believe me when I tell them I predicted victory. Its also why my first-year friend left the stadium early.

But why not hold out hope for a great comeback victory? Great moments help make sports unique. Minnesota fans will always reminisce about the 1991 World Series, 49er faithful will never forget Joe Montanas 92-yard game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII, and The Shot will forever be remembered fondly by Michael Jordan enthusiasts everywhere. We love miracles on ice and miracles at Manitou, so why not believe? Our experiences as sports fans are much richer when we disregard the laws of probability. Say a prayer when your team throws a hail mary. Anticipate the unlikely. And most importantly, dont ever leave the game early. You will be disappointed most of the time, but when you finally witness that great moment it will remain with you forever, a story to tell and retell (a little better each time) to like-minded fans. Hold out hope and believe in miracles: it makes sports worth watching.

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