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Sporting anecdotes: NFL (3)

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Two more stories you can use a high-impact openers for a speech or presentation, and suggestions as to when you might use them:

Anecdote 7: Super Bowl XXXIV, 'The Tackle'- for when you need one final push to hit your year-end targets/goals

It's January 30th, 2000, and the St. Louis Rams are playing the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. After a first half dominated by both teams' defences, the Rams are leading 9-0 at halftime, though most neutral fans would probably think them unlucky not to be farther ahead.

A 68-yard third down drive increases the Rams lead to 16-0, which is how the score stands at the end of the third quarter, and it looks like it's all over for Tennessee. Nobody has ever pulled back a deficit of more than 10 points in a Super Bowl, and they're 16 behind.

But against all the odds, the Titans pull back, and with two minutes left on the clock, tie the game at 16-16. Everything is now going Tennessee's way. Momentum is behind them. The fates seem on their side. But can they do it? With two minutes left, can they take the lead and win the game, or will they choke under the pressure?

It doesn't look like it. On the first play of the next drive, St Louis receiver Isaac Bruce runs the ball into the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown completion to put the Rams ahead 23-16. It looks like it's all over for Tennessee.

But the Titans are mad of sterner stuff and aren't about to give up just yet. Their last drive takes them to the Rams' 10-yard line with just six seconds on the clock and they use up their last timeout.

Trailing by a touchdown, they have one last, do-or-die chance to tie the game and take it into overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history. The plan is simple. Tight end Frank Wycheck will act as a decoy and lure Rams linebacker Mike Jones away from receiver Kevin Dyson, who will slant left through the middle of the field and be open from about five yards out for the score.

  The Tackle

At first, everything goes as planned and Jones runs with Wycheck up the field at the beginning of the play. But just as the pass is being delivered he glances over his shoulder and notices an open Dyson catching the ball. As Dyson sprints for the end zone, Jones switches directions and tackles him about two and a half yards out from the goal line.

There is still a chance he can score if he can just ...... reach out and get the ball over the goal line before he crashes to the ground. The crows holds its breath, he reaches ..... and the ball comes up inches short.

"The Tackle" as it was subsequently named, is considered one of the greatest and most exciting game-ending plays in modern NFL history and the image of Dyson stretching the ball towards the goal line with Jones wrapped around him has become a staple of NFL highlights. It is one of the most exciting moments in Super Bowl history.

What it showed above all else, is that in sport the phrase 'it ain't over 'til it's over' is more than just a cliche. Many leads are surrendered in the dying seconds of a game, and many heroic comebacks are futile because that last, final effort proves unsuccessful.

And the same is true in business. As we enter the final month of the year, our targets are within reach. We've pulled back a big deficit and we can hit them. They are achievable. But it will require a monumental effort from all of you right up until the closing seconds of December ......

Anecdote 8: Rocky Bleier - for when you want to talk about persistence and never giving up ....

It is August 20, 1969.  Robert 'Rocky' Bleier, was not thinking about the days when he was the captain of the Notre Dame football team, reminiscing about the epic 1966 battle at Michigan State when he led the Irish in rushing in a 10-10 stalemate that sealed the national championship for Notre Dame. 

Nor was he thinking about the day in 1968 when he was drafted in the 16th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He has more important things to think about, for Bleier, now a member of the U.S. Army's 196th Light Infantry Brigade, had been tasked with helping comrades who had been ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army.  The fighting escalated and Bleier found himself in trouble.

A bullet went right through his thigh and then  a grenade bounced off the man right beside him and landed next to him. It exploded and riddled his right foot with shrapnel, rendering him immobile. He was evacuated by helicopter and 14 hours after he was hot he got his first shot of morphine. Doctors took more than 100 pieces of shrapnel from his foot.

They told him that playing football again would be impossible. He'd be lucky if he could walk normally. He was discharged from the army with a 40% disability.

  Rocky Bleier

But Bleier refused to give up.  He stretched with large rubber bands, ran before dawn, lifted weights and ran sprints every day.  On weekends, he ran the steps of the Kansas State University stadium with 10-pound weights on his ankles.  He ate every vitamin known to mankind. In the summer of 1970, less than a year after his foot had nearly bee blown off, he reported to the Steelers' training camp.

Nobody expected him to ever play again, but he never missed a workout. The next year, he ran a 4.6 forty-yard dash.  His best time before that was 4.8.  His right foot was shorter than his left, deformed from injury, yet he cut two-tenths of a second off his best forty time.  He made the regular squad this time and became a special teams demon, returning punts and kickoffs.  Bleier hit the weight room three hours a day for six days a week.  By the time camp opened in 1973, he was bench-pressing 440 pounds. 

In 1974 he started as a blocking back and in 1976 he rushed for 1,000 yards wearing two different shoe sizes and finished his career with almost 4,000 rushing yards and four Super Bowl rings.

There are examples throughout history when the human will transcends probability to a level that is difficult to grasp.  The army doctors in Vietnam may have known exactly what was inside Rocky Bleier's foot, but they could never see what was inside his heart.

Perseverance, determination and a never-say-die attitude as epitomized by Rocky Bleier are needed in all sports, but those same qualities are needed in sales. We can all perform well when things are going our way; it's how we perform when it looks like the sale is slipping through our fingers; how we perform when we encounter a seemingly insurmountable obstacle; how we perform when we're faced with a seemingly un negotiable problem ...... that's the difference between a champion and a journeyman player ......

NFL anecdotes

NFL (2)

NFL (4)

Basketball anecdotes

Baseball anecdotes

Boxing anecdotes

Hockey anecdotes



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