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Sporting anecdotes: NFL (4)

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Anecdote 9: 1967 NFL Championship ("The Ice Bowl") - for when you want to talk about terrible market conditions

The 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Packers and the Cowboys has been immortalized as one of the greatest football games ever. Weather predictions for December 31 were -5, but on the day, windchill brought the temperature down to a bone marrow-freezing -44, making Lambeau Field more like the Siberian tundra than Wisconsin.

It was so cold that the referee's whistle froze to his lips and as he attempted to free it, the skin ripped off and his lips began to bleed. For the rest of the game, the officials had to use voice calls to officiate the game. Seven members of th band were hospitalized with hypothermia, and in the stands a spectator actually died from exposure. But still the game went on.

  Ice Bowl

At the end of the third quarter, the Packers were leading 14-10, but on the first play of the fourth quarter the Cowboys scored with a 50-yard touchdown pass to take the lead 17-14. By now the temperature was down to -20 even without windchill, and -50 with it. The turf heating system malfunctioned, making the pitch an ice rink and the players were finding it difficult to even stand upright.

With 16 seconds left, the Packers had a third-and-goal on the Dallas two-foot line and used their final timeout. Dallas were expecting a pass because an incompletion would stop the clock and give the Packers one more play to attempt a field goal, tie thegame and put it into overtime. Instead, with an eye on the baromete,r Packers coach Vince Lombardi told quarterback Bart Starr, to "Just run it, and let's get the hell out of here." Starr did just that, crossed the goal line to give them a 20-17 lead, and the conversion made the final score 21-17.

After the game the players looked like they'd just cheated death and may wept openly. Several of them had frostbite, and linebacker Ray Nitschke's toes turned purple and his toenails fell off. Many people stated that football games should never again be held in weather conditions so harsh and an outdoor Super Bowl wasn't held in a cold-weather city for nearly 50 years; the first to be scheduled is New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey in 2014.

With hindsight, many would say the game - subsequently christened "the Ice Bowl" - shouldn't have taken place. But it did. What can it teach us? Well for starters, it teaches us that when there's a job to be done, it has to be done, regardless of the conditions. And even when those conditions are appalling, they affect everyone equally, and there will still be a winner and a loser.

The same is true in business. The economic conditions we face today are the worst I've seen in fifteen years in the industry. But we've still got a job to do. There's no point bitching or crying or complaining. Just like the Packers and the Cowboys, we've got to get out there and do our job. And make sure that when the final whistle blows, we're the winners and Competitor X are the losers . . . .

Anecdote 10: "The Music City Miracle" - for when you want to talk about determination and fighting to the last gasp

One of the most exciting games in NFL history was that between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans in the Wildcard Playoff game in January 2000.

At the end of the half, the Bills are trailing 12-0 and have managed to gain only 64 yards, while managing t lose 44 yards on 9 penalties. But in the third quarter, they score two touchdowns to give them a lead of 13-12 after a failed conversion attempt.

With less than minutes left in the fourth, the Titans score a field goal to put them back in the lead. But on the next drive, with no timeouts remaining, quarterback Rob Johnson leads the Bills on a 5-play, 37-yard drive to the Titans' 24 yard line. On the last play from scrimmage, with the clock running out, he plays with only 1 shoe on, as he's lost the other and has no time to put it back on. Bills' kicker Steve Christie finishes the drive with a 41-yard field goal to put Buffalo in the lead, 16-15.

  Kevin Dyson
Kevin Dyson scoring the 'Music City Miracle' touchdown

There are 16 seconds left on the clock. Sixteen seconds. It's all over. The Titans are finished. The Bills' fans are already celebrating in the stands.

Seconds later, Christie kicks off, and Titans player Lorenzo Neal receives. He hands the ball off to tight end Frank Wycheck, who throws a lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson, who's supposed to get the ball far enough downfield for a fieldgoal attempt. But when Dyson catches the ball at ankle height, he realizes the only person in a position to tackle him is Christie. And as he later says, if a starting NFL wide receiver can't outrun a place kicker, he doesn't belong in the NFL.

He sees the opportunity and goes for broke, running down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. Neither the Bills nor their fans can believe it. The Titans have managed to snatch an incredible victory from the jaws of defeat.

What this game proves above all else, is that in sport the phrase 'it ain't over 'til it's over' is more than just a cliche. Many games are won in the dying seconds of a game.

And the same is true in business. As we enter the final month of the year, our targets are within reach. They are achievable. We're behind where we should be but we've pulled back a big deficit and we can hit them. But it will require a monumental effort from all of you right up until the closing seconds of December. Like Kevin Dyson, we can see the goal line and we know what we've got to do . . . .

Anecdote 11: "The Fumble" - Browns v Giants, AFC Championship, 1988 - for when you want to talk about determination and fighting to the last gasp

It's January 17, 1988 and the Denver Broncos are playing the New York Giants for the AFC Championship. At halftime the Broncos have a 21-3 lead, but four second-half touchdowns for the Giants tie the game 31-31 by the middle of the fourth quarter.

Then John Elway throws a 20-yard touchdown pass to running back Sammy Winder, who crosses the goal line to give the Broncos the lead with 4 minutes left in the game.

What happens next will make this game one of the most famous in NFL lore. With just over a minute left, Browns' running back Earnest Byner takes the handoff at the Broncos' 8-yard line and is on his way to score a game-tying touchdown to put the game into overtime. He's got eight yards to go. Seven. Six, five, four, three . . . and then defensive back Jeremiah Castille strips him of the ball and he fumbles . . . . with two yards to go.

Byner fumble  
Byner races for the Denver goal line

Ironically, Byner's the main reason the Broncos were still in the game at that point. He'd racked up 67 rushing yards, 7 receptions for 120 yards, and 2 touchdowns and his performance in the second half was probably the main thing that allowed them to have the chance to tie the game at 38.

Byner would go on to have a successful career, winning a Superbowl ring with the Redskins in 1991. In his 14 NFL seasons, he rushed for 8,261 yards, caught 512 passes for 4,605 yards, and scored 72 total touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, Byner ranked within the NFL's top 30 all-time leaders in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, and total yards

And yet he's remembered most of all for one botched play at the Denver 2-yard line, known to all NFL fans as "The Fumble." Because in sport, a great performance over the long term can be eclipsed by one fumble, one mistake, one slip-up. And the same is true in business. At the end of Period 11 we find ourselves on line with budget and set to achieve our targets for the fisacal year, despite horrendous market conditions and ferocious competitive activity. But how our perfomrnace for the year will be judged is all down to Period 12. Success is within our grasp, but all it needs is one fumble . . .

Other sports anecdotes article you might enjoy . . .

NFL anecdotes

NFL (2)

NFL (3)

Basketball anecdotes

Baseball anecdotes

Boxing anecdotes

Hockey anecdotes



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