Let’s imagine that during a ratings slump and period of noticeable fan fatigue, the NFL subtly decided to take control over the franchises and players with the purpose of rigging their universe, much like Vince McMahon and his scriptwriters do in the WWE. After relentless poling and data mining, what would they give us more of? What would they create?
What about the emergence of a 23-year-old quarterback with a siege cannon for a right arm piloting a next-gen offense for a team in middle America? Or the discovery of a once-obscure, 32-year-old position coach turned schematic wunderkind whose photographic memory tickles even the most dead-inside reporters on a weekly basis and energizes the second-largest media market in the country? How about the Cowboys surging back into relevance thanks, in part, to the heartwarming comeback story of a linebacker who torched his knee so badly many thought he’d never play again? How about an notable heel dismantling a once-popular franchise?
And if our rapid-reaction cynicism still managed to take over? We’d probably get what we got on Sunday—one of the rarest and most universally-likable plays in football. The Dolphins stunned the Patriots 34–33 on a last-second lateral play, the likes of which we have not seen successfully run since the River City Relay back in 2004. It already has a cool name—The Miami Miracle—and keeps a desperate team on the outer fringes of playoff relevance afloat for one more week.
Let us watch, one more time:
The end-of-game relay is beautiful. All the desperate wandering, the lawless search for vacant space as a scattered defense closes in on the guy with the ball. At best, only minutes of practice time can be devoted to this during the season, which means it is never truly run—or defended—with the type of robotic precision that we see in other plays.
And here, against the fabled Patriots who have long stepped on the Dolphins’ necks en route to one division title after another. The sight of a gassed and stumbling Rob Gronkowski trying to make a defensive play as the last line of protection in front of the end zone.
In all seriousness: If you were approached with the script for the 2018 NFL season, wouldn’t you have chuckled and said, “What is this, another season of Friday Night Lights?”
It may be another decade before we get another one of these game-ending beauties again. Or, the NFL might decide you like them so much that we get one every week now. The point I’m trying to make is, enjoy it.
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