Saturday, June 12, 2010

Miracle at the Meadowlands (1978)

This is part 7 in the From Hank to Hideki series, chronicling the 40 most memorable sports moments of my lifetime.

Previous: Ode to Ron Guidry (1978)

Baseball was my first love, but among spectator sports, football definitely came next. I became a fan of the New York Football Giants in '75 or '76, but didn't start really following them until 1977, the rookie season of Joe Pisarcik. That would be his NFL rookie season, of course, because the 25-year old native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania played in the Canadian Football League for three years prior to that.

As I've previously written about, I wasn't as spoiled by the early success of the Giants as I was the Yankees. In my first few years as a fan, I considered myself a bit of a die-hard, though, as I would watch every game to the end no matter what the outcome.

Pisarcik and Co. were 5-3 at the midway point of 1978, with two of their three losses to the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. So, things were looking promising following a victory over the previously 6-1 Washington Redskins, until six consecutive losses nixed that. But, it was the fourth in that string of defeats that was the most painful.

I was watching in my parents' basement with Brian. Leading Philadelphia 17-6 going into the 4th quarter, it looked as though the Giants were going to end their brief skid, pull into a tie for third place in the NFC East with the Eagles at 6-6, and get their playoff hopes back on track. The Eagles managed a touchdown to pull within 17-12, but missed their second extra point of the game. Since a field goal wouldn't be enough to overcome the deficit, the Jints clearly were in control, possessing the ball inside of the two-minute warning, and only needing to execute a few plays to run out the clock.

After kneeling on the ball on second down, the Giants incredulously called a running play on third down. Where the breakdown in communication came from is still subject to dispute, but Pisarcik clearly wasn't ready for a quick snap from center and running back Larry Csonza didn't look prepared to take the handoff.

We watched in stunned disbelief as Pisarcik fumbled the attempted exchange, and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards recovered the loose football and ran it in for the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left. I assumed the announcer would tell us that the play was coming back—that either the whistle had blown or there had been a penalty, or something. There had to be some reason that what I was witnessing wasn't really happening, but it wasn't just a bad dream, unfortunately.

I never referred to this game as "The Miracle at the Meadowlands" until I met a bunch of Eagles fans at college. The Wikipedia article on the subject says that Giants fans refer to it as "The Fumble."

There's another such distinction that I find quite interesting. I recently saw a book called Game Six at a Boston area store. The book is about Game Six of the 1975 World Series, in which Carlton Fisk wills his game-winning home run inside the left field foul pole to force a decisive 7th game. I'm pretty sure "Game Six" has an entirely different meaning to Mets fans, one Red Sox fans certainly want to forget. But, we'll get to that later.

Next: Good Night, Captain (1979)

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