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The Foot of Jesus, and other musings

I don't know about everyone else out there, but for me, among my collection there are a handful of books that I seem to pick up and read about every other year. Usually on the lighter side, something that will give me a good laugh. I recently picked up and read for the fourth time in seven years <I>Dave Barry's "Complete Guide to Guys".</I>

I always crack up at the section that discusses the phenomenon of "Guys and Sports Anguish". There is particular paragraph that I wish to quote, as a lead-in to this article:

"I read an article once stating that down in Central America, they take sports too seriously in the sense that they routinely kill each other over soccer. (For the record, I think this is overreacting, unless of course… we are talking about the playoffs.) So anyway, there was this big match once where El Salvador beat Honduras, or the other way around, and the next day one of the newspapers in the winning country claimed that the foot of Jesus had actually come down from Heaven several times and deflected shots from the winning team's goal. There was an actual drawing of this in the newspaper."

While perhaps we haven't seen anything so dramatic as the Foot of Jesus intervene on behalf of the Huskies, there is a reason why the Hail Mary is called what it is. Certainly there have been a handful of finishes throughout the years that have had Husky fans with mouths agape and staring skyward in frenzied amazement.

Divine Intervention? (Since 1975)

5. Mark Lee's Miracle Punt Return Against Oregon (1979)

Washington trailed the Ducks at one point 17-0, but made a great comeback on the road. The deficit had been trimmed to 17-14, but with only 1:58 left to play, it looked to be a mighty struggle. Lee took the Oregon punt and made his way to the sideline. He then reversed field, coming all the way across the grain. He zigzagged and reversed himself all over the field and finally broke into the clear, which sent the Duck fan's hearts up into their throats.. His entry into the end zone marked a 58-yard return, and the stuff of legends. Washington held on to win 21-17.

4. Washington's 23 Unanswered Points Against Cal (2000)

To draw a comparison to natural disasters, this one resembled a massive mudslide. The Golden bears held a 24-13 lead early in the 4th quarter, and their defense had been throttling the Huskies the entire way. Then something happened. The wheel's came off of Cal's carriage and turned promptly into a pumpkin. Plagued by a barrage of turnovers, and bearing witness to a parade of Washington touchdowns, the Bears left town with a 36-24 loss pinned to their hides. Personally, I still can't comprehend what I witnessed that day.

3. Washington's Great Comeback Against USC (1985)

Defeat seemed assured. With 4:00 left, USC was leading 17-13 and sitting on Washington's 1-yard line. Somehow, Trojan running back Ryan Knight fumbled, the Huskies recovered, and then a legendary drive was consummated. Twice during this drive, Washington was facing fourth downs, do or die situations. Former NFL players Chris Chandler and Lonzell "Mo" Hill, hooked up on both of the fourth down crisis. Play after play, Chandler kept dropping back into the pocket, picking and pecking at the Trojan defense, completing passes to a multitude of receivers. With a scant :50 left on the clock, Washington sat upon the Trojan 13-yard line. Chandler dropped back, and found Hill streaking across the back of the end zone. The Huskies pulled out an amazing 20-17 win. It marked the fourth time in five meetings that Washington had defeated the mighty USC program. Another amazing footnote to that drive is that Chandler doesn't remember it. He had suffered a concussion on the first play and was playing "out of his mind" after that.

2. Washington's Great Comeback Against Michigan (2001)

UW was on the verge of being knocked back against the ropes, as an anemic offense watched hopelessly from the sidelines as Michigan lined up to attempt a field goal. This would have staked the visiting Wolverines to a 15-6 lead, and probably would have been too much for the sputtering Huskies. By the next time Washington's offense took the field, they found themselves ahead 20-12. This was in thanks to Omare Lowe's block of Michigan's field goal, which was picked up by Roc Alexander and sprinted into the visitor's end zone. This was to be followed moments later, when Lowe picked off a Michigan pass and returned it back into that same end zone. Washington went on to be victorious by a count of 23-18, in game they had no business winning.

1. Washington's Miracle Hail Mary to Beat the Cougars (1975)

With just four minutes remaining, Husky Stadium was pretty much empty. Viewing a game in practically monsoon conditions proved to be too much for many fans. And with the Cougars leading 27-14 and sitting at the UW 7-yard line, there didn't seem to be much hope. Enter greed, friend of the Huskies but foe of the Cougars.

Washington State coach Jim Sweeney made the mistake of acquiescing to his players' greedy pleas to run up the score on the Huskies. Instead of grinding out the clock with running plays and taking a sure victory, Sweeney called for a pass play to appease his players.

Before he could blink, an innocent looking pass into the flat was picked off by Washington's Al Burleson and returned 97 yards for a TD. Don James thought that the Cougs were feeling shell-shocked, and consequently would play conservatively in the next series. So he elected to kick the ball deep. Washington's D stuffed the Cougars in three plays and forced a punt.

On first down, Warren Moon lobbed a Hail Mary into a clump of humanity just past midfield. The pass ricocheted off the hands of a Wazzu defender, and right into the hands of Spider Gaines (the fastest player on the field!). Gaines raced untouched all the way to the end zone. The golden extra point was converted, just as many fans were scrambling back into the stadium, after hearing the roar from the game-tying touchdown.

All one can do is shake their head.

God most definitely has far bigger problems to deal with, than relatively meaningless football games. My guess is that He is an impartial observer. But in dealing with the human spirit, and its hunger for competition, it can lead to interesting behavior. After all, if God did not put Lou Holtz upon this earth to coach pro football, (as Holtz stated in the mid-1970s), then certainly it is possible that other forms of divine intervention have taken place around the globe.

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