Some of the greatest moments of my life involved watching live sport. I love the battle between two sides. There’s no ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and you can’t tell who will win from the very beginning, like in the movies.
Underdogs win when you least expect them to. Players display feats of brilliance which even they don’t expect. Teams combine in a state of flow to defy expectations.
It’s entertainment and art all rolled into one.
The purest example is when you think the result is going one way and it suddenly pivots and goes the other.
For example, in 1999 Manchester United played Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions league final. Bayern Munich led 1-0 as the game reached injury time and with only 3 minutes to go, United were attacking hard.
For the next 3 minutes I couldn’t follow any of what was happening, because I was listening to the match on the radio, in German, and it was too chaotic to follow. As the broadcast cut instantly to the news I knew something unexpected had happened. I left it to my friend, a devastated Liverpool fan, to explain that United had done the unthinkable and scored two goals to win the trophy!
Tears of joy
Fast forward a few years and Liverpool were 3-0 down against AC Milan in the same fixture. I watched captain Steven Gerrard shout and cajole his players, ordering them around on the pitch. Leading his team by example, deep into the game and seemingly against hope, he scored the first of the team’s 3 goals in 6 minutes and eventually won the 2005 title on penalties.
And not to focus entirely on football, there was the breath taking conclusion to the Rugby World Cup in 2003. England played Australia in the final and with just 26 seconds left on the clock, Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal to clinch a 20-17 win, and steal the title from under the noses of the Australians, in their home tournament.
What just happened?!
In all 3 examples (and many more I can think of), the teams overcame huge pressure to deliver when it mattered most.
The focus and determination they displayed changed the course of those matches and determined how history would remember them.
Their efforts also took their fans on an emotional journey, from the depths of despair to the heights of elation.
The hairs still stand up on the back on my neck when I think about those moments.
This sudden change in fortunes, when it looks least likely, is the closest I think we can get to real magic.
You can do this too
This isn’t reserved for international sports stars. You and I can do this in our day-to-day lives too.
Too often we give up when things are hard, take a step back as we start to feel despondent about something. But this is the time when you need to stay cool and keep your focus.
After a string of misses your luck has to change. The opposition will get tired and let their guard down.
That’s the time you can STRIKE! But it’ll never happen if you’re crying in the corner.
You need to believe you can do it.
You need to summon up the mental energy.
You need to keep working hard and be ready to jump on even the slightest chance when it comes up.
That’s how the magic happens.
What’s a turkey?
I had a front-row seat to this at the weekend. I went 10-pin bowling for my son’s birthday and my brother-in-law had a poor run of form, through 2 games. But he kept his cool, and on his very last round, hit 3 strikes in a row. Suddenly he went from last to first. In 3 balls!
Read that again, 3 strikes in a row. A turkey it’s called, in case you didn’t know. I bet you’ve never even seen that before.
And that moment was (almost) as exciting to me as the two football matches above, because it was so unlikely, and the odds were so against him, that it was like pure magic. It would never have happened if he’d stopped trying. Now, I’ll never forget it.
I’d love to hear about a time you’ve experienced this. Tell me about a great comeback, or a last minute change in fortune. Pop a comment below.
PS – poor Liverpool
Coincidentally, the same afternoon my BIL bowled his turkey, Liverpool were in another race, this time with Manchester City, for the Premier League title. City needed to win their final match of the season, but with 14 minutes left, were losing 2-0. Liverpool, winning their own game, looked set to be champions. Until City scored 3 goals in 6 minutes, to snatch the title.
More magic. New heroes made. Will it ever get boring?