All sports fans are familiar with the influence of random chance upon sporting contests. It’s part of what makes following sport such an addictive pastime, prompting in advance endless speculation about likely outcomes – up to and including betting decisions – and, after any specific contest is over, a series of post-mortems that can last for decades.
Each of us will have our favourite personal or anecdotal tales of being wrong-footed and then losing out.
Who has not heard of the Liverpool fans who, reduced to despair after their team went 0-3 down in soccer’s European Champions League final against AC Milan in 2005, left the stadium early … only later to learn of their club’s miraculous revival and eventual victory via penalties after pulling back to draw 3-3 at the final whistle?
It’s never over until the fat lady sings.
Or so they say – especially to those of us who have ever, mentally or physically, ‘walked away’ rather than see our favourite team humiliated … or alternatively perhaps, stay to watch a pet ‘most hated opposition’ win something important that we once coveted?
Way back in the late 1970s, when I was a cub reporter on a sporting magazine, I once spend couple of nights in New York that I shall never forget. On my first professional trip abroad to cover a world title fight (Ali v Leon Spinks, the return), I had been saddled with the additional task of ‘minding’ a former South American sporting great who had once fought a draw with Nigerian boxing legend Dick Tiger. The night of the fight became an intoxicating – and intoxicated – experience involving an epic Italian meal, an attempted hotel mugging involving firearms and my celebrity co-reporter falling fast asleep well before the main bout of the evening.
Back home, after the dust had settled, my fellow journalists and I found sufficient humour in my New York experience to instigate an informal Great Sporting Moments I have Slept Through competition.
Today I’m beginning a brand new competition entitled Great Turn-Arounds I Have Walked Out On.
As of last night, I have my first nomination ready.
Shortly before 8.00pm, for want of anything better to do, I began watching the Premiership semi-final (East Midland derby) rugby match between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers on television.
It was – as eagerly anticipated – a no-holds-barred feisty contest with plenty of niggle and ‘edge’. Two big, ugly, packs knocking lumps out of each other and both teams ‘going for broke’ in their efforts to make the final.
At half-time, with visitors Leicester 17-6 up and seemingly in control, I decided to stop watching for two apparently logical reasons. Firstly, by then the eventual outcome seemed a foregone conclusion. Secondly, I had been secretly supporting Northampton Saints because they were (from my perspective) ‘the lesser of two evils’, in terms of whom I would like to see reach the final and challenge hot favourites Saracens for the Premiership title.
Why bother to watch a second-half drubbing when I could probably find something more interesting to view elsewhere on the box?
Just over an hour ago, in the wee hours of this morning, I rose and came to my computer, where practically the first thing I learned was that there had been an amazing turn-round in the second half of the match. Northampton Saints, despite having a man sent off for fisticuffs, had fought back and won the game 21-20 via a last-minute Tom Woods try.
More fool me, then!
Send your own ‘similar experience’ nominations to me at the usual National Rust email address …