I’ve always had a curious relationship with the concept of miracles. Even as a very young person, I distinctly remember being intrigued by the phrase “miracle of birth” I overheard my mother say to my aunt about a neighbor’s newborn. Miracle of birth? What could that mean? When I was a little older, I’d sit with my parents and siblings in church Sunday mornings listening to the priest regale the large congregation with story after fantastical story involving miracles of some kind. It was then that I realized, much to the initial horror of my mother, that my credulity meter hit its breaking point. From then on, my Sundays were forever free.
My undeniable love for sports—and its heroes—truly defined my formative and teenage years. And talk about miracles! Sports were filled with countless miraculous plays, comebacks and outcomes. The Miami Dolphins’ “Perfect Season” in 1972 was a miracle, for it’s one of the very few professional sports records that has stood the test of time: Never before or since has a National Football League team ever gone the entire regular and postseason without losing a single game. When the Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl to complete the historic feat, I realized then that I not only do believe in miracles, but I also need miracles to sustain me in my life. Sports, as it turned out, was and is a great place to go looking for the impossible becoming the possible.
Let’s talk about that miracle comeback in the 2004 American League Championship Series when the Boston Red Sox, down to their last out and all but out of contention after losing the first three games in the best of seven series to their dreaded rivals, the New York Yankees, somehow, mind-blowingly waged the greatest comeback in baseball postseason history, and yes, went on to win the subsequent World Series for the first time in 86 years and bring unfettered joy to Red Sox Nation. Or watching the two greatest sporting competitors I’ve ever witnessed—and easily my two favorite athletes ever—tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, simply refuse to lose, even against impossible odds and against world-class opponents. And, of course, what’s there to really say about basketball legend (and five-time National Basketball Association champion) Kobe Bryant’s sublime performance in 2006 when he scored an are-you-kidding-me? 81 points (as I write this, the unspeakable tragedy of Bryant’s and daughter Gianna’s death, along with the other souls lost that day, is way too fresh).
But, here’s the thing: Has the word “miracle,” its definition coupled with the mellifluous baritone used by legendary sportscaster Al Michaels when he uttered it exactly four decades ago, moments after Team USA’s hockey team completed the biggest upset in sports history by defeating the mighty USSR team, ever been any purer? In short, no. Even now, I close my eyes and I’m transported back to that moment, when our American boys—Team Captain Mike Eruzione, Goaltender Jim Craig and the rest of the youngsters—actually beat the unbeatable Soviets and the question heard around the world entered the ether never to leave: “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!”
You know what? I do—I actually do.