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Sporting Lesson: The Game Ends at Double Zero

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Never put a subject to rest before the story actually ends.

I simply wrote off Notre Dame and put those thoughts in my previous blog before the game actually ended. Down quickly 17 points, Notre Dame never truly got close to Michigan State and going into the fourth quarter, and it looked all but over. In the space of 5 minutes, though, Notre Dame came back to upset Michigan State in front of the Spartan home fans.

Call it the luck of the Irish as the Spartan helped the Irish cause with turnover after crucial turnover. Of course, it could easily be argued that turnovers are part of the game and Notre Dame took advantage of what was given to them. The real lesson is that in sports as in life, the game is not over until it is over. Comebacks are part of sports and last night Notre Dame game was another great comeback story for sport fans to discuss years from now.

For Notre Dame, their season was on the line. The previous week debacle against Michigan dealt Notre Dame national championship chances a devastating blow and a loss against Michigan State would essentially ended Notre Dame season or at least their shot at National title. Coming into the season, Notre Dame defense was marked with question marks and it would be up to the offense to outscore the opposition. In their first two games, the defense held but against Michigan and Michigan State, the defense melted away.

With 15 minutes left in their season, the Irish dug in as they scored 19 straight points to steal victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat. In many ways, this comeback compared to other great Notre Dame comeback. Irish fans still talk of Joe Montana leading the Irish to victory over Houston in the 1979 Cotton bowl in a furious fourth quarter comeback in unusually nasty Dallas weather. This comeback may even mean more for there was more at stake. When Notre Dame defeated Houston, it was for the Cotton Bowl championship, but Notre Dame was not in any national championship hunt. This present Irish team was.

What makes a great comeback a great comeback is not just the comeback itself but what is at stake. When the Boston Red Sox came back from the three games to zero deficit two years ago, the American League pennant was at stake. The Red Sox would go on to sweep the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years. Prior to that championship, they had to win four straight, including the last two in the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium.

Just as the Irish completed their comeback in front of a hostile Michigan State crowd, the Red Sox finished their comeback in front of rabid Yankees fans. The Yankees and their faithful followers were already booking tickets to St. Louis, but the Yankees forgot that they needed four victories — not just three — to continue their march toward another World Series championship.

As a sports pundit recently told me, the game ends at double zero. Michigan State forgot that lesson but the Irish did not. That is why the Fighting Irish now 3-1 and still have a slight pulse beating in their pursuit of a BCS championship.

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About Tom Donelson