Lesson III-9: The Big Game This is what the whole season's been leading up to: the premiere of your commercial during halftime.

Rewriting the Record Books

"Really clutch" was how broadcaster Al Michaels would describe this kicker's game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl, the second in the history of the game. "To be able to go right through the goalposts like that from forty-seven yards away... really clutch." (January 1981)

Entering the late innings of the deciding game of their series in the Big Apple ahead by three runs, this pitcher, whose arm was tiring after only two days rest, would ask his manager to pull him to better protect the lead. While many questioned his commitment, the change worked and the visitors held on to take the game 4-1 and win the pennant. (October 1950)

The decision to pinch-run for this player was quite timely after he reached first base. Down by a run with the chance to sweep the series, the change would pay off almost immediately. Following a groundball just inside the first-base line that rolled into the corner of right field, not even a perfect relay to the plate could have kept the tying run from scoring as the runner rounded the bases from first. After giving up another run before the seventh was over, the visitors would lose the game 2-1. (October 1989)

Unflustered by being down by over two touchdowns after the first half, the visitors had rallied to a tie before falling behind again on a fourth quarter touchdown pass. With five minutes left in the game and down a touchdown, this quarterback would lead a definitive drive to tie the game, culminating in an easy run into the end zone for the star running back's third TD of the game. After that incredible drive forced overtime, the visitors rode the momentum into the extra period and got the game-winning field goal on their first possession. (January 1979)

Routine plays are sometimes the most memorable ones. Leading by a single run in Game Six of the World Series, the ground ball to this first baseman was easily scooped up and tossed to the rookie reliever who was running to cover first. The out at first was never in dispute and served to calm the nerves of the rookie. After two similar routine fielding plays, the umpire called the game-and the series-over. (October 1980)

No one expected such a tough fight from this Cinderella but, with possession of the ball and just seconds left in a tied game, they had a legitimate shot at winning. However, after watching one of his players launch a complete airball from 30 feet to end regulation, it seemed the air went out of this coach and his team. Slumped in his chair in disbelief, the coach watched as his team was shut out from the field in overtime, making just two free throws, to lose 62-54 to the heavy favorites. (April 1982)

Trying to preserve a 2-2 tie with two runners on in this World Series game, this manager summoned his southpaw reliever to work out of the jam. It was a by-the-numbers decision, but four pitches later, the nearly 450-foot fly to deep center that landed just beyond the dashing center fielder's glove would break open the game and lead to the loss. (September 1947)

Overtime was in the cards for these two closely-matched basketball powerhouses. Despite an unreal shooting performance from the field, this center found himself in the locker room as overtime began, having been ejected for a shocking retaliatory foul. Lacking their star shooter, his team came up with no response to their opponents' basket off a bank with just over two seconds left in overtime. The one-point loss would be a painful end to his collegiate career, but such is the nature of March Madness. (March 1975)

Controversy was the name of the day. While the game-winning three would be scored earlier in the final minute, it was only after an offensive foul was called on this player for pushing off his defender that the result was made certain. While many fans would argue the NBA was trying to fix the result of the series, no one would forget the game that followed, which marked the end of a dynasty. (June 1986)

Having battled back and forth throughout the game, this quarterback threw an almost 50-yard touchdown pass to retake a single touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. His team then pinned the opposition deep in their own territory at the 2-yard line with just over five minutes to go. There would be no clutch performance from the opposing quarterback, as the defense would hold, forcing a memorable fumble that would seal the deal for the home team. (January 1980)

Regular viewers might not have considered this a huge upset, but the hometown fans will not soon forget their victory over their Big Eight rival. Up by four, the home team was against the wall after this quarterback moved the visitors to first-and-goal with 31 seconds left. Though the visitors later argued that a referees' conference to fix a potential error hurt their rhythm, what really stopped them was a staunch four-down defensive stand. The ball never got past the 1-yard line, allowing the home fans to tear down the goalposts with abandon. (October 1976)

Observers in the stands seemed to be second-guessing the last play of this NFC playoff game. After his team had gotten into position to take the lead in the game, the quarterback had sailed a very high pass just above his receiver's hands in the end zone. So this coach had one chance to draw up a game-winning play for fourth down. A second pass failed, and the turnover on downs let the opponents run out the clock and earn a six-point victory. (January 1980)

Not much seemed to separate these two hockey teams who had battled back and forth throughout their series. After a hundred and twenty-some minutes of hockey in this game, there had been just two goals, some hit crossbars, and a fair share of controversy after a disallowed goal, but the game was still undecided. As weary skaters took the ice for a fourth overtime, this player for the home squad netted his second goal of the game to break the deadlock. (June 1996)

On and on and on.... The sixth game of this memorable series seemed to go on forever. After an amazing home run by this player to tie the game and force extra innings, momentum seemed to be behind the home team. A bunch of close plays, from diving defensive stops to a tantalizing foul ball, kept the game going until late into the night. The visitors would finally break through for two runs in the fourth extra frame to secure the victory. (October 1971)

Leading by double digits early, it seemed the home team had complete control of this Eastern Conference matchup. But after the home team squandered most of the lead and gave up the ball with an errant pass off the ceiling wires with just five seconds left, this player would be the hero for the visitors, inbounding the ball past a couple of swift defenders and into the hands of a teammate whose layup led to an amazing 111-110 steal of the game. (April 1961)

Once courting defeat after they fumbled the ball in their own territory late in the fourth quarter, an interception quickly granted a reprieve to the home squad. After a defending player broke every unwritten rule by rushing into the line when this quarterback took a knee, the home team's coach swallowed his outrage and called the obvious play. The quarterback took the knee to run out the clock and seal the victory. The five-point win over their NFC rival would help the home team return to .500 and begin a run towards the playoffs. (November 1974)

Going into this international match, no one believed the home team had a real chance at the victory. But after finishing the first period tied at 2, this coach of the home side began to believe a miraculous upset was possible. The visiting goalie, however, would stay in the game and recover from his shaky first period, playing magnificently and blocking all shots for the next forty minutes. Unable to score again, the home squad lost by a 3-2 margin, and would miss the championship match on the biggest of international stages. (February 1979)

In a hostile environment in this rivalry game, many would look back at the memorable fourth-quarter drive led by this quarterback, including a long fourth-down conversion, as being the decisive moment in that year's Heisman Trophy race. By managing the clock well, he got his team into position for a field goal just as time expired. The one-point win would prove to be only the first of many memorable comebacks in his career. (November 1976)

Champions can gather their thoughts in the blink of an eye and guide their teams to victory. That description certainly held true in this memorable college game as, down by two, this player drove across the court with under a dozen seconds left, found a way to shake off two defenders who'd boxed him in a corner, and scored the tying basket. While they'd pull out the game in overtime, the victory was tarnished in the years afterwards as the championship would be forfeited due to NCAA rules violations. (April 1991)

Once seemingly headed to a decisive fourth-quarter touchdown after a fourth-down stop gave them the ball two yards from the end zone, a fumble quickly turned the tide against the visiting team. As the ball popped out, it was scooped up by this cornerback who juked his way past all would-be tacklers, including the quarterback, and scored a touchdown for a stunning 25-21 win. (January 2005)

Rock-solid defense seemed to define this low-scoring match-up of two AFC teams. Trailing by a single point with the ball on his 40-yard line, this quarterback probably needed to lead his team just another thirty yards to get into field goal range. However, getting any yards would have taken a miracle on this day, and after his pass on fourth and ten was deflected and fell harmlessly to the turf, the game was over. (December 1970)

Desperate times call for desperate measures, or so this manager thought as, down a single run to their heavily favored same-state opponents with a runner on first and two outs in the ninth inning, he made his choice for a pinch-hitter. To be fair, against that pitching, it was not clear if any batter could have done much better than to strike out, and the pinch-hitter would not see the plate again in the series. (October 1979)

Every coin has two sides, and chance is often crucial in sports. In football, just getting the ball first might be critical. What might have happened if, after this person flipped the coin before overtime in a Thanksgiving NFL game, the coin had come up tails instead of heads, and the visitors never touched the ball again? Everything went smoothly, of course, so the question is moot-but the outcome could easily have been reversed. (November 1990)

Realistically, with 86 points scored between the two teams, whoever held the ball last in this game thought they would win. It was the touchdown by this running back, his fourth of the game, on the last significant possession that clinched the victory for the home team. While the visitors got the ball back with about two dozen seconds left and the slightest prayer of a chance, the quarterback could not get the ball into the end zone. (November 1975)