by Thomas Snyder

Solution: ZEN MASTER

While this puzzle may read like an ordinary sports identification puzzle on quick glance, many of the entries will sound familiar but be fundamentally incorrect. A key description, if it is not obvious to that point, is the second from the last which refers to two sides of a coin and says, if the toss went another way, "the outcome could easily have been reversed."

Each of these 24 descriptions is actually a rewriting of a memorable moment in American sports which changes the outcome for the losing team. While each is an event that never happened, all contain enough of a description of the real event's details that they can be transformed into some of the most memorable plays in sports.

The first letters of the write-ups spell RETURN TO CHRONOLOGIC ORDER, which is one necessary step to the answering mechanism. Each description clues a specific person, and the year given is off by a certain number of years, which gives an index into each name for a single letter. The correct list of moments, dates, and people is:

MomentFake DateReal DateDifferencePerson
The Shot Heard 'Round the WorldOct. 195010/03/511Don Newcombe
The Catch (baseball)Sept. 194709/29/547Leo Durocher
Havlicek stole the ballApr. 196104/15/654Hal Greer
The Immaculate ReceptionDec. 197012/23/722Terry Bradshaw
Fisk waves it fairOct. 197110/22/754Bernie Carbo
The Miracle at the MeadowlandsNov. 197411/19/784Joe Pisarcik
The Miracle on IceFeb. 197902/22/801Herb Brooks
The Catch (football)Jan. 198001/10/822Bill Walsh
The Play ("The band is on the field")Nov. 197611/20/826John Elway
1983 NCAA upset by NC StateApr. 198204/04/831Jim Valvano
Flutie's Hail MaryNov. 197511/23/849Melvin Bratton
Denkinger calls Orta safeOct. 198010/26/855Jack Clark
The DriveJan. 198001/11/877Bernie Kosar
The FumbleJan. 197901/17/889Bernie Kosar
Gibson's GamewinnerOct. 197910/15/889Tommy Lasorda
Fifth DownOct. 197610/06/9014Charles Johnson
Wide RightJan. 198101/27/9110Scott Norwood
The Shot (NCAA men)Mar. 197503/28/9217Christian Laettner
Webber's TimeoutApr. 199104/05/932Chris Webber
Jordan's GamewinnerJun. 198606/14/9812Michael Jordan
The Coin Toss GameNov. 199011/26/988Phil Luckett
No GoalJun. 199606/19/993Stu Barnes
Derek Jeter's RelayOct. 198910/13/0112Jeremy Giambi
The Tackle (II)Jan. 200501/15/061Nick Harper

The ordered, indexed letters read DOGEN, PHIL JACKSON, OR HAKUIN. All three are men who have been referred to as ZEN MASTER.