It's hard to believe that a professional football team, down 28 points with just 7:28 left in the game, could erase that deficit. It's even harder to believe that they could actually win, in the final 14 seconds, on a punt return that was initially bobbled. But that's exactly what happened in what is now being called the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. Counted out, the Eagles snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. And in a game that matters. The Eagles are now perched alone atop the NFC East. You might credit show boater Desean Jackson, who has returned three other punts for touchdowns this season. But the real winner is Michael Vick, who knows what it's like to be counted out.
Last year, I refused to watch a single professional football game. It was just a one-man boycott, but I had a hard time forgiving Michael Vick, arguably the most hated man in America. He had just been released from 18 months in the can for his involvement in an illegal dog-fighting ring, where sadistic animal abuse included hanging, electrocuting and drowning pit bulls who failed to perform. I was even more turned off when his teammates last year decided to give him some goofy courage award.
Vick was counted out by people who matter a little more than me. The Falcons, for one thing, refused to have anything to do with him. He lost everything, and was forced to file for bankruptcy, where he fought vigorously for a re-payment plan that would still provide for his mother and children. But on a construction worker's salary, it appeared unlikely that he'd have a chance.
One of the things I failed to consider is that Vick has always been counted out. He grew up hard, in a community where drive-by shootings and drug dealing were common. He tells stories of going fishing at age 11, knowing there was nothing to catch, just to get away for a few hours. Football was his way out, and he left college early to provide for his family.
The Eagles' Andy Reid gave Vick that little chance, and even then, it appeared unlikely that Vick would amount to much more than a second or third string quarterback.
This year, the Eagles' young team is rebuilding and were never expected to be playoff contenders. They were counted out, too.
But something amazing has happened. A man who was counted out has succeeded with a team that was counted out, and in a game where they were counted out. His fiery resolve was demonstrated by the way he spiked that football on his last touchdown run, almost as if it say, "Try and take that away!"
More than mere athletic ability was driving him. He had already been batted around for nearly an hour by Giants, who even delighted in slamming him when he was out of bounds. It was taking him longer and longer to get back to the huddle. But he refused to surrender.
His performance and this game transcends the actual score or playoff chances. It tells people who are struggling in this economy, whether they are laid off workers or students struggling for loans - Don't Give Up. It tells people who've made mistakes - Try Again. And it tells hardasses like me, - Don't Judge.