🏆It's not over 'til it's over
- So today, we’re highlighting some of the most memorable comeback performances in sports history. Enjoy!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I almost never, ever, ever give up, but at that point, I kind of did give up."
— Barb Beebe, mother of former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Don Beebe, talking about the 1992–93 AFC Wild Card game before the comeback. Read on to see why you really can’t blame her.
🏈 “The Comeback”
You can’t start a newsletter about comebacks without the game literally called “The Comeback.” The year was 1993. It was a blustery January day in Orchard Park, New York. And the home team, the Buffalo Bills, was down 32 points to the visiting Houston Oilers early in the third quarter of the AFC Wild Card game.
- The teams had faced each other in the final regular-season game just a week earlier, where Bills star quarterback (QB) Jim Kelly had suffered a knee injury, leaving backup QB Frank Reich to start his first-ever playoff game.
Led by five-time Grey Cup champ QB Warren Moon, Houston dominated early, leading 28–3 at the half. In the locker room, Bills head coach Marv Levy and defensive coordinator Walt Corey made impassioned pleas to their team. As wide receiver Steve Tasker later described, Levy “appealed to our pride. It wound up working.”
- The Bills scored 35 points to the Oilers' 10 in the second half, to send the game into overtime (OT). In OT, Houston’s Moon threw an interception on the first drive, and the Oilers were dealt a controversial penalty in the subsequent play.
- Buffalo then made a 32-yard field goal (FG) to give the Bills the 41–38 win. To this day, it remains the largest comeback in NFL history.
🎓🏈 College comebacks
Before leading the Bills to history, the aforementioned Frank Reich played backup QB for the NCAA Div I Maryland Terrapins. After starter Stan Gelbaugh failed to lead a scoring drive in the first half of a 1984 game, Reich replaced him against the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes.
- Down 31–0 at the half, Reich led five scoring drives in the second half, giving the “Terps” a seemingly impossible 42–40 win to mark the biggest comeback in college football history at the time. What can we say? The man loves a comeback.
That record stood until 2006, when Northwestern took a 38–3 lead over Michigan State with 9:54 left in the third quarter. Neither team was particularly good that season, so no one predicted that this relatively low-key regular-season game would end up in the record books.
- WIth a quarter and a half left in the game, Michigan State scored five unanswered TDs to tie the game before making a FG with 18 seconds remaining to win 41–38. It still remains the largest college football comeback.
🏈 Super Bowl LI
Of course QB Tom Brady is somehow involved. By February 2017, Brady and his then-New England Patriots had already racked up four Super Bowls, and he was making his record seventh Super Bowl appearance (he’s broken that record three times since), this time against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Halfway through the third quarter, the Falcons had a 28–3 lead, and ESPN estimated their odds of winning the game to be 99.8%. And then the unimaginable happened. With three unanswered TDs from Brady et al. plus a FG, the Pats tied up the game in the final minute to force OT.
- A short TD run from RB James White ultimately gave the Pats the win — and the Lombardi Trophy — in the largest comeback win in Super Bowl history and third-largest in NFL playoff history.
🏃♀️ Olympic comeback
At the Tokyo Olympics this summer, Dutch runner Sifan Hassan won gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m and bronze in the 1,500m, becoming the only athlete ever to medal in all three events at the same Olympic Games. But to get there, she mounted a comeback that you had to see to believe.
During a heat for the 1,500m, Hassan tangled up with Kenyan runner Edinah Jebitok at the start of the last lap. Despite fully falling onto the track, Hassan picked herself up, rejoined the pack of racers who had pulled ahead of her, and then passed them to win the heat. Down but never out.
⚾️ The Curse
The Curse of the Bambino began in 1920, when the Boston Red Sox sold baseball legend Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox had last won the World Series in 1918 with Ruth, and despite some success over the decades after he left, the team was never able to win another championship...until 2004.
The Red Sox faced the Yankees in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series (ALCS) that year, in a rematch of the previous season’s ALCS (won by the Yankees). The Red Sox seemed to be dealt a similar fate, going down three games to start the series.
- Down 4–3 in the ninth inning of Game 4, on the verge of elimination, Red Sox outfielder Dave Roberts stole second and then scored to force extra innings, leading to a 6–4 win for Boston after 12 innings.
And Boston never looked back. The Red Sox won the next three games, marking the only time in MLB playoff history that a 3-0 series lead was erased. The icing on the cake? Boston went on to win the World Series, ending the 86-year championship drought and The Curse.
⛳️ Miracle at Medinah
The comeback that inspired us today. The Ryder Cup is a rare team competition in the solitary game of golf. Twelve Americans and 12 Europeans face off every two years to win literally nothing but a small trophy and eternal bragging rights.
- Originally, the Ryder Cup was a competition between the USA and Great Britain, but in 1979, young Spanish golfers Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido became the first non-British Europeans to be included.
- The addition made all the difference, with Ballesteros becoming one of the most prolific golfers in history and leading Europe to five Ryder Cup wins as both a player and a captain.
Ballesteros died in 2011, a year before his best friend and Ryder Cup teammate José María Olazábal captained Team Europe in the 2012 Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club. That Ryder Cup got off to a rough start for the Europeans, and by the end of Day 2 in the three-day event, Europe was down a seemingly insurmountable four points.
- Wearing Ballesteros’ traditional Sunday colors — navy blue and white — and with an outline of the icon on their golf bags, Europe needed eight of the available 12 points on the final day.
They won eight and a half points. Though some Americans still refer to it as the “Meltdown at Medinah,” golf fans from both sides of the Atlantic agree that the “Miracle at Medinah” was indeed a European comeback for the ages, inspired by their fearless leader Olazábal and dedicated to his friend Seve.
- For more Ryder Cup action, don’t miss the final singles matches of the 2020 Ryder Cup today (yes, we’re still doing that weird 2020 stuff), with coverage on NBC in the U.S. and TSN in Canada, starting at noon ET.
🏈Updates from Week Four of College Football
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin: If you like drama, this matchup — which kicks off from Soldier Field (home of the Chicago Bears) tomorrow at 12 p.m. ET — is the one for you. After last year, former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan will make his first start against his old team.
- And he’ll be in for a challenge, as Wisconsin’s No. 2-in-the-nation defense only allowed seven points in their last game.
- Although Jones hosts the game, he hasn’t brought much luck to his alma mater, as Texas A&M has won the last nine meetings. Will the streak stop there? Tune in tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET to find out.
🏀First round of WNBA playoffs in the books
⬅️Last night: In a battle of experience vs. youth, the experience prevailed, with the No. 6 Chicago Sky defeating the No. 7 Dallas Wings 81–64. Kahleah Copper led the way with 23 points while Sky star Candace Parker notched a in her first playoff game with her hometown squad.
- The No. 5 Phoenix Mercury — even without — won the late game, defeating the No. 8 NY Liberty 83–82. With less than five seconds left, the Liberty’s Betnijah Laney , but the Mercury’s Brianna Turner made the winning free throw with just 0.4 seconds on the clock. Insane.
➡️What’s next: Round two begins Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with the Mercury facing the defending champs No. 4 Seattle Storm. It’s still TBD whether Storm star (and 2020 Finals MVP) Breanna Stewart will play after missing the last two regular season games with a , but we’d never bet against the Storm’s other stars: Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird.
🏀WNBA Playoff Preview
Today is the first full day of fall, but more importantly, it’s the first day of the WNBA postseason. Cancel your apple picking and pumpkin patch plans...we’re watching basketball.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"You’re measured by championships no matter what."
— Superstar Candace Parker, who won the WNBA title with the LA Sparks in 2016 and is looking to double up this year with her new team, the Chicago Sky.
🏀 The set-up
The WNBA playoff structure is our favorite one in pro sports. Unlike other leagues whose postseason berths are based on divisional or conference standings, the W’s top eight teams — regardless of their conference — make the postseason.
- The playoff seeding is based on the teams’ regular-season records and standings. Ah, simplicity.
There are four rounds of playoffs, beginning with today’s anxiety-inducing single-game elimination first round, where the fifth-ranked team faces the eighth-ranked team and the sixth takes on the seventh.
- Winners will move on to Sunday’s second round, where they’ll play the No. 3 or No. 4 team, in another nerve-wracking single-game elimination.
- Those winners move on to the semifinals to face the top two regular-season teams, who earned a bye straight through to the semis.
Both the semis and the WNBA Finals are best-of-five series, and the whole postseason should wrap up by mid-October.
1️⃣ First round match ups
No. 5 Phoenix Mercury vs. No. 8 NY Liberty, 10 p.m. ET: Bad news for Mercury fans: Mercury’s top star Diana Taurasi might not play, as she continues to deal with an ankle injury. Good news: Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner and Canadian Kia Nurse are more than capable of leading the team to glory.
- Where Phoenix is experienced, NY is full of youth. Michaela Onyenwere (pronounced own-yen-WEH-ray) is the top Rookie of the Year candidate, DiDi Richards is a lock for the All-Rookie Team, and Sabrina Ionescu (pronounced YO-ness-cue) just finished her first full season.
- Phoenix is the favorite, having gone 2-1 against the Liberty in the regular season, but NY has nothing to lose.
No. 6 Chicago Sky vs. No. 7 Dallas Wings, 8 p.m. ET: Speaking of experience, this game will prove once and for all how important it really is. Four different Chicago players have more playoff minutes than Dallas’ entire roster combined, and the Wings’ roster only has a total of 10 playoff games under their belt.
- Aforementioned vet Candace Parker will likely lead the Sky to a win, though we’re more excited to watch two of the W’s top rising talents: Chicago’s Diamond DeShields and Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale (pronounced ah-REE-kay oh-goon-buh-WALL-ay).
🏆 The top four teams
No. 1 Connecticut Sun: The league's best team has lost just once since July 9th, and the loss — in the Commissioner's Cup final on August 12th — didn’t even count towards regular-season standings. Led by MVP-favorite Jonquel Jones, the Sun are primed to win the franchise’s first ever WNBA title.
- Unfortunately, we’ll need to wait to watch them play. Their top regular-season record earned them a double bye, sending them right through to the semis, set to start September 28th.
No. 2 Las Vegas Aces: After losing to the reigning champs Seattle Storm in last season’s final, the Aces, led by four WNBA All-Stars in Chelsea Gray, Liz Cambage, Dearica Hamby and A'ja Wilson, are going all in, in search of a franchise-first title.
- Like the Sun, the Aces also earned a double bye and will face the higher-ranked team to come out of the second round.
No. 3 Minnesota Lynx: The four-time champs (we miss you, Maya Moore) are looking to extend their WNBA Finals appearances record to seven, and based on their recent performance, they might just do it.
- They have a well-balanced lineup, a stellar coach in Cheryl Reeve and have lost just once in the last 10 games. Ride that wave.
- They’ll play their first game on Sunday against the lower-ranked team that comes out of the first playoff round tonight.
No. 4 Seattle Storm: The reigning champs and first-ever Commissioner's Cup winners are perennial favorites, with stars like Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd and 2020 Finals MVP Breanna Stewart leading the show.
- But the Storm’s end-of-season run wasn’t spectacular, with Stewart out with a foot injury.
- Still, we believe deeply in the power of Bird and Lloyd, so we’re not too worried. They’ll begin their postseason push on Sunday too, against the higher-seeded winner from tonight’s games.
👀 How to watch
Tune in tonight to catch the first round on ESPN2 in the U.S. and TSN5 in Canada. Both stations will show all of the postseason, and for updates throughout, keep an eye out for us in your inbox.
🏆Abortion: Women athletes are taking a stand
- The act encourages enforcement through civil lawsuits, meaning it’s up to citizens to report anyone who has had or who has helped someone receive an “illegal” abortion.
- And now, Mississippi anti-abortionists are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the landmark ruling, which held that it’s a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.
The latest: Yesterday, over 500 pro, collegiate and high school athletes — including Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird and Layshia Clarendon — as well as the NWSL and WNBA players’ associations at the Supreme Court, arguing against the abortion ban.
- In the brief, the athletes argue that Roe v. Wade has had an incalculable effect on the growth of women’s sports and the empowerment of female athletes and includes statements from players telling their abortion experiences.