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From Zero To Hero

As a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, I was once watching them play the Detroit Lions. A win meant advancement to the playoffs. A loss meant the end of the season. It was a sloppy mess of a game for Da Boys. In the closing minutes, the Cowboys were ahead 24-20, but the Lions were driving. Defender DeMarcus Lawrence recovered a fumble.

If he had simply fallen on the ball, end of game - the Cowboys would have taken possession, taken a few knees to run out the clock, and headed to the post season. But Lawrence didn't fall on the ball. In his excitement, he tried to run the ball into the end zone a mere 20 yards away and seal the deal with six more points. Unfortunately, he was stripped of the ball and the Lions recovered.

Let's take a moment and consider this carefully. A rookie defender has the game literally in his hands, and fumbles it away with a rookie mistake. I suppose that's why they call it that.

No doubt Lions fans across the nation roared with glee at this moronic mistake. They had the ball back with plenty of time to score. They had a quarterback with a strong arm and perhaps a stronger will to win. By some miracle, they dodged the fumble bullet and had another chance.

But something crazy happened. DeMarcus Lawrence also got another chance. DeMarcus Lawrence also roared. Eight plays later, he stormed across the scrimmage line, sacked the quarterback, forced AND recovered a fumble. This time, he fell on it like all good little defenders should. Game. Over.

I couldn't believe it. True confession: I screamed like a girl. It was the talk of sports radio for days afterward, and good reason. It got me thinking: how often does a chance at redemption happen, with a positive outcome? I mean, every time any of us makes a mistake, our fondest wish is for a do-over. But do-overs are so rare. So I Googled. Nothing beats a great redemption story.

Browns def. Jets 23-20 1987 Division Semifinals

It took them two overtimes to do it, but the Browns cashed in all their redemption cards in this one. Quarterback Bernie Kosar had two interceptions to make up for. The offense wasted a chance at a game-winning touchdown due to excessive celebration after a pass reception that had put them within field goal range, and had to settle for said field goal. Kicker Mark Mosely won the game with a field goal in the second overtime, but he had missed three of five earlier attempts, including an easy 23-yarder in the first overtime period. The Browns had no redemption in the conference championship the following week, losing to the Denver Broncos in overtime 23-20.

Giants def. Cardinals 5-4 Game 3 of 2014 National League Championship Series

Outfielder Juan Perez tried twice and failed twice to sacrifice bunt off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Randy Choate with one man on base in the 10th inning. Giants management basically said, 'forget the bunt - he's struggling' and dropped the bunt signal. Perez must have been very thankful. A few pitches later, Perez singled to advance the runner and of course get himself on base. The batter following Perez was able to bunt successfully, resulting in the game winning run. The Giants went on to win the NLCS 4-1 and the World Series 4-3 over the Kansas City Royals.

2012 Adventure Racing World Championships

That's Mr. Fa'avae on the far right

Okay, I admit I had to Google and Wiki on this one - never heard of 'adventure racing'. Teams of four compete in multiple stages of biking, climbing, kayaking and other somewhat extreme sports. New Zealand's Team Seagate won in 2012. The win was sweet redemption for team member Nathan Fa'avae. The previous year, the team earned a four hour time penalty when Fa'avae had failed to keep track of - oh, the irony! - a tracking device, leaving it behind at one of the locations early in the competition. That four hours made the difference between a world championship and a third place finish. Needless to say, the fellow made no such oversights the following year.

David Ragan, 2011 NASCAR Coke Zero 400 Winner

Ragan won this event at Daytona International Speedway just months after a rules penalty robbed him of a victory at the more well-known Daytona 500 race. He changed lanes improperly after a re-start. In NASCAR, that's all she wrote.

This post originally appeared during my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.

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