Some really weird and strange coincidences happen in sports. My career in sports even had a few, but not all that not-worthy. For instance, my birthday is the first of March, usually the beginning of post-season play in basketball.
During my fourth year as a head coach, my team played in the semifinal game of the Nebraska High School Tournament. In the closest game of the season, the Wilber-Clatonia Wolverines beat Grant High School.
I started paying attention. Never once in my 33 years as a head coach did my team get beat on my birthday. The trouble is my teams sometimes missed out on the post season, so I can’t say that coincidence was tested 33 times.
One negative coincidence involved a certain basketball official. I won’t mention names, but she was the daughter of the commissioner that made official assignments for several conferences. She was considered a good enough official to be asked to work in several post season games.
If anyone had asked me, I would have black-balled her from any of my team’s games. I didn’t think she was a particularly great official, but she wasn’t the worst I had ever seen. The problem was my team could never win when she officiated. Despite my teams winning almost 70% of our games, Doane College and Northwest Missouri State was 0 – 9 when she entered the arena.
One game in a tournament at Wayne, Nebraska, my Doane team had a 23-point, second half lead over what now is Truman State. That melted away and this one particular official seemed to will it to happen.
I only had her once at Northwest. In 2004, we had a late lead over Augustana in a road game at Sioux Falls, SD. The lead grew to 10 points with just 5 minutes left. Sure enough, a last second three-pointer beat us. Coincidence? Maybe, but maybe it was karma over the complaining I did about that one particular official.
A little over a week ago, former Kansas City quarterback, Alex Smith, had a compound fracture and two broken bones in his lower leg. Exactly 33 years ago to the date, Joe Theisman broke the same leg in exactly the same manner.
Both Smith and Theisman played for the Washington Redskins. The Redskins should make sure they never play a game on November 18th. By the way, Theisman was in the crowd when Smith broke his leg.
A more positive coincidence happened in the world of sports in 1965 and 1986. In 1965, famous golfer, Jack Nicklaus, won his first Master’s Tournament. That year Willie Shoemaker had the winning ride in the Kentucky Derby, the Boston Celtics won the NBA title and the Montreal Canadians won the NHL championship.
Twenty-two years later, Nicklaus won his last Master’s Tournament. An aging jockey by the name of Willie Shoemaker led the pack of horses in the Kentucky Derby. The Boston Celtics, with an entire new line-up, won the NBA title. I don’t know much about hockey, but Montreal pulled it off again in the NHL. Someone calculated the probability of that happening.
As I was finishing up my Middle School major, with emphasis in math and science, I had to take Finite Math. Part of Finite Math was probability. There is a formula that shows if you have 30 people in the room, there is a 50% probability of two people having the same birthday. Our class had 30 in it. Someone else had the same birthday as me. I wonder if they ever lost a game on their birthday?
Sometimes, coincidences just aren’t fair. Cesar Geronimo was a good baseball player. I remember him as an outfielder for the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. He had the unfortunate coincidence to be the 3,000 strike out victim of two of the great flame throwers of all time. He was Bob Gibson’s and Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strike-out victim.
One of my favorite sports coincidences happened to Mark Sanchez, the 2012 starting quarterback for the New York Jets. It’s a pretty common belief that the number 666 is the Devil’s number. 666 is designated the “number of the beast.”
During week 6 of the 2012 season, Mark Sanchez, who wore number 6, was the starting quarterback for the 666th broadcast of Monday Night Football. Going into the game, Sanchez had thrown 6 touchdown passes, while throwing 6 interceptions.
Sanchez’s average yardage for each completed pass was 6.6 yards. His longest completion of the season was 66 yards. Of course, his quarterback rating going into the Monday Night Football Game was 66.6. Fear not good Christians. The back-up quarterback for the Jets in 2012 was Tim Tebow, a very publicized Christian. By the way, the 666th word of this blog came during the Sanchez coincidence.
I can’t end this little tale of sports coincidences on such a negative note. Take the case of Frank Reich. He was the back-up quarterback for Maryland in 1984. Maryland found themselves down by 31 points to the powerful Miami Hurricanes when Reich entered the game.
He brought his Maryland team all the way back for the greatest comeback (at that time) in collegiate history. Reich made it to the NFL but was a back-up quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. In 1993, Reich entered a playoff game for the injured Jim Kelly, a future Hall of Famer.
His Bills trailed the Houston Oilers by 32 points. Reich did it again, bringing the Bills back on their way to the Super Bowl. What does Reich do now? Of course, he is a motivational speaker. He tells how it really did happen.