Eisenberg: Can't Control The Hand Of Fate


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The Patriots went instead, and two weeks later, Moore – beaten again – swiped at the ball as the New York Giants' Mario Manningham fingered it along the sideline.

This time, he missed. By six inches.


Manningham reeled in the pass and somehow kept his feet inbounds, completing a 39-yard play. The Giants, trailing by two points with less than three minutes to play, suddenly had hope. They went on to score a touchdown and defeat the Patriots, 21-17.

As always, the result has spawned a dizzying sea of analysis about who is great and who isn't quite as great, who belongs in the Hall of Fame and who doesn't. It's inevitable, understandable and entirely fair. As the saying goes, "To the victor belong the spoils."

No one wants to hear that luck may have played a role, that the whole Super Bowl tournament might have turned out differently if not for a spin or two of fate.

What if Moore had been six inches farther away from Evans, as he was from Manningham, when he swiped at the ball against the Ravens?

What if Moore had missed that day, in other words, as he did two weeks later?

My guess is Evans would have held on and become a hero in Baltimore, sending the Ravens to the Super Bowl. But because Moore was just six inches closer than he would be two weeks later, the ball came out and the Patriots went instead – only to be doomed in the final moments by the same fates that brought them.

The chronicle of football history will say that New York quarterback Eli Manning's pass to Manningham was magnificent, and it was … but was it any better than Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's pass to Evans, which brilliantly threaded a needle?

The chronicle will hail Manningham's catch as one of the greatest ever, and it surely was, but again, what if Moore had been six inches closer and successfully pawed at the ball, knocking it free? Just six inches … not a lot in a game played by 300-pound men on a 100-yard field.

No one talks about luck or fate because you can't quantify it and can't coach it. It doesn't help the narrative along. It just gets in the way. What do you mean the Giants were lucky where the Ravens weren't?

It's never that simple, either. The Ravens may have suffered in that instance, but they benefitted from their share of good fortune this season, both before and during the game at New England. Plenty of bounces went their way.

And don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting Evans' "drop" was strictly attributable to bad luck. The veteran receiver should have caught the ball, as he said after the game.

But when the same defender makes the same swipe at a similar point in the next game, and he misses this time, unlike the time before, simply because he is six inches farther away, I see the hand of fate.

It might be true that NFL coaches exert remarkable control, and that the best team usually wins, but sometimes a game turns on nothing more than who gets the timeliest stroke of good fortune, a hand here, a hand there, determining the sweep of history in the process.

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