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LOPRESTI: Colts-Chiefs playoff game joins classic-comeback peers

January 11, 2014

mike lopresti sportsWe call to order this special meeting of the IBJ Club. Which, of course, stands for Indiana’s Best Jawdroppers. Only those sports moments where fate flip-flops as if it were a pancake at Le Peep need apply.

A new candidate is on the floor for consideration. A lot of snow has fallen since Andrew Luck and his gang pulled the rug from beneath the Kansas City Chiefs, after trailing by 28 points. The Colts moved on with other fish to try to fry, while Indianapolis turned into Fairbanks.

But before we consign it to history, that game would seem to meet the requirements for membership. It was a dramatic comeback with Indiana ties, it meant something important, and the plot seemed to come from The Twilight Zone.

So we need a vote. But first, let’s meet the officers of the IBJ Club.

The president is Reggie Miller. Surely you haven’t forgotten the magic act he pulled in Madison Square Garden, right there in front of God and Spike Lee and everybody.

Eight points he scored in nine seconds of the opener of the Pacers’ 1995 playoff series with New York, eradicating a late six-point Knicks lead.

First, a 3-pointer with just over 16 seconds left. Then, a stolen pass after New York’s Greg Anthony fell down. Those Miller handprints on Anthony’s back had nothing to do with the fall. That’s the president’s story and he’s sticking to it. Then, another 3-pointer to tie, and finally—after the Knicks missed two free throws and a short Patrick Ewing jumper—two free throws to win. Hail to the chief.

The vice president is Joe Montana, and his chicken soup game. That’d be the 1979 Cotton Bowl, when the wind chill factor—this might sound familiar—was below zero. Montana had the flu and shivered so much at halftime, trainers swaddled him in blankets and fed him chicken broth. Meanwhile, Notre Dame trailed Houston 34-12 with eight minutes left.

Montana made his way back out to the frozen tundra and produced one of his finest comebacks, throwing the winning touchdown pass eight yards to Kris Haines as time expired for a 35-34 win.

The secretary is Rick Calloway, possibly the only player who ever turned an air ball into a trip to the Final Four. It was the 1987 NCAA Midwest Regional final—Indiana vs. LSU in Cincinnati—and the Hoosiers were trying to come from nine points behind in the last 4:38.

LSU was helpful by scoring just one free throw in seven possessions. But the Tigers still led 76-75 in the final 10 seconds, when Daryl Thomas put up a shot for Indiana that hit nothing but Ohio air. Calloway soared in like Superman out of a phone booth, grabbing the rebound and banking in the winner.

Without that, there would have been no famous Keith Smart jumper, no third Bob Knight national championship.

The treasurer is Peyton Manning. Indianapolis was down 21-3 to New England in the 2006 season AFC Championship, and the Patriots were treating the Colts like they were boxes of Earl Grey at the Boston Tea Party.

But Manning led the way back—four New England leads the Colts erased that day—and Joseph Addai’s touchdown finally put them in the Super Bowl with 77 seconds to spare. Manning would say, “I don’t know if you’re supposed to pray or not in those kinds of situations, but I did.”

The sergeant-at-arms is John Daly. He never played for an Indiana team, but his fairy tale at Crooked Stick in the 1991 PGA will do. He was the ninth alternate to get in the field, but there were just enough injuries, previous engagements and childbirths among those ahead of him to free a spot.

It took a mad dash from Memphis the night before the first round, to play a golf course he had never seen in his life. But when he teed it up in Carmel, the first thing people noticed was that he could hit it to Noblesville. Four days later, he was PGA champion by three strokes.

His life later turned into a reality show, but he’ll always have that weekend at Crooked Stick.

So let’s put it to a vote. Two things we’ve learned in recent days: These Colts know comebacks, and it is never good news when the weather people start using the phrase “polar vortex.”

Everyone in favor of the 45-44 win—code name Luck and Pluck—say aye.

It’s unanimous.•

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Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years; he covered 34 Final Fours, 30 Super Bowls, 32 World Series and 16 Olympics. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mlopresti@ibj.com.

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