Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Sports Comebacks

In honor of our Comeback Kids series, I want to post on that area of life in which comebacks are the most vivid and immediate: sports.

Here are five of the most sensational comebacks I have seen. In some cases, they made me leap out of my seat for joy. In others, they made me bury my head in my hands and cry.

5. Philadelphia Eagles 37, New York Giants 31, December, 2010. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Giants led 31-10 in what looked to be a ho-hum regular season game. Not so fast. Led by Michael Vick — no stranger to comeback stories himself — the Eagles tied the game with just moments to play. This one makes the list because Philadelphia’s win came on the most improbable final play of a game I have ever seen:

4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe in the finals of the 1984 French Open 2-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5. McEnroe was undefeated up to this point in 1984 and for the first two and a half sets was at his most brilliant, beguiling best. On clay. It was probably the best serve-and-volley tennis ever on clay. Except the match was best three out of five. McEnroe became distracted by some courtside microphones, Lendl found his first courage and a second wind and came roaring back to win in five. Lendl’s joy upon winning match point is wonderfully unrestrained.

3. Dallas Cowboys 17, Minnesota Vikings 14, 1975 playoffs. The original “Hail Mary” pass. Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson . . . did he push off or not? We’ll never tell. Much celebration in the Davis house on this day; many tears throughout Minneapolis. The Cowboys had no business winning this one. But they did. Heh.

2. Buffalo Bills 41, Houston Oilers 38, January, 1993 playoffs. The Bills were down 35-3 in the third quarter, their starting quarterback Jim Kelly was knocked out of the game, AND THEY WON. They WON. Backup Frank Reich engineers the comeback for the ages. Trivia: did you know that Reich was for a time the president of Reformed Theological Seminary here in Charlotte?

1. Mets over Red Sox in Seven Games, 1986 World Series. The Mets were down to their last strike in Game Six, and the Red Sox had already begun celebrating. Keith Hernandez of the Mets had already retired to the dugout and lit up a cigarette! Then it all broke lose. Ironically, this was the conclusion to the one year in my life when I followed baseball closely. My team that year? The Mets.