Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Immaculate Reception Day

The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Carolina "worse than the Bills" Panthers as I write this. Let's take this opportunity to talk about a really memorable playoff game involving the Steelers that took place exactly 38 years ago.

The Steelers played Oakland Raiders in the AFC divisional playoff game.
With only 22 seconds left on the clock, Oakland was leading 7-6. Pittsburgh was at its wit's ends, 4th and 10 on its own 40. In desperation, QB Terry Bradshaw threw the ball to RB Francis Fuqua, but before he could catch it he collided with Raiders' Tatum. The ball deflected due to this collision, and that was it...except not really. Out of nowhere, Pittsburgh RB Franco Harris caught the ball and ran for a touchdown, winning Pittsburgh the game. With that "immaculate reception" (the name is obviously a play on the Catholic dogma of Immaculate Conception), Harris made a place for himself in the hearts of Steelers fans (and on the most wanted list of Raiders fans).

Like any play, this one was enormously controversial. Did the ball touch the ground before Harris picked it up? Did it bounce off Fuqua only? 

Harris is really really important to the city of Pittsburgh, because there is a statue of him making the catch in Pittsburgh airport, right next to a statue of noted founding father George Washington.

When I visited Pittsburgh in September, I took a picture of that statue:

Harris: grinning all the way to the endzone

Here's a youtube clip of that play:

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