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'Not Till the Fat Lady Sings'     Send a link to a friend

[JAN. 21, 2003]  "Not Till the Fat Lady Sings: The Most Dramatic Sports Finishes of All Time." Edited by Les Krantz, Triumph Books, 2003, 148 pages.

Review by Richard Sumrall

American sports fans everywhere are familiar with the refrain "It ain't over till the fat lady sings." In his new book "Not Till the Fat Lady Sings," author Les Krantz documents the most exciting, improbable finishes in sports history. Going back as far as "Merkle's Blunder" in the Giants-Cubs baseball game in 1908 (Fred Merkle's failure to touch second base on a game-winning hit cost the Giants the pennant), Krantz has assembled a collection of sporting events that genuinely represents the "agony and the ecstasy" of competition in American sports.

First team

The 10 greatest finishes in sports history include games that have become ingrained in the American consciousness. Among them are Doug Flutie's 1984 "Hail Mary" pass against Miami, Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" in 1972 against the Raiders, Bobby Thompson's 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round the World" ninth-inning home run against the Dodgers, and the United States 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic gold-medal victory over the USSR.

The inclusion of the "Munich Clock Controversy" at the 1972 Olympic basketball competition is certain to generate strong feelings among readers. In that game the United States "lost" its first Olympic basketball game when the referees gave the team from the Soviet Union three consecutive chances to inbound the ball at the end of the game and win by a score of 51-50. Those who watched this televised travesty will remember that Illinois State guard Doug Collins hit two crucial free throws seconds earlier to give the Americans a 50-49 lead with three seconds remaining.

Second team

The second 10 greatest finishes are almost as extraordinary as the first 10 games. Included in this selection is John Havlicek's steal of an inbound pass in the 1965 playoff against the 76ers, Don Larsen's called third strike to pitch the only perfect game in World Series history (1956), the 14-second count during the 1927 heavyweight championship fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, and Christian Laettner's 1992 turnaround buzzer-beater for the Duke Blue Devils against the Kentucky Wildcats. Big Ten fans will enjoy reliving the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, when Ohio State's goal-line stand preserved a double overtime victory against Miami for college football's national championship.


[to top of second column in this review]

Not Till the Fat Lady Sings: The Most Dramatic Sports Finishes of All TimeThird team

As with the second team, several of the third 10 greatest finishes could easily have been included in the top 10. The most notable games here include Lorenzo Charles' dunk off a desperation shot to win the 1983 national championship for Jim Valvano's North Carolina State Wolfpack, Tom Watson's birdie chip on the 17th green to defeat Jack Nicholas at the 1982 U.S. Open, and the greatest drive in Super Bowl history: Joe Montana's 92-yard drive against the Bengals in 1982.

Probably the most interesting inclusion here is the "And The Band Played On." The 1982 football game between Stanford and California finished with arguably the most exciting and bizarre ending in college football history. Behind 20-19 with four seconds remaining on the clock, California took the ensuing kickoff and used five laterals plus the Stanford marching band (who had drifted onto the field) to score the winning touchdown.

Honorable mention

There are many of the 20 games in this section that could easily have made the first three teams. Those include Jean Van de Velde's collapse at the 1999 British Open, tiny Milan's victory over mighty Muncie Central in the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship, the Cale Yarborough-Donnie Allison duel that opened the door for Richard Petty to win the 1979 Daytona 500, and Brandi Chastain's penalty kick that gave the U.S. women's soccer team its World Cup championship victory over China.

"Not Till the Fat Lady Sings" is one of the best sports compilations to come onto the market in many years. The book is beautifully illustrated and contains many photographs, statistics and memorable quotes. As quarterback Doug Flutie writes, "A spectacular, game-winning play in the clutch is what makes fans return to the stadium. That's what makes all of sports great: hoping to see a miracle." This book is recommended to sports fans everywhere.

NOTE: This book comes with a DVD version that includes actual footage of some of the greatest finishes. The DVD is available for checkout in the library's DVD collection.

[Richard Sumrall, Lincoln Public Library District]

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