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Super Bowl XXV, "Wide Right" Screen Shot, January 29, 2011. This screenshot qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws because of its low quality and because it is only being used to illustrate the topic of this article.

It’s been twenty years and two days since my Giants pulled off the unexpected against the juggernaut that was the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV. It was the “Stuck In A Moment” (via U2) or “Wide Right” game, when Scott Norwood missed a 47-yarder to end the game, Giants winning, 20-19. It was a great and somewhat improbable moment, given that the Giants were minus Phil Simms and had as much offensive firepower as a firecracker under water. Yet, they somehow pulled it together, with great defensive, good special teams, and methodical, disciplined long drives in the second and third quarters to keep Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas off the field.

There were so many things to remember about that game and day. Whitney Houston’s spectacular performance of the national anthem. O.J. Anderson running three and four yards at a time. Andre Reed having a great game. The fact that the first Gulf War was just a few days old (I didn’t support that war either, but at least it had a real sense of international support). How ridiculous it was that few prognosticators picked the Giants to beat the Bills.

Most importantly, my takeaway was that ’91 was going to be a good year. Now just because my original hometown team won. Not just because they weren’t expected to win. But because of the way they won. They played like grinders, with long drives that led to touchdowns, that kept the opposing team’s offense watching on the sidelines. I had used sports as a metaphor for understanding my own life since I was a teenager. With the Giants winning their second Super Bowl in five seasons (or four calendar years), I saw it as a sign of what I needed to do to move forward that year.

I already knew that many of my history professors at the University of Pittsburgh thought I was a very good student, but at least three (including one of my letter writers, who told me his expectations of me after the fact) who didn’t think I was grad student material, whatever that means. I understood that I also didn’t want to go into the workforce in ’91 with just a B.A. in history and minors in math and Black Studies. I knew that having the masters or another graduate degree would help, and was still contemplating taking my 50th percentile LSAT score and using it to get into law school.

All of this would require persistent, consistent work and agitation on my part, because I had few in my corner going to bat for me, no matter what I finally decided. It was no longer a matter of talent or pure analytical ability. No, what I was going through now required wisdom, diligence, the need to seek allies wherever and whenever they could be found. And a bit of luck. All of which that Giants team exhibited throughout the ’90 season and in Super Bowl XXV. (To be continued…)