MCCULLERS COLUMN: The ‘Minneapolis Miracle,’ a quintessential sports moment

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FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, file photo, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrates in the end zone after a making the game-winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints late the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game in Minneapolis,. Diggs has had his ups and downs throughout his life and career, but there's been no greater high on the field than his 61-yard touchdown reception on the final play for Minnesota to beat New Orleans and advance in the playoffs. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

I felt a firm hand land on my slumped shoulder, and I prepared myself to be on the receiving end of a bit of trash talk. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised.

“That just ain’t right,” a compassionate, middle-aged man in a slate gray Minnesota Vikings cap said to me, the lone New Orleans Saints fan in the establishment, moments after Stefon Diggs stunningly found himself behind the Saints’ defense on the final play of the game that would send his team to the NFC Championship Game.

Indeed, it wasn’t right.

It was heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing.

But after picking my jaw off the floor with the rest of America, I took a step back and realized that — yes, while an excruciatingly painful way to see your team’s season come to an end — the “Minneapolis Miracle,” as it’s since been dubbed, was a rare example of all the things we treasure about sports converging to create something beautiful, not unlike a spicy Cajun jambalaya.

The final three minutes contained four lead changes and enough drama to pack a full-length Broadway script.

Remember when everyone wondered whether the Saints scored too quickly, thus leaving Minnesota time enough to retake the lead, with just more than three minutes to go? Yeah, neither did anyone else by the time Diggs pranced into the end zone to the delight of the 66,612 purple-and-gold-clad supporters packed into U.S. Bank Stadium.

Along with the high drama came the swings of elation and dejection that often accompany it, experienced by fans, players and coaches alike.

What was surely another playoff disappointment for the tortured Vikings franchise at once became one of the wildest wins in NFL playoff history. The mood of a party just beginning on Bourbon Street shifted suddenly toward that of a funeral.

The contrasting feelings of the fanbases were plastered across the faces of players and coaches all over the field. Ecstasy for one side, desolation for the other, disbelief for all involved.

The game’s ending was unpredictable but perhaps even more unexplainable.

Chief among the many questions: how did Saints safety Marcus Williams, a man compensated handsomely for his ability to cover receivers and tackle ball carriers, fail to do both on one of the most important plays of his life?

The simple answer is found within the question. He is but a man, a human. Someone who, save for his incredible athletic ability and significantly higher-profile job, is more or less like the rest of us.

A fleeting moment of sports euphoria graced us last Sunday, a moment chock-full of heroes and goats, jubilation and despair, survival and finality.

It was heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing.

And it was perfect.

Evan McCullers is a sports reporter and columnist for the Daily Inter Lake. He can be contacted by phone at (406) 758-4463 or by email at emccullers@dailyinterlake.com.

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