I saw an interesting news story on TV yesterday that I brought to the table at lunch. It involved two children from two different families. While zipping through the countryside the car they were in was T-boned by a driver that ignored a stop sign. Both children went to the hospital with severe injuries. After 24 hours passed, doctors reported to the families that one child was going to make it but the other wasn't likely to live. After a week, the first child was released and allowed to go home. The second, however had lapsed into a coma and the outlook seemed very grim. Doctors told the parents he would not last out the week.
Another two days went by the board. The second child awoke from his coma, his vitals improving as each hour passed. Within another 24 hours he was out of the woods. His doctors could not find a reason for the child's recovery. By all intents and purposes the boy should not have survived. Under their breath, doctors called his resurgence a miracle.
During the same week, the first child was coloring in his room when he put his head down on his desk. His mother found him a few minutes later and called 911 immediately. The boy was dead on arrival at the local hospital. Doctors found no evidence as to why the child died. An autopsy was performed but it proved inconclusive.
The question that surfaced at the table today was simple. In the case of the second child, why was it called a miracle just because today's medical knowledge could find no intelligent reason for his recovery? But even more important, why do we have no word in the English language the opposite of "miracle" to identify what happened in the unexplained death of the first child?
Table 54 maintains that people tend to label things a miracle when they can't explain the reason why something, against all odds, has happened for the good. Folks usually assign credit to God for stepping in and making things right. But, under equal circumstances if the ending of a situation is bad, no one would dare claim it was God's fault. At best they might say it was "God's Will" and justify that by saying "humans can't understand the Divine Will of their Creator."
Unfortunately there is no word for an event which turns out bad with no explainable conditions. Perhaps we need to work on that.
Let's get the argument out of the medical realm and talk sports. Coming from the Philadelphia area I remember the game played between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on November 19, 1978 that became known as the Miracle of the Meadowlands.
For those of you too young to remember the game, the Giants led 17 - 12 with the time clock running down. They had just intercepted an Eagles pass on their own 27 yard line to kill what appeared to be the Birds final threat of the game. The Giants ran a safe hand-off into the line on first down and quarterback Joe Pisarcek took a knee on second down. The Eagles had no time-outs remaining and only 30 seconds were left on the clock.
The Giants offensive coordinator sent in a play to Pisarcek. The quarterback took a quick hike from center, wheeled and tried to hand the ball off to running back Larry Csonka, who hadn't had time to get into proper position. The sudden hike surprised Pisarcek and hit his finger hard enough to draw blood. When he tried to hand to ball off to Csonka, the ball hit the running back in the hip and bounced straight up in the air, coming down on one bounce into the hands of Eagels corner-back Herman Edwards who ran the ball untouched into the Giants end-zone for what proved to be a 19-17 Philadelphia victory.
A miracle? It depends on whose fans you ask.
The members of Table 54 concur that there is no such thing as a miracle in sports, in medicine, nor in any other circumstances. There are only events that happen where we lack the knowledge to be able to explain them.
Oh, although Eagles fans might have thanked God for his help in their big win, I doubt if the Giants blamed the Big Guy in the sky for sinking their playoff hopes. Ownership put the blame exactly where it belonged - Giants offensive coordinator, Bob Gibson was fired the next day and never held another coaching job in the NFL. Head coach John Mcvay did not have his contract renewed at seasons end and he never held another coaching job in the NFL either.