At our Passover seders, year after year we remind ourselves of a few things:
- We read that B’chol dor vador chayavim anu lir’ot et atzmeinu k’ilu yatzanu mimitzrayim, roughly translated as “In every generation, it is our duty to consider ourselves as if we had come forth from Egypt.” It is our explicit duty to remember the moment of miracle and redemption that led out of bondage and towards the promised land.
- We remind ourselves in V’hi she’amda that “The promise made to our forefathers holds also for us/For not just one enemy has risen against us to destroy us/But in every generation they rise against us to destroy us/And the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hands.”
- We leave some cups on the table for Elijah and Miriam, who did many miraculous things including always finding water in the desert and bring the dead back to life.
Passover, and a lot of Judaism, gives us a proscribed structure to remember the experience of freedom, deliverance, and, yes, miracles that have helped the Jewish people survive for over 4000 years. To understand the history of the Jewish people is to understand that it is truly miraculous that we are still around.
(Here comes the leap)
And for zealous sports fans the world over, the agony and the ecstasy of extraordinary and “miraculous” comebacks and defeats defines entire fan bases, personas, and cities for generations. Even the terminology is overtly religious. The Immaculate Reception. Touchdown Jesus. Faith Rewarded. The Music City Miracle. I could go on forever, but this week gave us another inexplicable-cum-miraculous event, just ask Liverpool fans.
11 years ago this May, Liverpool faced Italian giants AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final, that year held on the shores of the Bosporus at Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul. In front of nearly 70,000 fans, the Reds found themselves staring down the barrel of a 0:3 halftime deficit, conceding in the 1st minute and then twice more in the final five minutes of the first half. It was a mountain, and a halftime deficit, that had never been climbed in the history of the Champions League, but in one of the most historic comebacks in football history, Liverpool scored three times in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and then eventually won on penalties, 3:2, to complete the comeback and bring the Champions League trophy back to Anfield. In the mythology and anthology of Liverpool, the “Miracle of Istanbul” is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, LFC victory of all time.
As it turns out, history can, in a way, repeat itself. Yesterday, in front of the home fans on Merseyside, Liverpool hosted Borussia Dortmund in the return leg of their Europa League quarterfinal, the fixture tied 1:1 after a draw last week in Prussia. The clash between uber-manager Jurgen Klopp’s former (Dortmund) and current (LFC) clubs was the featured matchup of the round, but at halftime, Dortmund held a commanding 2:0, lead, and with 2 away goals in the bank for the visitors Liverpool needed to score 3 to win the game. Divock Origi’s 48th minute goal for the home side made it 1:2 (and 2:3 on aggregate), but Dortmund struck again in in the 57th minute to reestablish a 2-goal lead, which, with the away goals, meant Liverpool would need 3 goals in the final half hour to advance to the semifinals. A tall order, indeed. Even the announcer, at 1:36 of this video, claimed the Dortmund’s third goal “seal[ed] it.”
In a stirring display of resolve, though, the Reds channeled their inner Istanbul, scoring in the 66th minute and 78th minute to equalize the match 3:3 and the aggregate score 4:4, but they still needed another goal to overcome the away goals disadvantage. But one minute into stoppage time, Dejan Lovren nodded home a picture-perfect service from James Milner to complete the comeback and vault Liverpool into the semifinal round and a fixture against Villareal. The British press wasted no time in christening this moment as “The Miracle of Anfield,” because it was just that. And while a Europa League quarterfinal is nowhere near as monumental as a Champions League final, it was still a transcendent moment for Liverpool fans the world over, including this one that was able to see Lovren’s winner live on FS1.
Chag sameach, have a great Passover, and let’s hope some of our local teams can tap into the well of miracles that sports continues to provide us… after all, it’s been 14 months since Malcolm Butler’s interception. Which I will leave for you right here.