It’s the morning after and I’m still digesting what happened last night in Super Bowl LI. If you’re out of the loop, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 21-0 lead to the New England Patriots, where New England tied the game in the final minutes and won in overtime. It was the biggest comeback victory ever in a Super Bowl, surpassing my Saints and two others who made up deficits of only 10.
I’ve been trying to think of games I’ve watched of my teams where they’ve totally collapsed late in the game. Then I came to realize, one happened just a few months ago. Here’s my list:
Florida-Tennessee (2016) - Florida holds a 21-0 second quarter lead, only to watch the Vols score 38 unanswered points. It was Tennessee’s first win over my Gators in 12 years. I remember feeling this is what drowning could feel like.
Florida-Florida State, “The Choke at Doak” (1994) - The UF-FSU game is one everybody involved gears up for. Usually, the game has championship aspirations for at least one of the teams. This year, it was for both as both teams had 9-1 records entering the game.
The Gators entered the fourth quarter leading 31-3, seemingly heading towards a national title shot. FSU fans were seen leaving the stadium. Then the roof caved in. Florida started playing conservatively, while the Noles kept the foot on the gas, and the next thing you know the game ends in a 31-31 tie.
The result was just enough to keep the Gators from passing Miami (another Gators rival) in the polls leading up to bowl season, keeping them out of a possible matchup with Nebraska for the national title. Instead, the Gators were stuck with the Noles again in the Sugar Bowl, known as “The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter”, and were this time defeated by FSU 23-17. Not fun.
Orlando Magic-Houston Rockets, 1995 NBA Finals, Game One - I was a huge Orlando Magic fan as a kid. I watched the team nightly, starting in their expansion days, and watched them grow into a contender. Every year, they became more fun to watch. When Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway came into the fold, I knew good things were on the way.
This all lead up to the 1995 NBA Finals. The Magic were looking to show they’ve arrived against the defending champion Houston Rockets. Orlando carried a double-digit lead late into the fourth quarter when the Rockets got hot. Still, the lead carried late enough into the game, the Rockets had to go into foul mode to force the Magic to the free throw line and stop the clock.
Magic guard Nick Anderson is the player fouled to go to the line. Anderson was known as a sharp shooter. Between him and Dennis Scott, the Magic had to three point shooters hanging around for whenever Shaq or Penny would get double-teamed. Anderson was also a good free throw shooter, hitting 70% in the 1994-95 season. Magic fans are thinking this game should be put on ice.
Then Anderson misses both free throws.
The Rockets then run upcourt, hit a shot, the Magic inbound the ball and Anderson is once again fouled. No way he misses again, just one shot and this game is over.
Anderson misses both free throws.
The Rockets’ Kenny Smith then hits a three to tie the game with 1.6 seconds left to sent the game to overtime, where the Magic would eventually lose. This sucked all of the confidence out of the Magic and they would go on to get swept by the Rockets.
Worse, Anderson was never the same after that game, where he later admitted he fought with depression because of it. The loss seemed to affect the franchise as a whole also. A Season later, Shaq would leave for LA, Penny would experience injury issues to short circuit his career, and the franchise was left jaded, even to now.
So, I guess this goes to say, I’ve been there Falcons fans. I know this loss stings, and even though I hate your team, I still feel for you.
Moving on to other things, my buddy Keith hosts a Super Bowl party and it’s a good time with friends, food, and drinks. Last year, I think I got lazy and picked up something from a grocery store on the way over. This year, I decided to put more effort into things and made a shrimp and sausage gumbo. I figured if there was something I wanted to eat, then I might as well make it. I also think of food made in a big pot as community food, or food that’s meant to be shared.
This was my first time ever making a gumbo. I’ve made jambalaya many times since it’s a quick and easy dish. But, gumbo takes a few hours to cook, so I have simply never taken the time.
Long story short, people loved it, and one even asked for the recipe. It’s a modified Emiril Lagasse recipe, so I’m no genius, but here it is:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Meat (add any combo of what you like):
1 pound cooked smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise 1/2-inch thick pieces
4 pounds cooked chicken, skin removed
1 pound raw shrimp
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 bay leaves
9 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
Combine 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. Remember, you can’t walk away from this. If it sticks or burns, you have to start over, so it must keep moving.
Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Stirring, slowly add the chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
Add the chicken to the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.
Season the shrimp with the Creole seasoning, then add to the pot, and let them cook about a half an hour.
Remove the pot from the heat. If you’re using large pieces of chicken, using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the gumbo and place on a cutting board to cool slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred, discarding the bones and skin. Return the meat to the gumbo and stir in the green onions & parsley.
Spoon rice into the bottom of deep bowls or large cups and ladle the gumbo on top. Serve, passing hot sauce on the side.