There are some names in the history of pro sports that just conjure up heroic moments.
This is what distinguishes them from players like Babe Ruth or Wilt Chamberlain or Walter Payton. Those players had so many great games so often, it’s difficult to pick out just one.
But then there’s the little guy. The person who shines for one moment and in that moment it’s usually with a lot at stake.
Guys like Bucky Dent and Larry Brown and Bobby Thomson and Buster Douglas.
These are the people who are the athletic equivalent to Devo and Biz Markie and Snow and The Baha Men.
It’s a guy like Frank Reich.
That name should immediately evokes images in your head. Images of the greatest comeback in NFL history.
For those confusing Frank Reich with the Third Reich, here’s a brief lesson, followed by seven minutes of Chris Berman making himself the center of attention:
The backup to Jim Kelly on the four-time AFC champ Buffalo Bills, Reich rallied his team from a 35-3 halftime deficit against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 playoffs to pull off a stunning 41-38 overtime victory in the greatest comeback in NFL history.
And now Berman (it’s worth watching based on all the former players – Webster Slaughter, Andre Reed, Darryl Talley! – and the great touchdown spikes) …
I remember that Sunday morning. It’s one of very few early football memories that I have. I was watching the game in the morning on my mom’s 13-inch television in her room when everyone else was getting ready for church. We left at halftime. Warren Moon had carved up the Bills for four TD’s and a 32-point lead.
We went to church and when we came home, the game was over. In watching the second game of the day – which I can’t even tell you what it was – I realized that the Bills had this remarkable comeback and inexplicably won. WTF!?
I know I didn’t pray for a Bills win at church that morning. But, there might have been some weird divine intervention.
The only reason for that would be that Reich was known for two things: 1) being a lifetime backup; and 2) leading ridiculous comebacks.
In college he led Maryland back from a 31-0 halftime deficit against mighty Miami in the greatest comeback in college football history (since eclipsed, but that’s besides the point). Three seasons before The Comeback, he led Buffalo past the previously unbeaten L.A. Rams in 1989 with two fourth quarter drives on Monday Night Football.
Frank Reich managed to last in the NFL for nine years. He started just eight games. His career QB record was 7-15.
But he was 2-0 in the playoffs (he led the Bills past Pittsburgh after the Houston win to get Buffalo to the Super Bowl) and his name resides in a good spot in history.
He is not Jim Kelly, with plenty of highlights.
He is Frankie Goes to Hollywood. A one-hit wonder whose incredible, but short-lived work, lives on.