That’s because in two days December 23 will mark 44 years since this legendary heavenly heave inexplicably became one of the most controversial plays in the annals of sports.
The Immaculate Reception is a clever twist and play on words. It’s designed around the miracle and two thousand year-old belief in the Catholic faith known as the Immaculate Conception or the birth of Christ to his virgin mother Mary.
Pittsburgh Sportscaster Myron Cope First Used the Name Immaculate Reception
Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope first used the brilliant name in the media. He described a last second pass play in a 1972 NFL Playoff Game between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cope called Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie Franco Harris’ miraculous catch, or reception of a deflected pass, in the 1972 playoff game’s final possession the Immaculate Reception. He credited Steelers fan Michael Ord for creating the nickname.
With the Steelers trailing 7 – 6 with 22 seconds to go, quarterback Terry Bradshaw tossed a desperate fourth down pass toward running back John Frenchy Fuqua. Oakland safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua at the time of the pass’ arrival. The deflected pass found the fingertips of running back Franco Harris. The Steelers’ running back miraculously caught the ball and fought off one Raiders defender. He then scored moments later, giving Pittsburgh an unexpected, last second 13 – 7 victory.
Harris’ catch, or Immaculate Reception, allowed the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game the following week against the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
To this day, the play is still passionately debated by faithful Oakland Raiders fans. They insist that Harris’ grab was illegal because Bradshaw’s pass struck Fuqua first before Tatum made contact.
NFL Rules Should Have Ruled Play Incomplete
According to NFL rules at the time, the pass would have been ruled incomplete. Oakland would have won the game if the pass did indeed touch Fuqua first. However, the refs ruled otherwise.
Even today, Pittsburgh Steelers fans talk about Franco Harris’ catch as the Immaculate Reception. They insist that divine intervention took place on the football field during that 1978 NFL Playoff Game.
Because of it, the Steelers won the game. But, the incredible win is said to be the turning point in the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise.
The Immaculate Reception helped turn a historically losing franchise into a winner and eventually into a five-time Super Bowl Champion.
That’s why this miraculous pass fittingly captures the #1 spot in my sports comic book cleverly called Spiritual Sports Favorites.
Click on the red cover above to safely download Spiritual Sports Favorites for 99 cents from Amazon. Enjoy the read.
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!