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The ‘extra man’

Lessons From Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Bridgman, MI—It was an overcast and chilly November afternoon in Pontiac, Michigan in 1981 as my nephew Michael and I neared the Pontiac Silverdome for a nationally televised football game between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

As we reached the crest of M-59 in downtown Pontiac,I couldn't wait to show Michael the first glimpse of the Silverdome's distinctive roof on the horizon.

I had been telling Michael the story of how one of the world's largest indoor dome stadiums was built, and the uniqueness of its roof, which was a cross-section of steel cables that had Teflon-coated fiberglass panels affixed between the cables.

The main entrances to the building at its four corners had revolving doors, which helped maintain an airtight environment to the interior of the stadium. When giant air blowers just below the roof were turned on (bringing outside air into the building), the fiberglass fabric roof would inflate and the inflated dome, supported by air pressure, was a landmark and beautiful sight that would appear to be silver from a distance.

There was a regular push-bar to open doors that could be opened only from the inside. These were for emergency exit purposes only, as an open door would allow a strong gust of air and pressure out of the building. But after a game, many fans would use these doors to exit the stadium and, when doing so, the very strong escaping gush of air would literally push you out the door several feet without walking on your own. I admitted to Michael this was an exhilarating experience I occasionally participated in.

The anticipation of this football match-up was intense. The Detroit Lions had gone 21 years without beating the NFL's Dallas Cowboys who were nicknamed America's Team. It was an exciting game and the sound generated by 79,694 screaming fans that day was deafening. Toward the end of regulation in the 4th quarter, the score was tied at 24-24.

With less than 30 seconds left, Detroit's quarterback, Eric Hipple, threw a completed pass to his tight end who was tackled at the Dallas 30-yard line. When the play ended, confusion ensued as Detroit had no timeouts left and the ticking clock was down to 18 seconds.

The field goal team for Detroit rushed onto the field, including field goal kicker Eddie Murray. Most members of the offensive unit scrambled off the field as the Lions lined up in field goal formation. With three seconds left, the ball was snapped to Eric Hipple, who was the holder. As time was expiring, "Steady Eddie" Murray kicked the ball through the uprights, and the referees signaled the 47-yard kick was good and the game was over.


The scoreboard showed the final score was Detroit 27 and Dallas 24 and the stadium erupted into a thunderous celebration with players and fans screaming, hugging and embracing in euphoric pandemonium.

This was the most exciting football game I had ever seen and the adrenaline of the moment motivated me to guide Michael through the emergency exit doors where it seemed the strong rush of air carrying us a few feet would propel us all the way to the Super Bowl, which would be played at the Silverdome in two months.

Later that evening and into the next day, sports journalists announced after reviewing game films, that Detroit had 12 men on the field during the winning kick, one more than the allowed 11.

Whether or not the extra man made any difference in keeping the 11 Cowboys from blocking the field goal attempt, we'll never know. The refs didn't see the extra man which would have triggered a penalty if caught and this was before the days of video replay reviews.

The story of an extra man during the winning kick that day became legendary.

As I write this recollection of experiencing the intriguing influence of an extra man in a football game, I am reminded of the influence of an "extra man" in my life.

Several of my stories published in The Pacific Island Times have described circumstances where I evaded dangerous situations. There was a rolled-over Ford Maverick (“The Freudian Guilt”), and an escape from a certain airplane crash (“Hong Kong Heart Attack”).

In “Sometimes It Can Be Scary,” I described the time an Uber passenger threatened to kill me, and “An Angel in Bucharest” recounts the time the "extra man" helped me and the Andrews University Concert Band elude being apprehended for smuggling religious material into a communist country.

In each of these threatening situations (and many others in my life), I had an extra man by my side.

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament (Daniel3: 16-28) is about the three young Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who, after refusing to bow down to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar in recognition of a false god, were thrown into a fiery furnace.

The men were unscathed by the flames and were observed having a fourth man with them. Having witnessed this miracle of an extra man, the king repented and gave recognition to the one true God.

At this time of year, when we are remembering the Christmas story, I would like to pay tribute to that extra man who has guided me through the perils of my life and blessed me with wonderful friends and readers of my writings.

To all my friends and followers of The Pacific Island Times: Happy Kwanzaa,Happy Hanukkah, Maligayang Pasko, and I wish every one of you a joyous holiday season.

Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at

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