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Duration:03:57
Uploaded:2018-03-27
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In which John Green discusses the strange and beautiful 21-year saga of Bruce Grobbelaar's wobbly legs, Jerzy Dudek, and the Miracle of Istanbul.

I know many of you do not like sports! Hopefully you don't need to like sports to enjoy this video.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. It's been kind of a rough couple of days around here, so today I wanna try to cheer myself up by telling you a story about this weird and beautiful moment in sports.

Okay, so our story begins in 1984 at the finals of the European Cup, which is this big soccer tournament where all the best teams in Europe play each other; today it's called the Champions League. And in 1984, the final game was between Roma and Liverpool, and at the end of the game, it was tied 1-1, which meant there had to be a penalty shootout.

At the time, Liverpool's goalkeeper was this guy named Bruce Grobbelaar who was, even by goalie standards, a pretty eccentric dude. 

And, for some reason, during this incredibly high stakes penalty shootout, he decided to feign wobbly legged nervousness as one of the Roma penalty takers approached. And then that guy skyed his penalty over the goal and Liverpool won the Champions League 4-2 on penalties.

And Bruce Grobbelaar cemented his status as a Liverpool legend. But at the time this all happened in 1984, the hero of our story, Jerzy Dudek, was a ten year old kid living in a coal mining town in Poland.

And as a youngster, Jerzy Dudek was like a pretty good goalkeeper. In his teens and early twenties, he played for a third tier Polish team. But as he got older, he became a really good goalkeeper. He found his way to Holland and then eventually to England, where he played for Liverpool beginning in 2001. 

Before we move on to the story, I just want to note that professional goalkeepers practice trying to save penalties a lot. Like, by the time Jerzy Dudek arrived in England, he had tried to save many thousands of penalties. 

When you're a goalkeeper, unless you're Bruce Grobbelaar, you learn your way of saving penalties, and for Jerzy Dudek, that was standing stock still and waiting until like a half second before the kick came in and then jumping one way or another. 

Okay, so flash forward to 2005. Liverpool again find themselves in the finals of what is now called the Champions League with the chance to win their first European Cup trophy since 1984 and Jerzy Dudek is the goalkeeper. 

They are again playing Italian opposition, this time AC Milan, and for Liverpool and Jerzy Dudek, the game starts horribly. At halftime, they are down three-nothing. 

And they weren't just losing, they were getting played off the pitch. Like, AC Milan were just a much better team. 

And then, essentially out of nothing, during one six minute stretch in the second half, Liverpool score three goals to tie the game. And it remains tied for the next thirty minutes, and then through all thirty minutes of extra time. Thanks in no small part to Jerzy Duduek.

At the end of extra time, Dudek made a double save so incredible that to this day if you ask him about it, he says that he does not remember making the save and does not understand how he possibly could have made it.

So, the game goes to a penalty kick shootout. You're Jerzy Dudek. You've been practicing saving penalties since you were a kid. You have your way of doing it. You've done your research, you knew this was a possibility, you've laid awake at night imagining it. The Champions League final down to penalties, you in goal, standing stock still until the moment before the ball is kicked like you always have. 

But then, one of your teammates, Jamie Carragher, walks up to you and says that in 1984, twenty-one years ago, this guy Bruce Grobbelaar did this weird crazy legs thing while defending penalties for Liverpool in the European Cup final, and it worked!

And Jamie Carragher is like, 'you should do that.'

But that was in 1984 with different players and a different coach and a different opposition. What does that moment have to do with this one? 

Quite a bit, as it turns out. There are time in your life when you do things precisely as you have prepared and practiced for them, and then there are times when you listen to Jamie Carragher. So in the most important moment of your professional life, you start dancing. 

You don't actually know how Bruce Grobbelaar did it, so you do your own version, and it works. Milan's first penalty taker skys his shot over the goal and you save two of the next four penalties and Liverpool are European champions once more. 

I think about this moment a lot. Partly because I'm a Liverpool fan and we are notoriously mired in our own history, but also because it reminds me that sometimes the right decision is the weird decision. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.