Friday, January 13, 2012

12 Stones -- "3 Leaf Loser"

When will I find the answers?
This life is a lesson 
Take what you're given

The songs that are featured on 2 or 3 lines get there in many different ways.  The story of how I came to write about "3 Leaf Loser" is a peculiar one.

I was watching the Saints-Lions playoff game last Saturday with my son.  Darren Sproles, the Saints' diminutive (5' 6", 190) all-purpose back, reminded me of one of my favorite players from the 1970s, Terry Metcalf, who was a key member of the Don Coryell-coached St. Louis Cardinals. 

Terry Metcalf
In 1975, Metcalf set the NFL record for all-purpose yardage (rushing yardage + receiving yardage + kickoff return yardage + punt return yardage) in a 14-game season.   He had nine rushing TDs, two receiving TDs, returned a kickoff for a TD, returned a punt for a TD, and threw a 51-yard TD pass to boot

Sproles is the current holder of the all-purpose yardage record, but now the NFL plays a 16-game season -- Metcalf averaged more combined yards per game than Sproles.  
After going 10-4, 11-3, and 10-4 in 1974, 1975, and 1976, respectively, the Cardinals lost the last four games of the 1977 season and finished 7-7.  Metcalf had a good year in 1977, but rebelled against the Cardinals' penurious ways and jumped to the Canadian Football League.  Coryell also left the Cardinals after 1977.

That was 34 seasons ago, and the Cardinals have yet to post a better winning percentage than they achieved in either 1974, 1975, or 1976.

The '75 Cardinals were known as the "Cardiac Cards" -- seven times, they won games in the last minute of play.  I was at their most memorable victory that year, which happened to be the first pro football game I ever attended.

Here's how Sports Illustrated described the ending of that game:
St. Louis is at the Washington six, 50 seconds to go. Three more passes go careening around in the end zone and fall incomplete, but they do stop the clock. Now there are just 25 seconds left and it is fourth down. How will it happen?
Well, like this. [Quarterback Jim] Hart drops back and the din in the stadium is indescribable as he fires the ball at [wide receiver] Mel Gray, who is about a yard deep in the end zone and roughly two yards up in the air, perched there, as if suspended by wires. The ball meets his chest and arms, he has it, and now he's coming down, but here comes Washington's Pat Fischer to smack into Gray like the secondary ax murderer that he is. Gray and the ball go separate ways as all three crash to the rug.

Pat Fischer chasing Mel Gray
The Cardinals are leaping around, reacting jubilantly to the touchdown, and the Redskins are leaping around, reacting jubilantly to the incompletion and the victory they believe they have won . . . .
Down on the field one official has signaled a touchdown, and another official has signaled an incompletion, and what appears to be a convention of red-jerseyed Cardinals and white-jerseyed Redskins -- perhaps a thousand of them -- is taking place.
Let us now focus on the most important characters in the whole drama, the group of men known as game officials, headed by referee Frank Silva. They have gone over to a quiet corner of the field to have a private chat. The players stare at them. The 49,919 in the stadium are making a peculiar sound. It resembles a long, muffled threat. The officials break up their huddle, and Silva lifts his arms in a gesture that looks strangely to the Redskins like the thing you do when there's a touchdown.

The stadium explodes, and up in an owner's box, the Redskins' Edward Bennett Williams looks like a lawyer who has just seen his client sentenced to the gas pipe.  [NOTE:  Williams was a very prominent defense attorney.]
Later, referee Silva said, "Three officials ruled on the play. Two of them saw the receiver take possession of the ball in the end zone, hit the ground and fumble the ball. Those two officials signaled a touchdown. A third official did not see the touchdown signal. He saw a portion of the play, the player on the ground and the ball on the ground. He signaled no catch. When we explained the play to him, we agreed as a crew that it was a touchdown."

Gray's TD catch merely tied the game, but the Cardinals quickly won the game with a field goal on their first possession in overtime.  It was a most satisfying ending to the game.

So what does all this have to do with today's featured song, "3 Leaf Loser"?  That's a good question!

As I was wandering through cyberspace, reading up on my old friend Terry Metcalf, I came across this highlight video that some Metcalf fan had posted on Youtube.  As you'll see from the video, given Metcalf's size -- he was 5' 10", 185 -- he was surprisingly hard to bring down.  But what stands out on this video is the way he could instantaneously change directions, and the fact that no one ever caught him from behind:

(The other thing that you'll notice is that he carried the ball with a rather shocking insouciance -- he did fumble a lot in his NFL career.)

The music that plays during the video is "3 Leaf Loser," from the 2004 album, Potter's Field, by 12 Stones, which is usually described as a Christian band.  Some would quibble with that description because 12 Stones is not signed to a Christian-music recording label, and their songs don't include many explicitly religious references.  So let's just call them a post-grunge rock band whose members happen to be committed Christians.

The band's name comes from the Old Testament book of Joshua.  After the Israelites escaped from their bondage in Egypt and wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God decided it was time for them to cross the Jordan River (which was at flood stage that time of year) into the Promised Land.  God had performed a miracle to allow the Israelites to cross the Red Sea and escape the pursuing Egyptians, and he performed a similar miracle to allow them to cross the Jordan River on dry land.

As the Israelites were crossing the Jordan, God told Joshua to choose one strong man from each of the 12 tribes of Israel and have them carry 12 large, smooth stones from the river bed to Gilgal, the place where the Israelites were going to camp that night.

Carrying the 12 stones into the Promised Land
Joshua had the stones arranged to create a monument commemorating the Israelites' crossing of the Jordan River and return to the Promised Land.

Then Joshua went out and fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumblin' down.

Here's "3 Leaf Loser":

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