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Farewell, Flutie

A national audience first became aware of "Flutie Magic" in 1984. Locked in one of those late-season games in which all that seems certain is that the last team with the ball will win, Flutie flung a last-second prayer into the Miami night. Half a field away, Gerard Phelan caught it, enabling Boston College to outlast the University of Miami, 47-45.

I wonder if anybody even had time to chant "Defense! Defense!" during that one?

The defining event at the end of Flutie's career was less dramatic but at least as much fun. Playing for the New England Patriots in a meaningless loss at the end of last season, he doinked a drop kick over the crossbar for an extra point...something nobody had accomplished in the N.F.L. since 1941. Half the crowd went wild. Everybody else wondered what they'd just seen. Flutie, 43, grinned like a kid.

Between those surprising and delightful events, Doug Flutie played twenty one years of professional football for eight teams, four of them in the N.F.L., one of them in the defunct U.S. Football League, three of them in C.F.L. He had his greatest days in the latter venue, leading his teams to three championships and being named the Canadian Football League's most outstanding player six times in eight years.

Though he had been back in the National Football League since 1998, Flutie acknowledged when he retired that the seasons in Canada had been his favorites, citing — among other factors - the opportunity to play on the same team as his brother. Even fans who consider the N.F.L. the only real pro league should be able to understand Doug Flutie's preference. His accomplishments notwithstanding, most of his U.S. employers secretly or not so secretly considered him too small to play. Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon called him "America's midget." Raymond Berry, one of Flutie's coaches with the Patriots, felt Flutie should coach rather than quarterback.

With teammates and coaches like that, it was extraordinary that Flutie remained on the field for twenty one seasons, and no surprise that he preferred the less sizest C.F.L. According to a web site called Slam Sports in Toronto, the littlest quarterback is still known there as "our Doug."

"Toronto didn't appreciate what it had until he was gone," Slam Sports reports. At least that particular criticism can't be leveled against the fans of New England, most of whom have been cheering for Flutie since that heave fell out of the Miami fog and into Gerard Phelan's hands twenty two years ago.

This program aired on May 18, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

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