War Memorial Stadium has seen its share of historical events since its completion in 1947. It hosted its first football game on September 19, 1948, immediately after its dedication ceremony, when fans witnessed the Arkansas Razorbacks defeat the Wildcats of Abilene Christian in a blowout, 40-6. Crowds heard Billy Graham preach there in both 1959 and 1989. They sang along with Billy Joel and Elton John in 1995. The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, and George Straight have also stopped by over the years. Many high school football state championships have been decided on its field. And Saline County rivals Bryant High School and Benton High School have battled it out in the Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium since 2000.
But with all due respect to those and the many other memorable events that have taken place at this historic Little Rock venue, only one has been declared a miracle.
In 2002, the Razorbacks faced LSU at War Memorial with a trip to the SEC championship on the line. LSU led 10-0 at halftime and maintained that ten point lead as they entered the forth quarter up 17-7. With 6:33 on the clock, Fred Talley ran for a 56-yard touchdown to give the Hogs a chance, but LSU countered with a field goal with only 40 seconds left in the game.
When Arkansas took over at its 19-yard line, the Hogs trailed by six. They had 34 seconds, no timeouts, and little hope. Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones had completed only two passes the entire game. But after Jones hit Richard Smith for a 50-yard completion, the War Memorial crowd dared to believe. With nine seconds left, Jones found DeCori Birmingham in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 20. A successful extra point kick would win the game, but it would have to come with swirling wind from the 35-yard line after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Razorback kicker David Carlton came through, and the Hogs defeated LSU to win a trip to the SEC title game. The contest was immediately dubbed the “Miracle on Markham.”
The Razorback’s win over LSU was exciting, at least in part, because of the clock. The coaches and players knew when they entered the game that they’d have 60 minutes of playing time, 15 minutes divided into four quarters. They knew that the clock would stop at the end of each quarter and after every score. They knew they could also stop the clock by going out of bounds or throwing an incomplete pass. The game time was on display on the big screen and in every corner of the stadium. In life, we don’t have that luxury.
In life, none of us know how many days, weeks, months, or years we have until … you fill in the blank. We don’t know when we’ll lose a family member, suffer a major illness, experience a tragic accident, or when the clock will officially and irrevocably run out. In the Miracle on Markham, Matt Jones was able to stop the clock by spiking the ball with 17 seconds remaining to set up the play that went down in War Memorial and Razorback history. In the game we’re playing, we can’t stop the clock no matter how hard we might try.
So what do we do about it? We don’t sit around and worry. We plan ahead the best we can. We give trustworthy and capable people the legal authority to make important financial and healthcare decisions on our behalf by signing power of attorney documents. We make sure our surviving family members won’t wind up in probate court by using the right tools in the right way—a last will and testament won’t cut it. We proactively face the possible need for long-term care at home or in a facility instead of just hoping for the best. Unless you’re independently wealthy and willing to pay privately the high costs associated with that type of care, that means you must either take steps years in advance to ensure you can qualify for benefit programs designed to cover those costs or take out private insurance for that purpose—Medicare and supplements don’t pay for that.
You can’t check the clock, and you certainly can’t stop it. But you can plan ahead so that no matter what you face, you and your family will be ready.