What Sports Comebacks Can Teach Us About the 2020 Election

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Despite the lack of an officially projected winner on Election Day, Joe Biden’s eventual victory was not unexpected. It didn’t defy any odds. If anything, Republicans guaranteed that Biden’s lead in vote totals would increase as that week went on: GOP-controlled state legislatures in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin refused to count mail-in ballots before Election Day. And it’s no surprise that those late-counted ballots heavily favored Biden, given that Donald Trump campaigned on the false notion that efforts to expand mail voting were a huge conspiracy to steal the election through fraud, rather than a way to allow people to exercise their civic duties safely amid a pandemic.

The White House is keeping up the ruse. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News that the odds of Biden coming back from Trump’s lead on election night were “one in a quadrillion to the fourth power.” Sounds real scientific. Today, Trump tweeted that on November 3, the “bookies”—known for their accuracy—had his odds of winning at 97 percent. How ever could Biden have won, if not through Democrats’ fraud?

Even if there weren’t a completely logical reason for the way events played out, stranger things have happened. How did the Cleveland Cavaliers overcome a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA finals? How did Dave Wottle overcome tendinitis in his knees to kick his way from the back of the pack to an unforeseen Olympic gold medal in the 800 meter race in 1972? And how in the world did the New England Patriots turn around a 28–3 Atlanta Falcons lead in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI in a comeback so bizarre that columnists cited it as proof we live in a simulation? (I’ve been told the Buffalo Bills’ 1993 comeback over the Houston Oilers was more impressive, but I’m a New Englander, so you know where my allegiances lie.)

Stunning, seemingly physics-defying comebacks happen in the sports world all the time. Even if Biden’s win were surprising, the time has long passed for Trump to learn to take the L.

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