Re-reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gretchen’s Forty Winks this week, I was reminded of how he would write short stories in an "authentic" manner before adding the "twists that made them into saleable magazine stories".
I reckon Gretchen’s Forty Winks falls into that category, although sadly it is no longer possible to discuss it with the author.
Don't get me wrong – I like a twist as much as the next person. (Although they don't like it at all. No. Only joking.) But as far as literature is concerned the twist tends to be viewed as a cheap device.
Not so in sport – as demonstrated this past weekend by the extraordinary turnaround in the Tour de France that finished on the Champs-Élysées yesterday evening.
The 2020 Tour was already unique in that it took place in what was effectively a COVID-19 bubble that sought to safeguard the health of those involved, just like other sports that have found a way to continue in the current pandemic, such as football, baseball, athletics and golf.
While the race director Christian Prudhomme tested positive for COVID-19 in the course of the event, that was thankfully not the case for the riders.
The denouement, which, in accordance with recent tradition came on the day before the final cruise into the French capital, was not unique, but it was very far from usual.
As he celebrates his 22nd birthday today, Tadej Pogačar, the youngest winner of the Tour since its second running in 1904 – and even that result came after the controversial disqualification of the first four finishers – can reflect upon his dramatic and unexpected performance in the time trial that effectively concluded the race.
Having started the day 57 seconds behind Primož Roglič, his fellow Slovenian who had held the yellow jersey for 13 days, Pogačar sent ripples through the world of cycling.
After barnstorming the 36.2 kilometre course that ended in a category one climb into La Planche des Belles Filles, he eventually finished 59 seconds ahead of his compatriot, who presented a shattered but still gracious figure in the aftermath.
Seasoned observers of the Tour harked back to 1989, when Greg LeMond of the United States had earned his second title through his performance in the final stage time trial into Paris, when he began 50 seconds adrift of the home favourite and two-time winner Laurent Fignon and finished eight seconds ahead.
Covering the 2020 Tour for The Guardian, Jeremy Whittle described the switchback drama of Saturday's time-trial as a "sporting robbery" to match Manchester United's defeat of Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final. The English side, 1-0 down after six minutes, scored twice in three minutes of time added on for injuries through substitutes Teddy Sheringham and the club's current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Sports followers around the world will recall how they experienced such memorable finales to sporting dramas.
Personally I was tracking the 1999 final on the car radio before going for a family ramble on Land's End, pretty much convinced that United had had it.
When I returned to the car and heard voices talking about the English side's glorious victory I felt momentarily as if something had disconnected in my brain.
Similar personal emotions were aroused during a barge holiday in July 1981 as our party stopped off in a canal-side pub and listened on the radio – it was taken as read that this was of sufficient importance to be broadcast to the entire saloon bar – as England's beleaguered cricket team got to work on what would be an epic comeback victory in the third Test against Australia at Headingley.
After Australia's opening total of 401-9 declared, England had slumped to 174 all out and been obliged to follow on.
Ian Botham's 149 not out in the second innings had kept the match alive, helping England to 356, but that still left the home team with the slender margin of 130 runs.
As Australia set out in pursuit of that modest target, however, England's fast bowler Bob Willis set out on a one-man mission to prove his many critics wrong – and to maintain the reverberating pride that Botham's efforts had already inspired.
As the wickets fell, and the pints went down, that long lunchtime session become more and more ashstoundin'.
Guided by their newly-installed captain, Mike Brearley, England won by 18 runs after Australia were 111 all out, with Willis claiming eight wickets for 43 runs.
It was only the second time in Test match history that the side following on had won.
More conventional, sofa-based, knuckle-clutching television viewing was the backdrop for the final round Five Nations rugby match between England and Wales in 1999, where the latter team – playing at Wembley while the Millennium Stadium was being built – had nothing to play for other than the exquisite pleasure of denying the English the Grand Slam.
England, guided by Clive Woodward and with a 19-year-old Jonny Wilkinson establishing himself in what would be an illustrious and ultimately World Cup-winning career, were heavy favourites to win the last match of the series and overhaul Scotland, who had finished with a win over France the day before.
As the match entered stoppage time England had a six-point lead. At which point Scott Gibbs took possession of the ball deep in English territory and evaded five players to score a try which took his team to within a point of the favourites. Neil Jenkins completed the job with an assured conversion that gave Wales a 32-31 win that also gave Scotland the Championship title on points difference.
Never mind literature – these are the sporting stories all aficionados cherish, and Pogačar has extended that noble tradition. As Sir Alex Ferguson might have said: "Cycling. Bloody hell!"