Kickers, Pressure and TR

Mike Moffett

 by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt
I thought of TR’s quote while watching the recent 27-27 NFL tie game in London between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington’s Redskins. A missed PAT by Bengal kicker Mike Nugent arguably cost Cincinnati the win—much as New England kicker Steve Gostkowski’s missed PAT in the playoffs against Denver in January arguably cost the Patriots a trip to Super Bowl L.
Washington appeared to have the game won with 2:13 left in overtime, but then Redskin kicker Dustin Hopkins sliced HIS 34-yard field goal attempt wide left.
The FOX camera’s focused on Hopkins afterwards, standing isolated on the sidelines. My heart went out to his friends and family. Presumably Hopkins’ mom watched the poignant imagery and her heart must have ached to see her son’s miscue shown to untold millions around the world. She had to be aware that countless Washington fans (and numerous gamblers) must be cursing her son’s failure.
We all deal with various pressures, but the stress on NFL kickers is profound. While they get paid well, imagine having millions of people watch you make a costly mistake on national television!
I could relate just a bit to the Nugents, Gostkowskis, and Hopkins of the world, having also made a costly mistake on national television—having once been a contestant on the TV show Jeopardy. As that show unfolded, it occurred to me that it had an audience of many millions of people and I had a panic attack. But I settled down and finally took the lead late in the show.
Then I—a sports guy—missed a golf question. It not only cost me the game, but $10,000, which was a lot of money back then. It also cost me a chance to return as defending champion and make a lot MORE money. My mistake still haunts me and I haven’t watched Jeopardy since. It’s just too painful.
But the La-Z-Boy recliner I won as a consolation prize still sits in my living room, a reminder of my failure, but also a reminder that I at least took a chance and put myself out there—in the arena—even if the “triumph of high achievement” eluded me.
I’m sure TR would have approved—along with the likes of Nugent, Gostkowski, and Hopkins.

COMMENTATORS
I noted with interest that FOX Sports wasn’t afraid to utilize Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez as commentators during recent World Series telecasts. Due to dubious personal decisions, neither legend is likely to ever be enshrined in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame. Still, the fact that Rose had over 4000 hits and A-Rod had almost 700 home runs shows that both know something about baseball and certainly had valuable insights to share.
And yes, their failures and mistakes can also yield valuable lessons as well. Permanently isolating and ignoring such people forever shows a counterproductive lack of wisdom—not to mention a forgiving spirit.

HELMETS
As President, Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban football, due to all the injuries, mayhem and deaths occurring during the early 20th Century. Subsequently the rules were changed, the NCAA was established, and equipment was improved. Still, over a hundred years later, countless gridsters are still being injured by helmet to helmet collisions. So why can’t we just somehow soften the outside of football helmets with something more cushiony? If we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to come up with a softer helmet!

Sports Quiz
Who was the first placekicker selected for induction into pro football’s Hall of Fame? (Answer follows)

Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on Nov. 17 include Hall-of-Fame pitcher Tom Seaver (1944), NBA great Elvin Hayes (1945), and mailman/golfer/younger brother Jim Moffett (1967).

Sportsquote
“The only qualifications to be a football lineman are to be big and dumb. To be a back, you just have to be dumb.” – Notre Dame Football Coach Knute Rockne

Sportsquiz Answer
Jan Stenerud—who scored 1699 points while playing for three teams (Chiefs, Packers, Vikings) during a 19-year NFL career—was the first “pure” placekicker to be selected for the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (in 1991).

Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord, while also teaching on-line for New England College. He co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.