Consider the field goal kicker. He stands on the sidelines for most of the game, attempting desperately to keep warm. His best friends are the water cooler and the kicking net. And when the kicker finally reaches the field, it is often to perform one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in all of professional sports.
As lackluster, forgotten and sometimes small in stature as the kicker may be, coaches frequently ask him to single-handedly win a game for his team. Sometimes, the field goal in question is a rather doable distance. More often than not, however, these desperate attempts place the kick at farther than 50 yards.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus contributed two field goals against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. In other words, he alone scored the equivalent of a touchdown — without the extra point — in probably less than two minutes on the field.
Despite those two field goals, many targeted McManus for narrowly missing a controversial 62-yard field goal in overtime. A 62-yarder is not an easy field goal, and even so, McManus missed it by a hairline. But his name was all over sports media coverage regarding whether Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak should have chosen to try to convert on fourth down or concede a tie instead of sending poor McManus out to fail.
Such is the life of a field goal kicker.
And even if a kicker makes an exciting, mentally and physically challenging field goal, that achievement is often met with bitterness, scoffing and an overall lack of respect from the football community.
For some reason, sports fans consider a field goal kick not nearly as laudable as other forms of game-winning scoring, such as a walk-off homerun or a buzzer beater.
The field goal kicker does not get a pie in the face or Gatorade dumped on the head like a baseball player would after hitting a walk-off homerun. No one has the urge to storm the field as when a basketball player hits a buzzer beater from half-court.
When a field goal kicker wins a game for a team, the winning team celebrates minimally. In the meantime, the losing team often scoffs that the game’s outcome could almost be deceiving, given the nature of the one-man job of a field goal kicker and the way that kicking a field goal is easier than scoring a touchdown.
In other words, Skip Bayless is not the only sports personality who lacks the respect for kickers that he awards other football players. More than just lacking respect, Bayless believes that kickers should not even exist in the NFL.
Back in 2013, Bayless argued that the possibility of the 2013 49ers-Ravens Super Bowl outcome could ride on the cleated heels of a field goal kicker was “madness.”
And though his grievances have gone largely untouched by the NFL, the league did make the extra point distance longer, subsequently increasing the number of missed and blocked extra points this season.
Maybe it is because a kick is a different way of scoring than a touchdown. Maybe it is because attitudes against field goal kickers stem from questioning the kicker’s masculinity in comparison with that of “more athletic” players. Or maybe it is because no one wants to handle the nerves that come with a game-ending kick.
No matter the argument against the field goal kicker and how compelling it may be, the rest of the 2016 season will be rife with kicking issues, from missed and blocked extra points to a host of other heartbreaking finishes, whether we like it or not. In order to cope with the fact that we will all have to hold our breath between the snap and the raised or outstretched hands of the officials – at least for the rest of this season – the NFL should consider adapting the mental strength of the kickers so often disrespected.
Even then, maybe it is not the field goal kicker who is lacking in strength, toughness or athleticism. Maybe it is the rest of us who cannot seem to handle the stress of a game ending kick, or reconcile with the idea that our teams’ defenses have to do more than just prevent a touchdown. Sports are funny that way — finding a way to win is not always pretty, not always conventional and not always going to be approved by everyone.
The field goal kicker gracefully reminds the football world that sometimes, life is just not fair.
Amanda Christovich is a sophomore in the College. This is the final installment of The Analyst.
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