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Volume ∞ Issue ∞

I shoulda been a kicker

Fri, Jan 24th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

In the wake of this whole Richie Incognito thing, and with the Big Game coming up, my mind is drawn to good old American Football, and what it means to be a football player. You see, we’ll watch those modern-day gladiators march into the chilly air of East Rutherford to do simulated battle on that most super of Sundays. And yet, in the wake of what’s happened this year (and by that I don’t mean Mr. Manning becoming the first QB to win a big one with two teams, that I very much support) I find myself questioning the sport, and more importantly the culture, at its core.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is… I should have been a kicker.

This isn’t a completely out of nowhere diagnosis. I started kicking in junior high, primarily because I liked the idea of being able to touch the ball at least sometimes, which as someone of lineman size is a luxury we don’t often have. I also looked down at the tree trunk I call a leg and figured hey, if I could put enough chutzpah behind that thing, the ball could probably go a ways. And I did alright, nailing four of the five extra points I tried in my first high school practice, but for one reason or another my leg wasn’t called up to service. Still, the more I learn about what it means to be a kicker both on and off the field, I realize that it would have been my truest gridiron calling.

You see… kickers are weird. Much like the goalies of ice hockey, there’s something about being all by yourself, practicing such repetitive movements day after day, waiting for rare and fleeting moments for either Adam Vinatieri-like glory or Scott Norwood-like infamy… it tends to turn kickers a little quirky. Perfect, I think to myself, I’m already halfway there. The kicker for the Baltimore Ravens sings opera. Hey, I’ve sang opera! The former kicker for our own Minnesota Vikings is an avid online video gamer. I love video games! Even the Vikings former kickoff specialist, Mitch Berger, used to have the odd habit of keeping a Snickers bar in his shoe during games. Hungry? Grab a shoe.

Google is littered with stories of weird kickers, from the Atlanta Falcon who talks to alligators to an old Cowboys kicker who would wear a shoe two sizes too small that he soaked in near scalding water so the leather would shrink to his skin. Even college kickers aren’t immune to the weirdness, as the UCLA corps spends most of its practice time doing mysterious “kicker games” passed down from year to year like some kind of ancient rite of the Gogolaks. And let us not forget the weirdest kicker moment of all, when Garo Yepremian thought he could be an impromptu quarterback in 1973, forever cementing in the mind of football history nuts the awkward, fluttering arm movement that ultimately lead to an opponent’s touchdown. This is a different incident, of course, than when Mr. Yepremian once proudly proclaimed, in his Cyprus accent, “I keek a touchdown!”

These guys sound like the kind of weirdos I’ve made friends with all my life (at least in the sense of football culture), and the more I delve into the subject, the more I realize I should have put my foot to better use than a shoe-stuffer for all these years. But it’s not all over yet. I’m only 28, and Gary Anderson had his perfect kicking season at the age of 39! George Blanda, the “Grand Old Man” of the NFL, played from 1949-1975 and retired at a spry 48 years of age. By kicking standards, I’ve barely hit my prime, and on occasion I’ve been known to still hit a 30-yarder from time to time. What’s more, anyone who knows me or spent any time with me during high school football knows I’m definitely weird enough to pick up the mantle of a placekicker. It almost makes me wish there was still an arena football team in the area, because I’d give it a try.

So if you see an overweight brick of a man booming field goals while he’s substituting a gym class one day, look to see if he’s using his left leg. It just might be me.

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