The (Unfair) Pressure on the Kicker
The position of the kicker on a football team has always intrigued me. Here is a player that for most of the time is practically anonymous. Many of the rival fans and neutrals watching won’t even know his name. He runs on, unannounced and unnoticed, a few times in the game just to kick the ball between the posts, and then disappears again, whilst everybody is generally consumed with the much higher profile players and the more dramatic plays.
And yet the kicker can be responsible for the majority of your team’s points. He is actually one of the few players on your team who can change the scoreboard. His contribution is far greater than his profile.
But when the ball has to be kicked in the final seconds to decide the outcome of the game, everything changes for the kicker. Rather than running in unannounced he comes on to the field like a gladiator entering an arena. Every eye in the stadium is fixed on him. Now he enters as if he is an individual sportsman, instead of being part of a team. Rather than a football player, he is more like a tennis player or a golfer. All he has to do is smash one serve or make one putt.
There is good in every single one of us but we appear to be incapable, in this world, of 100% positivity.
The kick he is about to take will often not just decide the outcome of the game, but his entire career as well. The 5 successful kicks he has already made to have his team in this position are now long forgotten. One single kick may now be the very fine line between him being remembered as one of the greatest players this team ever had or disappearing without a trace.
But the kicker never misses on purpose. He wants the ball to go between the posts just as much as every fan does. All he sometimes does is make a mistake. In the same game, 20 other mistakes will already have been made that could have affected the score. A dropped catch, a missed tackle, a needless penalty. But none of those will be remembered. The entire memory of the game now hangs on the kicker.
Even if he doesn’t make a mistake it will still somehow be his fault. If the kick is blocked, instead of trying to identify the lineman who let the blocker through, the sole responsibility for the kick tends to always be laid at the feet of the kicker. He should have kicked it higher. From this moment on he may have to carry forever the worst title in football that nobody wants – The guy who lost us the Super Bowl.
How we act in a football stadium is sometimes a reflection of how we behave in real life. We like to blame the kicker. We are often the defensive tackle who is at fault but, when we get the opportunity, we are more than happy to let somebody else take the rap. We convince ourselves that this is what we need to do to maintain our position. What is the right thing to do can often get pushed aside? In a world of 8 billion people, much of our thinking never extends beyond ourselves. And we often like to remember the kicker who missed even more than the successful kicker. Not only do we blame him, but we also make sure he never forgets.
January is the month when we try to make a positive start to the year. Social media sites bombard us with inspirational slogans to reach for the stars and begin our journey one step at a time. But often this just tends to be a bit of trumpet blast for the start of the year. Glossy, attention-grabbing, headlines without any real substance. By February and March, we will have returned to the norm. Our newspapers and media will be filled with stories of crime and corruption and disasters and fraud. There will be little room for the boy who helps the old lady to cross the road on his way to school or the fireman who saves the puppy from the flood. There isn’t a big market for good news stories and we, the readers, are that market.
There is good in every single one of us but we appear to be incapable, in this world, of 100% positivity. We seem to have been designed to always have a certain amount of negativity in our blood. That is the way we are. And if that is the case I have to believe there is still more to come. There must be a place where all the flaws we have in this society do not exist. A place where nobody who tries to do the right thing will be blamed. Judgment will be based on intention rather than on result.
So as I start out on another year, regardless of what it will bring, the thing that will keep me strongest is my hold on the belief that we are all part of something greater. The sun doesn’t rise every day by accident. We can see the solutions don’t exist here but we have also seen too much not to know they must exist somewhere. There will be a time when 100% positivity will reign in all our hearts, forever.
Only then perhaps, will we all know that it wasn’t the kickers fault.