Wide Left

January 11, 2008
Wide left. That would be the term that would define the rest of his life. Everything had been perfect. It was what he had been dreaming about since he had first kicked a football. The game on the line, in the Super Bowl, and it all came down how straight and far he could kick a football. Everything had happened just as he had imagined it, the snap was perfect, the hold was placed perfectly, just as he liked it, laces out at a 63 degree angle. His approach had been perfect. I’m going to win the game. After what seemed like hours instead of seconds, his foot uprooted the ball from its position on the grass. The ball spiraled end over end towards the yellow goalposts, beacons of hope. The defenders, whose outstretched hands had attempted to halt the path of the ball just seconds ago, turned to watch, helpless to change its course. As the ball sailed toward the posts, the kicker threw his hands up; it looked as if the ball would go through the uprights.

However, the football gods can be cruel and unforgiving. Just as quickly as it appeared that he had won the Super Bowl, a sudden gust of wind seemed to blow in from the west side of the stadium. The ball was beginning to move to the left. As it continued towards the left side of the goal post, the kicker turned a translucent white, dropped his arms down to his sides, and stood there, paralyzed. It’s going to miss. No sooner than a second later the ball grazed off the left post and fell to the ground. The kicker heard nothing but the sound of the ball falling to the ground. It was a sound full of unfulfilled promise, a sound that he would always associate with utter disappointment. The referee signaled to everyone what was already known. The field goal was no good, wide left.

The kicker took off his helmet and sunk to the ground. He buried his face in his hands. As the opposing team rushed onto the field, he felt himself being jarred back and forth. Women, children, and 300 pound offensive lineman celebrated the victory around and on top of him. He attempted to pick himself up, but was immediately shoved back down to the ground by the mob that had gathered on the field. He felt a cleat dig into his face; blood began to pour out of his cheek. On his second attempt to stand up, he was successful. He was jostled by the celebrating crowd. As he pushed his way through the masses, he occasionally received a look of sympathy from the opposing kicker, he could sympathize. This brief feeling of connection was immediately ruined when the other team’s linebacker began yelling at him.
“Man! You are the WORST kicker in the league! How did you even play high school football? I got in yo’ face on that last kick! You had no chance. You are horrendous. Man, if I was on yo’ team I would tie you up to a flagpole by yo’ underwear!”
After nearly thirty minutes of pushing and shoving, he trudged into the locker room, the blood on his face mixed with tears. His presence brought an uncomfortable silence; none of his teammates could even look at him, they were too disgusted.
“All the hard work we put in was destroyed by the ‘worthless kicker,’” he overheard one of his teammates remark
It was no more than 10 seconds after he entered the locker room that reporters gravitated to him as if he were a magnet.
“What happened?” “Will you be back with the team next year?” “How will this affect your career?” The questions flew at him like lava spewing from a volcano. He could not hear anything, his whole body had become numb, and he had lost his sense of everything around him. The scene of the ball heading for the middle of the uprights, and then cruelly fading off towards the left flashed through his mind like a horrible slideshow.
This wasn’t the first time he was wide left. Everything he had ever done was just a little bit off the mark. His marriage, his children, even his parents, it seemed as if their potential for success had been blown off to the left by a gust of wind as well.
Even after all of this success, he was still defined by one moment. Such is the life of a kicker. Just as one blemish can ruin the face of a beautiful woman, one mistake can ruin the career of a kicker. His mistake would always be wide left.

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