September 27, 2005

Kicking Around Some Ideas

Of all the major sports, I would argue that none is as heavily regimented and specialized as football. Return specialists, punters, special teams whizzes – there are even guys whose job it is to run down the field and try to deflect the ball from going into the end zone on a punt to prevent a touchback. Tasks don’t get much more specific than that. So why, I ask, is it that professional football teams, with such massive rosters and so much attention to detail, often don’t even carry a backup kicker?

If you were watching the Eagles-Raiders game on Sunday, you saw this first hand when Eagles’ kicker David Akers hurt his hammie early in the game, and next thing you knew linebacker Mark Simoneau was standing back there looking like a giant helmeted cyborg in Akers’ place, attempting – and promptly getting blocked on – the team’s next kick (which happened to be an extra point attempt). When this ingenious backup plan didn’t work, the Eagles did the logical thing – they brought Akers back to kick on his shredded hamstring, jeopardizing the remainder of his season at the very least. Akers connected on his lone field goal, but looked like he had been hit with a stray crossbow bolt doing so. Now he's most likely lost for a significant amount of time.

I just don’t get this. Sure teams don’t want to waste a roster spot on a backup kicker, and they just assume a guy like Akers – who has been very durable – will stay healthy. But with such insanely large rosters, wouldn’t it make sense to be sure to have a capable backup so that you can avoid having your top kicker running out there on an annihilated limb?

  • Los Bravos’ numero magico: uno. They could very well clinch their 14th straight division title before mid-week. (Update: they clinched Tuesday night.) But lately I can’t help having flashbacks to last season, when my cousin's lament of “Fuckin’ Reitsma” sounded out all too often after meaningful late-season games. Let’s hope the world’s greatest manager (had no choice but to link to ESPN here when Jayson Stark is giving the Braves props) can keep Chris Reitsma far away from important situations come playoff time. I don’t trust the guy (Reitsma, that is).
  • Seems like it happens to someone right before the end of the season, whether it actually happens or not: A.J. Burnett has been told to take his toys and go home.

  • Had a number of firsts in the past week. At my rec league basketball game, I showed up at the gym and went to change out of my clothes from work only to realize I had completely forgotten my shorts. The ultimate wardrobe malfunction. In my panic (the game was set to start in about 10 minutes) I considered playing in boxers, but immediately aborted this idea for reasons that should be quite obvious. I ended up making a mad sprint around the clothing-deprived Theater District (where my game was located) and eventually found one of those dingy souvenir shops where, in the very back, I found some hideous gray sweat shorts with “New York City” emblazoned on the lower left leg. Needless to say, they were horrendously embarrassing to behold. And expensive. You know how they say your appearance and general comfort level with said appearance has something to do with how you performs on the field of play? Well, I’m blaming the shorts for my wretched shooting that night.
  • And speaking of that night, I made it a rare basketball/bowling doubleheader when I headed over to Leisure Time Lanes at the Port Authority to meet some friends. And on my first roll of the night, I experienced another first: I took an errant step across the line into the lubed-up part of the lane and went down as though Van Damme had just swept my legs. Seriously – this was not just a little stumble or something. This was a full-scale yard sale. The ball went flying down the lane, somehow hitting a few pins, and next thing I knew I was lying on my back with my feet pointing towards the pins a good 10 feet down the lane. “OVER THE LINE!” yelled one of my friends, a known Big Lebowski enthusiast. I managed to get up (it was slippery as hell) and back to my seat, my left arm covered in a substance oddly resembling tanning oil. Bowled a highly disappointing 109 in Game 1. Couldn’t find my sweat shorts to pin the blame on (probably because I had thrown them out in the bathroom when I arrived at the bowling alley).
  • A couple more firsts: For the first time in a very long time, I ended up at a bar in New Yorkwhere patrons were smoking on Saturday night. It was completely surreal. Also adding to the surreal nature of the establishment was the fact that it seemed to be the kind of place where all of the patrons might suddenly decide to band together and savagely bludgeon an outsider like myself for no good reason.
  • On the way home that night, I hopped in a taxi, told the cab driver my destination (going from the east side to the west side) only to have him respond, “Can you teach me the way?” Say what? What the hell am I, your sensei? Teach you the way? I sincerely hope that it was the guy’s first night on the job, because my destination wasn’t exactly that obscure. Nonetheless, as I navigated his disoriented ass uptown, I felt -- despite my frustration -- like a real New Yorker, a far cry from the sorry sucker who had been fleeced for a pair of basketball shorts in a desperate fit two days before.


Blogger John said...

Why in the hell didn't the Eagles use their punter when Akers went down? This completely baffles me. The punter is paid a handsome salary to kick a football for a living. Are you telling me that he is incapable of kicking the ball off the ground, rather than out of his hands? That he wouldn't at least be better than the aforementioned cyborg Simoneau?

On a different note; I once forgot my shorts, and played basketball for 90 minutes wearing khakis. It wasn't pretty.

2:18 PM, September 28, 2005  
Blogger Frank G Yak said...

Can you imagine all the guys on the sideline lobbying to be the one that kicks the extra point. Come on coach, I can make it, I really can make it!!! Also, wouldn't the eagles have been better off just going for the two point conversion?

Favorite part of the AJ Burnett Story. I loved his quote about pitchers messing up.

`And then when we do, they chew your [butt] out. There's no positive nothing around here for anybody. I give up a home run, and it's a funeral.'

11:01 AM, September 29, 2005  
Blogger The OCC said...

You both raise excellent points here.

Why not let the punter kick?

Well, obviously because Simoneau begged and pleaded and somehow convinced Andy Reid (or whoever makes that call) to let him kick.

Furthermore, it does seem like they would have been far better off going for two. I'm pretty sure if you threw me out there I couldn't get blocked any worse than Simoneau did. The only difference you'd notice between us would be the fact that he's about 4 times the size of me, and I'd be the guy with a giant urine stain on his pants from fear.

6:49 PM, September 30, 2005  

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