tortured relationship with Time-Warner (Motto: We Don't Like You) and how it relates to Alex Rodriguez--if it wasn't for my girlfriend's unrequited crush on Pat Kiernan, I'd be long gone to satellite--and I suppose my way of dealing with this is by constructing utterly tenuous metaphors that attempt to explain how a major American corporation can be so utterly, unlikeably incompetent.
So anyway, I was standing in line, listening to the man in front of me threaten to strangle a clerk with a set of audio cables unless they provided him with an HDMI cable, and I was thinking about kickers, and all those I'm-so-clever Nate Kaeding jokes zipping across Twitter feeds, and why a profession that seemed to be trending toward perfection has regressed this season, for reasons that no one can explain. If you think about it, kicking is probably the strangest element of any major sport; imagine if an NBA playoff game were decided by a cadre of dwarves drop-kicking Spaldings from the free-throw line. In football, every game has the potential of ending like one of those Doritos halftime contests, where a bricklayer from Wahpeton, North Dakota, has to convert an extra point in order to win a lifetime supply of Cool Ranch. Because kicking is so inherently weird, kickers themselves are--fairly or unfairly--stigmatized as weird, and set apart from the actual game.
Because of that stigma--because kickers do nothing but kick--we'd like to think, of course, that someone like Nate Kaeding has an edge over the bricklayer, in that he's spent his entire lifetime learning to boot the oblong spheroid through a pair of uprights fifty yards away. That's the only reason we tolerate him on a football field, yes? In an obvious way, we're right about that, of course: Expertise is a major factor, but as Michael Lewis reminds us in this predictably excellent piece,* kicking is largely about mental fortitude, about repetition sweeping away fear, and some dudes just aren't capable of such things.**Who knows? Maybe Nate Kaeding is one of those guys; physically gifted, but psychologically incapable. Then again, maybe he's not, and maybe he ate something lousy for breakfast, but at this point, it hardly matters.
Such is the Faustian bargain of the kicker: A quarterback can miss a throw, and a running back can fumble a football, and a wide receiver can drop a pass, and they can all get over it, and rewrite their legacy, and earn redemption. But we'll always just expect kickers to make kicks, to somehow transcend humanity, to perform with robotic precision. They are men apart; just as we expect Time Warner to do one thing to improve our lives (deliver cable),*** so do we expect our kickers to deliver field goals, every single time. The last thing we want from a kicker is anything resembling a human being.
*I know that The Blind Side has made Lewis richer than Mark Cuban, but I wonder if he ever worries about all those desperate housewives who are buying his book at the local B. Dalton, only to find themselves reading a detailed description of NFL theory, beginning with Lawrence Taylor snapping Joe Theismann's leg like a piece of the Colonel's original recipe.
***Tenuous connection made!