Hero or Goat For Life


Seldom in the history of professional sports has a single
kick meant so much to so many. It is clearly a testiment to the exaggerated
importance of this power-mad sport that the result of that single kick,
at approximately 10:35 last night, not only to the New England Patriots
and their millions of fans, but to the point of actually defining the
remaining years on this planet of the kicker, Adam Viniteri.

Vinitieri, hero of Superbowl XXXVI when he kicked a 48-yard field goal
in New Orleans with no time on the clock giving the Patriots their first championship, strode
onto the field destined to be the greatest kicker in Superbowl history,
or to enter that infernal fraternity along with Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner
and Grady Little; atheletes who have denied Beantown teams their rightful
places in the sunshine of sports glory.  All or nothing, heaven
or hell, black or white.  America loves a winner, and losers should
slink back under their roicks, in some cases, for the rest of their lives.

The Ultimate Game was tied, with 6 seconds left on the clock, when
Vinitieri lined up that fateful kick. He had already missed two field
goals in their first quarter of the game; one was a 31-yard chip shot
he sliced badly to the right, the other  an easy make he failed
to get over the heads of the onrushing Carolina linemen, let alone over
their ourtreatched arms. Had he missed a third consecutive attempt, at
that crucial junction, and had the Panthers gone on to win the game in
overtime (and who can deny they had the momentum and the mojo going in
their direction after scoring with little over a minute left), Adam Vinitieri’s
name would have been worse than mud this morning.  His name would
become curse words in these parts, and his athletic career would have
been, for all effects and purposes, over and done with. In a very real
and painful way, for the rest of his live, even if the lived to be 100,
he would be known as the guy who missed three field goals in the Superbowl.

Instead, he is the hero, the savior, the greatest kicker in Superbowl
history.  Is this right? Is it just? How far gone are we when
the trajectory of a kicked pig bladder can define the trajectory of a
career and the life of a man?

Perhaps we should just let the team and its fans bask in the glory of
their accomplishment.  But let us not forget – it’s just a game.

article from the
Boston Globe


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