There’s a line from the first Mighty Ducks movie, right before Gordon Bombay misses a shootout goal to win a tournament. His coach says to him, “Remember, if you miss this goal, you’re not just letting me down, you’re letting the whole team down.”
Of course, we all know what happens next. Bombay misses the shot, the coach hates him, and it forever haunts Bombay for the next 20 years. That line has always stuck with me, because it’s absolutely hilarious, and one of the most ridiculous things a coach could ever say to a player.
If that kind of pressure was placed on myself, how would I perform? I don’t have to think twice about it — I would fail miserably. It doesn’t matter what we’re competing in: hockey, curling, a karaoke sing-off, you name it. So, you’d think after watching the Chicago Bears lose to the Philadelphia Eagles 16-15 last Sunday, after Cody Parkey’s game-winning field goal attempt hit both the upright and the crossbar, that I would be very sympathetic.
Wrong. I laughed so hard, alone in my living room. I messaged my friends and said, “Guys, I’m laughing so hard.” That’s because a minute before he kicked it, I texted multiple people that Parkey was going to hit an upright and lose the game for his team. I wish this meant I was a genius and really smart. Well, I am, but not because I can predict sports.
Parkey had missed 10 kicks on the season, the second-worst season of any NFL kicker this year. Five of those kicks hit an upright, with four coming in one game. The odds of any combination of those things happening is ridiculously low, never-mind the thought of him hitting two posts in one kick in the playoffs.
So when the unthinkable happens, it’s amazing, and if it’s a bad thing, as this was, it’s really funny. After about 10 minutes, I did start to feel bad for Parkey, because it wasn’t just people telling him he let the team down. He literally let the whole team down.
To his credit, he’s handled it pretty well and has owned up to his mistake. He will also be cut by the time you read this and might never kick in the NFL again. No person deserves to have that kind of blame, but, when it comes to sports and being a field-goal kicker, there’s really no way around it.
A quarterback could have a terrible game, like Lamar Jackson did in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Chargers, but he gets the benefit of a doubt. He’s a rookie, was just 21, had played really well before that game, and will surely do better next time. Not so for Parkey. He isn’t a rookie, and he didn’t really play well in the season either.
If you’re wondering how I would handle an event like this if it happened to my own team, and think I’m being a hypocrite, you’re absolutely right. I would not laugh. I would do the opposite of laughing. And I would send that player a message that says, “Remember, you didn’t just let me down, you let your whole team down.”
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.