Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Goats

Championship on the line. Ball on the five yard line. Though the quarterback has brought his team to this moment through many an adversary, he must still punch it into the end zone or all will be for naught. And even though it's only an intramural football championship on the line, it still feels as significant as...

It's the last play of the game. I was that quarterback. I called for an option, faked a hand-off and rolled left. There was absolutely nothing between me and the goal line. Tony Ruggerio was standing in the end zone wide open as well. For some reason I bolted for the goal instead of throwing the ball. Sadly, two steps from victory, I was snagged from behind. Game over.

I didn't really dwell on it a lot but it did sting because I made a bad decision. True, Tony could have dropped the ball. But he was wide open and he'd caught them all year. The following year I was off to college, then moved to Minnesota. My family moved to Pennsylvania so going home no longer meant returning to New Jersey.

Ten years later I visited my old neighborhood in Bridgewater, I ran into an old friend who was on that team. As soon as he saw me, instead of saying "Hi, how've you been?" he said, "Why didn't you throw it?"

That's the problem with being the goat. And you never forget. In fact, I cannot remember a single play from that intramural football season. I remember only the one, and it still stings.

So think of that when you think of these famous goats.

Billy Cundiff
It's bad enough that he missed that field goal in the last seconds of the NFL Championship this past weekend. Nowadays, the response in cyberspace is instant. And merciless. Having had the chance to tie the Patriots and take the game into overtime, he muffed it. I'm sure he'll never forget that kick for as long as he lives.

Bill Buckner
The guy had a stick, winning a batting title in 1980. He played in the All-Star Game for the Cubs one year. And he had over 2,700 lifetime hits in his twenty-year career. But this is not how we remember old Bill. Instead when we here the name Bill Buckner, with think of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Things were looking good for the Red Sox going into the 8th inning. But then, when the Mets tied it up the game went to extra innings. In the tenth, with two out, a simple grounder to first baseman Buckner should have clinched the World Series. Instead, he muffed it. Three singles followed and the Mets re-gained their stride... as well as the win. It would be many years still for the Red Sox to get the ghost of Babe Ruth off their backs.

Steve Bartman
Hoo boy. Talk about a goat. This poor fellow had to leave town. He is probably living somewhere under an assumed name so that no one from Chicago plugs him.

The incident occurred in October 2003 in another game six. This one was for the National League Championship. The Cubs were five outs away from winning the game and playing in their first World Series in over half a century.

In this incident the goat was not one of the players. Rather it was a fan seated in the front row of the left field corner. A fly ball was hit into the corner. Left fielder Moises Alou went to catch it, but the enthusiastic Bartman interfered, knocking it away. The next thing you know the Marlins, who should have been finished, were racking up runs, eight of them in all. Series tied, momentum shift, Cubs' hopes quashed. Marlins took game seven and went to the World Series.

Death threats followed and Bartman had to disappear. Life is hard, but especially so when you're a scapegoat.

No comments: