At the risk of getting overly dramatic about Sunday’s loss in New England and the impact that defeat by the Ravens had on the Baltimore community, I’m going to glide slowly over to another topic that has me much more interested than arguing about whether or not Lee Evans really did catch that ball (he did not) or if the Ravens would have won in overtime had only Billy Cundiff connected on that 32-yarder (I have no idea).
I’m writing about a subject that probably won’t be looked upon with much favor. Hopefully you’ll read it twice if that’s what it takes to understand my position.
What happened to Billy Cundiff on Sunday in New England and the way he handled himself in the locker room afterwards and again on Monday at the team’s facility in Owings Mills reminded me of something very important. I’m sorry it took such a shocking set of circumstances to once again reinforce this to me, but that’s how the ball bounces — or hooks left, in this case.
Kickers are among my favorite people in all of sports.
They join the likes of hockey and soccer goaltenders, pitchers, and coaches in the short list of folks I deeply admire in the world of athletics.
I’ve said it a lot in my nearly 10 years on the air at WNST. Coaches are my favorite “people” in all of sports.
But kickers aren’t far behind.
And Billy Cundiff gave me yet another reason to brag about kickers by virtue of the way he dealt with his misfortune.
He handled it all with grace and dignity and never once questioned fate, the weather, the field, the snap, the hold, the lights, the pre-game meal, his socks being too tight or the ball not being inflated with the right pressure.
Cundiff simply told the truth — “I’ve made that kick a thousand times. I just didn’t make this one.”
And then he delved into the reality of the situation, touching on the critical nature of his response by reminding anyone who has children of what the most important aspect of his post-game reaction would be.
“I need to make sure my children learn from this,” Cundiff said afterwards. “They look to me to teach them things. I’ll use this as a teaching moment for them. You have to bounce back from adversity. There’s no sense in letting it bring you down, because you can’t change what happened. I just have to make sure they know what’s really important is to get back out there, work harder, and make sure the next time an opportunity comes along like that, I give it my best and make the kick.”
Kickers, goaltenders, pitchers.
I love those freakin’ guys.
I love them because they have “a record”. They each have statistics to back up how well or how poorly they’ve performed. How many kicks have you made? How many goals have you allowed? How many earned runs have you surrendered?
You never see a stat saying, “The left tackle for the Falcons had 5 whiffs last week in the game against the Saints, giving him 21 whiffs on the year, tied for 2nd in the league.”
You don’t see a note in the press release that reads, “The defenseman for the Blues has coughed up the puck 3 times in his own end tonight, giving him a team high 32 “coughies” this season.
And you would never hear an announcer state, “That’s the 4th time tonight the power forward has failed to set the right screen on that inbounds play, giving him 18 missed screens for the season.”
But when a kicker misses, it’s on him.
Same with a goaltender. If that puck gets past you, another blemish goes on your record.
Same with a pitcher. If you throw that ball and the guy at home plate hits it out of the park, he hit that home run off of YOU.
I was 10 feet in front of Billy Cundiff when he spoke on Sunday in New England and on Monday in Baltimore. He never once got flustered or aggravated, despite the fact that on Sunday at least three different people asked him the same question…”what happened on that last kick?” He said the same thing every single time. “I missed it. My record (there’s that word again) kicking in the 4th quarter has been really good while I’ve been with the Ravens. This just happened to be the one I missed. I wish I wouldn’t have missed it. But I did. It’s on me.”
“It’s on me.”
That’s what you say when you’re the kicker and there’s no hiding from the fact that literally no one else on the team can do what you do. If Ray Lewis has to miss four games – like he did this season – someone else steps in and does what Ray does. If Ray Rice gets the flu and can’t play, Ricky Williams gets 25 snaps and handles the workload with a smooth transition.
The kicker is the only guy on the team who can kick a 45 yard field goal.
So, he’s literally speaking the truth when he says, “It’s on me.”
It can’t be on anyone else, because no one else can do it. (Please see next page)