Some say you should walk a mile in another man’s shoes before judging them. But does that maxim still apply when you’re kicking a field goal in an NFL placekicker’s cleats?
Goose Island Brewing Company believed so when they came up with the cheeky premise behind Saturday’s Field Goal Challenge. Do you hate Cody Parkey’s guts for double-doinking that 43-yard kick off of the goal posts? Well, then you try it, buddy.
The contest was the brainchild of Zachary Connelly, a Goose Island senior events manager who watched the game and knew that when Parkey’s miss doomed the Bears’ chances of winning their first playoff game since 2011, he’d become Chicago sports fans’ new punching bag. Steve Bartman 2.0.
“My immediate thought after the game was, ‘Oh god — Parkey is going to get torn apart,’ ” Connelly said.
That prediction came true. Many angry viewers immediately grabbed their proverbial pitchforks and took to social media to berate or threaten the 26-year-old Bears booter, with some claiming they could make the kick that was later ruled blocked by an Eagles defender.
I didn’t go that far, but I’ve got to admit: I was among those who called for Parkey’s head — at least at first. While watching the game on TV at a friend’s party, I crumbled to the ground in agony as the now-infamous field goal attempt landed on the wrong side of the end zone. In the heat of the moment, I muttered something about how Parkey should be fired immediately and led naked through the streets of the Loop to pay penance. Oops.
At Goose Island, cooler heads prevailed. Connelly texted his boss after the game with a bold idea: Why not set up a faux NFL goalpost and challenge the public?
The brewing company’s brass loved the idea and so on Monday, their Twitter account went on a rant calling out the Parkey haters (“You’re gonna sit there on your throne of potato chips and vape pens and criticize this dude’s athleticism?”) and followed up with a claim that they were going to construct a goal post in the middle of West Fulton Market outside their brewery so “all you pro athletes can come out and prove us wrong.”
That sounded like another Twitter gag at first, but Goose Island built it, and we came.
Hundreds lined up in front of the Fulton Street taproom in blizzard-like conditions on Saturday to try to do what Parkey couldn’t, and win free tickets to an NFL game next year.
Surprise! Pulling off the feat wasn’t easy. The bird’s-eye angles of NFL broadcasts have a way of obscuring the truth: 43 yards is a very long way to kick a field goal.
It’s almost 130 feet. That’s like booting a ball over Maximo, the 122-foot-long titanosaur skeleton that looms large inside the Field Museum, or beyond three standard 40-foot CTA buses parked end-to-end. Did I really think I could successfully boot a regulation football that far while keeping it both aloft above a 10-foot-high crossbar, and between two uprights 18.5 feet apart from each other?
Not a chance.
I watched a couple of YouTube videos on field-goal kicking in preparation but it didn’t help much. My left foot hit the ball fairly straight and it cleared the fence the organizers erected to simulate the Eagles’ defensive line. But then it veered to the right and landed on the snowy pavement about 20 yards short.
It was disappointing until I watched the other would-be-placekickers try it themselves. A few of them got close, especially a burly guy dressed in a Brian Urlacher jersey whose attempt was accurate but about 10 yards short of the crossbar. Most contestants shanked their kicks into buildings or trees, and some of them flailed around like Charlie Brown — falling down hard on their butts on the turf as their kicks dribbled a few measly feet from the tee.
By the end of the afternoon, 100 people plus some media members failed spectacularly. Speaking for myself, I’m still not sure I’m ready to welcome Parkey back with open arms next season — after all, he’s still a professional making lots of cash to do a high-profile job — but I do have a bit more sympathy for the devil.