Choking In Sports

Choking In Sports I was sitting in my chair in my room watching a college football game on ESPN2, and I was looking for a topic for my report. I knew it would have to do with sports in some way. As I was watching the game, I realized that this game was getting interesting. A unranked, unknown team was beating a ranked team with a whole lot of talent. The game was getting close and before I knew it there was only 7 second left in the game. The unranked team had the ball at their opponents 25 yard line and were inning up for a field goal. There kicker was going to be a pro soon and was automatic. He made three field goals already that game.

He was inning for what seemed like an easy field goal. This field goal meant a huge upset. There was no wind. It was a shoe in, but the kick went wide. He shanked the kick and team lost. Why would he do that? He had the leg? Why did he shank it? That is what I am going to write about.

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I wanted to know why player choke and what does it do to their careers. I will dissect what happened to Mitch Williams and Scott Norwood. Two players who choked in big games and lost their careers because of it. They played in two different sports, but have similar positions. I will go through each position and what the NFL and MLB expects of these players.

I will show you what kind of pressure Mitch Williams and Scott Norwood went through. I will use articles from sport web sites, and articles from Newsday magazine. I think that choking effects so many people and the outcome of games. Fantastic athletes that do there job with ease, but when it comes down to the big game, they play like how you and I would play. First, lets examine what a kickers job is in the sport of football(specifically in the NFL). The kicker is a specialist whos sole purpose is to kick the football into the goal post.

In the NFL, if the kicker fails to kick the field goal in about 80 to 90 percent of the time, the kicker is released or fired. This is the way the NFL is. The trick to being a great NFL kicker is consistency and wits. The kicker makes, at average, the league minimum which is $250,000 a year.(Tj Simers, 1997) They only receive one to two year contracts. The biggest being Morten Andersen, who is one of the greatest kickers of all time, so you have to be the best to get good contracts.

His contract is for about five years, all not guaranteed, for $870,000 dollars a year. There are reasons for this. The big thing for kickers in the NFL these days are a strong legged kicker who can make the 50+ yard field goals on command. The need for short range, but automatic kickers like Gary Anderson, kicker for The Minnesota Vikings, is not being emphasized. Most teams are all looking for the Morten Andersens and the Jason Elams.(Peter King, 1998) Although, like life you cant have both unless you are the cream of the crop.

John Hall has one of the biggest legs in the business, but he only made 18 field goals out of 27 tries. This is not a good average, but since he can make these long field goal with ease, he keeps his job, for now. Most of the kicker hired are fired within only two years because they cannot keep this same standard and not have a toll on them physically and mentally which bring us to my topic. Chris Jacke and Adam Vinatieri are hoping Super Bowl XXXI won’t come down to a last-gasp field goal, because they both have a case of the nerves. Jacke and Vinatieri both realize the Super Bowl can be a graveyard for a field-goal kicker.

One wide right one, in particular, was SB XXV goat Scott Norwood of the Buffalo Bills. I was pulling for Norwood. In that situation, you have to pull for the kicker. I felt for Scott Norwood, said Jacke. So much was made of that one missed kick. Obviously, it ended his career.

Actually, Norwood came back and kicked one more season (1991) for the Bills, but he was never the same. (Ray Buck, 1992) He’s now retired and lives in Virginia. According to a Buffalo team spokesman, He doesn’t stay in touch with us anymore. The Pack and Pats were where they were two years ago, in large part, because their kickers didnt choke. Jacke, a noted long-range kicker, made 77.8 percent of his field-goal attempts (21 of 27) that season, although he was seldom tested in pressure situations.

Vinatieri was under more pressure — and stayed busier — making 27 of 35 FG attempts. This is a different kind of pressure, said Vinatieri. In training camp, there was pressure going against a veteran like Matt Bahr. Then once I made the team, there was pressure not only to kick well but I had to kick well because Matt Bahr no longer was here. Jacke came out of Texas-El Paso. On the surface, he is more laid-back than Vinatieri.

Inside, they are both the same — nervous. It’ll be just another kick as long as it doesn’t end my career, said Jacke. Would I welcome the chance? No. Would I go out there? I’d have to. (Ray Buck, 1992) This article was written two years ago, but the attitude towards the winning kick is still the same.

Kickers cringe at the thought of the game having to be in their hands, and rightfully so. They dont hang out with the rest of the team, they are basically outcast. Yet, they are supposed to come in and win the game for their team. They know that if they miss, in any game not just the Super Bowl, they might lose their job and in the case of Scott Norwood the rest of their career. I did not paraphrase this article because this article is important its whole tot my paper. It was written in 1991.

Scott Norwood, who etched his name in Giants lore by missing a potential game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXV, was placed on waivers yesterday by the Bills. The move wasn’t a surprise. The 31-year-old place-kicker, who was the club’s all-time leading scorer with 670 points, became expendable in February when Buffalo signed former Buccaneers kicker Steve Christie. (Rich Cimini, 1991) Norwood’s clutch kicking helped establish the Bills as an AFC power in the late 1980s, but his early accomplishments were overshadowed by his miss in the Super Bowl. With four seconds left and the Bills trailing the Giants 20-19, Norwood missed wide right on a 47-yard attempt, giving the Giants their second Super Bowl title in five seasons. (Rich Cimini, 1991) Norwood never lived it down.

In fact, during that season’s playoffs, he declined on occasion to discuss the kick. In his seven-year NFL career, Norwood made 72 percent of his field goals, but his percentage dropped steadily, from 86 percent in 1988 to 62 percent last season. (Rich Cimini, 1991) Now there could be other reason for the decrease in productivity and the releasing of the kicker. Free agency had been introduced and they had signed a better kicker, Steve Christie, but you can defiantly attribute this downfall to his career to the missed kick that he will forever be known for. He had gone through allot in the past year.

I have already told you about the kicker position and what a kicker had to go through, but there is the media and the fans. I think this article is suffice in proving my point as this was written in the end of Scott Norwoods last season as a kicker. Those close to Norwood claim he hasn’t been affected by the intense scrutiny. But make no mistake, he hears the whispers around town and, who knows, maybe in his own locker room. (Rich Cimini, 1991) Scott Norwood was one of the best kickers in the league until the kick. Now think to yourself What if he would have made it? The answer would be that I wouldnt have much a paper to write.

I believe th …