Here’s the problem with the instant information era: faceless drones behind their iPhone screens and Mac Books become the World’s Strongest Man. The empowerment of cowards who sit behind false aliases through self created avatars believe the blogosphere, Twitter, and Facebook are their provided soapbox. Faceless voices who believe every insignificant thought that crosses through their thick skulls must be heard, appreciated and celebrated by all. It’s truly sickening that people who have trouble getting off of their own couches to get the remote from the other side of the room are calling for the heads of some of the finest athletes in the world just because they weren’t able to entertain them enough. This isn’t the Colosseum of ancient Rome. There aren’t lions. Lives are not at stake.
Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff do not deserve death threats. Billy Buckner should be thankful he made that infamous play in the ’80s. Scott Norwood should be grateful he missed his kick in the ’90s. The age we live in makes these goats the ire of public scorn. These men do not belong in shackles. They do not deserve the pangs of an iron maiden. There is no reason to tar and feather these players with slanderous remarks. We are, supposedly, a highly intelligent race. Right now, we are certainly not acting like it.
Here’s the thing: of all four players mentioned above: not ONE of them lost the game. Ray Lewis put it best, “We win as a team, we lose as a team.” What if Bernard Pollard had not tipped that ball to Jimmy Smith and Matthew Slater caught that touchdown? Cundiff would not have even had a chance to tie the game. That is a dramatic stretch, yes, but these teams had 60 minutes to put more points on the board than their opposition. They could have made more plays. Joe Flacco missed Torrey Smith three times – all which should have been touchdowns. The 49ers couldn’t complete passes to any receivers, even Vernon Davis only managed three, albeit huge, plays.
Humans are imperfect by nature. No one had a perfect career. Bill Russell was one of the most dominant players any sport has ever seen. He won 11 championships. But he played 13 seasons. That is not perfect. Joe Montana won four Super Bowls. He threw 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was four for four in his Super Bowl appearances. Joe Montana did not play four seasons. He played many more years and did not win Super Bowls during those seasons. That is not perfect. Michael Jordan made the most game winning shots in the history of the NBA. He has also missed the most.
It is not how athletes falter, it is how they bounce back. It comes down to their mental makeup. Their ability to learn from the downfalls. Dirk Nowitzki was never viewed as clutch prior to the 2010-2011 season. Now, after one Championship performance, his entire legacy has shifted.
Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff are not superstars. They never have been and they never will be. Is it fair to criticize them for their miscues? Absolutely. They messed up. They had a chance to be the hero, or, at least, go completely under the radar.
Instead, they have received constant death threats and will forever be remembered as the reasons their teams lost. It is hard enough to disappoint your teammates on such a large stage with so much on the line. A trip to the Super Bowl may only come around once in a career. Faltering with that chance as close as it was for both teams makes it that much more difficult.
Ravens fans, 49ers fans, and everyone who grew a pair of virtual balls over the past 48 hours need to look deep into the mirror. It’s just a game, a game that you are not even able to play with your own natural abilities. If you want to live vicariously through these athletes, you cannot only experience their highs. You must experience the lows too. Show some empathy for these teams, these players, and, most importantly, these humans. I guarantee they feel worse about it than you do without your comments.