Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kyle Brotzman

I am rarely up at 2 in the morning, but now it is 2:33 and I am wide awake.

The old Wide World of Sports program would begin each show with a narrative that included, "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." A cynic might wonder how agonizing can defeat be. It is just a game.

Tell that to a fellow named Kyle Brotzman. I am up because I wanted to see Boise State University play a game against the University of Nevada at Reno. Boise State has been heralded all season as the little engine that could. A team from the regularly dissed Western Athletic Conference (WAC) that had not lost a game in two years. Earlier this season it beat Virginia Tech in Virginia, and since then Boise State has mowed down every one of its opponents, attempting en route to dispell the idea that all they play in the WAC are patsies. All Boise State had to do was beat Nevada, a very good team itself having lost only one game this season, to have a shot at being part of the discussion regarding the best team in the land.

As has been typical, they went way ahead and led Nevada 24-7 at the half. But then Nevada playing at home with wild fans rooting them on, came back and tied the game with only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. In true championship form, Boise State came right back to go ahead 31-24. Then in true championship form, Nevada tied it at 31-31. With nine seconds to go, Boise came out and threw a hail Mary, an expression used to refer to a prayer that might be answered. Someone up there was listening and a player for Boise made a beautiful catch with two seconds left on the 9 yard line.

Enter Kyle Brotzman, the regular kicker for Boise State and an excellent one. After a delay to check and see if the time was correct, Brotzman lined up for what would have been the last play of the game, a dead ahead 26 yard field goal. Incredibly he missed it. The ball went wide right and Brotzman berated himself as he walked to the sideline.

In overtime, Boise State moved the ball to the 9 yard line. In came Brotzman to kick another 26 yard field goal. This one he hooks to the left.

Out comes Nevada and they get in position to kick a thirty yard field goal which goes in. End of national championship season. End of winning streak. Beginning of conversation that believes Boise State is a fraud.

So what, you might say. Fans should get over it. What is this agony, people are sick, wars are going on. This is not agony.

Well, it shouldn't be, but Kyle Brotzman's life will never be the same again. The hell has just started. And it won't be external. His greatest challenge as an athlete will be to not let this event define him. I went to a site before I started writing and I see that Brotzman was a star athlete in high school. I wish I could talk to him and may yet send him a note. This does not define him. I know this, and you know this, but the challenge will be for him to know it. Otherwise this defeat will be a long agony.

A number of years ago, Sports Illustrated wrote an article about Scott Norwood, the kicker for the Buffalo Bills who will forever be known as the player who missed a 47 yard field goal at the end of a super bowl game. A successful kick would have made the Bills champions. In the article, the authors make this very correct point. What makes someone a hero is not a failure, we all fail, but the measure of success: is how we react when we fail and whether we are willing "to pick yourself up and try again."

I feel for Kyle Brotzman today. He will become the butt of jokes and people in Idaho, from where he hails, will never forget him. People will tell him obligatorily that it is "all right." Some will mean it. The challenge, however, will be for him to realize that what anyone says is irrelevant. We all mess up. The champions are those who can dust themselves off, and keep on moving.


  1. Zeke, your comments are well taken. if i could step out of the athletic arena into the business world,the ability to define oneself and the value one brings to table is being tested . As company's continue to streamline, personnel cutbacks continue. no longer are the poor performers the main body of those being let go. it has gotten to the point that it has become a numbers game rather than a performance issue. individuals once identified as exemplary or those with outstanding potential are now feeling the sting of losing their jobs. The stigma of being let go and questioning ones abilities needs to be replaced with the understanding of the true value they provide to potential employers. there is no need to sell oneself short.

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