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An open letter to Casey Babcock: the field goal-spiking viral video "star"

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To Casey Babcock:

Normally I find open letters by journalists to people they don’t know to be cheesy, but in this case I make an exception because it’s the best way I can think of to say: your life is not over.

Actually, for all I know you’ve made a full recovery from becoming an unintentional viral video star thanks to… well, you know what, but unfortunately I have to explain it to anyone who didn’t seen the video online or even their local news (I saw it on a South Bend, Ind., station last weekend).

With your Otter Valley High (Brandon, Vt.) team up 16-14 over Mount Mansfield (Jericho, Vt.), on your final high school homecoming, on a brand-spanking new football field, Mount Mansfield tries a field goal with seconds left to win. It falls short, you catch it… and, well, it’s safe to say by your pained expression the moment you spiked the ball in celebration, a pain felt even before Mount Mansfield picked up the ball and ran it in for the game-winning touchdown, you know a missed field goal is a live ball.

[youtubevid id="tnOnMXZx1xM"]

I don’t know how your teammates, coaches and school chums reacted to your play. Maybe they’re OK — I’ve seen many mentions online of you scoring touchdowns or making big plays for your team, so you’ve helped Otter Valley in a lot of games. Or maybe they’re not, given your team has lost two straight games since the Sept. 26 incident. But for sure, you’ve probably away the world outside Otter Valley has been brutal.

Take this quote from a Chicago Sun-Times blog: it called your spike “a move that combined all the worst parts of Leon Lett, DeSean Jackson and Bill Buckner.”

Gee, overstate much?

As you well know, Casey, the Sun-Times hardly was the only one to equate an enthusiastic high schooler making a high school mistake in a small-school Vermont game with a Dallas Cowboy best known for losing a fumble in the Super Bowl because of showboating, a Philadelphia Eagle who spiked the ball to celebrate a touchdown when he hadn’t yet crossed the goal line, and one of the most infamous goats in baseball, nay, professional sports history.

Then again, you already are generating a lot of sympathy. From the same Sun-Times blog post: “Even the coldest of souls has to feel a little bad for the kid who threw the ball down and started celebrating. If only he’d been born before YouTube.”

This might not mean much now, but the best thing that about that play was that you screwed up big in a very, very unusual way. Sure, on one hand your classmates will talk about this at your future class reunions. On the other hand, if you can muster up the sense of humor, you might be able to turn what looks like a negative into a positive. If it’s any inspiration, the poor “Boom Goes the Dynamite” worst-sports-highlight-ever guy created a national catchphrase that refuses to go away, and Brian Collins, Mr. Boom, until recently was a real-life TV news reporter.

Maybe you won’t become a professional football player, but maybe you can begin to laugh at yourself. Would it be that bad to become a national catchphrase? For example, you could go around spiking things all over the place. When you go up to get your diploma at graduation, spike your cap and celebrate on the way up, then sit back down without getting your paper.

Or you could find yourself some sort of booking agent and get yourself on talk shows all over the place, like Miss Teen South Carolina did after her infamous “the Iraq” debacle. (However, don’t do like her and appear on a reality show to undo your goodwill as that U.S. American proves her stupidity was no fluke.) After all the abuse you’ve taken online, people are ready to make you feel better. They want to know you’re better. A lot of people watched this video glad that they were born before the age of YouTube, and they know that for the grace of lack of technology went they.

It might be too much to ask for this redemption to happen right away. Perhaps in 10 years you’ll have a motivational best seller with “I Spiked the Ball: Using a Mistake to Propel Yourself to Success.” Rudy Ruettiger has made a motivational speaking career out of far less football accomplishment.

If nothing else, maybe it would help to know you’re not alone. Only a week after your infamous game-ender, something very similar happened in suburban Detroit. From the Observer & Eccentric newspapers:

Tony Wilton’s You Tube moment may be coming to the World Wide Web sometime soon.

The senior backup wide receiver alertly scooped up a blocked field goal attempt as time expired and raced 33 yards unmolested to give host Westland John Glenn an improbable 33-28 KLAA South Division football win over visiting Plymouth.

Ryan Lopez’s attempt with eight seconds remaining was smothered and blocked by two onrushing Plymouth defenders, but Wilton, the placeholder, picked up the ball behind the line of scrimmage.

He then heard the cries from Glenn special teams coach Aaron Lada, who called out to Wilton from the sidelines.

“I saw two (Plymouth) guys dive in there, it went off somebody’s chest, I picked it up and I was standing here with the ball,’’ said Wilton, who scored his first-ever TD. “I didn’t hear any whistle and I thought nothing of it. Then I heard somebody say ‘run.’ There were (Glenn) guys in front of me and they (Plymouth) all ran off the field. They thought the game was over.’’

[youtubevid id="jFWIzoxYQ4s"]

The YouTube moment came two days later, on Oct. 5.

Casey, things might look tough now, but just know there are a lot of people rooting for you. We’ve all made big mistakes — maybe not recorded for posterity, but we’ve made them. You can’t erase what happened. But it’s also possible to turn it into a positive, a defining moment not for when things went wrong, but for when things became very, very right.

To quote a great philosopher: Boom goes the dynamite.

Written by rkcookjr

October 8, 2009 at 10:17 pm

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