|Steve Mitchell / Associated Press|
|Did Nick Bakay's waiver wire acquisition really cause the normally reliable Dan Carpenter to miss four field goals?|
Did you happen to notice that Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter missed all four of his field-goal attempts Sunday? Usually reliable, he stuck a dagger in Miami's underwhelming season by costing them a close one at home. Then again, home hasn't been very kind to them of late.
I'm guessing former Dolphins executive VP Bill Parcells knew what he was doing when he pulled the cord on his green parachute and kicked himself off the premises mere moments before the wheels came off. Smart guy, knows when to bail. An enviable talent, because you know who else Carpenter stabbed in the plums? Me -- or more specifically, my playoff team in the Fox Fantasy Freaks league, which fell one kicker-cursed win short of the championship game.
Oh, sure, I could rail at him, blame him, curse an angry fantasy-football God that decided kicker points should actually count and decide outcomes -- but at the end of the day, the person who really let me down was me.
In a brutal example of the desperate things the playoff-crazies make you do, I turned my back on tradition and paid the ultimate price. As a life-long Bills fan, it is my civic duty to hate the Dolphins. The rivalry might have abated in recent days, for valid reasons. Neither team has been particularly interesting, in particular this millennium's brand of Buffalo football, but that can't erase the loathing that burns deep inside my generation.
We remember losing the entire decade of the 1970s to Miami, when they were all glamour and Vince Lombardi trophies and perfect seasons and refs afraid to flag coach Don Shula because he ran the rules committee. My God, they wore shorts in December!
Meanwhile, we were the brunt of jokes. Bad-weather jokes, unemployment jokes, Love Canal jokes, but none worse than the line Buffalo ex-pat Michael Bennett wrote in "A Chorus Line": "Suicide in Buffalo is redundant." Safe to say a guy who penned Broadway musicals probably grew up in the area knowing Ron McDole from Mike Kadish from Walt Patulski, but the laughter still stings.
Buffalo in the 1970s was Bethlehem Steel closings and blizzards so bad you found yourself beating the cold at the local taverns drinking with National Guardsmen in "Ice Station Zebra" survival gear. The one thing we could brag about? O.J. Simpson. Insert mouth-fart here.
Buffalo/Miami was a perfect rivalry thanks to the cities' differences. I totally get the logic of a rust-belt division -- it would be natural to toss the Bills, Browns, Steelers and maybe the Lions in one and have them slug it out, but to me it's also kind of like fratricide. What do I have against other cities with a tavern on every corner? Nope, I'll take Miami any day -- and as much as I hate them, I can't imagine life without them. In rivalry terms, we are the aging, long-married couple who talk over each other, curse each other, resent each other, but at the end of the day make sure each other's pill case is full.
It creates an extremely hinky canvas for the innate internal conflicts of fantasy football. I have never, nor will I ever draft a Dolphin to any of my fantasy teams. It's an exercise in emptiness. If they do well, I'm sad. If they do poorly, I am torn. Why go there? I doubt many diehard Browns fans load up on Ravens players, either.
This brings me back to the moral twilight that kick-started my nightmare. When it comes down to win-or-go-home fantasy football, aren't we all looking for every edge we can muster? This deep in the season, the waiver wire is a mess, a joke, save for defenses, kickers, and crazy, roll-the-dice options like do I pick up Tim Tebow this week?
Oh, I can justify it -- thanks to the increasingly shaky hands of quarterback Chad Henne, Miami's offensive profile was classic stall out at the 28-yard line -- a kicker's paradise, right?! Just to salt the wound, I was sitting there with Adam Vinatieri, who had just delivered 13 points against the Titans and was gearing up for Jacksonville. His inconsistencies haunted me. Meanwhile, I found myself eyeballing Carpenter -- he'd had a ton of big games this year. And I was right -- Carpenter had four opportunities. Convert, and I am sitting atop a buxom 12 points. Toss in extra points, and that's at least 14 points, and I look like a shrewd dude.
I should've stayed put, but I couldn't stop tinkering, flying too close to the sun. I bated fate by picking up Miami's kicker, and fate won. And for what? A place-kicker, the one position that week to week is virtually interchangeable! The karma was swift, resounding, and I believe it even infected other playoff teams. One is still alive, the rest are cleaning out their lockers.
Of course, that might be becaus of what I did to three of those teams by grabbing Legedu Naanee and starting him mere moments before kickoff. Long story short, I deserved to get a Tom Coughlin-"Why would you kick the ball to DeSean Jackson?"-public tongue-lashing.