Picture this. It’s the NFL Wild Card weekend. Your team — the 12-4 Chicago Bears — are hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) for a chance to move on to the Divisional Round of the NFL Postseason.
It’s been a back-and-forth game, in which you have helped mightily to contribute to your team’s score. After watching 2018 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles and the Eagles put together a go-ahead touchdown-scoring drive in the game’s final minute, your boys bounce back, moving the ball up field, setting the stage for an epic finish.
Thanks to some crafty offence, your team has worked its way into field goal range, and you are called upon with 10 seconds left in the game. Now down 16-15, and if your kick is good, you move on in the NFL Playoffs, if you miss, the season ends at that very moment. Talk about pressure!
For many athletes — both amateur and professional — one’s worth is determined by the success found in those high-pressure, all-or-nothing moments. Most often it’s the glory and the achievements that are remembered. Unfortunately for then 26-year-old Chicago Bears’ kicker Cody Parkey, who did in fact find himself in that exact situation, the football did not travel through the uprights.
Actually, it did.
But seconds before Parkey’s first attempt from 43 yards out, Philadelphia Head Coach Doug Pederson called a timeout — a tactic commonly used to ‘ice’ a kicker just moments prior to the snap. Sure enough, the undrafted free agent signing’s first attempt sailed perfectly through the uprights, straight down the middle.
The same could not be said after the two teams gathered themselves at the line of scrimmage following the Eagles’ timeout. After what looked like a near-perfect launch, the football pulled left and made direct contact with the left upright, before bouncing off the crossbar and back towards Parkey. The play was immediately dubbed the ‘double doink’ by NBC’s Cris Collingsworth, and marked down as missed field goal.
The 61,500 Bears fans gathered at Soldier Field ruthlessly sent their dumbfounded kicker off the field to a deafening chorus of boos. Parkey’s name was the hottest trending item in North America for the better part of two days following his miss. Amongst many other online attacks, the Bears’ 6-foot, 195-pound kicker was also the subject of countless death threats.
What many football fans missed immediately following Parkey’s kick, was the fact that even though the ball did not make it through the goalposts, and his team had been eliminated from playoff contention, the professed Christian athlete still lifted his hands, pointed his fingers to the heavens and looked up to the sky, acknowledging/praising the Lord for the kick, regardless of the outcome.
After receiving consoling hugs and taps on the helmet from both teammates and opponents, Parkey made his way over to centrefield to participate in the prayer circle with team representatives from both the Bears and Eagles.
Just 15 minutes after returning to the locker room, Parkey met with the hordes of media engulfing his stall, speaking with dignity on the game’s final play and his teammates.
“There’s really no answer to it, he reflected. “I thought I hit a good ball, and unfortunately I just didn’t make it; I one hundred percent take that loss on me, but it is what it is. I mean the sun’s going to shine tomorrow, and life’s going to go on. Every single one of my teammates said they’ve got my back and that they love me, and to not let this affect me. But of course it’s going to sting for a while.”
“It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down,” Parkey continued. “I feel terrible, but I’m going to continue to put things in perspective. Continue to just put my best foot forward and sleep at night knowing I did everything in my power this week to go make that kick, and for whatever reason, it hit the crossbar and the upright, and I still couldn’t do it. I feel terrible.”
Interestingly enough, January’s wild card game wasn’t even the first time that the fourth-year player has had to speak with reporters about the accuracy of his kick. On November 11th against the Detroit Lions, Parkey had two field goal attempts and two extra-point conversions strike the uprights, resulting in zero points scored for the Bears — something he once again addressed with the media.
“This is my job, and it’s what I’m supposed to do, but I’m missing out there,” Parkey said in November. “I’ve got to just trust in what I’m doing and trust that my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ makes no mistakes. For whatever reason, that was the day I was supposed to have.”
One day after Parkey recorded nine of the Bears’ 15 points scored in their one-point loss to Philadelphia, the NFL announced that it had changed the ruling on Parkey’s ‘miss’ to a blocked field goal, as video footage emerged, clearly showing Eagles’ defensive tackle Treyvon Hester getting a hand on the pigskin before it fully launched over the crowded line of scrimmage.
As demonstrated by Cody Parkey, in the grand scheme of life, it really doesn’t matter if you win the game, or even how you play. What matters is remembering who and what you are playing for, how you live your life, and how you handle those situations of comfortability and adversity.