The Small, Intense, Unfairly Exclusive World of Football Placekickers

Brent Grablachoff says he isn’t a yeller, but six hours into his second day in a row of coaching, he sounds like one. He’s trying to pump up 18 high-school football players competing to see who can connect on the longest field goal; this contest is the grand finale of his two-day camp for teenagers who want a shot at becoming kickers and punters.

It’s 93 degrees in Toms River, New Jersey, but it feels hotter on the unshaded artificial turf, and over the constant thud of high schoolers’ cleats connecting with footballs, you can somehow hear Grablachoff’s increasingly hoarse voice. “Fifteen minutes of chaotic kicking!” he yells, or at least tries to. “Coming your way, guys!”

He keeps moving the ball back, and as the contest progresses, he’ll winnow down this already-small group to just one or two players.

In a way, it’s a small-scale illustration of the years-long process it takes to become a kicker.

Read more. [Image: AP/Al Behrman]

Football AU

  • Ryan’s the QB b/c honestly I feel like he has the right build and the throwing arm 
  • Jack would be the center, handing that ball off and being a solid blocker
  • Geoff would be the offensive coach, Burnie would be head coach
  • Gavin’s the placekicker. He’s a transfer student and everyone assumed he’s good at soccer because he’s European but it turns out all he’s good at is kicking the ball really far so they stick him on the football team
  • Lindsay’s a running back because she played softball and I feel like she’d be good at sprints
  • Michael’s wide reciever 
  • Ray is the water boy b/c I literally cannot imagine him doing an athletic activity
  • Caleb, Kdin, JJ, Kerry, and Blaine are cheerleaders. fight me
Race, Football, and Angry white People

According to a study from 2014, Black athletes make up two thirds, or 68 percent, of the NFL.  Of the 175 cornerbacks in 2014, 170 are Black. 106 of the 120 cornerbacks were also Black. There are six positions in the NFL however that are mostly white, center, placekicker, long snapper, punter, quarterback and tight end. The significance of Cam Newton, a Black quarterback, leading the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl is noteworthy to say the least. Looking at the stats, it seems entirely reasonable to me that the NFL, and the Black entertainers performing at the half-time show would acknowledge the race and culture of the majority of the players and I would imagine, a good portion of their fan base.
    Football fans may not be quick to recognize this but they share many similarities with geeks and nerds. Football fans can be obsessive, they display their passion boldly, many devote themselves to the minutia of player statistics, and many fans participate in “fantasy” football games. I’m sure there is overlap, you can be a sports fan and a comic/sci-fi/anime/my little pony fan. I think that’s why there has been so much made of the alleged “Black Power” theme of the half-time show as well as the portrayal of cam Newton as a ”thug”. The white male geeks don’t want to share and fear change.
   I’m not a football fan by any stretch. Nothing against the NFL but I would rather watch Star Trek. Football just reminds me of the douche bags that would torment me in school. Comics and sci-fi/fantasy was a refuge for me. As a geek, I can relate to how precious the object of your fandom can be to you. The one source of joy in your life is a cherished thing. People who geek out over stuff have tendency to resist change. Back in the late 80’s early 90’s comic book conventions in the mid-west had almost no women in attendance and very few people of color.  I don’t have statistics to back this up. This is just an observation based on what I saw at various cons in Michigan and Ohio. Even the Motor City Comic Con in Dearborn, MI just outside of Detroit was largely a white male affair. The atmosphere of white male geekdom has not been welcoming in the past and the mentality that the outsiders want to steal the toys is still prevalent. White male geeks have had trouble sharing with “the other”, which is pretty ironic considering how much of sci-fi and fantasy centers around the concept of otherness.
   When faced with a viewpoint that is outside of their frame of reference white football fans are finding themselves uncomfortable. They have no problem with predominantly Black athletes bashing themselves into oblivion or Black performers singing and dancing for them but when forced to acknowledge the otherness white fans seem to lose any empathy for the objects of their fandom. Cam Newton apparently didn’t fit into white fans preconceived notions of behavior befitting an NFL quarterback. Newton seems to be vilified for not being happy his team lost the biggest game of the season. I don’t care what color you are, losing sucks. The media was fixated on him before the game for not being humble, and being boastful. After the game they criticize Newton for not losing gracefully and without dignity. Is it because Newton is Black that he’s supposed to hang his head in shame and crawl up Peyton Manning’s ass? Is Newton supposed do a little soft shoe dance for America too? It appears that Cam Newton, and Beyoncé for that matter are guilty of unforgiveable Blackness.
    Why is it so hard for white football fans to accept that the biggest game of the year in a sport dominated by Black athletes (played in Black History month no less) would become a platform for issues relevant to Black people?  For the same reason some fans can’t accept Star Wars with a female Jedi or a Black Stormtrooper. For the same reasons some fans can’t wrap their mind around Rue being cast in the Hunger Games as a black actor even though the text is pretty clear that the character is indeed Black. It is the inability to accept that the world is not going to fit into easy to digest, bland, little nuggets because having to chew is hard after a lifetime of gruel. Well, get ready for a shot of hot sauce America because there are more flavors out there.
  “The other” is not a status that should apply to Black people anymore. Nor should Black people have to fit in to a white sensibility. For decades Black athletes and performers have been putting on a show for the world and it’s high time the world accept them for what they are. The differences that separate people are not a gulf between us. All it takes is an openness to a new viewpoint, a new experience, and you will see that we are not so different after all. Black people deserve more than just being seen or heard but to be acknowledged. They deserve to matter.