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October 1, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Nothin’ But Net

Just Don’t Miss That Penalty, Goddamnit

There are 15 seconds left in one of the biggest NFL games of the season.

The underdog Baltimore Ravens have done well to keep pace with the high-flying New England Patriots, in a game that everyone thought would be over by Christmas, but they’re down by three with time to execute one last play.

Kicker Billy Cundiff steps up. If he makes this shot from 32 yards out, the game will go into overtime. It will be one of the easiest kicks of the season for him—similar to Dan Carter kicking a penalty from the 22 right out in front.

Cundiff is one of the best there is: there’s no way he can miss, right?

The snap is good, but Cundiff’s kick spins off to the left. The Patriots win.

The look on Cundiff’s face is unmistakeable. He can’t believe he’s just bottled the most important kick of his career, and from right out in front. He’s clearly devastated as the Patriots celebrate.

Worse yet, there are now cameras in his face as the media try to capture his feelings. He’ll have to front up to them soon, and tell the world what they already know: he fucked up. Badly.

Cundiff’s story isn’t unique. Players mess up all the time. Bastian Schweinsteiger missed an important penalty in the Champions League final when it hit the post, and usually the Germans have ice in their veins during those moments.

As in life, failure is inevitable in sport. It’s a matter of when, not if, something will go horribly wrong for you.

But as some random muslim dude said to me on an InterCity bus: anyone can make a mistake, as long as you learn from it.

The true test of character is how you can respond to your mistakes. Work out what went wrong, and you you can improve as a result. If you can do that, the results are so much more satisfying.

When the All Blacks finally lifted the World Cup last season, it was so much sweeter because of all those failed campaigns in the past.

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