There are few moments so concentrated in football as the field-goal attempt. Every motion could mean points on the board, decide a game or determine a champion. Kicking field goals in the National Football League takes the leg of a billy goat and the soul of a diamond cutter.
Going into Sunday's game here against the New York Giants, that old billy goat, Mark Moseley, is two kicks away from a very pretty jewel indeed, Garo Yepremian's record of 20 field goals in a row.
To some, Yepremian will forever be the wacky Dolphin-Cypriot who tossed a clumsy interception to Mike Bass for the Redskins's only touchdown in Miami's Super Bowl victory in 1973.
But the little guy, famous for his shiny pate and Florida necktie business, had concentration when it counted.
Yepremian lost his job with the Dolphins before the start of the 1979 season. He signed with the New Orleans Saints and started the season against the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick Park with a chance to tie the record of 16 straight held jointly by Jan Stenerud of Kansas City and Don Cockroft of Cleveland.
"It was a funny day," Yepremian said yesterday. "The baseball diamond was still out there and the ball was set up on the pitcher's mound for an 18-yarder. I was wearing my very long cleats and I thought I was going to break my neck trying to kick from there. So I called time out. I put on a shoe with short rubber cleats for my planting foot just to make sure. I made it. I didn't want to take any chances with the record.
"You know, it will be ironic if Mark breaks the record. I lost the streak when I had a 45-yarder blocked in Washington (Oct. 28, 1979)."
The last Moseley miss on a field goal attempt was a 47-yarder in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1981. Since then he has made 18, most of them coming after a summer in which he was in danger of losing his job to rookie Dan Miller. Moseley has spent 12 years in the NFL, nine of them with the Redskins, and all of them with that diamond cutter's soul.
"I haven't really done anything to change my motion," said Moseley. "This year my concentration has been greater. Maybe it has something to do with winning. In 1979, when we went 10-6 and just barely missed going to the playoffs, I probably had my best year. I think my kicking goes hand in hand with the team's need."
The Redskins' need for Moseley's leg was never more in evidence than Sunday against St. Louis, when he kicked from 32, 30, 20 and 24 yards to give the team all of its points in a 12-7 victory. He has also had to kick in a downpour against Philadelphia at RFK and in an Amazonian monsoon in Tampa Bay.
This week against the Giants, the Redskins face a hot team, but Moseley faces a cold, possibly frozen, ball, not exactly ideal conditions for setting a record.
"You try to get in a lot of your best kicking in the beginning of the season when the weather is good," said Moseley, who lost a lot of opportune weather during the eight week strike. "The snow is tough to kick in because the ball gets hard and it's rough to get your foot very far into the ball."
Moseley will not be tossing any salt over his shoulder, or avoiding hash marks before the game. "I'm not a superstitious person," he said. I'm a religious person... Superstition is hogwash."
Moseley said he was not really aware he was closing in on Yepremian's record until the game with St. Louis last week.
"But now I really want it," he said. "I'm excited to be able to challenge a record like this because it's a consistency record."
Yepremian, for his part, will be waiting to hear about it at his home in Miami.
"In baseball they'd fly the player who had the old record to the game, like they did with Lou Brock or Pete Rose. And the old guy would present the new guy with the record. But I guess they don't do that in football," said Yepremian.
The "new" guy is 35 years old and a little too experienced to let a possible record throw him off stride.
"I know what I have to do," said Moseley. "I have to swing my leg straight."