Doink. Double doink, as NBC’s Cris Collinsworth put it. The kick was no good. The Bears lost.
Such is the life of a kicker. Boos rained down on Parkey, whose body of work this season includes the unusual feat of hitting the uprights four times on a windy Chicago day in November. This time, though, his extraordinary miss sent the Bears home for the offseason. Parkey pointed to the sky, as usual, but how on earth does a player cope with such catastrophic failure on a grand stage? The 26-year-old had answers.
“One of the worst feelings in the world,” he said after Chicago’s 16-15 wild-card loss (via the Chicago Tribune). “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.”
With the miss, Parkey joins a club of kickers that includes Gary Anderson, Scott Norwood, Blair Walsh, Billy Cundiff, Doug Brien and any number of others who failed to convert in massive, timeless moments. Like Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who refused to be broken by giving up the mother of all walk-off home runs to Kirk Gibson in the World Series, they’ve often offered a refreshing and even lofty measure of responsibility.
“You can’t make this up. I feel terrible. I let the team down,” Parkey said. “It’s on me. I have to own it. I have to be a man. Unfortunately, that’s the way it went today.”
His frank postgame performance won a number of fans, including the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade.
“Most of you have no idea how hard this is to do,” Wade tweeted in solidarity even though the doink cost his beloved Bears. “Cody Parkey way to face the media like a true professional. I’m a fan!”
“We’ve all been here Cody but if you wanna win back the city you gotta get back in the lab and have a historic season next year to bury this one,” Kobe Bryant tweeted. “I’m happy for my #EaglesNation but as a fellow pro athlete you gotta grind harder and double down.”
There were plenty of boos, but Parkey made a few fans, too, both for owning his mistake and for shaking hands with Eagles players and coaches after the game.
“It probably doesn’t matter to Bears fans, but the rest of us can at least admire that kind of sportsmanship and class,” wrote Newsday writer Tom Rock.
And Parkey’s gesture to the sky after his miss was also noted.
“We can’t just be thankful and give honor when times are great!” wrote former NFL receiver Andrew Hawkins. “My [heart] goes out to him, but the kid will be just fine!”
Parkey, who had hit three field goals in the first half, admitted, “there’s really no answer to it.” He thought he had “hit a great ball” and replays appeared to show the kick being tipped at the line.
The 2018 regular season was especially harsh for kickers, who found themselves changing teams right and left after every miss. There’s a brotherhood among kickers — the guys who, among all those who play pro football, look most like ordinary human beings. Wil Lutz of the Saints illustrated it perfectly in September, when he consoled Zane Gonzalez (then with the Browns) after a miss. “At the end of the day,” Lutz tweeted at the time, “it’s not ‘just a game’ to us, this is our livelihood. Our careers rely on personal performance, as does everyone else’s. I will never pull for someone to fail, as I know I will too.”
Despite the outcome, Parkey has some job security in Chicago. Spotrac figures show that Parkey, who turns 27 next month, is among the highest-paid kickers in the league and will have a $3.5 million salary next season. During the offseason, he signed a four-year contract worth $15 million, including $9 million guaranteed. It would cost the Bears more than $5 million in dead cap space to part with him.
And so the world, as the former Auburn kicker said, will continue to spin, even if he’s more hated than Steve Bartman in the Windy City for a while.
“The sun’s gonna shine tomorrow, life’s gonna go on,” he said, “and unfortunately it’s gonna sting for a while.”
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