After every field goal that he attempts, Bears kicker Cody Parkey points to the sky.
No, contrary to popular opinion, he’s not saying, “Man, I should have kicked it up there. There’s no crossbar to hit at the top of the goal posts.”
Parkey points for a more personal reason. He’s thanking God. Kick made or kick missed, he offers up thanks. That’s because Parkey has the right perspective. Football is a large part of his life, but it’s still just a part.
In a game against the Detroit Lions back in November, Parkey missed two field goals and two extra points, all four of which hit an upright.
But he kept the right perspective during his postgame interview.
“I mean, this is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do, and I’m missing out there,” Parkey said after that game. “I’ve got to trust in what I’m doing and trust that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes no mistakes.”
In Sunday’s Wild Card loss to the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, Parkey missed another field goal attempt that cost his team the game. Yet again, the kick hit not one, but two goal posts.
“It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down. I feel terrible,” Parkey said after the game. “I’m going to continue to put things in perspective. … I have to move on.”
(In fact — as a side note — that very same Eagles team that beat the Bears has a large contingent of outspoken Christian believers. This gives me some peace in a world that seemingly wants to push God further from our lives.)
I feel sadness for Parkey
I know I’m probably in the minority here, but when that football hit the goal post — and then another one — and dropped on the wrong side of the crossbar, the first emotion I felt was sadness.
Sadness not because the Bears lost, although that feeling inescapably arrived within minutes. But sadness for Parkey, who capped off a frustrating 2018 season, and who unfortunately kicked off what will be a rough 2019 calendar year.
Within minutes of missing that game-ending field goal — within seconds, actually, in our uber-swift social media-driven world — Bears fans with a keyboard or smartphone within reach were ready to crucify Parkey for costing their team the football game.
(Frankly, I think it’s a little odd that our society instinctively takes to social media with our complaints and feelings, rather than engage with our loved ones or those physically in our presence — guilty! — but that’s a bigger problem for another day)
And just like that, with the tweets and status updates rolling in, Parkey supplanted President Donald Trump as the most hated man in Chicago, if for just one night.
Express yourself freely, but truthfully and civilly
For the record, and to be perfectly clear, it’s not the criticism that bothers me. Parkey knew what he was signing up for. When you have a job in the public eye, criticism comes with the territory.
And I will always protect free speech — dumb speech, hate speech, and grammatically-challenged gibberish notwithstanding — even though many in society are looking to stifle and suppress that freedom on a constant, daily basis.
What I don’t like, and what I won’t stand for, is the threats that have been made to Parkey and his family. Nor do I condone the lynch mob mentality, seeking to enact vigilante justice, or to do general manager Ryan Pace’s job by proxy and firing Parkey on the spot.
You know how that goes: a fan’s team loses a critical game, thus “ruining” that fan’s life, because nothing in that fan’s life is more important than sports. So, because that fan’s life is “ruined,” vengeance must be taken to ruin someone else’s life.
Chicagoans are well acquainted with this mentality. It’s the same one that ostracized and ruined the life of one Steve Bartman. My hope is that fans won’t commit the same mistake and try to ruin Parkey’s life in a similar manner out of some irrational, senseless sports anger.
Social media venting causes interpersonal problems
The problem with our social media world is that it’s way too easy to be vile and repugnant because you can do it under a cloak of anonymity — or, at least, behind the shroud of protection from confrontation.
These internet trolls who make veiled threats to Parkey, among others, find it too easy to spew raw and unfiltered emotion. Some try to be snarky or sarcastic. Others want to be witty or intelligent. All try to stir up a reaction and gain some type of notoriety.
In fact, even those who aren’t necessarily considered trolls will often react to popular news and events simply because “everybody else is doing it.” We live in a society where everybody wants to be known — or, at minimum, to be seen or heard or to belong.
That’s not wrong at face value. But it toes the line of indecency when people often speak untruthfully and instead are reflexively emoting because they are spurred to be part of the action.
The brotherhood of teammates, kickers
I felt personally for Parkey after his miss, because I’ve been there before.
No, I haven’t signed an NFL contract and attempted a game-winning field goal in front of 60,000 fans in-stadium and millions more watching from home.
But I did miss an extra point in college that cost our team a game and I took it very hard. I spent several minutes hunched over on the sideline, wanting to crawl into a hole away from the world.
Social media was barely alive when I played, and I kicked for little-known Aurora University. Answering to a mob of angry fans was something that I didn’t have to endure — thank God — like Parkey does. But it hurt me, nonetheless, because as Parkey noted after his miss, “It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down.”
Fortunately, much like I experienced from my teammates back then, Parkey said his teammates were nothing but supportive and loving and had his back after the loss.
That’s what it means to play on a team. It’s a brotherhood. And although I’m sure more than a few of his teammates privately lament his missed kick, they still publicly had his back.
There’s nothing easy about kicking field goals
It’s not easy to be a kicker. Most critics spout the clichéd “you have one job” line, but that one job is difficult to do. And my response to that nonsense is this: “Why do basketball players miss so many free throws? You’re standing only five yards away from the hoop and nobody is guarding you or rushing at you to try to block your shot.”
“Yeah, but the goal is smaller in basketball!” — so what? It’s still a craft, part of one’s job, and so many are bad at it.
I’ve both kicked field goals and shot free throws. Both require technique and consistency and neither is particularly easy to do. But shooting a free throw, unless it’s a game-winner or in crunch time, comes with far less pressure than kicking a field goal does.
I played football for 10 years, most of which I spent kicking footballs. I loved every minute of it. But I spent more time pacing the sideline with nervous energy than I did enjoying the game.
Nobody knows what a kicker goes through unless you’ve done it in a game before.
I conclude this with a plea to Bears fans who might still be simmering at Parkey over this loss. Please keep your gripes and complaints civil and decent.
You are free to express yourself however you’d like. But in doing so, I hope that you’re always being true to yourself and to your values.
If you’re angry at Parkey, that’s fine and a normal feeling. I don’t personally hold that feeling toward him, but I won’t bemoan others who do.
If you want the guy to lose his job, that’s a little more perplexing, but not completely out of line. It is a performance-based job, after all, and Parkey failed to do it sufficiently.
But if you want physical harm to come to him or his family because he ruined your night and ended your enjoyment of watching Bears games on Sunday … well, I pray that God softens your heart and that you repent of such ill will.
God bless you, Cody. Keep being a witness for Christ. I pray that the burden you undoubtedly feel will soften and eventually wither away. I pray that the angry mob leaves you alone so that you may experience peace. Good luck to you in all your future endeavors, whether that be here in Chicago or wherever else God leads you.