In the wake of the epic Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle,” the flamboyantly awful music video the juggernaut squad filmed en route to its 1985 title, both the team with the daunting task of matching up with Chicago in the championship game and a sketch comedy show attempted to send up Da Bears’ braggadocio.
The original — featuring the well-crafted rap stylings of Jim McMahon, Walter Payton, William Perry (“You’re lookin’ at the Fridge / I’m the rookie / I may be large / But I’m no dumb cookie”) and others — was brashly recorded well before the team had advanced to the Super Bowl. It somehow managed to garner a Grammy nomination in what I can only imagine was a banner year in the recording industry, and became the benchmark of cocksure athletic predictions for years to come. The lame, contrived response — “New England Patriots Are We” — has only been referred to by some as the most embarrassing moment in Boston sports history.
Meanwhile, “Saturday Night Live” had a little more success spoofing the Bears by creating its own mock music video, entitled “We Are Kickers.” The song featured Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman leading a crew of gangly, immigrant kickers who had a less than firm grip on the English language. In addition to a chorus of “We are kickers / We kick ball / We play with ball / We kick the ball,” Lovitz opined about kicking in the frozen climate of Green Bay, Hartman appeared out of nowhere to sing his verse with a sitar in tow, and Carvey lost his train of thought, mumbling vaguely “I am Raul / I’m kick machine / I play for seven different team / I kick football / I play with the ball / I kick for the team / I … I … am Raul.”
Incredibly, this all became relevant again this week — at least to me, and that’s pretty much all that matters here — when some brash talk, the Patriots and a foreign-born kicker crossed paths once again some 20 years down the road. For some inane reason, Indianapolis Colts resident “idiot kicker” Mike Vanderjagt decided this would be an opportune time to call out the defending champs and declare them “ripe for the picking” in Sunday’s Divisional Playoff game.
Forget that this is the same guy who missed a field goal that would have sent the season opener against the Pats into overtime and the only person irritating enough to elicit a memorable slam (“our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth”) from the notoriously effusive Peyton Manning after Vanderjagt questioned the toughness of Manning and coach Tony Dungy. That helps put this in context, but it misses the really important fact here: This guy is a kicker. He plays kicker. In the NFL. Kicker. Really.
If the SNL piece were done in jest, it still made the salient point that kickers are somewhat of a sideshow that should never open their mouths and remove all doubt they should never open their mouths. Like Ashlee Simpson. Nice job at the Orange Bowl. Honestly, what’s this guy going to do to back up his words? Set the tone with a devastating touchback on the opening kickoff? Do a little matador fancy-footwork sidestep when some pissed-off Pats special-teams gunner tries to lay him out on a kick return and then stand there flexing or patting himself on the back? Kick lefty? Celebrate like Bill Grammatica and break an ankle?
Straight up, if he wants to run his mouth, he should get out there on a play when he’s not going to be treated by the refs like he’s wearing one of those red jerseys quarterbacks wear in practice that scare off defenders quicker than Doug Christie’s wife scares off groupies. Line up and get down with the big boys for a play. Kicking is one thing, but it’s not exactly representative of football as a whole. Vanderjagt had made 42 kicks in a row before he botched the one against the Pats in September, and that’s wonderful. But like Eddie Murphy tells Stevie Wonder during a bit from “Delirious,” playing piano and singing is nice, but if “you want to impress me, take the wheel for a little while.”
Speaking of Doug Christie’s wife, do you think Omar Minaya made use of Anna Benson’s pledge to sleep with everyone affiliated with the Mets organization if she gets wind of husband Kris cheating on her in order to give a little incentive to Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran? Not a bad little perk.
I’ve got no problem with players running their mouths a little bit before games. Better for players to show a little swagger than to betray a fatal timidity. Joe Namath and Mark Messier famously backed up their guarantees. Patrick Ewing promised a victory in pretty much every important game he ever played in, and he was always good for a big loss. Chad Johnson proclaimed the Bengals would end the Chiefs’ undefeated start to the 2003 season. Some Steelers are offended that Shaun Ellis thinks the Jets might really win on Saturday. And some Ivy League basketball people actually noticed Edwin Draughan ’05 and Dexter Upshaw ’06 proclaim their intention to win the conference this year in a recent article and took umbrage at this outrage. Seriously, why does any of this matter?
Bulletin board material is a crutch for teams that can’t find the requisite motivation to perform. The fact that the Patriots seem to be getting a bit worked up about Vanderjagt has to do less to do with the content (the undermanned Pats are indeed at their most vulnerable) and more to do with the fact that the comment didn’t exactly come from the most respectable source. Shut up, kick the ball, stop kicking yourself in the ass, and, if all goes well, enjoy the Pats kicking you while you’re down Sunday afternoon.