In the semifinal of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, England defender Laura Bassett tried to clear a ball and accidentally scored an own goal. That late goal sent Japan to the final, and Bassett’s crucial error was the main reason why Japan got the victory.
Knowing how the British tabloids and fans act when someone makes a mistake on such a public stage, I feared the worst. Instead, it was generally understood that Bassett had made a mistake, that no one felt worse in that moment than her, and while it was a bummer for every England fan or reporter, it didn’t help to pile on the player for something that clearly wasn’t intentional.
I often wondered why a situation like that was considered the anomaly when it should instead be the norm in sports. Bears kicker Cody Parkey should have gotten the same reception after Chicago’s Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles. With a chance to win the game, Parkey’s 43-yard attempt smashed both the upright and the crossbar, falling limply to the ground on the wrong side of the crossbar, and the Eagles hung to defeat the Bears 16-15.
After Parkey’s miss, the boos rained down on the kicker, which seems like an appropriate reaction. If you’re a Bears fan, you certainly aren’t going to cheer when your team loses (especially when they lose a playoff game), so booing is the natural reaction. The issue came when fans felt like they needed to take to social media to let out some unnecessary anger towards Parkey, probably because their parents didn’t love them enough as children.
@CParkey36 I want you to know I haven’t tweeted in years, and I’m doing this to let you know I hate you and you’re the worst kicker the NFL has ever seen. You should be ashamed to call yourself a kicker. Fuck you.
— Mitch Sutton (@MitchSutton83) January 7, 2019
Hey @CParkey36, I can’t wait for you to lose your job and then hopefully you’ll end up like one of those bum ass athletes who waste all of their money and go broke and live miserably your entire life.
— Carter De Roeck (@carterderoeck) January 7, 2019
@CParkey36 hope you enjoy flipping burgers the rest of your life you truly fucking worthless piece of shit 😊😊
— Zac (@King_Edwards309) January 7, 2019
Welp you are going to be killed
— OverlordTaco (@overlord_taco) January 7, 2019
It gets worse from there. There were a bunch of comments from Bears fans who were upset about the loss and still understood the situation and supported their kicker, but those seemed few and far between. To Parkey’s credit, he faced the media and answered questions after the game, accepting blame for the loss.
Parkey may not have even been completely at fault for the missed field goal. Treyvon Hester revealed that he made contact with the ball, and while he wasn’t sure he made enough contact to make Parkey miss, his fingertip touch surely didn’t help the ball’s chances of sailing through the uprights.
The video didn’t seem conclusive, but it looked very close, so I’ll give Hester the benefit of the doubt that he tipped the kick. Either way, it’s no excuse for people to act like Parkey needed to re-enact Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame from Game of Thrones.
So, what is the difference between Bassett’s situation and Parkey’s? Both made a mistake seen by millions of people. Both felt horrible about their mistake, and even if nobody ever reminds them about it, it’ll be something they’ll think about for the rest of their lives. Why was one person treated with care and understanding, and why should the other one die in a gutter?
One could say that this is Parkey’s only job, he’s getting paid millions to do that one job, and he’s had a history of both missing kicks and hitting uprights. Despite making three field goals that game, all of that is true. But how is the money he makes relevant to how he deserves to be treated as a human being? Does that say more about Parkey, or more about us as a society for valuing sports so much (especially pro football) that someone who participates a few times per game is making more money in one week than you or I make per year? Maybe the Bears and Matt Nagy should look into replacing Parkey if things are that bad and the Bears feel they can get someone better, but hurling endless insults and threats towards Parkey helps no one.
I know I’ve never wished death on anyone, but I’m pretty sure I’ve said things about the players on my teams when they’ve made a mistake that I shouldn’t have said. It’s stupid and usually unnecessary, but I know it’s tough to resist in the heat of the moment. We’re people and we’re emotional people and sports are an important part of our lives. But as much as we glorify football and use various war related terms and metaphors to describe it, remember that it’s still a game and those players out there are still people. Chicago sports fans have already forced Steve Bartman into hiding for making a mistake (and that was before social media), and they shouldn’t do it again for Cody Parkey.