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A Life After Wide Right

July 12, 2004
July 12, 2004

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July 12, 2004

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A Life After Wide Right

Thirteen years after missing a Super Bowl-winning field goal, the ex-Bill views his worst moment as a step in the right direction

This stocky man, in brown, rubber-soled shoes, gray Dockers and
a tan polo shirt, walking across the narrow street from his
car, the white Chevy Prism with the cracked windshield, he is a
failure. An abject, wretched failure. And yet he is,
incontrovertibly, a winner, a success. He stands there in his
wraparound sunglasses and breathes the wet spring air and talks
to you about interest rates and square footage and backyard park
adjacencies and finished basements in this northern Virginia
suburb. Houses. Condominiums. A nice parcel out by Centreville.
In Chantilly. Mortgage rates are low. Now is the time to buy. He
speaks in a quiet, slow, gravelly voice. Thoughtful. You lean in
to hear him. His steady monotone wins out over your urge to
interrupt. ¶ He finishes talking and looks away, at the waving
poplar trees and the unweeded grass, the minimall in the
distance and the Mobil station where kids are filling up their
bike tires with air. You look at him and you know you know him.
He hands you his card. This is an upscale area, he explains,
comfortable, a bit pricey perhaps, but great for families. A
strong sense of community. The card says SCOTT NORWOOD, REALTOR,
and it is red, white and blue. He looks at you to see if you
recognize the name. He lives with this, a combination of burden
and opportunity. A salesman needs any edge he can get, and he
knows that merely being recognized as a former NFL kicker can
help win over the husbands but rarely the wives. The wives must
be reminded that this is the guy who blew that kick, who, you
know, lost that Super Bowl for the Buffalo Bills; then there is
understanding and sympathy. And that could help cajole a couple
into bidding on a split-level colonial at the end of a cul-de-sac.

This is an article from the July 12, 2004 issue Original Layout

But he never asks for the pity. He has known anger and
disappointment. Has felt responsible for a city's stifled
aspirations. But he will not accept pity.

We are a fickle nation, quick to dismiss failure and embrace
success. Prove yourself a champion, and we will love you forever,
overlooking murder raps and drug busts and spousal abuse. But
fall short on the field, and we may never forgive, no matter how
you conduct yourself away from the game. So consider how it would
feel to live as the answer to a trivia question, the punch line
to a joke, a synonym for misses and muffs and screwups, or,
perhaps even more humiliating, the MacGuffin in a Vincent Gallo
movie (Buffalo '66). That is the burden Scott Norwood has borne
since Super Bowl XXV. And you know what? He has not only
survived, but he has also thrived--and not as some lovable loser,
a Throneberry or Uecker who uses his haplessness as a huckster's
tool.

The measure of a man should no more be his worst moments than it
should be the color of his skin or the cut of his suit. It is how
we deal with those moments that make us who we are, and that is
the most American measure of success: to fail once, to pick
yourself up and try again. We are a nation of losers made good,
descendants of those who settled here in search of a second
chance. To fail is not American, it is human. But it is American
to overcome that failure.

It took years for Scott Norwood to get here. To walk down this
sidewalk and point to this house and say that it will go in the
mid-4s. To raise his three children who have his blue eyes and
his beautiful wife's blonde locks and to take up his position as
man of the house. This man, in his journey, has transformed
himself from taciturn failure to stolid hero. It is a small sort
of heroism, quotidian, really--the heroism of failing at
something and still persevering. Of missing a field goal wide
right in the most televised sporting event in the country, and
then having to get up the next morning and continue to live your
life. We've all known moments of failure, of blowing an exam, of
being fired, spurned, disgraced, yet these moments are seldom
public. How do you go on when every time you walk into a liquor
store or a gas station, there is someone pointing at you,
reminding you of your worst moment? You see, this is also a
particular kind of American heroism--the simple, quiet heroism of
continuing to be a dad and a husband despite knowing, deeply,
that life can be a bitch.

the path to Scott Norwood's failure, and the redemptive success
of overcoming that setback, begins at Thomas Jefferson High in
Alexandria, Va., where a stocky, 5'10", 17-year-old sweeper is
heading back to the locker room after soccer practice. The
football coach, Mike Weaver, stops him and says, "Hey, son, I
hear you can really kick the ball."

Scott is a quiet boy, the discomfort of adolescence reinforcing
his taciturn nature so that when he speaks it is as surprising as
a voice coming from a statue. "I'm O.K., sir."

"We need a kicker, son," says Coach Weaver, "Why don't you come
out for the team this season?"

Scott nods. He's been a standout soccer player since he was old
enough to tie his shoes and would make the All-Metropolitan team
twice at Thomas Jefferson. But such is the straightforwardness of
his world view that he has never thought about applying his skill
at kicking a ball to another sport.

At dinner that night at the Norwoods' house in Annandale, his
father, Del, who will later be inducted into the Virginia High
School Hall of Fame as a baseball coach, listens as Scott
recounts his conversation with Weaver. A Maine native and the
coach at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., Del
pitched in the minor leagues and was invited to camp with the
Boston Red Sox, but never made it to the majors. Yet as much as
he once dreamed of the big leagues, he now enjoys playing with
and coaching his three children in baseball and soccer. Scott's
older brother, Steve, is a pitcher and outfielder for the
University of Virginia who will later be drafted by the Milwaukee
Brewers. His younger sister, Sandra, is a standout in field
hockey, basketball and soccer. Del had been a little disappointed
that Scott, when he reached high school, had chosen soccer over
baseball. But the nature of Del's commitment to his children was
that he would have supported Scott if he had chosen ballet. So
when Scott mentions the possibility of kicking for the football
team, Del asks him if this is something he wants to do.

"You know, Dad," Scott says, swallowing a bite of chicken-fried
steak, "I think I do."

Del nods and tells Scott that he will be happy to help out any
way he can. That summer the father and son spend every morning at
Thomas Jefferson, teeing it up and catching kickoffs. The two
begin the process of charting the accuracy of Scott's field goals
and the distance of his kickoffs. They don't talk much about
their progress, but there is a sense that things are going well.
Scott, because of his soccer background, has an intuitive feel
for how to approach the ball. Del's books tell him that Scott
should take three steps back and two to the left, but Scott just
sort of backs up at an angle and sets up, arms swinging, and then
makes the smooth run up to the ball followed by the stiff sound
of the stuffing being knocked out of the Wilson, which travels 45
yards through the uprights.

"It just felt good," Scott recalls. "I was comfortable with it
pretty quickly." He goes out for the football team, and the
coach, of course, is grateful to have a real kicker instead of a
backup quarterback who kicks because he doesn't get to play as
much as he would like. For Scott--shy, reserved--the position
offers an assured place in the universe. There is a simplicity to
this role that appeals to him: He scores points. By increments of
one and three he becomes the leading scorer on the team, in the
county and, finally, in the region. The steadiness of the
accretion is pleasing, like interest accumulating in a bank
account, and by the time he makes the winning field goal in a
game against archrival Annandale High, college scouts who have
come to see other players are making notes about this kicker.

every off-season, Scott comes home to Annandale. After every year
at James Madison University, where he earns a football
scholarship. And then, after he graduates with a degree in
business in 1982, and Del and Scott blanket the NFL with
videotape, and after he signs with the Atlanta Falcons--and is
cut. After an upstart league called the USFL is formed and he
wins a job with the Birmingham Stallions and kicks 25 field goals
in '83. After he tears some cartilage in his knee in his second
season with the Stallions and is released. After successes and
after failures, he comes back to work out with his father at the
same old high school field. They never speak of what it feels
like to be cut by an NFL team. Or how it feels to drive from
Atlanta back to Fairfax County in the light-blue Riviera and move
back in with your folks. Or what it is like to be a guy a few
years out of college still practicing field goals with your dad.
They never talk about how life isn't fair, or how, no matter what
happens, you keep showing up. Del will occasionally express
displeasure with the Falcons for cutting his son, or with the NFL
or USFL for not appreciating what a good kicker they passed up.
And then Del and Scott will jog down the field to retrieve the
half-dozen balls and stuff them into the sack and drag them back
upfield and set 'em up again, five yards deeper. And when Scott's
knee heels, they don't talk about how excited they are when the
Bills invite him to camp. He is one of 10 kickers they're
bringing in. That doesn't matter, Del tells him. You just keep
showing up.

The weather in Buffalo drives other kickers mad, but it suits
Norwood. The wind, the cold, the rain, the spartan practice
facilities. But Norwood has been through worse. He's been cut,
injured and overlooked, and compared with that, kicking in rain
or a harsh wind blowing from the north is almost a pleasant
diversion. He's comfortable with the elements, and from his
career as a soccer player he knows how to control the ball in
inclement weather, to keep it down in the wind, to improvise. The
other kickers are cut, one by one, and finally Scott shows up and
looks around the locker room one morning and he's the last kicker
left.

Before you belittle the placekicker or make light of him as an
athlete, ask yourself: Are you among the 28 best in the world at
anything? Scott Norwood is in that exclusive club. In 1988, his
fourth season with the Bills, he makes the Pro Bowl. In '89 he
becomes the alltime leading scorer in Bills history, taking the
record from O.J. Simpson. "I felt like I fit in to that team,"
Norwood recalls. "That's one of the special things about sports,
the camaraderie." His teammates treat him not as a kicker but as
a fellow football player. "Everybody looks at kickers as being a
little sissy to a certain point," says quarterback Jim Kelly.
"But Scott was one of us. He had that mean face, that linebacker
face. I loved that guy."

The Bills are winning games, the division title and playoff
games. Coach Marv Levy and general manager Bill Polian have
assembled a remarkable group of football players, starting with
Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith and Cornelius
Bennett and extending all the way to Norwood. He meets Kim Burch,
a salesgirl in domestics at a J.C. Penney in Buffalo. She sells
him bedding. She smiles. She is slender, strawberry blonde and
beautiful. They are married three years later.

And still, Scott comes home, every off-season, though now he's
driving a black Ford Bronco that he gets from a dealer in
Virginia in exchange for a few ads and personal appearances. Do
you know how good that feels, to get something just because you
are you? A pro football player, a Pro Bowler, and you make six
figures a year? You're on a winning team? You've married a
beautiful woman?

Of course you don't. Very few of us do. But it feels like this:
You are in the flow of life, not trying to wrestle it down or
beat it into submission or twist it and forge it and shape it,
but you are instead riding along and each bend or turn reveals a
pleasant surprise. And still, Scott keeps coming home, to kick
with his dad. Some of the commuters returning from Washington
along Annandale Avenue point to the kicker on the grass and the
older man holding the ball and say, See that guy? He's the kicker
for the Buffalo Bills. And Scott could never imagine a time when
that recognition, the same recognition that wins you free
automobiles, could make it hard for you to leave your own house.

as the ball goes wide right, the instant it is passing the
upright, before the official has even signaled, Kim is in the
stands thinking, Oh, this is going to be tough for Scott. She has
come to Tampa to watch the game with Del, Sandra and Scott's aunt
and uncle, and all of them at that instant think some version of
that same thought. Kim winds her way down the stands and into the
tunnel and then around the stadium to the players' entrance, this
petite bobbed blonde in a white sweater, slacks and pumps,
darting between cursing Bills fans and elated New York Giants
fans, wending through dense clusters of elation and despair as
palpable as parade floats. She desperately wants to be there for
Scott, to hold him and tell him that it will be O.K., that it was
just a kick, that it's just a game, all things he knows, but in
the aftermath of the biggest miss in Super Bowl history it might
be easy for him to lose perspective.

She waits near the players' entrance--the wives are not allowed
into the locker room--and she waits and she waits.

In the Buffalo locker room there is a mixture of anger, disbelief
and confusion. The emotional rush of that last drive, in which
Kelly took the Bills down to the 30-yard line with eight seconds
left, was such that even after Norwood's miss it's hard for the
players to absorb what has happened. Some of the Bills are still
milling around near the coach or standing near the entrance, as
if this is some sort of second halftime and the team will soon be
going on to play a third half. Levy tells his team that he has
never been more proud of any group of men, and that he could not
have asked for anything more from his team--well-intentioned
banalities that can't begin to heal the hurt. Then he surveys his
team and watches as Reed begins to pull off his jersey and Kelly
wipes his face with a towel. Levy wants to talk to his kicker. He
finds Norwood and walks over to sit down with him on the wooden
bench in front of his locker, between him and wide receiver Steve
Tasker.

"I didn't know what to say to him," says Levy. "I was searching
for words to buck him up, but I knew how he felt. We engineered
that drive to get him in field goal range. It was a 47-yard kick
off natural grass. Fewer than 50% of those are made. He had been
such a great kicker for us over the years, and he won a few games
for us with his leg, but you don't think about things like that
at a time like that."

As Levy is trying to console his kicker, linebacker Darryl Talley
and cornerback Nate Odomes approach Norwood and explain that if
they had made a crucial tackle in the third quarter on a
third-and-13 pass play, then the Bills would have never been in
the position where they needed to make that kick. Then Reed comes
over and says that if he had hung on to a few key passes in the
second quarter, then the Bills could have put the Giants away.
Teammate after teammate visits with Norwood and reinforces the
message that this was a team loss. Fellow special teams player
Tasker, who watches all this from his locker next to Norwood,
recalls, "None of the players on that team blamed him. They knew
you could take back any one play and the game might have been
different."

Then the reporters are let into the locker room. They've rarely
bothered to speak with Norwood. But today, of course, he is
trapped in the incandescent TV lights and on the business end of
three dozen microphones. His special teams coach, Bruce DeHaven,
stands by him as he answers every single question from every
single reporter. He will stay in the locker room a full hour
after most of his teammates have gone. How does it feel, Scott?
Were you nervous? Did you feel like you hit it good? What are you
going to do now? What do your teammates think? How does it feel
to miss that kick and lose the Super Bowl?

DeHaven asks him every few minutes, "Have you had enough? Do you
want me to get rid of these guys?" And Scott shakes his head and
replies, "I think I owe it to the fans to answer some questions."

Sports psychologists will tell you that openness is the first
step to healing from this sort of loss. They use words like
process and grieving and cleansing, but Scott just sees it as his
duty. His father would simply call it showing up.

"The biggest thing about that kick," says Norwood, "was not how
it impacted me, but how it let the team down. But I had prepared
as well as I could. I had done the best I could. I could look at
myself in the mirror."

in the 1998 film Buffalo '66, a placekicker named Scott Wood
misses the field goal that costs Buffalo the Super Bowl. Billy,
the character played by Vincent Gallo, loses a $10,000 bet on the
game and comes to view the kicker as the cause of all his
frustrations and shortcomings. He goes looking for the kicker,
intending to murder him. In the movie the kicker in retirement
becomes the owner of Scott Wood's Solid Gold Sexotic Dancers--a
shirtless, sequined, bow-tie-wearing fat man who offers up naked
women as a palliative for Buffalo residents devastated by his
missed field goal.

Norwood was offered what he calls a "large sum" of money to play
himself in Buffalo '66. He turned it down and says he has never
seen the movie. "I think if he saw that film, he would be hurt by
it," says Gallo, a Buffalo native. "I love Scott Norwood, but I
used the kicker character because Scott became symbolic of all of
Buffalo's problems." While there is no doubt that Buffalo fans
suffered with Norwood after his kick, Buffalo is one of the few
cities where Scott is remembered for the totality of his career
and the great character he showed both before and after that
Super Bowl. When he returned to Buffalo after the game and
appeared at a post-Super Bowl rally, 25,000 fans showed up and
cheered for Norwood almost as loudly as they did for Levy and
Kelly, chanting, "We love Scott!" The fans understood, perhaps
subconsciously, that Norwood's failure could become either an
albatross or an opportunity, just as their city's rust-belt
decline had prompted them to find hidden depths of character and
strength.

"Scott Norwood is one of my three or four favorite Buffalo
Bills," says Gallo, "because of what he went through." Buffalo
has not won a major sports championship since 1965, the
third-longest such streak of futility for any city that has at
least two major sports franchises. (Only San Diego [1963] and
Cleveland ['64] have suffered longer.) As Buffalo would return to
three more Super Bowls in the greatest run of NFL title-game
appearances since the Browns of the '50s and then get blown out
each time, Norwood's wide right would take on even greater
significance. It became clear those few feet between the ball and
the right upright were as close as those Bills would ever get to
a Super Bowl championship. "Look, a lot of things happened out
there," says Scott. "A lot of other players didn't make plays,
but that doesn't excuse me. I'm a player and I'm paid to perform,
and I failed in that instance."

after the 1991 season the Bills sign a promising new kicker,
Steve Christie of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and waive the
31-year-old Norwood. If he was not associated with that missed
field goal, Scott believes, he would get a call from another team
looking for a kicker. But the phone never rings. He no longer
bothers to show up at the Washington-Lee High School field to
practice his placekicks.

The first years out of football are the hardest. He refuses to
discuss the Super Bowl with reporters, and when he returns to
Fairfax County, he becomes almost a recluse, carefully avoiding
the media. "An experience like that has to be a blow to his ego,"
says Kim, "and then he's out of football and he has to find his
place. It was very hard for him to talk about it." Scott retreats
into his family, moving into a house with Kim in Clifton, Va.,
near his parents. He goes hunting with Del and Steve, the three
of them heading out to Kmart before every deer season, buying
ammunition and camping equipment, new boots and camouflage vests
before setting out for Long Island, off the coast of Maine, where
Del has hunted since he was a boy. They seldom shoot at anything,
the three of them, instead taking long walks through the
wilderness. Del doesn't really like the act of killing deer, but
the ritual of pitching tents, setting up camp, making a fire and
spending time with his boys in the woods keeps him coming back
season after season. The laconic talk around the fire is
reassuring to Scott, the crackle of burning wood and the chirping
of crickets an aural reminder that life still has meaning and
purpose and fine moments.

Scott seeks to put his business degree to work selling insurance,
mortgages, annuities and trusts. It's hard work, especially the
cold-calling, having to dial his way through a list of phone
numbers every day and say, "Hi, I'm Scott Norwood, and I have a
great opportunity today for you to take care of your family." It
takes weeks and months of cajoling to get a prospective policy
buyer or annuity purchaser to write that check. For the first
time in his life, he finds that just showing up isn't enough.

Everywhere they go, to movie theaters, to doctor's offices, to
restaurants, Scott knows what everyone is thinking: He's the guy
who missed. "I would try to talk to him about other things,"
Steve says, "but you just knew it was on his mind."

"I saw him working through it," says Sandra. "He would come and
tell me, 'This is real tough for me, but I'll get through it.'
And we would all tell him, 'Scott, it's football. There are other
things out there in life.'"

Scott wants children, suspects that he may find some distraction
in the richness of family life, but there, too, he is
disappointed as he and Kim struggle to conceive. "They had some
problems having kids," explains Steve. "Who knows; maybe that was
related to all that stress?" There are moments when, after
returning home from work, he confides to his wife that he doesn't
understand why he has been put on this particular path. Why
should this have happened to him? And Kim stops him right there
and says, "Look, life is full of so many different moments--yes,
that was awful what happened--but you were an All-Pro. If someone
said, 'We'll take back that kick, but you also have to lose
everything you accomplished in football,' would you do it? No
way. So you take the good with the bad, only our bad is just
really, really bad."

But the good is so very, very good. Twins, Carly and Connor, are
born in 1995, and then Corey is born in '96. Still, this healing
is a gradual process. The missed kick appears in his
consciousness at odd times, and suddenly, in the middle of a
phone conversation, wide right will replay itself, and every time
it is a sickening moment. Then, over a few seasons--but he no
longer calls them seasons; they're years now--thanks to the
continued good health of his children and the love of his wife
and family, he begins to understand that without that failure,
that defeat, he might not have everything he now has. It is an
obvious truth but one that comes to him with a most unlikely
feeling: gratitude.

"I like the people we've become," he tells his wife at one point,
not smugly, but in wonder. How can you measure the health and
happiness of three beautiful children against a field goal? Three
kids versus three points? "If everything always worked out for
you, then you don't have that sense of appreciation," Norwood
says. "You can always think you understand what it means to have
things not work out, but until you live it, you don't really
know."

Scott dusts off his Pro Bowl jersey and has it framed, along with
a complete set of his football cards, over the big screen RCA in
his wood-paneled den. There's a leather sofa and two chairs, and
a desk with a computer where sometimes, in the evening, after he
and Kim have gotten the kids bathed and into bed, he will sit and
listen to the house settle and consider his future. Everyone
seems to be buying, selling, moving. There's a real estate boom
afoot, every baby boomer in America seems to be in escrow, making
a bid, securing a second mortgage, adding on, remodeling, and he
thinks maybe that's for him. He likes the implied optimism of
offering people a stake, rather than the pessimism of selling
insurance or annuities. Through a friend, a Bills fan, he hears
about an opening and then, just like that, he leaves his career
in financial planning in 2002 and joins Re/Max, the real estate
brokerage.

Stolid and squinty-eyed, he makes an unlikely real estate agent.
You arrive at an open house, you don't expect the kicker who
missed in the Super Bowl. But years have passed, and now those
who don't remember or who never knew outnumber those who do, and
even for those who recall the missed kick, it is no longer a
source of embarrassment or disappointment but rather a curiosity,
like finding an old letter from a girl you once liked but thought
you'd completely forgotten. In this housing market, though, in
this era of low interest rates and buoyant real estate prices,
there is room for even a taciturn, thoughtful broker in his
little Chevy Prism. He's not a great financial success, but he
has a feeling that things are about to turn around. A few more
listings, another handful of referrals. Every day potential
buyers are calling him, and he takes them out in the Prism and
shows them properties, a few listings south of Clifton, a new
development out in Chantilly. And when he talks about life, he
nods and leans forward a little, because he is now looking ahead,
not back.

Del stands by him, recognizing that his son is finally getting
over the missed kick, but he never mentions it, that's not his
way. He takes the grandchildren to Orioles and Redskins games,
begins to teach and coach them the way he taught and coached his
own children. And he can take pride in the man his son is today,
a fellow who keeps showing up. It is a tribute to the closeness
of the family that all three siblings, Sandra, Steve and Scott,
settle within 20 miles of the Annandale home in which they grew
up and where Del and his wife Anne still live. Del, at 74, drives
himself to ball games, and on a humid July night arrives early at
Camden Yards to watch the Orioles take batting practice. After
the game, as he's cruising home on the beltway, heading south
into the suburban incandescence of Fairfax County, his black
Maxima rear-ends a tow truck, stopped in the fast lane without
hazard or brake lights. Del dies on impact.

Scott gets the call from Steve the next morning. He gets dressed
and heads to his mom's house in Annandale. "That's a lot harder
than any missed kick," Scott says. "You realize what matters
pretty quickly."

norwood lines up for the kick with just a few seconds left. The
rest of the team is gathered on the sidelines, holding hands,
panting, exhausted. The gray-haired coach kneels down, watching
with squinted eyes. The kicker stands in place for a moment, at
an angle to the ball, and then charges, putting cleated foot to
the ball and sending it soaring over the defense.

The Boomerangs have managed to salvage a tie, and Carly Norwood,
who takes many of her team's free kicks, runs off the field as
dad, assistant coach Scott Norwood, scratches his chin and
worries that he didn't evenly divide the playing time. It's hard
keeping the nine-year-old soccer players shuttling on and off the
field, and often he'll forget to remove a girl who has been in
for a while. Parents can usually be counted on to complain if
their daughters have been out for too long, but sometimes even
they lose track. The scarlet-uniformed Boomerangs gather around
for their "two-four-six-eight, who do we appreciate" chant, and
then Scott and Kim and the rest of the parents join hands in a
tunnel as the girls run through. Several other children join in
and run through after the team, and there is some discussion
among the players about whether the tunnel is actually more fun
than the game.

A few yards away from the sidelines, Connor and Corey are playing
in the shade of a crab tree, the purple blossoms taking flight
from the boughs in the spring air and wafting across the field to
where Scott and the rest of the parents are gathering cones and
coolers. These are the games that represent, somehow, American
sport at its best. Of course we are a million miles from the
sleek arenas and enormo-domes of big-time professional sports,
but this Southeastern Youth Soccer league game is part of a
cultural continuum connected to those playoff games and Super
Bowls, and no one knows both ends of that spectrum better than
Scott Norwood. And he will tell you that these sweet afternoons
coaching kids or playing pickup soccer are the soul of our
athletic obsession, the part that all of us can and do share. And
as Corey runs up to Scott and tells him that some kid named
Hunter just hit him--"Then don't play with Hunter anymore," is
Scott's answer--he thinks about what he had to endure just to get
here, with all the rest of us, coaching our kids on a Saturday
afternoon.

American sports, Scott will tell you, will break your heart. But
they will also, in their most basic form, nurture your soul. He
thinks about Del, and about showing up. That's how you really win
in life. Not by kicking Super Bowl-winning field goals or
covering yourself in glory, but by showing up. And as you look at
this life, at Carly sipping from a juice box as Kim braids her
hair and Connor and Cory climbing all over Scott as he walks in
his steady gait toward the family's Plymouth Voyager, you think,
I know this guy. He's sort of like me.

the children draw pictures. Crude, stick-figure football players
in navy-blue-and-white jerseys and Crayola crimson helmets--the
kids find it difficult to render the Bills' charging buffalo
logo--in field goal formation. The holder kneeling down. The
kicker following through. And in these revisionist drawings by
Carly, Connor or Corey Norwood, the kick is never wide right. It
is always straight down the middle. It is always good. They
represent a portal into one possible alternate universe. A Mr.
Destiny retake in which the goat becomes the hero, the failure a
success.

The pictures are a jumping-off point for a thousand
what-might-have-been conversations, thoughts and musings on how
the life of the Norwoods could have been different if Scott had
made that kick in Super Bowl XXV. Kim sits the kids down and says
to them, "It's all right that your father missed that kick. Your
dad went out there and did his best--and sometimes, even when you
do your best, things don't work out. And you know what?" She
looks at each of them.

Three expectant faces gaze back.

She smiles. "That can be O.K., too."

He has known anger and disappointment. Has felt responsible for a
city's stifled aspirations. But he will not accept pity.

Everybody looks at kickers as being a little sissy," says Kelly.
"But Scott was one of us. He had that mean face, that linebacker
face."

None of the players blamed him," says Tasker. "They knew you could
take back any one play and the game might have been
different."

Suddenly, in the middle of a phone conversation, wide right will
replay itself, and every time it is a sickening moment.

Years have passed, and even for those who do recall the missed
kick, it is no longer a source of embarrassment but instead a
curiosity.

I like the people we've become," Norwood tells his wife, the mother
of his three beautiful children--not smugly, but in wonder.