Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Nov 2007

The Psychology of Kicking

So what is it that kickers do for the fifty-nine minutes they are not on the field? Michael Lewis interviews Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri to find out. More news at 11! Actually, Lewis does a great job of putting the high-pressure world of an NFL kicker on display, and gets interesting answers out of Vinatieri on the idea of kicking under pressure. It's one of the more thoughtful player profiles we'll see in the run-up to Colts-Pats. (Free NYT registration required)

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 01 Nov 2007

14 comments, Last at 02 Nov 2007, 10:31am by MRH


by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 4:12pm

"From this experience there are several lessons to be drawn. First, you should never leave any game before it's over, because you never know what's going to happen. Second, grown-ups watching sports say a lot of stuff with total certainty when they really don't know what they're talking about. And finally, it is extremely difficult for a field-goal kicker to be a hero. He can perform a miracle, but the world will always find some way to shove him back in his place."

Very Very true.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 4:22pm

The only remotely funny thing that Nick Bakay ever said:

"kickers are like women: they have poor upper body strength, they cry a lot, and they cost me money"

by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:15pm

The last paragraph is great.

Every so often someone still comes up to Tom Dempsey to put his achievement into perspective. Not long ago, a total stranger approached him wanting to talk about the Kick. "And he said to me," Dempsey recalled, " 'You're really nothing but a one-kick kicker.' And I thought: 'Yeah, but I kicked it once. What the hell did you do?' "

by JasonK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:27pm

I read that article last night, and the absence of one thing in particular struck me: Coaching.

Yeah, there were stories about the relationships between kickers and head coaches, but where was the ST coach? I don't know if this was due to Lewis' selection of which stories to tell, but he gave the impression that the kicker/holder/snappper were pretty much left to themselves by the coaching staff.

If the ST coach is hired mostly to teach blocking, lane assignments, and such, why is it that NFL teams don't have individual kicking coaches?

by Aaron (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:31pm

Item: This article would be a lot better if the author could stop sucking himself and write normally instead of like a retard attempting to wax philosophical.

by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:37pm

I don't think I've ever read anything written by Michael Lewis that I haven't liked.

by PHn (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:42pm

The ball would need to cut through the thick, humid New Orleans air...

Humid air is actually less dense than dry air, making the New Orleans climate an ally, not an opponent.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:55pm

[Pat] Ryan, the former Jets QB and current radio color commentator for the Tennessee Titans, was doing the Jacksonville game on Sunday when he said veteran football players hate having a hard-fought game come down to "two foreign guys, the kickers."

[Neither] Tennessee kicker Al Del Greco (a great golfer by the way) nor Jacksonville's Mike Hollis [is] foreign. When this was pointed out to Ryan by play-by-play man Mike Keith, Ryan responded, "Well, you know what I meant."

I was listening to this game over the internet (ah, the days before Sunday Ticket), and almost bust a gut laughing when Ryan said that-I knew exactly what he meant, and it was just as predictable he'd get fined for it, which he did.

by Jared (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 6:29pm

5: Couldn't disagree more. This is the best football related article I've read in a long time.

by Jared (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 6:31pm

6: Yeah, he's awesome. I just finished his story in Ira Glass's new compilation of literary non-fiction.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 8:05pm

#7. It's true humid air is less dense than dry air, but it's also true balls carry further in dry air. It just has nothing to do with air "density."

by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 12:41am

Humidity doesn't have a great effect on air density anyway. Temperature and air pressure have far greater effects on air density, and yes balls do travel faster in less dense air. High temperature and air pressure at New Orleans should in fact cause the ball to travel less far, as opposed to say Denver where it is cold and with less air pressure. In essence, Lewis is right but for the wrong reason.

by jebmak (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 9:51am

That article was awesome.

by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 10:31am

Item: Lin Elliott. Another kicker who lives in infamy among certain fans.