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Defining Moments

Feb 20, 2015 11:10AM ● Published by Ron Wilkie

Work for me consists of more drive time than actual work. The radio is my friend and while traveling outside of the great state of WI sports radio is one of my guilty pleasures. Why? Because Minnesota is usually the state and their sports teams suck. Sports talk radio in states with bad teams is a guilty pleasure.

Ok, this is probably a character flaw and I’m not really proud of it, but I am what I am and listening to callers complain about the sorry state of Vikings football and Twins baseball sure makes a day outside of the cheddar curtain more bearable. There I said it, now we can move on to the topic at hand.

While driving through “The Cities”, what the locals call the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro, 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reported that the Vikings claimed tight end Brandon Bostick off waivers. Packer fans, does that name sound familiar? I've been wanting to write about this play since the moment it occurred but the pain of the moment kept the words at bay until today.

Yep, the same Brandon Bostick who’s last play as a Green Bay Packer was to disregard his blocking assignment in lieu of a failed attempt to catch an onside kick against the Seattle Seahawks. It was hardly the one play that cost Green Bay the game, but it was the final straw and poor Brandon did not survive to play next year for the Green and Gold.

The term “Defining Moment” keeps coming to mind when the painful play is mentioned. Defining Moment - the point at which the essential nature of a person is revealed or identified.

Most of the defining moments that I remember are sports related. Perhaps because they all took place on live television and were repeated on lowlight reels for days or even years. The first one that I remember was Billy Buckner letting Mookie Wilson’s slow roller escape under his glove into right field during game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Followed closely by Leon Lett’s premature touch down celebration in Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, Leon scooped up a Buffalo fumble for an apparent easy score. However, Leon held the ball out 10 yards prior to crossing the end zone marker giving Don Beebe an opportunity to knock the ball out of his hands. The result was a touchback and Bill’s possession on their own 20 yard line.

Leon had one other memorable moment too. Fast forward to Thanksgiving 1993 at home against the Miami Dolphins in a rare Texas snow storm. The Dolphins attempted a 41-yard field goal to take the lead but the kick was blocked. While most of his teammates began celebrating, Lett attempted to recover the ball. He slipped on the ice as he tried to pick up the football, and Miami recovered the "muff" on the Dallas one-yard line. Had Lett simply done nothing, the Cowboys would have automatically received possession and could have run out the clock. By touching the ball and then failing to hold onto it, Lett enabled the Dolphins to take possession and then try another field goal with three seconds left on the clock. This second attempt was successful and the Dolphins won the game 16–14 as the clock expired.

What is strange in the case of both Lett and Buckner are that both were gifted and successful athletes. Leon owns 3 Super Bowl Championship rings. Billy should’ve been known for his batting title in 1980 or his all star game appearance in 1981. Instead both athletes are known for big errors in key nationally televised games. The moment, not the body of work define them both.

The vast majority of us will never have to live down such a moment, thank goodness. But we all have defining moments. For me the first one was also playing a game. My first little league team. I was the back up right fielder my first year in little league. For those not familiar with little league, the worst player was stuck in right field. Why? Because they didn't think he could catch and or throw the ball. I was the very worst on the team as back up to the second worst player. You get the picture. I was in late, because everyone had to play. Bases loaded, 2 outs and my turn at the plate. While taking my final practice swing, the coaches son says “Oh no, we lose.” Being underestimated has always been a motivator for me.

The pitcher was known for throwing strikes, but not with a great deal of speed, so advantage hitter. On the first pitch I did what the coaches tell every hitter. Watch the ball make contact with the bat. Jamie winds up and throws the first pitch in the strike zone. A little up and a little over the outside half. I take my swing, watch the ball make contact, feel the recoil of the ball reversing trajectory and watch it sail over the head of the short stop and roll into the gap between the left and center fielder. Bases clearing double, we win the game. Hitting a ball with a bat became easy after that game.

With luck, your defining moments are good ones, or constructive, or move your life in a positive direction. As for Mr. Bostick, I hope he gets an opportunity to redefine his memory as a professional athlete, but the odds are against him.

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