Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arrival at the Hole's Bottom?

Mistakes are to be highlighted. 
You can't have the Light
Without the Dark. 
- John Hiatt

Among the things that I consider to be insufferable in today's world is the proliferation of "Hey! Look at Me!" antics.  It is a problem, particularly, in sports at every level.  And for years it has seemed to be a bottomless hole of one inane, self-congratulatory act after another.  However, maybe just maybe this past Saturday night we reached the hole's bottom.  

The Utah Utes, at the time ranked #17 in the nation, hosted the #4 Oregon Ducks in a Pac-12 football game on Saturday night.  The Utes were ahead 7-0 in the early part of the second quarter when their quarterback threw a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver Kaelin Clay.  Clay - who had at least a step on the closest Oregon defender - caught the ball in stride and motored on into the end zone untouched to give underdog Utah a two-score lead.  

Clay got a little bit ahead of himself.  Before crossing the goal line into the end zone, he started his touchdown celebration.  The first step of said celebration is - as it turns out - the laying of the ball on the turf.  He did so and then continued on into the end zone, at which point he was mobbed by several of his teammates. 

As Clay and some of his fellow Utes celebrated that which they thought had happened, a very astute young Duck named Erick Dargan scooped up the ball only to lose his tenuous grip on it to one of the few Utah players who grasped what was happening.  Another Duck, Joe Walker, grabbed up Dargan's fumble and headed towards the opposing end zone as fast as he could - traveling behind a convoy of blockers doing a reasonable imitation of a "Flying V" formation.  One hundred yards later, Walker scored.  

Once the officials sorted out the chaos, the referee broke the very bad news to Clay, the Utes and their thunderstruck fans.  A touchdown had in fact been scored on the play - by Walker for Oregon.  An extra-point later the game was tied 7 to 7.  

Final score:  Oregon 51, Utah 27.  Did Clay's mistake change the outcome of the game?  While it represented a fourteen-point swing, I doubt it.  In view of the final score, I was reminded of a line attributed to the Hall of Fame Quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Sammy Baugh, in the aftermath of the Chicago Bears 73-0 obliteration of Washington in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.  In the first quarter, with Washington trailing 7-0 Baugh threw what should have been the tying touchdown pass to wide receiver Charlie Malone but Malone dropped it.  Washington never threatened again.  Post-game in the locker room, Baugh was asked if the outcome of the game would have been different had Malone caught the pass and tied the game.  "Sure", said Baugh, "The final score would have been 73-7.'' 

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich called Clay's boo-boo, "A lesson for all of us."  Only time will tell.  I, for one, hope that Coach Helfrich is correct.  

Kudos to young Kaelin Clay.  His error of exuberance cost his team seven points.  In response, he did something that far too few of us, irrespective of our age or the error we have committed, have the steel in our spine to do.  He owned it.

Utah Utes WR Kaelin Clay's Tweet

 Mistakes are going to be made.  That is the easy part.  It is learning from them that is the hard part.  Based upon early returns, it appears as if Kaelin Clay has a handle on the hard part.

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