December 2, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth (10) during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Are Place Kickers More Important Than Most Fans Believe?

November 25, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth (10) is congratulated by long snapper Andrew Economos (48) after he made a field goal against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It is true: Not many football fans care about the place kicker.

That is not to say that fans care little to nothing for them, but in general you will not see fans of any team necessarily sporting a jersey of their favorite member of their favorite squad, the kicker. I believe about a decade ago, when the New England Patriots were in their back-to-back Super Bowl Era (thwarted mid-reign by our boys in Tampa Bay, insert diabolical laugh here) you may or may not have seen a handful of Adam Vinatieri jerseys that a Bostonian, or bandwagon Bostonian, would adorn on gameday. But I cannot think of any before or after that I can relevantly speak of.

Even the quirky antics and solid kicking of Martin Gramatica during that Super Bowl XXXVII title run did not really endear him to the Tampa crowds; if anything, we all kinda thought he was funny and kinda weird.

The point of the matter is that the place kicker has always been mocked, made fun of, and more often jeered than any other player, even though in many instances (especially with high-powered defensive teams) it is the place kicker who is the top scorer on the team. It is just a fact. I have heard everything from “Here is another foreigner taking away American jobs” to “Oh, he is going to have a long flight home after missing that one.”

So, it was not a huge surprise to me when I heard of Connor Barth’s season-ending injury off the field while he was playing a charity basketball game, even though Mr. Barth has the highest field goal percentage of any Buccaneer place kicker ever, as well as the most field goals in a single season of any Tampa Bay kicker in 2012. The North Carolina University right-footed stalwart came into his own with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being cut not only by the Kansas City Chiefs prematurely, but also our inner-state rivals, the Miami Dolphins.

But instead, we quickly picked up former New York Giants veteran Scotsman, Lawrence Tynes, who looks almost as good statistically, but who has a bit of a report with New Yorkers as a choker. I do not believe that is at all true; I mean, he has a couple of Super Bowl rings, no?

But that is the main point here, I believe. No matter how much a Place Kicker has done for an organization, even helping win Super Bowls, as soon as they miss a few high-pressure field goals – the remainder of their tenure can easily be numbered by days, perhaps weeks.

Well, I for one will be cheering on Mr. Tynes every time he calls for our Long Snapper, Andrew Economos, to hike the ball to the placeholder and not yell sarcastic, diminutive remarks at him any time he misses just because I see him a little less than everyone else on the team. He is a husband, a father, a brother, and a man playing the game he and all of us love in one of the most high-pressure positions in all of sports…

Although I may enjoy some light-hearted ribbing over Mr. Connor Barth hurting his ankle right before the season in a friendly game of basketball!

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