After watching Hines Ward fumble what should have been a game-winning ball at the end of the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans last night, I wasn’t worried. I was shocked–because Ward simply doesn‘t suffer accidents like that, especially five yards from the goal line–but deep down, I knew the Steelers would hold the game into OT and pave the way for Jeff Reed to take it home.
Ward was shocked, too. He took it hard. Real hard. In fact, every time the camera cut to him from the moment of that gaffe until the game reached its final tally at 13-10, the usually-grinning Ward was hurting, hating himself. His eyes said it all–If he hadn’t been on a field with 26,000 tons of burly dudes, he would have been sobbing his ass off.
I wanted to jump through the television, transport myself from my L.A. living room to the chilly bench at Heinz Field, run over to him with a gatorade and a towel, and give him a big ol’ hug. I wanted to tell him: Buddy, it’s okay. It was a mistake, but one our team overcame. It’s hard for you because you don’t often make mistakes. You don’t understand failure, because it is unfamiliar to you. But dude, even almost-perfect people have imperfect moments. Like when my dad is shocked that he’s lost something (because he’s a robot and NEVER LOSES ANYTHING), or pissed when he sneezes, because he can’t believe his body would dare allow sickness–he doesn’t like it, but it happens. Try to let it go, honey pie. For this one colossal fuckup, you have and will make up for it with about nine-hundred bajillion superhuman awesome feats. You’re good. There’s no question about it. Nobody’s mad atcha. Let’s turn that frown upside down!!!
But I couldn’t transport myself to Pennsylvania. I could only watch as Ward sighed a pained air-gulp of relief as Reed’s kick sailed between the posts to end the contest. He tucked his head down and walked out of the stadium, weighed down with shame even though the Steelers walked away from the game 1-0. I realized that there was no consoling him (he’s a superstar blasian for crying out loud. Poor guy probably spent all night alternating acts of flogging himself with intense weight training and repeated recitation of: “You almost ruined it for everyone, you stupid jerk. Everyone, you stupid jerk! Agh! Stupid. Stupid!”). At least not for awhile.
This morning, assuming that there had been a good five minutes for photo-ops, I trolled the web for snaps of a forlorn Ward with tears in his eyes. But neither NFL.com nor ESPN seemed to find it necessary to document a close-up of his shame in their galleries.
Perhaps none of us want to see Ward make mistakes. We’d rather see him smile.
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