By Tim Keown
Page 2

Here's a question that seems to fit with the season: Why is a tight, low-scoring baseball game riveting and a tight, low-scoring football game a horrible bore? Not every game of the NFL's Week 3 was 6-3 like Atlanta-Arizona, but there were enough stinkers to make you realize the big winners of the young football season so far are the field-goal kickers.

As the kids and Woody Paige say these days, I'm buying kickers. With head coaches, especially the young ones, figuring conservatism is the best approach, sometimes the best you can hope for is a respectable drive at the end of the game and the chance to get your kicker in position to try a game-winning field goal.

Jay Feely
Kickers, such as Jay Feely, have made huge impacts so far this season.

Outside of Green Bay, Indianapolis and Seattle, it's shaping up to be a season of special teams and field position, with everybody blitzing seven and calling for a fair catch.

And if that doesn't make the heart pump a little faster ...

Field-goal kickers are small in stature but big in status, huge men who decide the winners and the losers. It's a revenge-of-the-nerds kind of thing, except in this case the nerds are fighting on the same side as the guys who stole their lunch money.

Everyone but Brett Favre and Peyton Manning seem to need them. Where would Michael Vick, amusement-park ride and all, be today without Jay Feely? Not 3-0, that's for sure.

So mock kickers, laugh at 'em, marginalize them -- then root like hell for them when they stand out there and do their little pace-offs in preparation for deciding whether your team wins or loses. It's a 10-9 game late in the fourth, so everybody gather round the old single-bar facemask and hear some stories about wind shifts and Pete Gogolak.

It's a kicker's world. And as Pedro Martinez might say, there's nothing for the rest of us to do but tip our hats and call 'em daddy.

This Week's List

  • The final days of a master: Edgar Martinez.

  • And oh yeah, this guy too: Roy Jones Jr.

  • All you need to know to understand who baseball people believe is the most valuable player: Eric Gagne, walking Barry Bonds intentionally Friday night, and not doing it willingly or happily.

  • To make the point a little more directly: There is no one else in baseball Jim Tracy even considers having Gagne walk intentionally.

  • The most underrated player in the big leagues: Mark Kotsay.

  • Just for the heck of it: Balor Moore.

  • By the sounds of it, all the stability of Jose Guillen: Seismologists say Mt. St. Helens is experiencing one or two small earthquakes a minute.

  • I'm all for hitting three-run homers and driving the ball to the gap when conventional wisdom calls for a sacrifice bunt, but if the A's end up winning the AL West, here's a play that somebody ought to bring up at the team barbecue: Jermaine Dye's ground ball to the right side with nobody out and Erubiel Durazo on second base in the ninth inning Monday night, setting up Bobby Crosby's game-winning -- and one-game-lead-saving -- sacrifice fly.

  • Saturdays and Sundays in the final two weeks of the baseball season, with college football and NFL competing with the pennant races, brings up a question: How do you watch TV?

  • One thing you realize very quickly when you switch from baseball to football and back again: There is far more dead time in football than baseball, no matter what anybody tries to tell you.

  • And the answer, Mr. Director, is no: Replays do not count as action.

  • Because it's on "60 Minutes" you can probably make a pretty good guess at who he thinks was doing the holding and pulling: Dale Earnhardt Jr. tells "60 Minutes" this week that he believes an invisible force held him underneath his arms and pulled him out of a burning car at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma earlier this year.

  • The great thing is: Mike Wallace battled John Edward for the Earnhardt interview.

  • Kind of like buying shares of Xerox 50 years ago, except this one will set you back $180 million: One of the best investments in sports right now could be the Milwaukee Brewers; it's a young, talented team with a new ballpark and an ownership family (Selig) that has spent the past decade talking only about salary constraints and how awful it is to own a big-league baseball team.

  • And finally, the last time was so much fun, this time we're going to do it with a little more facial hair and significantly fewer teeth: A scruffy Giants fan named Timothy Murphy is filing a lawsuit against the guy who came away with Bonds' 700th home run ball.

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.




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