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THE KICK WILL GO FOREVER TO THE RIGHT. There is no way to change the football's course. Scott Norwood will keep his head down as long as a human being can, and then he will look into the Tampa sky, and the ball already will be three quarters of the way toward its destination, and he will hope forever for a late reprieve. A sudden change of wind? A touch of spin? A miraculous flip or flop? No. The ball will land forever where it landed at the end of Super Bowl XXV. Wide. To the right.
"I would like to kick it again," he says softly. "To have another chance."
No. There will be no second chance.
He will stand forever in the center of that faraway field as the New York Giants begin their party around him. He always will be their sad-faced ma�tre d'. Step right up, boys. Bop till you drop. Enjoy yourself. I am going home. Rules are rules, and life is life, and the score has been entered in the eternal record book. Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19. He could have been the hero, the biggest hero of all Super Bowl time. He was not.
"I wanted to hit the ball solid and I did," he says. "I wanted to get the kick off fast and I wanted to get it high, so it wouldn't be blocked. And I did. I just didn't get my hips into it enough. I just...there's a thing with the plant foot...oh, it's technical. You wouldn't understand unless you kick."
Almost three weeks have passed since his game-ending, 47-yard field goal attempt missed—wide, to the right—and he is back in Virginia, back where he was raised, back where he started playing sports, back with friends and relatives. He has been treated almost as if he had contracted a strange illness in Florida. Everyone has been wonderful. He has heard from people he knew long ago. A friend from junior high school called. Junior high. A coach who had tried to recruit him to a college called. How long ago was that? Hadn't talked to the man since the last recruiting visit. Close friends. Distant friends. Letters. Strangers.
The messages have been simple: One kick is not a career. That is the general theme. We're proud of you. Didn't he overcome a lot to find a spot in pro football? Didn't he travel the hard way, a free agent out of James Madison University, cut by the Atlanta Falcons, lost in the old United States Football League, beating out nine other training-camp kickers in 1985 to find a job with the Bills at last? Isn't he their alltime leading scorer? Wasn't he the next thing to untouchable in 1988, when he drilled 32 out of 37 attempts and went straight to the Pro Bowl? Think about the good. Don't think about the bad. Don't.
"The response has been overwhelming," he says. "Really. It's just snowballed. It's transcended just sports. It's said things about human nature. Good things."
For a couple of days, thoughts of the kick never left him. He dragged them back to his hotel room after the game as if they were unruly children who would not keep quiet. There was not much sleep that first night. What could he have done differently? What? The entire kick took 1.3 seconds. It takes as long to say the words—"one-point-three seconds"—as it does to live them. He lived them over and over again. The Bills continually marched up the field, working against the decreasing numbers on the scoreboard clock. He continually kicked into a net, getting loose, until he knew he was ready. He stood on the sideline until he was sent into the game. Again and again and again. What could he have changed? He was going on a lifetime of repetition.
The crowd did not exist. The noise did not exist. He went over his keys in his head: Get a feel for the timing. Keep your head down. Establish a target line. One-point-three seconds. Kick. He was kicking again when morning came. He could not let go.