Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Kick For a Kia

Now I can reveal the secret I’d been keeping for two weeks: On the Georgia Dome field Saturday during the Alabama/Virginia Tech I almost won a $35,000 car. Two weeks ago I was one of six internet contestants selected to compete in a “kick-off” during the pre-game FanZone in the World Congress Center, along with six picked that morning from the crowd. After pulling a muscle in my leg I could only practice sporadically.

I arrived at the FanZone early to scout out the scene. At the field goal kick area I immediately noticed kicks were taken not from a tee but off the ground, using the complex “tripod & stick” tee used by real kickers. Since I was early I had a chance practice, so I went through the line three times, making five of six kicks.

At 1 pm the ten contestants assembled (two were no-shows). We were given red Kia jerseys with dealership names on the back: mine read BULLDOG KIA. In the first round each contestant got four kicks from a mere 11 yards away. It was supposed to be from 15 yards away, but space was limited.

Young Hunter drilled all four.
Old Virginia Tech Fan missed all four.
Old Alabama Fan made one.
Guy who’d just had a knee replacement could only try once.
Short lady missed all four.
I made the first three. In pain, I missed number four.
Teri from Powder Springs missed all four.
Tall sweepstakes lady missed all four.
Young Mundy from Mobile made three of four. His first kick sailed so high that it cleared the net behind the goal post.

Round Two was supposed to be from 25 yards away, but without extra room, we kicked from 13 yards away. We all benefitted from the shorter distance.

Again Hunter drilled all four kicks.
The old Bama fan missed his first kick, and then made the next three.
I made all four, though my leg was hurting.
Mundy also made all four.

The tiebreaker was the most kicks in 60 seconds. Each kicker had to retrieve the ball after every kick. We each made three kicks. I had the ball all teed up to kick number four when time was called. Teri from Powder Springs held my phone, and took pictures of me kicking.  

Tiebreaker Round Two was most kicks in 30 seconds. Hunter missed his first kick. Mundy and I looked at each other in amazement. Then Hunter was only able to make one kick in his 30 seconds. Kicking next, I made my first kick, retrieved the ball, teed it up, made the second kick, and relaxed: I had made the final round. Mundy did the same. We posed for photos and were given instructions. At the end of the third quarter whoever could kick the ball the farthest would win a decked out Kia Sorento SUV.

At halftime Events Coordinator Noah came and escorted me on the elevator downstairs to field level. We walked out of the tunnel onto the field just as Virginia Tech kicked off to start the second half. For fun Noah took me on a complete lap around the field. You’d think the on-field security people would be relaxed and watch the game, but it was obvious they were all focused on their job. Most kept a keen eye on me as I walked by. We stopped a few times so I could snap pictures. Behind the Bama bench a TV guy hollered at me to get out of the way of the tram. I posed with the Game Trophy. After making 1-1/4 laps around the field we settled in the corner near the VT band, just after Alabama threw a touchdown pass into the other corner of the same end zone.

Two older event coordinators gave Mundy and me our instructions. We would be kicking off a one inch tee. Last year the teams hadn’t left the field between quarters, so we had to look out for that. Kicking first, I was to wait until the coordinator told me to kick. Of course the quarter went extremely fast, and it was time to go. Though we had kicked into a net in the Congress Center, I could tell some of Mundy’s kicks would travel pretty far. He was a very nice guy who usually attended one Bama game a year. His wife and another couple were in the upper deck. We tried to be good sports, but we both wanted to win. As I teed up the ball on the goal line I could see the teams had left the field. The contest was being explained over the loudspeaker, but I really couldn’t hear. On the far Jumbotron I could see me on camera. I looked old and fat.

Seemed like forever before I was given the go ahead. Even though any bounce would be included, I knew I needed to keep my regular kicking form and make the best kick possible. My kick was the worst kick I’d made all day. It got a decent bounce, but I turned away and didn’t check the yardage. Mundy’s kick wasn’t his best either, bounding from the middle of the field over to the Bama bench, where it bounced up into a trainer’s hands. He won.

Afterward I took the elevator back to the lower level of stands and left soon after that. MARTA was already packed, and it took two long hours to get home. Walked in the door just as the second half of the UGA/Clemson game started.

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