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Sunday, Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater, aided by the thin air of the Mile High City, broke one of the coolest and most hallowed NFL records, when he booted a 64-yard field goal.
Count me among the few old heads who hated to see the record fall. The prior record was set by the venerable New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey on November 8, 1970 at Tulane Stadium, where the Saints played before the Super Dome.
Dempsey’s record was not without controversy. He was born with half a right foot (they called it a clubbed foot) and missing four fingers on his right hand.
Some complained that his squared off foot was an unfair kicking advantage. I thought it was amazing that a man born with such a disability not only played in the NFL, but set a league record with an amazing kick.
Thirteen years later, in September 1983,when I would become the father of a disabled girl, I became an even greater Dempsey fan. He was an example of a person who refused to be defeated by his physical disadvantages, the kind of person I wanted my daughter to be. The kind of person she is.
I do not begrudge Prater his achievement, though I think the advantage he enjoys, kicking in that thin air, where major league hitters smash balls into the ozone and kickers routinely kick off through the end zone, is much greater than any clubbed foot.
Granted, by yesterday, Dempsey shared the record with three others. Two of the three made their record-tying kicks in, you guessed it, Denver.
Call me a curmudgeon. Call me a sentimentalist. Call me a romantic.
Whatever you call me, remember Dempsey and the greatest kick ever…
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