Stories have a way of changing over time. Landed fish that barely fill a bun grow to feed entire villages. That ’71 Chevy Nova you had in high school never lost a race. And there are 178,000 people who claim they were in the left field bleachers at Wrigley when Ryne Sandberg homered off Bruce Sutter. Twice. We expect those exaggerations. Even depend on them. But it’s when the legend is under-told that it loses its luster.
I’m not sure how 2 people could have totally different recollections of the same event, but trust me here. My brother is wrong.
A co-worker couldn’t use his season tickets to the Bengals-Steelers game at Three Rivers in 1989, so he sold them to me. $40 got me 2 tickets on the front row behind the end zone, in what would be center field during a baseball game. Imagine that. Nowadays, I don’t think Jerry Jones would allow you to be in Texas for 20 bucks, much less be in the front row of his shrine. But we were there. And that’s when the memories (my brother’s, not mine) fade.
When we got to our seats, the net behind the goalposts was up, the net that keeps footballs from sailing into the crowd after field goals and PAT’s. And directly in front of us, the roping was cut in the net, so that what should have been four squares in the mesh was one big square hole instead. I told my brother, and I quote here, “Keep your eye on that hole in the net”. Cue first quarter.
The Steelers scored first, into our end of the stadium, and Gary Anderson’s kick faded slightly to his right as it went through the uprights. RIGHT THROUGH THAT HOLE IN THE NET!! I stood up, leaned a little bit to my left, and made a beautiful fingertip catch. No bobble, no cradling, just pure hands, baby. I held that gorgeous piece of pigskin high in the air and turned to show it to the roaring thousands seated behind us. Seriously. They cheered me. It was glorious.
My brother insisted at a family function that the ball had become entangled in the net after the kick, and I grabbed the net and worked the ball to an opening before I managed to retrieve it. Unreal. The net wasn’t even reachable from the seats. I can’t tell you accurately how much space there was between us and that thing, but it’s completely impossible to have happened the way he said. My most remarkable sports achievement, and he wants to throw a wet blanket over it. Probably mad that the ball didn’t go to his seat. Get over it, dude.
I still have that ball. Somewhere. In a box. I doubt it has any air left in it. Kinda like the story when my brother re-tells it. But don’t listen to him. Listen to me. It was real. And it was spectacular.
I don’t know who’s going to read this story. But if you’re out there, and you have some kind of other-worldly Steelers connection: That extra point kick HAS to be on tape somewhere, somehow. If you know of any way I can find it, to see, bask in it, please, get back to me. Pretty sure I’ll never dunk a basketball, but maybe I can at least have this.