NFC South: Bill Buckner

One theme emerged in Friday’s NFC South chat that really surprised me.

Multiple readers seem unable to forgive former Carolina kicker John Kasay for his out-of-bounds kickoff late in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Andy in Durham wrote: “I've had mixed feelings about John Kasey for a while. I understand what he's meant to the team, I understand that he's a good guy. But I have a really had time forgiving him for botching a kickoff that ultimately gave Tom Brady the ball at midfield on the final drive of Super Bowl 38. I know you like the guy, but what are your thoughts on that?’’

Jeff in Virginia followed with this: I have to agree with Andy (Durham). Kasay was a good kicker, but he totally choked during the Super Bowl that handed the game to the Patriots (which I cannot stand the Patriots). It's hard to forgive for something like that.’’

I’m surprised because I didn’t realize there is such lingering bitterness toward Kasay, who officially announced his retirement last week. I was under the impression that Carolina fans had long ago let the memory of that kickoff fade and accepted Kasay as one of the franchise’s icons.

As I thought more about it, I can certainly understand that some people still are upset about the kickoff. It very well might have cost the Panthers a Super Bowl championship. It certainly wasn’t a shining moment in franchise history.

But two thoughts come to mind here.

First, I think the rest of Kasay’s career overshadows one botched kickoff. The guy made a lot of big kicks throughout a very long career. He also was a class act. Perhaps most importantly of all, Kasay might have had more influence in the locker room than any kicker in history. He was a leader, which was unusual for a kicker. He also had an uncommon relationship with Steve Smith. I don’t think there was anyone with the Panthers that did more to cool off the mercurial wide receiver when his emotions ran hot.

Second, I grew up a Red Sox fan and have always thought it was unfair to blame Bill Buckner for the 1986 World Series. Other people made mistakes in Game 6 that had just as much to do with the Red Sox losing as Buckner’s error did. I think it’s the same way with Kasay. Yes, he made a mistake. But there were other mistakes and plays that weren’t made in that Super Bowl. If one of those mistakes wasn’t made or if someone had made a big play, the Panthers could have won that Super Bowl and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.