Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Super Bowl Moment V: Garo Yepremian almost sinks the whole thing...

Even Tim Tebow's throwing mechanics are better than Garo's...

The very brief disclaimer: this isn’t a list that’s ranked in any order other than chronological…so don’t judge too much. It’s Super Bowl moment number 5 on the list of the top 25.

Though football has become one of the most prominent sports (if not the most prominent) in America, it’s the only one that hasn’t been significantly touched by globalization. The percentage of foreign-born players is almost non-existent.

Yet there have been famous foreigners in the NFL and, believe it or not, one of them executed what remains to this day as the most un-athletic play in Super Bowl history.

His name was Garo Yepremian and his route to the NFL was astonishing.

Coming from the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus, his family longed for the classic American Dream. 

Following his family's immigration, he had a wild idea watching an American football game on TV. He could kick.

After finally catching on in the NFL with the Lions, the first football game he ever saw in person was one that he played in.

Famously, after hearing that his team had lost the coin toss, he sprinted on the field and started looking for what he thought was the “lost” coin. This was only an example of the many disarmingly hilarious stories about his acclamation to professional football.

After a stint in the Army in 1968, Yepremian returned to the NFL and made the cut with the Miami Dolphins under newly installed coach Don Shula.

Shula was already a legend, having taken over the Colts at a remarkably young age and guided them to the infamous loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III. Now, he intended to make good on his past mistakes. He chased perfection.

And in 1972, the Dolphins found it. Yepremian became the team’s leading scorer that season and kicked the game-winner in what was the longest game in NFL history (a double overtime contest against the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional playoff round).

As a team, Miami went a perfect 14-0 during the regular season, marching with a sense of inevitability to the Super Bowl, a game where they’d lost only season before to the Cowboys.

Facing them were the Washington Redskins, at that point coached by the charismatic George Allen (a man with unscrupulous friends in high places).

After jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the Dolphins utilized their three-pronged ground attack of Mercury “Worst Rapper Ever” Morris, Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka to kill the clock. The strategy worked beautifully and with just over two minutes left, they sent Yepremian out to kick a chip-shot field goal to ice the game.

What ensued remains one of the most hilarious plays in football history.

The kick was blocked by Washington, who were fighting desperately to preserve the game as one that they had any hope of winning. Bouncing backward, the ball found Yepremian, who picked it up.

(At this point it’s worth pointing out that Garo should’ve just fallen on the football and limited the damage.)

But Yepremian has always been one to march to the beat of his own drummer and the Cyprian star decided he’d have a go at throwing it downfield. Unfortunately, he possessed no ability once-so-ever at throwing and the ball slipped right threw his hands, traveling not forward but backward.

It looked as hilarious as it sounds (if not more), but Garo wasn’t done yet. He batted the ball up in the air, where the unbelieving Mike Bass of the Redskins snatched it and ran for a 49 yard touchdown.

In one fell-swoop, Yepremian had not only not made the field goal, he’d provided a lifeline to Washington, who now only trailed 14-7.

Thankfully for the health of Yepremian (who might’ve been in mortal danger had the game gone against Miami at that point), the Dolphins held on. They achieved perfection (and haven’t let anyone forget it incase you were wondering).

It was a horribly un-athletic play worthy of recognition though, and while Garo Yepremian was named by more than a few as the best kicker of the 1970’s, everyone remembers him for Garo’s Gaffe.

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