It’s 4th Down, Bottom Of The 9th With The Goalie Pulled

When it comes to football, baseball and hockey, the blame game often lies on the Quarterback, Pitcher and the Goalie. Is it their fault the rest of their team blew their assignments to put all the pressure on these guys? Depends on who you ask I suppose. These three positions are quite similar in how the public views them and what is asked of them by their coach and team mates. Who has it worse? Who deserves the most blame? Even championships can’t save these guys.

It’s Sunday Night Football, Brady vs. Manning, Rodgers vs. Romo; the spotlight is shining brightest on the man behind center. The matchup is always QB vs QB, not team vs team. Quarterbacks are paid the big contracts and are the face of the franchise. Who starts on Sunday is the big discussion on talk radio and when the chips are down every throw, run and sack is scrutinized.

Baseball takes a different approach by employing the starting rotation. Every team has 5 guys they deem are worthy of leading their team to victory once every 5 days. The pitching duel isn’t as relevant but again they face the most scrutiny because they are the players that start every.single.play.

Goaltending in hockey shares the spotlight that the other two positions do; the flip is that they are the last guy to beat before a goal is awarded. Unfortunately, the goalie is the one often blamed for a team’s misplays. It doesn’t matter if the defense is brutally awful or the forwards can’t cross center ice without giving up the puck, if the puck goes in, cue the boo birds.

Every Sunday the best quarterbacks in the league can be hung out to dry by a stellar defense or an offensive line that has more holes than swiss cheese. The QB is commonly the one to blame and his performance is the lightning rod for why his team did so poorly. The amount of study that goes in to one game is mind numbing: option reads, deep plays, the run game and the unforeseen flag all go into how a team fairs when they have the ball. A poorly timed pass can result in an interception that could end the game.

Once the pitcher steps onto the mound it’s his game. All the preparation and game tape can change in an instant when the first pitch of the game goes deep over the left field wall. Thankfully, baseball is played a pitch at a time and even a badly executed pitch can be recovered by a well positioned fielder. Quarterbacks can relate to a degree, the game is in their hands until they let go, then it gets real.

Even though a goalie doesn’t have the puck to start the game, it takes seconds to have them involved. Goalies have it pretty rough. There is so much that has to happen before its their fault, however, one mistake by anyone on their team can be forgiven if the goalie does his job properly. Goalies can be asked to steal games when the guys up front aren’t necessarily equipped to get the job done on their end.

What links these 3 positions together?

Aside from the crazy hate, relentless criticism and the ability to lose their job because they don’t win EVERY SINGLE game; all of these people share a remarkable mental toughness and are celebrated for doing a job most players wouldn’t want to be responsible for. Putting a blatantly obvious interception in the rear view mirror when it puts his team behind takes a special type of athlete and even more special when he can engineer a game winning drive in the last 2 minutes.

Having a pitcher give up consecutive home runs or walking in the go ahead run to have the reliever come in and strikeout out the side to get his team back in is something most athletes don’t want to be responsible for. Or maybe its the flip side and the pitcher has a perfect game or a no hitter going; its the loneliest place in the world but you know your team will do whatever it takes to keep it alive and it doesn’t matter who you cheer for, you want to see it happen.

Behind the mask, the puck is the ultimate decider of fate. A quarterback can throw an interception but the game isn’t necessarily over, a pitcher can give up a hit, doesn’t mean the winning run comes in; with goaltending, when the puck crosses that line, you failed. Its final. So much can be put on the tender for what HE didn’t do to keep the puck out when a blown assignment by his defense gave the goalie no chance aside from a miracle. Its a cruel, cruel game.

As the great Uncle Ben from Spiderman once said “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Nothing rings truer than these 3 positions. Championships are won and lost on a bad pitch, an overthrown pass or a screened shot. ERA, WHIP, pass completion, QB ratings, touchdowns, interceptions, save percentage, GAA, shutouts, perfect games and no hitters; none of that matters unless there is a W attached to it.

The pressure to perform at each of these sport’s biggest positions is incredible but the rewards can turn an ordinary Joe into Joe Montana. If I had to pick, goaltending is the hardest. The split second decisions are so drastic that a teams downfall can happen quite quickly. I don’t envy any of those guys.

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