Home / Comparison/Player Vs. Player / Bill Buckner vs. Scott Norwood: Who is the (Scape)G.O.A.T.?

Recently in our Sports-Kings forum, we got into a little discussion about scapegoats in sports. It called to mind a list a wrote awhile back of the biggest scapegoats that we’ve seen throughout the years, you know, the guys who are forced to shoulder the blame for a loss even though it most likely wasn’t all their fault? Who can forget Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox letting a slow dribbler roll through his his legs in game six of the 1986 World Series with the Sox on the verge of a  title? Or how about Scott Norwood of the Buffalo Bills pushing a potential game winning field goal wide right in the final seconds of Super Bowl XXV in 1991?

Both moments rest infamously in sports lore. Bills fans still cringe at the thought of “wide right”, while Red Sox fans were forced to endure another decade and some change of “The Curse of the Bambino” before finally winning a championship in 2004; the previous one was in 1918. Breaking it down, which guy actually deserved to be called a scapegoat in that moment?

When Scott Norwood was called on to attempt a 47 yard field goal with eight seconds remaining and the Bills trailing 20-19, people today shrug it off like “how did he miss that?”. Not many are initiated to the fact that Norwood possessed less than stellar kick power, and was an abysmal one out of five attempting kicks of 40+ yards on grass all season long. Throw the immense amount of pressure on top with the whole world watching, and you’ve got yourself quite a situation. Not exactly the easiest kick to make in a pressure situation when it played to Norwood’s weaknesses as a kicker rather than his strengths. But with eight seconds left, the Bills had no choice but to kick the field goal in hopes of winning their first championship. Norwood missed the kick, which surprisingly had quite enough distance, and the Bills would go on to lose three more Super Bowls in a row. 1990 was the closest they came, as they would lose the next three by thirteen or more points, one being a 52-17 blowout at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.

Then you have Bill Buckner. He let a routine ground ball go through his legs off the bat of Mookie Wilson, the Mets scored the winning run to tie the World Series at three game a piece, and the favored Mets went on to triumph in game seven over the Red Sox. Prior to his error, the Mets were able to tie the game after pitcher Calvin Schiraldi allowed three straight two-outs singles, and Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch. It was then that Wilson hit the ball slowly down the first base line towards Buckner, and he muffed the play. In game seven, the Sox were leading the Mets 3-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, when the Mets tied the game, and then scored three more runs off Schiraldi in the seventh inning to take a 6-3 lead. The Red Sox were unable to come back. Despite going 2-4 in game seven, Schiraldi getting shelled, and Stanley’s wild pitch, everyone blames Bill Buckner. Is that fair?

It’s tough to name which of these two is actually a scapegoat. Both were pretty respectable players in their sports before these incidents occurred. I guess I personally have to pick one, and I am going with Norwood for a couple reasons. First, the Mets were heavily favored over the Red Sox. Other players made mistakes that led up to the moment where Buckner made the error. The manager decided to stick with the ailing Buckner in the field instead of a defensive replacement. Buckner contributed to taking the lead in game seven before pitching once again failed Boston.

In contrast, the Bills and Giants were a hell of a matchup. Neither team was clearly superior although both had their strong points, and the game played out in exactly that fashion as the Giants won the closest Super Bowl in history, 20-19. Norwood was already one for one  in field goals, and kicking was his only job. In a hard fought battle where it’s tough to put points on the board, you have to come up clutch and make that kick regardless of the amount of pressure. It’s your one job, and you should be able to do it. It is for those factors I name Scott Norwood an actual scapegoat, where Buckner became one just because fans wanted someone to blame and ignored everything else surrounding the Sox game six collapse.




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