In 2001, after the dot-com bubble burst, I was unemployed for about two years. I spent most of that time working as a temporary laborer, doing odd jobs on two-or-three-day "contracts," hauling boxes of T-shirts across New York City on handtrucks for a few days here, answering phones for ill receptionists for a week or so there. (One gig had me answering phones for Telemundo. The woman who assigned me that job probably should have made sure I spoke Spanish before she sent me over there. I must have said, "Uh, Monica no esta aqui!," the only phrase I remembered from high school Spanish, over and over about 50 times. Pretty sure I was working for a woman named Monica?)
I was terrible at most of these jobs, but there was one I had an unusual aptitude for: Stuffing envelopes. For whatever reason, I was amazing at cramming letters into envelopes, slapping stamps on them and shipping them on their way. If memory serves, it was a company that did publicity for off-Broadway shows, and the job was supposed to last two days, eight-hour days, at $9 an hour. But I was so good at my job, so skilled in this specific area, that I did all the work they had for me in six hours. I didn't take a break, I didn't talk to anyone, I just sat there and stuffed the dickens out of those envelopes for six hours straight. These were tough times; I took my victories where I could find them.
At the end of the six hours, I went up to my supervisor, all proud, and told her all the envelopes were stuffed and ready to mail, with two hours to spare. She didn't looked up. "All right, have a nice night." Confused, I asked, "There isn't anything more? This is supposed to be a two-day gig." This time she raised her head, more out of pity than anything else. "But you're done now." A $144 job had just become a $54 one because I was too good at my job. This is why salaried jobs are where it's at. You get paid even when you're doing nothing. Every job takes as much time as you happen to have.
I bring you this long-winded anecdote out of sympathy to the sad, disrespected NFL kicker. On Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a man who would seem to have enough on his plate these days, told his own network that he, and the league's competition committee, are considering doing away with the point-after-touchdown kick. Why? Because kickers are so good at making them that it has become boring.
"The extra point is almost automatic," Goodell said. "I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd [attempts]. So it's a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play."
An extra point, essentially, is a 20-yard field goal, and NFL kickers are unbelievable at making those. Not only were there only five missed PATs at 20 yards, NFL kickers only missed six field goals between the distances of 20 and 29 yards all season. It does seem, in the eyes of a viewer, automatic.
But it isn't. It is recommended that you, at some point, actually attempt to make a 20-yard field goal, straight on. It is very difficult. You need more lift than you think, and your form has to be perfect. If you spent a whole day practicing PATs, I'd argue that at the end of the day, you'd be lucky to hit 60 percent. And it's not just you, Mr. Or Ms. Hypothetical Reader Person. For all the gruff that NFL players give kickers -- that they aren't real football players, that they couldn't handle the demands of the game -- watching the average NFL player attempt to do even the most basic tasks of a kicker would resemble a slapstick comedy. (Chad Ochocinco excepted.) Just because professional kickers appear to have mastered kicking does not mean that it is not hard.
There is no better evidence that the PAT has been taken for granted than the fact that Goodell wants to do away with it entirely. What's perhaps most fascinating about the idea is the actual plan that Goodell wants to replace it with. Essentially, every touchdown would be worth seven points. If you want to, you can attempt to score a conversion on offense from the three-yard line, and if you make it, you get eight points. But if you fail, you go back down to six.
This is an idea that seems logical on its face but flies in the face of the laws of physics, space and time. If Larry Fitzgerald catches a touchdown pass, it is worth seven points, but only for a minute or so: Then it is worth six, seven or eight, depending on an entirely separate, later action. A play that's completely unrelated, that isn't even accounted for by the game clock, can lower the value of something that has already happened; the subsequent conversion alters reality.
As is typical of today's NFL, we're also replacing an action with a decision. Rather than the precision of an extra point - and remember how many different people must be doing all their different things at the exact right time to make a point after work - and all the skills that come with that, Goodell has decided it would be more fun to watch a coach think. (Or do this.) The act of decision-making -- the very opposite of "excitement," as Goodell calls it -- is seen as more valuable a commodity than a physical act carried out by 11 people working in unison. Their skills and efficiency have worked against them. The NFL gets far more thrills out of failure.
It's not known for sure whether or not this plan will come to fruition, but knowing the NFL's tendency to tinker and to occasionally, for public relations and television purposes, fundamentally alter their entire game, they'll make the change just to do it. (If baseball changed its rules around as liberally as the NFL, Ken Burns would never stop having strokes.) So let this be a warning to everyone in the NFL: Be good at your jobs, but not too good at them. The league needs you to struggle. It is what we're paying for.