As Lauren Silberman took to the field on Sunday to make history as the first woman to try out as an NFL kicker, I cued up Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” in my head. Even if she didn’t make it on a team, which no one expected she would, I fully expected her to represent for women everywhere, to at least show that she deserved to be there. Sure I got a little uneasy as I watched her take 20 seconds to tee up the ball, but that didn’t stop me from mentally singing for Lauren:
“Anything you want done baby. I do it naturally!”
And then came the kick that sent the ball about 19 measly yards, counting the roll. I shifted uneasily in my seat but I tried to attribute her weak attempt to nerves. So I kept the song going.
“I’m every woman,
It’s all in me.
I can read your thoughts right now,
Every one from A to Z.”
Silberman stepped up to tee again. This time, she attempted a field goal from the 35 yard line. LSU’s Morlan “Mo” Isom, who attempted be the first female kicker for a major college program just last year, had managed a 51-yarder on the practice field. This should be no sweat for a woman putting herself in the spotlight to go pro. But on Silberman’s second attempt, the ball went 13 yards, 14 if you’re being generous. It was about then that the Chaka Khan record in my head scratched as if Silberman’s wobbly ball landed on top of my mental DJ booth.
She didn’t even try a third kick. Silberman explained afterwards that she had injured her leg prior to tryouts.
“They certainly didn’t go as far as they were in practices, but I tried to work through the pain. I tried staying off it and waited for today. “I didn’t even take kicks in warm-ups, and, it’s pretty hard to know that you’ll be in pain, and I wanted to work through it and I certainly tried to, but I just couldn’t do it today.”
When asked how far she usually kicks the ball in practices, Silberman said it was “hard to tell.” (Um…don’t the yard markers on the field make it quite easy to tell?) And just when you thought this glass ceiling nightmare couldn’t get any worse, Silberman started tearing up during her interview. It was around then that I picked up my mental DJ booth and threw it at the TV.
Going into this, I did my best to give her the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that she had never kicked before in a competitive game. She had years of soccer experience and was a self-professed “true athlete.” But at the combine, she seemed unconditioned, unprepared, and fully qualified to live up to the assumption that this was nothing short of a publicity stunt. Why else would she show such horrible form? How else could she have failed so miserably at the simple task of teeing up the ball? What “serious” kicker gets so badly injured in warm-ups that they can’t kick the ball any farther than, oh I don’t know, I COULD in a “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition at NFL Experience!!
Is the reason that Silberman didn’t warm up because she had hurt her quad or because she didn’t want to tip her hand to the fact that she sucked as a place kicker? You hate to assume the worst but then you watch the kick again and you just can’t help yourself.
Hopefully this flop won’t keep a truly qualified woman from taking her best shot at the pros because at the end of the day, Lauren Silberman doesn’t “kick like a girl.” She kicks like someone who isn’t qualified to kick for the NFL. She kicks like someone who didn’t belong at the regional combine. There are better female kickers out there. Hopefully, when the right one comes along, she will take the opportunity seriously. Maybe Silberman herself will try to redeem herself next year. But let’s just hope that the next time she or any woman tries to “make a statement” when it comes to our place in a pro sport, the statement won’t be: “We suck at this.”