Down with the goalposts and out with the placekickers |

Down with the goalposts and out with the placekickers

Column by Rick Chandler, Tribune correspondent

Santa is in getting his drug test and the elves are lining up to get fingerprinted, which can only mean one thing — the holidays are upon us.

We were going to write this week about Santa Plus, a company in O’Fallon, Mo., which provides Santas to department stores and shopping malls in 46 states. The company subjects prospective Santas and Santa’s helpers to a background check, and it was discovered this year that 70 of 1,000 applicants had committed misdemeanors or felonies in the past seven years. The offenses included indecent exposure, soliciting prostitution and drunken driving.

However, another issue has come to our attention — one that is even more pressing than news of Mrs. Claus being busted in an ecstasy sting. It seems that those wacky college kids are tearing down the goalposts again.

Yes, the holiday season also means that football goalposts will again be toppling at an alarming rate. More and more college administrations are announcing new get-tough policies on rowdy fans who storm the field after games to pull down the goalposts. But tough talk and a few arrests have

apparently had little effect — the goalposts at the University of California’s Memorial Stadium, for instance, were uprooted by giddy Cal fans this past weekend after the Bears had similarly dismantled Stanford in The Big Game.

And out in the Midwest, where such activity is an art, Northern Illinois University fans not only tore down the goalposts after a big win over Toledo this year, they carried the structure more than a half mile to the East Lagoon and threw them in.

Now, it used to be that demolishing goalposts was no big deal. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, goalposts were made of wood, slapped with a single coat of white paint and stuck in the sod — they were just begging to be pulverized, like a toothpick sculpture, or your little brother’s elaborate sand castle.

Heck, you were doing the university a favor because they were going to have to be replaced in the spring anyway.

But in the 1970s came two horrible innovations — disco music and metal goalposts. The former was disposed of without much trouble, but razing the latter is proving to be much more difficult. Whereas with wooden goalposts a handful of burly students could do the job in minutes, with the metal variety it now takes hundreds of people and large quantities of alcohol to do the job.

You need to climb onto the goalposts, with equal numbers of students on each end, and rock them until metal fatigue causes a collapse. And then there is the danger of being conked in the head as the structure topples, or being crushed by a fat, hurtling freshman who had been clinging to an upright. And what a strange, sad obituary that would be.

Why, I am wondering, do some college traditions fade into the mists of time, while others flourish despite the obstacles? It would have been easy, for instance, for college students to continue cramming themselves into phone booths — no one uses those booths much anymore. And how about panty raids? With coed dorms on many campuses, those would be very convenient.

Tearing down those metal goalposts, however, is hard — and that’s the tradition that the kids decided to continue. It’s very odd, because college kids usually take the path of least resistance. Tearing down metal goalposts not only takes teamwork, strength and fortitude, it requires a working knowledge of physics. If students would take that same energy and apply it to their schoolwork, well, perhaps they wouldn’t be attending Northern Illinois University to begin with. Maybe they’d be at Princeton.

We in this column have another theory, however. We think that the act of tearing down the goalposts represents a deep-seated hatred of place kicking.

We all have a subconscious resentment of these tiny, foreign-born kicking specialists, scampering around the field like characters from the Harry Potter books, often carrying the fate of our favorite teams on their narrow, bony shoulders. So when our team finally does prevail, despite the efforts of the kickers to spoil everything, the overwhelming impulse is to rush onto the playing surface and remove the offending object. And since tearing apart an actual placekicker is a felony, we opt for the misdemeanor — tearing apart the goalposts.

Secretly, we think that someday there will be a world where goalposts are not necessary. It will be a utopia, where Jose Cortez would not be the difference between the 49ers being 9-2 and 7-4, as he is now. It would be a land of milk and honey and no 33-yard field goal attempts. If your team is on the freakin’ 16-yard-line and it’s fourth down, you don’t send in the 5-foot-2 guy from Panama. You go for the freakin’ end zone. That’s the American way.

And so, in conclusion, we urge you to climb to the top of the tallest nearby structure and yell, “Down with the goalposts!” All these kickers would then be out of work, but we have a plan there, also. Get ’em jobs in shopping malls as Santa’s elves. Providing, of course, they can pass the drug test.

— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at Contact Rick at

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