Today in Sports History: November 8th

Ron Artest promotes his album, shortly after getting suspended for the year. (Screengrab courtesy of NBC)

11/08/1970 - Dempsey kicks 63-yarder

Tom Dempsey kicks the longest field goal in NFL history to win a game against the Detroit Lions. With only two seconds left on the clock, the New Orleans Saints had been trailing Detroit 17-16, and were only on the Lions' 45-yard line. Rather than attempting a Hail Mary, the Saints put their faith in the heel of Dempsey, who was born without fingers on his right arm and toes on his right leg. In order to become a kicker, he wore a specially-formulated boot that had a flat surface on the end of it.

As the ball was snapped, Dempsey ran forward and booted the football off the worn grass. "I couldn't see where the ball came down, that far away," he said of the field goal attempt. "Suddenly, I saw the ref with his hands up in the air, and I heard the crowd, and I had to accept the fact that I'd done it."

"It was the greatest thing I ever felt in my life. I knew I could kick it 63 yards, but I didn't know I could kick it straight."

Dempsey destroyed the previous record-long field goal, a 56-yarder by Bert Rechichar who did it with the Baltimore Colts in 1953. Forty years later, Dempsey still holds the record, though he now shares it with Broncos kicker Jason Elam, who also notched a 63-yard field goal in 1998. Dempsey's field goal made him a household name to football fans, as well to people who had also been born with a physical ailment. The plot of grass where he launched his record field goal was chopped up and given to him as a gift; he planted it in the backyard and had to leave it behind when he left for Philadelphia the following season.

Dempsey's field goal was controversial to some writers, who saw his flat-ended shoe as an unfair advantage over regular kickers. In 1977, the NFL created the "Tom Dempsey Rule," stating that "any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe."

11/08/2004 - Artest suspended for vacation request

On Nov. 8, 2004, not two weeks before he ran into the stands in a game at Detroit, an act that would cost him the remainder of his season, Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest was suspended for something entirely different: wanting time off. Artest had gone to Pacers management and asked for a reprieve -- partly to recuperate his body, but mostly to give himself free time to promote his upcoming album. In response, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle benched him for two days.

"I was doing a lot," Artest said after the suspension. "I was running around a lot and doing a whole bunch of stuff and I've also been working out, so I think I wore myself down physically, I wore myself down mentally. I was ready to take some time off, at least like a month off, but two games is enough. I've still got my album coming out November 23. After the album comes out I'm going to make sure all of my time is focused on winning a championship."

When asked why he had benched him, Carlisle was initially cryptic, saying only that Artest had "compromised the integrity of the team." When asked what he thought about Carlisle's statement, Artest told reporters, "I don't even know what (integrity) means. You have to (update) my vocabulary. I've been meaning to ask anyone, my father. I didn't get a chance to ask anyone. I haven't looked in a dictionary yet. What does integrity mean?"

"When I decided I wanted to leave the game or take a month off, I'm a grown man," Artest additionally said on ESPN. "It doesn't make me crazy to want to do something that I want to do. ... You can be anything you want to be. ... I want to be a musician. I want to own my own label and I want to be MVP and win the championship of the NBA. I feel I can do anything I want to do. I have two goals this year. I want to go platinum or have my girls, Allure, go platinum, and win the NBA championship."

Neither goal came true. Just 13 days after being benched, Artest was suspended for the remaining 73 games of the year after he ran into the stands and punched a fan in Detroit after another fan threw a cup at him. "Ron Artest was benched two weeks ago because he wanted time off to promote a new CD," the Associated Press noted. "Well, the Indiana Pacers forward has plenty of time on his hands now." Shortly after the season-ending suspension, Artest was interviewed on NBC's Today show, and appeared more interested in promoting his album than he did on apologizing. Dressed in a t-shirt and hat with the logo of his record label, TruWarier Records, Artest held up his CD three times during the course of the interview, once even saying, "I got this album coming out. It's positive, it's about love. It's not rap, it's not hardcore."

Four years later, a maturer-sounding Ron Artest -- fresh off a trade to the Houston Rockets -- criticized his past self. "I was young, I was too immature just to put importance on winning the championship when I was back in Indiana," he told the New York Times. "I didn’t know how important it was to me. I had too many other selfish, individual things going through my mind. And I didn’t put no importance on winning the championship. And I have a second shot at it (here in Houston)."

Ironically, for all the trouble Artest went through to promote Allure's new album, "Chapter III," his involvement on it was minimal at best, and the returns from it failed to offset the $5 million he lost from being suspended for the season. He appeared in only one song, "I Feel So," which was the last track on the financially-disastrous album. A December report from Nielsen SoundScan concluded that only 1,200 copies of Chapter III had been sold thus far, with its ranking on Amazon.com sitting at No. 29,585. CNN named Artest's album-selling one of the dumbest business moments of 2004, saying, "We hear the next album's going to be called Chapter XI."

Further reading:

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