On Thanksgiving, 2012, something happened that I will remember on every Thanksgiving from now until I die.
On every play in every game in every sport, an athlete thinks they can do something. A player shoots a shot, believing he can hit it, or tries to dribble past his defender, believing he can beat him. A quarterback throws a pass, believing he can complete it, and a cornerback tries to pick it off, believing he can get to it. A hitter swings at a pitch, believing he can hit it.
The mystery is in whether they're right. To me, the most fascinating matchup in sports is between what an athlete believes he can do, and what he's actually capable of doing.
When a player attempts something spectacular -- a deep three, a dunk over a player, a deep pass, a fastball past a home run hitter, a shot for goal from 30 yards -- part of what's amazing is the mere audacity the player has that they believe they can accomplish something so difficult.
When it pays off, it's brilliant. When Steph Curry tries deeper and deeper threes -- and hits them. When LeBron goes up and over defenders no other player would dream of testing -- and embarrasses them. A player tries a trick shot in an actual game -- and it curves beautifully past the goalie.There are few things more amazing than somebody believing they can do something few would dream of, and actually doing it.
But then there's the reverse, which, it turns out, is just as fun. When Kobe thinks he can hit a 35-footer -- and draws air. When Eli Manning thinks he can make a pass and WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHY DID YOU THROW THAT HOLY CRAP ELI MANNING WHY WHY WHY. We marvel at the delusions of grandeur, the disconnect between a mind that's chasing glory and a body that can't do the thing the mind is asking.
Which brings us to Mark Sanchez. On that Thanksgiving night, Mark Sanchez was trying to run a play and realized his teammates were running a different play. At this moment in time, he thought to himself: "I, Mark Sanchez, am in a bad situation, but I can make the best out of it. I am going to run forward and I will be able to make a play with my feet."
Sanchez does not make a play with his feet. Instead, he runs into his own lineman and falls, drops the ball, and somebody on the other team picks it up and scores a touchdown with it.
Sanchez's goals were modest. He wanted to gain a few yards, perhaps get back to the line of scrimmage. His failure was massive. Not only did this play end up with literally the worst possible outcome of any play in football, an opposing touchdown, he also shoved his face into a human being's butt.
There are a lot of things that are great about buttfumble. It's funny that of all people this happened to Mark Sanchez, whose badness with the Jets was legendary. It's funny that this came in a horrific span of play by the Jets where they allowed three touchdowns in under a minute, encapsulating the horror show that franchise has been since making back-to-back AFC Championship game appearances. It's funny that the phrase "buttfumble" has become common parlance, leading to a Wikipedia page and Al Michaels saying "buttfumble" on Sunday Night Football, forcing one of sports television's most staid personalities to acknowledge that we all have a smelly hole on our body that we pass smelly poop through.
The Buttfumble is a reminder of something I love about sports. For the foreseeable future, people playing sports will try to do things on TV. Sometimes they will accomplish them, and it will be beautiful. Sometimes they will fail, and we will get to sit and laugh at the failures of people we've never met before, and wonder how in the world they thought they were good enough to not fail so horribly. And that is something we should be thankful for.
Also, butts. Be thankful for butts. Butts are great.