In sports, butts play a pivotal role. Locomotion tends to be important in the athletics world, and butts provide the body with much of its explosive power. But a good butt is quiet, and doesn’t steal the show, and therefore the butt is an under-appreciated piece of the sporting milieu.
But one day — specifically, November 22nd, 2012 — that changed, and the humble butt was elevated into the sports pantheon. The scene of the apotheosis was the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey, where the 7-3 New England Patriots faced the 4-6 New York Jets. It was the Thursday night Thanksgiving game, so all eyes were on the Jets as they were being methodically ground into paste by a much better team. Their response to this dismantling has become a synonym for the team itself.
I’d like to say this was all Mark Sanchez’s fault, since he did turn the wrong direction on the handoff and then galloped forward, resplendent in his glory, a one-man Light Brigade charging into the Valley of De— actually, I’m not not going to extend this metaphor any further. He ran into a butt. The ball popped out, Steve Gregory ran it back for a touchdown, and the moment emblazoned itself upon history.
However, it takes two to Butt Fumble, and the butt in question deserves more attention. The most infamous sports butt in history belongs to Brandon Moore, an interesting character in his own right. While Sanchez was the golden boy, the star college quarterback whom the Jets traded up to grab at #5 in the 2009 draft, Moore was a 2003 undrafted free agent turned good.
After stints in the Arena Football League and the NFL World League, Moore squeezed his way onto the Jets roster and never let up. Ultimately, he’d emerge as one of the best guards in the league, especially effective as a run-blocker. He was also the owner of what turned out to be a highly consequential butt.
As ever, Sanchez hogged the limelight. The butt connoisseur might be able to recall Moore’s key role in The Event, but for the casual fan, Mark Sanchez is the protagonist and essentially the sole participant, with everyone else reduced to prop. Is it fair to view the Butt Fumble as a one-man tragedy, with all the force and emotion centered upon a bewildered protagonist?
Perhaps. Certainly there is less of a journey for Moore than for Sanchez. “Man does his job, then other man runs into his butt” doesn’t have the raw emotion as “man fucks up horribly by attempting to jam a football through his teammate’s butt.” Then again, Moore is right there, intimately involved in the play, and we don’t want to erase his contributions to this critical moment.
You can’t have Sanchez without Moore, just like you can’t have Villar without Phillips. The Butt Fumble is a tragedy, but it’s a tragedy of something more than a single man virtually ending his career by humiliating himself in front of millions. For Moore, the tragedy is this: you can be great at your job, minding your own business, and suddenly someone else around you fucks up and suddenly you and your equally innocent butt are the center of one of the all-time great sports messes.
Ultimately, there’s probably not much to be learned from the play, apart from perhaps the most important lesson of all: you should never play for the Jets.