Still barely removed from the field goal he kicked last Sunday in San Francisco that sent his entire team to the Super Bowl in Florida - the New York Giants climbed on that kick, and here they are - you might be interested to know that Matt Bahr is still acting the same way he acted seconds after he kicked it. Which is to say subdued.
He is not proclaiming himself The Greatest. He does not have his right leg bronzed. He is not walking with a swagger. In his press interviews he is not starting out by saying, "The sun was setting over theSan Francisco Bay, the 49ers were ahead 13-12, there were four ticks left on the clock . . . " You may have seen it on TV. If Bahr makes a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the game, the Giants will beat the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers 15-13. If he doesn't, the Giants will lose 13-12. The 49ers call a timeout to give Bahr time to think about it. The TV cameras show that most of Bahr's teammates are gathering in prayer huddles on the sideline.
There are big kicks and there are bigger kicks and then there are kicks like THIS KICK. Bahr walks to the middle of the field, looking pale, looking like he's going to investigate a train wreck. He kicks the field goal that signals the start of Giants parties everywhere, and then he walks off the field looking more dazed than dazzled.
He looked as if he was in shock. But he wasn't.
"I have one motto in this business," says Bahr, referring to the kicking business and explaining his demeanor. "You're only as good as your next kick."
He says kickers have to subscribe to that philosophy to survive.
"The danger is looking too far ahead or living in the past," he says. "The only thing smart is to concentrate on things at hand.
"I do get excited. I just try not to show it. A lot of the time I'm excited inside."
He says he didn't notice his teammates praying for him on the sidelines last Sunday. He didn't notice them because he was concentrating on pushing the button that would win expense-paid trips to the Super Bowl for every member of the franchise.
Would it have distracted him?
"Yeah, probably," he says. "You start looking around, you start getting emotionally agitated. And then you're in trouble. Deep down, I think you're always aware of the consequences of a kick. But that's where you should leave it - deep down."
He says he hopes his dramatics are over for this season, that in Super Bowl XXV this Sunday he'll go back to being an anonymous kicker. "I hope all we score are touchdowns and all I kick are extra points," he says.
He also says that no matter what he does, it won't take over first place on the list of Dramatic Moments In the Bahr Family.
In 1950, it was Bahr's father, Walter, who passed the ball to Joe Gaetjens for the winning goal in the United State's 1-0 World Cup soccer victory over England. That win, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is arguably the biggest soccer triumph in U.S. history, and possibly the biggest upset in World Cup history.
"For my dad to have the assist on the goal that beat England," says Bahr, "now that's something."
Soccer is a kind of religion to the Bahr family. Walter's affection and affinity for the game spread to his three sons, Casey, Chris and Matt, all of whom played in the North American Soccer League. Casey was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team. Chris was the NASL Rookie of the Year in 1975 and Matt played in the 1978 and 1979 seasons with the Colorado Caribous and the Tulsa Roughnecks.
Chris and Matt might still be playing NASL soccer were it not for two reasons: 1) They both jumped to the NFL to become field goal kickers and 2) The league folded.
Chris was in the Super Bowl the last time it was played in Tampa - in 1984 with the victorious Los Angeles Raiders. Matt came that year too, as a guest of his brother.
This time he's a guest of the NFL. They had no choice but to invite him - and the guys he brought with him. Not that Matt Bahr's about to take the credit. He's spent 13 years being an NFL kicker and he knows the game. All kicks are created equal, and the only one to dwell on is the one that's coming up next.