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Odds are, you didn’t know who Cody Parkey was on Sunday.

Today, you know him as the saddest man on Earth.

Parkey is the place kicker for the Chicago Bears who failed to make a place kick at a deeply inopportune time while just about everyone in America watched. Whether or not you are a fan of football, I feel fairly certain you’ve seen it by now. It was a 43-yard attempt – not a gimme, but the sort that is made far more often than not.

Had Parkey shanked the kick entirely, it would have been bad. But instead, he hit the upright, whereupon the ball fell onto the crossbar and out.

As such, this wasn’t just a garden-variety failure. It was instead the Mona Lisa of chokes.

Chicago lost the game by a single point. The fans lost their minds. Parkey was booed off his own field.

Afterward, Parkey came out and said all the right things about taking full responsibility, thereby letting himself off the hook. He leaned hard on the word “perspective,” which is athlete-ese for, “I’m trying to accept that I’m not all that good at this.”

Over the ensuing hours, obsessives have been giving Parkey’s kick the Warren Commission treatment: Was it tipped at the line? Where was his plant foot? Was it the line’s fault?

This is neither here nor there. The kick is on the kicker. Parkey failed and failure happens. No one can succeed in competition but that someone else has failed.

The more existential sports question is this: Ought we feel sorry for Cody Parkey?

Open this photo in gallery:

Cody Parkey of the Chicago Bears reacts after missing a field goal attempt in the final moments of the team's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card playoff game in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2019.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Within minutes of his screw-up, at the speed of Internet, many people had decided that Parkey wasn’t just deserving of pity, but was indeed brave for having pooched his job. Social media filled up with messages of support, many from other pros in other sports.

After Parkey had done his scrum, others praised him for having “owned up” to his mistake – as if there was still some mystery about whether or not a Philadelphia Eagles sleeper agent had put on a Bears uniform, sneaked onto the field and purposely missed a field goal.

The pro-Parkey lobby was fronted by his teammate, lineman Charles Leno, who had some strong words for those directing online bile at Parkey. Leno told reporters, “What would my message be? Fuck you. You’re not in our position. You don’t know how hard this shit is.”

I don’t know about that. I’ve played football (in high school and extremely poorly). Even then I found it quite hard. Especially the part about getting hit over and over in the head.

But by late Sunday night, Leno seemed to have tied off the argument – pro football is difficult; you don’t play pro football; ergo, you have no right to an opinion on the matter unless it’s the opinion I would like you to have.

This line of reasoning dovetailed nicely with the current cultural vogue for being seen to be empathetic on issues that require no action on the part of the empathizer. All you need to do is type, “I feel for that guy,” and you get a nice hit of endorphins without the trouble of getting off your couch.

By morning, former Bills coach and noted contrarian Rex Ryan had taken up the banner of the anti-Parkey forces.

“I don’t feel sorry for him,” Ryan said during a TV hit. “A lot of people are saying, ‘I feel sorry for that kid.’ Really? How about feeling sorry for his teammates and everybody else, the fan base?”

Ryan got in some little digs at kickers in general: “…This guy doesn’t prepare; they don’t do meetings; they don’t do anything; you make a kick …” – and ended it with a flailing gesture of exasperation.

This may be the first time anyone has ever said this of Rex Ryan, but here goes: he makes a good point.

In our laudable quest to make everyone feel equal and included, we have broadly conflated all human experience into one, vast hive experience. We are all the same – that’s the goal. Except we are not.

How would you feel if you screwed up some sports thing and then everyone booed as you left? You’d feel pretty crummy. Therefore, you should feel sorry for Parkey. He’s just like you.

The wrinkle here is that Cody Parkey has a) agreed to take on the pressure of kicking a ball in the NFL for a living and b) is paid a silly amount of money to do so. In all, he made US$5.5-million this season.

Did you make millions of dollars to be bad at your job this year? Because that’s the only way you and Parkey are the same.

Would we feel sorry for a bank CEO who made one terrible decision that lost a whole bunch of people their shirts and caused him/her to feel bad about themselves? I suggest that we would not.

Parkey is that CEO, minus the real-world consequences, but the principle is the same. Responsibility is just that – accepting negative consequences, relative to the stakes. Professional sports and its practitioners have created these outsized stakes – “We’re putting it all on the line today!” – and as a result become hugely rich. It’s a bit much to retreat into a plea for working-class solidarity – “Do you know how hard this is?” – once the gamble goes sideways.

It’s important here to draw a line between people who are upset at Parkey for losing a game, and people who are threatening to burn his house down. The former are sports fans and the latter should seek therapy.

But you can be angry at Parkey without being said to be picking on him. That’s part of why he’s paid so much to do something so intrinsically pointless.

So, no, I for one don’t feel sorry for Cody Parkey. But I do respect him for taking a risk that has so spectacularly blown up in his face. That’s a feeling we can all understand.

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