For those of you who are familiar with my articles know that I kind of go in different directions many times. I’m not one to always do a game recap. Now that Thanksgiving has passed and we are now into Christmas season I would like to share a story with everyone. It’s a story that will make you laugh and make you cry. For those who have seen the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will understand the story that is about to be told.
It was September 18, 2011 and the Dallas Cowboys were visiting the San Francisco 49ers. After a bad loss to the NY Jets in the season opener the Cowboys were looking to even their record at 1-1. The Cowboys did not want to go 0-2 simply because it might have been too deep of a hole to dig out of.
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff and drove down to the 49ers four yard line. Rookie kicker Dan Bailey came out to attempt a 21 yard field goal. The kick sailed wide right and Bailey walked to the sideline devastated because of the miss. He sat down on the bench thinking that this was not the place for him. He knew he could never be a successful kicker in the NFL and just wanted to walk off the field and never come back. Bailey wished that he had never been a kicker. He wanted out of football and felt dead inside. He wished he could be anywhere except for where he was. As he sat on the Cowboys bench feeling lost and alone he looked up to the sky and wished someone, anyone would show him the way.
At that moment he found himself in the stands of Candlestick Park. Confused as to how he got there he began looking around. He noticed an older gentleman sitting next to him staring at him. It was as if no one else could see Bailey except the gentleman who called himself Clarence. The crowd around both of them cheered as the game continued on. Clarence explained to Bailey that he was his guardian angel sent down from the football gods to show Dan Bailey the way. Bailey, only half listening to Clarence because he was so confused got up to head back down to the field. Clarence explained to Bailey that he couldn’t go because he was not on the Cowboys and never was. As Clarence reminded Bailey about his wish that he had never been a kicker he handed Bailey a game program. As Bailey looked at the Cowboys team roster he noticed that he was not listed as the team kicker. Looking confused Bailey got up and decided to make his way to the tunnel where the Cowboys were running towards for halftime. He yelled and screamed for his teammates to help him. But it was if Bailey wasn’t even standing there as the Cowboys ran past him never acknowledging him in any way. At that point Bailey felt the only thing he could do was just head on home so he could sort out what was happening to him. Bailey made his way out of the stadium with Clarence following.
Sitting home that night Bailey wanted to watch the highlights of the Cowboys game against the 49ers. He was disappointed to find out that the 49ers had beaten the Cowboys 24-21 and dropped the Cowboys to 0-2. Feeling upset Bailey kept telling Clarence that he could have helped his teammates win. Clarence kept reminding him he could not have helped because he was not a kicker and the Cowboys had no idea who he was. Over and over again Clarence tried to explain the situation, but Bailey was obviously still having a hard time believing it.
As the season continued on Dan Bailey sat and watched the Cowboys play each game. Every time Bailey thought about being a kicker and helping the Cowboys there was Clarence telling him that it was just not possible because Bailey had received his wish to never be a kicker. Bailey pleaded with Clarence to bring him back, but Clarence would just put his head down and tell Bailey that it couldn’t be done.
With the Cowboys record at 0-2 things just got worse as they lost their next three games to Washington 16-15, Detroit 34-30 and New England 20-16. Bailey just couldn’t believe it. He wanted to help the Cowboys, but he just didn’t know how he could get back to them. With the Cowboys record at 0-5 they finally got a win over the Rams 34-7, but then followed that up with a horrible loss to the Eagles 34-7. Things seemed to be getting better after the loss to the Eagles as the Cowboys beat the Seahawks 23-13 and the Bills 44-7. With each passing game Bailey regretted leaving Candlestick Park with Clarence that day. He wanted to be a kicker again. He wanted to help the Cowboys win games. After two wins in a row and the Cowboys record at 3-6, there seemed to be some hope that the Cowboys could save their season. Then before Bailey’s eyes the Cowboys lost their rematch against the Redskins in overtime 27-24 and then lost again four days later on Thanksgiving to the Dolphins 19-17. The Cowboys were now 3-8 and their season was all but over. Bailey could only think to himself that the Cowboys horrible season was his fault.
Dan Bailey argued with Clarence that he should have been there to help the Cowboys and that it was his fault they were 3-8. Clarence reminded Bailey about the things he said after missing the kick in San Francisco. About thinking he could never be a successful kicker and not wanting to be a kicker anymore. Clarence also reminded Bailey that he said he wanted out of football. They argued for a long time until Bailey had enough and ran out of his house. He wanted to get as far away from Clarence as he could. Bailey had regretted everything he had said that day and wished he could take it all back. He ran until he was exhausted and couldn’t run anymore. He sat down on a park bench to rest and think things through. He put his head in his hands and sat there wondering how he ended up there and how things got so bad. He wanted so much to help the Cowboys and he missed being around all his teammates. With his head still resting in his hands he said out loud…Clarence! Clarence! Help me, Clarence! Get me back! Get me back; I want to be a kicker again. I want to help the Cowboys win. Get me back to my teammates! Help me Clarence, please! Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live again. Please, God, let me live again.
At that moment he heard his name being yelled by many different people. He looked up and found himself sitting on the Cowboys bench in Candlestick Park. He was back in uniform and players and coaches were yelling at him to get ready. He couldn’t believe it. Clarence had sent him back to where he wanted to be. To the place where he now knew he belonged as the kicker for the Dallas Cowboys. Bailey looked up at the scoreboard and saw that the Cowboys were behind 24-21 to the 49ers with only seconds remaining. Feeling an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness that he was once again back where he belonged, Bailey grabbed his helmet and ran onto the field. He kicked the game tying field goal from 48 yards to send the game into overtime and was congratulated by all his teammates. Then in overtime Bailey was called on again to help his team. This time Bailey kicked the game winner from 19 yards to help the Cowboys even their record at 1-1. Bailey had just won the same game for the Cowboys that he had seen highlights of at home of the Cowboys losing, 24-21 to the 49ers. Bailey had never felt better kicking a football and could not have been happier to be part of the Cowboys and to help them win. He was thankful that Clarence had shown him what was important in life and made him realize that just because something goes wrong he should never wish it all away. But most importantly Bailey was thankful that Clarence was able to return him to where he belonged.
The following week with Bailey still feeling good and knowing there was no other place he wanted to be, he was called on again to win the game for the Cowboys. The Cowboys were losing to the Redskins 16-15 at Cowboys Stadium with only 1:47 left in the game. Bailey kicked what ended up being the game winning field goal as the Cowboys beat the Redskins 18-16 and improved to 2-1.
Dan Bailey now understood that missing field goals were part of the game and that they would happen from time to time. But as a kicker he couldn’t dwell on the misses. He just needs to continue to improve each and every week. With the right kind preparation and conditioning he knew that when called on he would always be ready to help his team.
As the season continued Dan Bailey started to convert every field goal he attempted. It was almost as though every kick was being guided by someone as it was in the air. With every kick Bailey thought about Clarence and remembered how Clarence showed him how unhappy he was when he wasn’t the kicker for the Cowboys. He never wanted to feel that way again. He knew he was a professional kicker and even more important was that he was the kicker for the Dallas Cowboys. Bailey thought about Clarence every day and wondered what ever happened to him. He had not seen Clarence since that day he ran out of the house.
With the Cowboys record at 5-4 they found themselves in another fight with the Redskins in their rematch. Only this time the game had gone into overtime and Bailey was called on again to win the game. Bailey for the third time this season had won a game for the Cowboys as his 39 yard field goal was good. The win also helped the Cowboys into a first place tie with the Giants with a 6-4 record. The Cowboys once again congratulated Bailey on another game winning kick and Bailey being beyond happy could not remove the smile from his face.
Four days after beating the Redskins was the Cowboys annual Thanksgiving Day game. This season they were scheduled to play the Miami Dolphins. With so many people being thankful for so many things, it was Dan Bailey who felt even more thankful. He had gone through so much as he learned from Clarence what life would be like if he wasn’t the kicker for the Cowboys, He felt the pain of not being able to help them and he saw the pain his teammates were going through as the losses piled up.
It was a hard fought game against the Dolphins and the Cowboys found themselves losing 19-17 with only three seconds left in the game. The offense had moved into field goal range for Bailey. Once gain Bailey grabbed his helmet and ran out onto the field to help his team. Bailey’s 28 yard field goal was good as he won another game for the Cowboys and improved them to 7-4. The Cowboys attacked Bailey and congratulated each other on a tough victory. Bailey could tell just how much his teammates appreciated him and were glad that he was their kicker.
Always remembering what Clarence showed him after his field goal miss against the 49ers; Bailey knew just how lucky he was to be a kicker and was beyond thankful for everything. From the time Bailey found himself back on the 49ers bench in week 2 as he won the game, through the winning kick against the Dolphins, Bailey had converted 26 straight field goals for the Cowboys. Bailey is also responsible for winning four out of the Cowboys seven games that they have won so far this season.
As Dan Bailey walked to his car after the Dolphins victory he heard the cheers of the fans that had waited for him. It made him smile because he felt so appreciated by the Cowboys fans. He loved being able to kick for the Cowboys and especially win games for the Cowboys. As Bailey got to his car he felt a cool breeze behind him. As he turned around he saw Clarence standing there smiling at him. For a moment they both looked at each other and said nothing. They knew what the other one was thinking. Finally Clarence reached out to Bailey and told him how proud of him he was. Clarence continued saying…
You’ve been given a great gift, Dan: A chance to see what football would be like without you. You’ve really had a wonderful life. You have seen what a mistake it would have been to just throw it away. Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? Always remember, Dan, no man is a failure who has teammates.
With that being said Bailey thanked Clarence and turned to get into his car. As he shut the door he looked over towards Clarence and he was gone. Bailey looked all around, but Clarence was nowhere to be seen. Bailey shouted once again “THANK YOU CLARENCE”. He smiled, started his car and started to drive home. Bailey knew that thanks to Clarence, what he was meant to do with his life and that was being the kicker for the Dallas Cowboys. As Bailey drove home that night smiling he knew he wouldn’t have it any other way.