How many people in the world can say they scored an NFL touchdown? Football fans might look at all their time of watching the game and say lots of people score touchdowns but in reality, the percentage of players that score in the NFL is fairly low. Scoring touchdowns is a glory primarily enjoyed by the flashy offensive players. We watch every week as quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers fond their way into the end zone. There is the somewhat occasional kick return that goes for a TD and even defensive scores. After that, players in the game are mostly role players and their job does not put them in the position to score a TD very often.
There are, however, rare occasions where unexpected players score touchdowns. There are fumble recoveries where lineman gets the chance to show off their ball skills and speed. These sometimes lead to dramatic and exciting touchdowns. Unless you are Leon Lett, who tossed his one opportunity at a touchdown to the ground on the one-yard line. A play that is still considered one of the biggest bloopers ever. Then there is the trick plays and special plays where we see players put into unexpected roles. We can all remember when we saw "The Refridgerator", William Perry, line up in the backfield and score that memorable Super Bowl touchdown for the Bears. A move that was repeated this past weekend when the Bears lined up Akiem Hicks in the backfield and he scored.
In a football game this weekend, Detroit LIneman Taylor Decker scored his first ever touchdown. TD's are rare for a lineman to say the least but this one was a receiving touchdown which is always entertaining. It is an opportunity to see an athlete out of his comfort zone and looking like a fish out of water. Becker didn't look out of place at all. In fact, he made the tt yeard catch and run look like it was something he had done before.
Decker was so excited when he scored that he threw the ball up into the stands, something lots of players do after a touchdown. It wasn't until after he was back on the bench that he realized what he had done. He had just thrown the football from his first touchdown ever away. The football that he scored with would make a great souvenir a fan but he had carelessly thrown it away in excitement and with that, a piece of his career memorabilia walked out of the stadium.
In a desperate plea, Decker took to social media in hopes that the ball could somehow be recovered. He sent out the following message to whoever might see it:
“To whoever caught/has the ball I threw into the stands. I’ve played football since first grade, and that was my first ever touchdown,” Decker wrote on Twitter. “I’d love to have that ball, and would be more than happy to hook you up if you’d be willing. #defendtheden #bigmantouchdown” Source
His cry for help was answered when his message was seen by someone who knew the person who caught the ball. The ball was caught by Lions fan Bill Zerbst who connected with Decker and made arrangements for the ball to be returned. An extremely lucky break for a player who may never score a TD again.
It is the "I will hook you up" that has me very curious and got me thinking. It has been reported that Decker and Zerbst worked out a deal for the return of the ball but the details of the arrangements have been kept under wraps. I can only imagine that Zerbst is very happy with whatever deal he received but it is clear that he did not just give the ball back for nothing, even though he said that he "had to give it back because it was the right thing to do". I think it is awesome that Decker got the ball back and I also think it is great that a fan was able to be part of a little bit of history and get compensated as well but I can't lie, it is killing me not knowing what the compensation was.
Did he get a sum of cash? if so, how much? How would you even put a dollar value on an item like that? To be honest, the item has significantly less value to the fan who caught it compared to the player who would like to have it as a keepsake. Would there even be any money involved at all? It is possible that the fan could have received some sort of memorabilia or something else in return for returning the ball. Who knows, maybe even seasons tickets to the Lions games could be an option. The big question still remains, how do you put a value on that ball and how far would a fan be willing to go to extort a player for its safe return?
We hear about these situations all the time in baseball. Baseball fans catch stray balls all the time. With foul balls and home runs, there are many opportunities for a stray ball to end up in the hands of fans. The excitement of catching a ball can be so thrilling that there have been many occasions where fans fight over a ball and adults have even snagged a stray ball from the waiting hands of a kid. Most balls that end up in the stands are a great souvenir but have little to no value but there are some balls that due to the circumstances of the hit or home run have significant value.
Mark McGuire's 70th home run ball in 1999 was allegedly sold for a whopping $3,000,00 in an auction and is considered to be the highest selling homerun ball ever. Source Obviously, that ball was not returned to the player. Some players have paid a great deal to fans to get their little piece of personal history back but at the same time, there are many fans that have simply returned the ball. Catching a ball at an NFL football game is more of a rarity than in baseball. Although some players will throw a ball into the stands or even hand it to a young fan after a TD, it is not the norm. The time where a fan caught a football that I remember the most is when a Chicago Bears fan jumped over the railing and into the players tunnel to catch an extra point kick that had gone over the netting. A leap of faith that I would never have made to catch a football.
I have never been lucky enough to catch a stray ball or even a puck at a hockey game. Although, I have seen someone take a puck in the face in my section that was not a pretty sight. What would you do if you caught a significant ball during a game that a player wanted back? Would you keep the ball or simply give it back? Or would you milk the situation for all it was worth and see what you could get out of it from the player? I think I would be torn in this situation. I would certainly want to give the ball back but at the same time, I would hope that I would be offered something for my generosity. I think I would be happy with a replacement ball signed by the player or the team or even tickets to upcoming games. I have to admit though, I would be disappointed if I got nothing in return. What would the ball be worth to you? Step up to the water cooler and chime in!! I look forward to hearing your responses.