If any of the 100 amateur kickers was going to nail a 43-yard field goal Saturday during the Goose Island Beer Co.’s marketing stunt, Zach Laszkiewicz seemed like the best bet.
The 23-year-old special education assistant from Westchester was a kicker at Fenwick High School and was first in line when he arrived at the brewery at 7 a.m. — six hours before kickoff for the outdoor event.
Laszkiewicz was determined not to follow in the missteps of Bears kicker Cody Parkey, whose tipped 43-yard field-goal attempt six days earlier hit the left upright and crossbar before falling into the end zone — a “double doink,” as it has been labeled — to doom the Bears in a 16-15 playoff loss to the Eagles at Soldier Field.
But Parkey’s miss also inspired Saturday’s “Field-goal Challenge.”
With a moderate snow falling, Laszkiewicz — wearing a Fenwick practice jersey — took four steps back from the football, lined up the angle with his hand and took more two steps to his left. He then ran up to the football, planted and — just as a random onlooker yelled “doink” — ate some icy artificial turf.
“I just flipped on my (butt). I did terrible,” Laszkiewicz said. “I fell and I didn’t make it even over the fence.
“I know I can make the kick. I just slipped.”
Laszkiewicz wouldn’t be the only contestant to end up on his rear on a snowy Saturday in Chicago.
None of them had both the distance and accuracy to put the ball over a chain-link fence and through a makeshift goal post erected in the middle of the street outside the brewery. A handful came close, though.
Goose Island had offered anyone who made the 43-yard attempt a prize of airfare, hotel and tickets to any regular-season NFL game next season. If any contestant had made the attempt, he or she would have had a chance to break the NFL record with a 65-yard try, but it never got to that point.
Instead, Goose Island announced plans to donate $20,000 to Lurie Children’s Hospital, which company officials said is Parkey’s charity of choice.
“It’s great to see Chicago come together like this and have a good time supporting the Chicago spirit,” Goose Island founder John Hall said.
The competition did have a few “celebrities” among the kickers.
“Windy City Live” co-host Ryan Chiaverini tried his hand — or foot — at it, as did Mike Golic Jr., the son of ESPN’s Mike Golic (junior makes appearances on his father’s “Golic and Wingo” show).
Hall also invited Northwestern senior Emily Harriott — aka “The Shrieker.” Harriott was well-known for her signature high-pitched wails during Wildcats basketball games — until school officials recently asked her to stop. And she complied.
“A couple of the kickers in line asked me specifically to yell for them,” said Harriott, whose kick hit the top-left corner of the fence and bounced back.
Chiaverini, a former walk-on free safety for the University of Colorado, said he plans to show his failed attempt Monday on his ABC-7 morning show.
“First and foremost, I wanted to see if I could do it, and then I wanted to see what kind of contestants would come out for this,” he said. “It’s been really entertaining. It’s been actually some good athletes, too, and the weather’s been tough. I’m not going to sit here and say I would’ve made it on an 85-degree sunny day. I wouldn’t have.
“I’m sure everybody’s going to give me grief, but it gives you newfound appreciation for how difficult it is to kick a field goal. … Cody Parkey’s dealt with a lot of scrutiny and a lot of criticism — and some fans being downright nasty — and maybe this will put a little perspective and appreciation for how difficult that job is.”
Other contestants had a variety of reasons for participating:
Cozzi texted with Laszkiewicz about trying the contest, so they practiced on Tuesday and drove together Saturday morning. They were the first two in line.
Cozzi didn’t count on snow and slipped slightly on his line-drive attempt. “I damn near took somebody’s head off.”
24, Lake View West
“I’m not going to lie, I requested work off so I could give this a shot,” said Asgarpoor, who works as a production assistant for the Big Ten Network. “I kicked some field goals back in college just for fun.”
Asgarpoor has made 45- and 50-yarders at the University of Nebraska’s pavilion. “I knew I had the leg to do it, and I figured I’d just come out and give it a shot. It was well worth it.”
32, Park Ridge
Aronson ended up watching the Bears-Eagles game from the kiddie table at his grandmother’s 90th birthday party.
“The emotion (of Parkey’s blocked kick) was disappointment, but as a professional athlete you’re not guaranteed anything. … and an event like this shows just how humbling it can be.”
Such was the case for Aronson, who enjoys kicking for fun and was hoping to win a free trip.
“Kick went horribly. Short and right,” said the former goalkeeper for St. Ignatius’ soccer team. “The footing was a little questionable, but Goose Island did the best they could.”
At one point of his adult life, the structural engineer had to divorce himself somewhat from following the Bears because their losses would affect his mood too much. So it wasn’t a surprise that at the point the Eagles scored the go-ahead points on Golden Tate’s touchdown catch, Kapps stopped listening to the game on the radio.
He never heard the call on Parkey’s attempt for the game-winner.
After the loss, Kapps dreaded having to face two co-workers who are Packers fans, but “I found a way to laugh about it.”
As for his own kick, it “barely got it off the ground. It was pathetic.”