Laces Out!

January 22, 2001
Laces Out!
By Ric Sweeney

WARNING: The following contains graphic language. Seriously.

There’s no such thing as inconsequential these days. Not even for a rinky-dink web page like this. If you had asked me… a month ago if anyone was seriously reading any of the previous articles I’d written, I would have guessed, outside of family and some close friends, that the answer was an unequivocal no, and even the family was iffy.

I, apparently, could not have been more wrong.

Seems Ian Howfield’s been reading. And apparently waiting… waiting for his moment to strike. It came two Sundays ago, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Just to refresh your memory, Howfield was Houston’s kicker du jour in 1991, a journeyman ex-soccer player, following in the well-worn footsteps of his father, Jet Bobby Howfield. But he wasn’t an Oiler for very long. In week 9 of that year, the 7-1 Oilers traveled to the nation’s capital to face the then-unbeaten Washington Redskins. The Oilers had tied the game with just over a minute to go in regulation, 13-13, when, amazingly (since the Oilers were unaccustomed to such good luck in those days), Howfield’s ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Brian Mitchell, and recovered by Houston at the Redskin 23.

Playing conservatively, the Oilers left :03 on the clock, and Howfield with a 33-yard field goal. But his kick sailed wide left, and, not surprisingly, Houston eventually bowed in overtime, thanks in large part to one of Warren Moon’s patented, ill-timed interceptions. Howfield was cut the following Monday. Al Del Greco was brought on board, and Howfield disappeared from the public eye, until this past week.

Back to me for a second, and this column I write whenever I can find enough free time. Way back on November 8, 1999, my first-ever go at this, I weighed in on the absurdity of Oiler fans losing their memories to a bunch of undeserving Tennesseans. Included was the following passage: “Those memories belong to me, and are not for sale — sorry, Bud. Well, come to think of it, Tennessee can have most of my memories: 61-7, the Stagger Lee, Ian Howfield, Kevin Gilbride, every playoff loss from 1987-1993.” To be quite honest about it, I had forgotten I had even written that column.

Until, that is, Howfield reminded me.

I arrived home a couple of Friday nights ago, and, as is my custom, stopped on my way to bed to check email. I had just one: from HOWFIELD IAN. It took me a second to process that information — Ian Howfield? The email read, “Hey Rick (sic) the ‘little dick, What do you think of Del Greco?? He has kicked you out of a Super Bowl Victory and cost you the game last week. (and another Super Bowl) Why don’t you put that in you (sic) fucking memory bank..”

My first thought was, “Good to see his grammar skills are right on par with his kicking game…” My second thought was that there was no possible way that this email was really from Ian Howfield. I mean, does the guy write to everyone who has ever had something negative to say about him? Granted, that would certainly help explain where he’s been the past decade, but… no, surely it wasn’t him.

Knowing full well the ease in which a buddy of mine could have signed up for an “Ian Howfield” email account with any one of the many free email services available, I was pretty certain it was just a goof. But the email address wasn’t from Hotmail. Or Yahoo. Or any other free service. Instead, it appeared to be from a television station. And sure enough, the wonderful Internet confirmed that this “Ian Howfield” worked for a local NBC-affiliate out west. Which meant one of two things: 1) an old buddy of mine had gotten a job out there, been granted access to the station’s email service, and created a fake account; or 2) Ian Howfield, the ex-Oiler kicker, was working for a television station out west.

Having been a television producer for 4 years, and having numerous contacts in the business, the first option was certainly viable, though highly unlikely. That left me with the too-hard-to-fathom possibility that this really was Ian Howfield. And that he really had read my article and taken exception to it. I searched the station’s online bios, but still found no mention of him. There was only one thing left to do… two actually. I would call the station first thing Monday morning and confirm his identity. 

But first I had to respond.

Friends were generous enough to offer up witty retorts (my favorite was, “Why don’t you tell him to come down here and kick your ass. What the hell — he’d miss it.”). I finally settled on the following: “Did you miss the news of the Oilers leaving Houston? Wouldn’t be the first thing you’ve missed, now would it? Must’ve sailed wide left. Anyway, I stopped being a fan of the franchise when that happened, and moved on, something you might want to look into.”

With that out of the way, I continued on with my confirmation search, and called the station the following Monday. Immediately, my first fear was quelled — he wasn’t the station’s receptionist. But in talking to her, I did confirm that it was, in fact, former NFL kicker Ian Howfield who worked with the station as an account executive, and thus, had sent me the above correspondence. 

In light of the confirmation, let’s reread the email, shall we?

Hey Rick (sic) the ‘little dick, What do you think of Del Greco?? He has kicked you out of a Super Bowl Victory and cost you the game last week. (and another Super Bowl) Why don’t you put that in you (sic) fucking memory bank..

Yep, a former NFL player sent that my way…

Days passed, with no response from Howfield. Had he said his piece and moved on? Or had I angered him to such a point that he was knee-deep into a week long hunt for me? The stalemate ended Thursday night.

Ian responded by sending an attachment titled, “OILERS.” I immediately scanned it (twice) for viruses, and cautiously opened it. The following is his retort, word for word, and no, we haven’t mangled his spelling, nor have we attempted to correct it:

The simplest thing to do is knock someone, it takes no intelligence and no guts! Especially when it’s done behind a persons back and not to his face. It also tells me allot about you. You hide behind a keyboard and computer because you have no backbone to take a chance in life. My Father and I held a position that only 30 dedicated athletes in the world could do for a living at one time. You can’t fathom that because you are just a forgotten number in society. Hell, you write on the Internet. Your minor league “Ric the Dic”. If there were only 30 keypad pushing jobs available, do you think you would be one of them? Not…. Not even close, back to being a janitor you would go.

As a matter of fact, I work in the media now. Real media, TV. I’m not wide left when it comes down to picking up my (sales) paychecks every two weeks. I know it’s STILL 6 times the size of yours, that is if you even get paid. Man that’s got to chap your ass. One of your worst Oiler memories (as you say) is kickin your own ass in a stronger media. You couldn’t possibly be in sales. You need to sell yourself as well as your product, but how can you do that when you hide behind a computer. Man with your talent you might move up to a weekly trade magazine. I’m sure they pay. In sales your held accountable for your numbers just like a kicker is in football. In one profession the world sees you (and all the jock sniffers like yourself) in the other the entire company knows your numbers. That takes BALLS…. A pair of I know your lacking. 

Both of these professions pay great money, there is no cap. Since you play your life safe, you pick up the same check every week and hide behind the computer where no one will bother you. That’s why you will never go forward, you hate your life and you can’t wait to knock someone. Speak of, you mentioned wide left… You don’t even have the balls to attempt a wide left. Let’s talk about missed. You have missed the life I have led. I have lived a life you could only dream about. I am the Jock and you are the sniffer. If you have done any kind of homework you know that my father played 8 years in the NFL. I grew up around the likes of Joe Namath, a legend… I have a lifetime of NFL memories and you have a scar and a forged picture on the Internet…. Your picture on the web site tells it all, you wish you could be somebody else…….sad,sad,sad….You wish you could be wide left…….. But you will always be you…….

You can’t go back and live life over again………So feel better about yourself and take shots at others, you bitter no chance taking pussy you….

I don’t want you to flatter yourself; a friend at work pulled my name off of a search site. That’s how I saw your little article and was stuck reading about how you won’t be able to sniff jocks anymore. (I bet your nose can’t wait for the new team) Let’s talk about your empty memory bank. In the playoffs that same year, Al Del Greco missed a 33-yard fieldgoal (sound familiar) against the Broncos that would have given them the victory. (If I’m correct the Oilers we still in Fucking Houston then) That kick didn’t cost them a regular season game it cost them a trip to the AFC Title game. Which do you think is a bigger kick??? I’m hoping you can figure that out by yourself. His last performance proves my point. Over my 11 year career in the NFL and the Arena League I have never had a fieldgoal blocked. See I can get it up unlike you or Al. He had a 65% lifetime fieldgoal average when Houston signed him. His first week on the job he missed a 41-yard game winner against Dallas. If Emmitt Smith doesn’t fumble the ball in OT Al doesn’t get a 24-yarder to redeem himself. Hell the Oilers tried desperately to punch it in without using Al, but Warren botched a snap and they were forced. Does your little brain remember that? Al Del Greco has missed some big kicks for the Oilers and Titans. If you’re going to write about it, do it right. Al Del Greco has cost the Oilers and Titans a Super Bowl. If fact, let me refresh your little memory….. In the Super Bowl last year Al missed a 47-yarder and had another blocked. (Hum…blocked…sound familiar) If he makes these two kicks the Titans don’t need the missing yard on that last drive. That’s right Ric the Dic, his kicks a short game winner and they win by two points. 

Every Oiler and Titan fan should have Al Del Greco on their Worst Fucking Nightmare List. He should be held to the same standard as I was. CUT HIS ASS!!!!! There is no player in football history that has cost his team 3 Superbowls. Go back and count them…3… To put me on that kind of list is a joke, just like your ability to write true football. The Oilers and Titans should have seen this coming; his past record proves it. Any kicker given opportunity after opportunity will put together good seasons. Al continues to miss in big games, he hides behind blocked kicks. Without penetration down the middle, and the kicked gets blocked, there is only one to blame – the kicker… To know this, a writer must have knowledge of the game. That’s’ why you are on the Internet and not in the Sunday paper.

I’ll tell why you didn’t pick Al on your list, because that would have taken balls…… Al is still in the league and I’m not. So you go after an easy target…. God you are such a pussy…. See how easy this is behind a Keyboard, man how I would love to say it to your face.

Well, I will leave you with one final thought. Ric the Dic, we can’t hide who we really are and we will take that to our graves. This of course is if your man enough to admit it! I know I have. This is what we both are and will always be… See I have moved on in my life but I don’t take Shit.. The truth is…………




Let me take this opportunity to remind you of a few things —  yes, this really is Ian Howfield. I couldn’t possibly make this up. And even though Ian seems to think so; no, Al Del Greco was not responsible for Howfield missing the kick and getting canned. 

Back to his response, I was riveted by its intensity, impressed with its creative use of the word “your” and moved by its heart-wrenching tale of courage. Of course, those emotions all hit the 32nd time I read the rant. The first 31 read-thru’s were interrupted and/or halted by laughter.

And I couldn’t think of a better rejoinder than just publishing Ian’s words, and letting them speak volumes. How could I possibly top that? Besides, I’m just a forgotten number in our society, a “dic” with no backbone, a minor leaguer who only writes for the lowly Internet, you know? It’s not like anyone’s reading this.

Ric Sweeney (which, for the sake of this article, isn’t really his real name) would like to randomly remind everyone that, yes, he still lives in Canada, and that yes, he still has a black belt in some Japanese form of ass-kicking that he can’t spell, nor pronounce (Jejitsu, something or another), in case anyone should come looking.