Garo Yepremian, the Miami Dolphins’ kicker during their glory years in the 1970s, left us on Friday aged 70 after a year-long battle with cancer. Garo for those of you who don’t know, or remember, was the Dolphins’ kicker extraordinaire from 1970 through 1978 and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1970s. Three times, he led the league in field-goal accuracy.
As great a kicker as he was, he will still be remembered for his infamous play at the end of the magical season of 1972. Garo was his team’s leading scorer during that year as the Dolphins took a 16-0 record into the Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins. With just over two minutes left, in the game that would complete a perfect season, and the Dolphins leading 14-0, he was sent in to attempt a field goal.
What happened next will always be associated with one word, Garo. As he attempted the field goal it was blocked by the Redskins’ Bill Brundige. In his desire to make up for the blocked kick, Garo picked the ball up and tried to pass it. But he was not privy to asking for the ball to be deflated enough so his hand could fit well enough around it, and as a result it slipped out. He tried to bat the ball out of bounds, but instead it ended up in the hands of the Redskins’ Mike Bass, who ran 49 yards for a touchdown.
Garo was reprieved as the Dolphins hung on to win, 14-7, completing the only undefeated season in NFL history, but his attempted pass was already legendary.
Sometime in February 1973, after writing the song “Yepremian’s Lament” and getting ready to send it to Garo, I wrote the following:
Dear Garo – I’m a graduate student at the University of Miami in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and an avid Dolphins fan. After watching the Super Bowl and seeing the aftermath of your blocked field goal, I wrote the following song and would like you to consider recording it (as I knew he could sing when I heard him imitate Louis Armstrong on the radio):“Yepremian’s Lament” The greatest day has come for me to play I guess my life’s been headed for this day The pressure’s building slowly every play I don’t’ know just what I’ll do I can’t wait until it’s through The half has come and gone, I’ve had little to do If things stay like they are the game will be through Won’t get my chance to show what I can do I’m afraid I won’t get called I shouldn’t worry or I‘ll go bald The game is ending and I hear him calling He says “Garo, get ready to go in, We need three points now and the game is over And your kick will assure us of this win” Here comes the call, my leg is ready and I rip into the ball I lift my head, to find the football rolling back to me instead It’s clear to me, there’ll be no three, I’ve got the ball I’ll go for it all Someone’s in the clear, I’ll throw it there, Oh God! My hand was too small… I’ll never know, what made me throw, I feel so low, I wanna hide The game’s too long, I have done wrong, They’re laughing on the other side It is not wise at this time to return to the bench Too many big boys around with their fists in a clench I’ll have to find a good place to dig a trench I must kneel and I must pray for a win to end this day!
After the game, Dolphins fans could all laugh at what happened since the Dolphins won and the perfect season was kept intact. The song was a parody of what happened and Garo liked it and had his brother Krikor (his manager) contact me to “make a record”. And we did, and Howard Cosell featured it on a one-hour ABC Special featuring the Dolphins’ perfect season.
Along with the recording and lyrics, I wrote to him: “Knowing your personality from interviews after Dolphin’s games, I thought this song would fit you. You are loved by Dolphins fans not only for being a great kicker and helping the Dolphins achieve the perfect season, but also for your humor and kindness. You’re one of those people that others like being around. Always with a smile on your face and with an open heart.”
And on May 17, 2015, two days after his passing, I wrote:
Dear Garo – So now that unfortunately you’ve been taken from us by cancer, going back to the perfect season in 1972 I send you my best thoughts. You will be sorely missed. But if each of us remembers that special kind of happy feeling you brought us when we were around you, or listened to your interviews, then it will make your loss a little easier to bear and in some way keep you with us. I offer my sincere condolences and best thoughts to your family.
A fan always of Garo, the Miami Dolphins Kicker, but even more so, Garo the man.
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