Skip to contents
NFL

Phantom Doink Torments Bears Fans

Isaiah Buggs of the Steelers celebrates the win
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There’s not a single onomatopoeia in sports that conjures up more powerful emotions than doink, particularly around the Chicagoland area. Ever since Bears kicker Cody Parkey smacked the ball off the upright and then the crossbar at the end of a playoff game nearly three years ago, that one little word has been easy shorthand for the kind of bewilderingly cruel heartbreak that only sports can provide. And on Monday night, as the Bears tried a last-gasp kick in their loss to the Steelers, the ghost of that ugly, hilarious doink briefly reappeared to drive Bears fans just a little bit closer to the brink.

This was a rough game all around for Chicagoans, and it’ll likely be remembered most for the bizarre and crucial taunting call against Cassius Marsh that helped give the Steelers a difference-making field goal late in the fourth. But one odd little optical illusion in the game’s final seconds helped twist the knife just a little bit deeper when Cairo Santos tried to kick a 65-yard would-be game-winning field goal. Santos, whose career long is 55, fell well short of Tucker City. But from the angle that everyone saw on ESPN—including lead announcer Steve Levy—it looked as though he was mere inches away from immortality.

“Hits the crossbar and comes short!” Levy said as the game ended.

Brutal, right? Yet another mean and heartbreaking reminder of how the tiniest of margins separate victory from defeat? An additional doink moment for the franchise’s collection? Not exactly.

As I’m sure you have gathered from Burke’s tweet, Levy and the limitations of depth perception combined to fool many viewers into thinking that this kick was much, much closer to three points than it ever actually dreamed of being. The ball didn’t even share a taxi with the crossbar, much less kiss it, and this fact became immediately apparent upon the reveal of an alternate angle.

I’m no Bears fan, and I realize the outcome is exactly the same either way, but I feel like this is a much more comforting way to lose, where the frustration comes not from what feels like a divine prank but because of a dumb flag from earlier and the failure of Justin Fields to get 10 more yards at the end. God harbors no ill will against us, Bears fans can tell themselves. He just set restrictions on the power of most humans’ limbs.

At least, that’s what I’d be saying if everyone didn’t get tricked into thinking that the doink happened anyway. This is the worst of both worlds, where you scream in pain and then feel embarrassed for shedding your initial numbness in the first place. Whether the doink even happened or not becomes secondary to the feeling that the doink has reemerged to sneer and mock you. A doink can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.