For the most part, lefties are discriminated against in life and some sports. Nothing ever seems to go right for them.
Yes, you get the occasional left-handed pitcher who commands a 10-year, gazillion-dollar contract or the 7-foot-1, lefty behemoth who can block shots by shorter righties, but, for the most part, southpaws are scarce.
Enter Bill Belichick.
A fascinating story by Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated explains why the New England Patriots coach might be impartial to using left-footed punters. (“Might” is the operative word because Belichick would never give up such secretive intel.)
Vrentas points out that pretty much all of Belichick’s punters with the Patriots have been left-footed.
Coincidence or by design? Is there a “D” in Deflategate?
Vrentas notes that while about 10 percent of the general population is left-handed, a third of the punters in the NFL kick left-footed. And, there is just one left-footed kicker.
The simple answer is that left-footed punts spin the opposite direction, counterclockwise (from the punter’s perspective), presenting an extra challenge for returners who are used to reading a right-footer’s spin. From the punt’s apex, a left-footed ball will fade to the returner’s right, whereas most returners are used to catching right-footed balls that fade to their left. That has the potential to cause a returner to hesitate or, even better for the punting team, to muff the catch. The search for answers usually ends there.
While the muff rate off of a lefty’s foot is higher, there has to be more to Belichick’s penchant for lefties than just the age-old spin spin.
Vrentas talked with former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko who suggests that the wind in Gillette Stadium sets up perfectly for a lefty.
If you want to really get in the weeds (we warned you) there’s also the added factor that lefties have a bigger margin for error against the catastrophe of a mishit when punting into the Gillette Stadium wind. That’s because the drop can also be affected by the wind; in this case, a right-to-left current can turn the nose of the ball to the left as it drops from the hand to the foot.
At this point, you’re probably asking as I did, “what happens when the teams change field direction?” Ha. It’s actually more beneficial to the Patriots!
Absolutely fascinating stuff and more proof of Belichick’s genius. You must read in its entirety.