Local footy ground, Williamstown, Australia
Any Sunday morning, 2005 to 2015
On Sunday mornings I play footy with a handful of mates. We play kick-to-kick and then do some very gentle circle work, kicking and handballing the footy to each other. We’re blokes in our 40s and 50s, jogging around in circles, trying to be teenagers again.
Usually one of us will take a chance and let rip with a drop-kick, a graceful but risky Australian Rules football skill that has been out of favour at the elite level of the game for about four decades.
On Sunday mornings, though, we bring it back to life. Once, in-between sucking on oranges at half-time, one of the Sunday morning faithful mentioned Drop Kick Me Jesus. I think I’d heard the phrase, but not the song.
Nashville songwriter Paul Craft wrote Drop Kick Me Jesus in the mid-1970s. It became a minor country and western hit for Bobby Bare in 1976.
Wikipedia describes the song as the world’s ‘only Christian football waltz’. Not too many people would dispute such a claim.
It’s a corny song, for sure, but a devout Christian footballer (such as the late, great Fitzroy player Pastor Doug Nicholls, perhaps?) might have danced a waltz to it, in-between evading tackles, doing a blind turn or two and then heading goalward.
The chorus goes like this:
Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goal-posts of life
End over end, neither left nor to right
Straight through the heart of them righteous up-rights
Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goal-posts of life.
Paul Craft was no minor one-hit wonder. The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt recorded his songs, as have Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, J J Cale, and, apparently, Clint Eastwood.
On his website, Craft said: “When I wrote Dropkick Me Jesus I figured everybody knew about songs like I’m Using My Bible For A Roadmap and We Need A Lot More Jesus (And A Lot Less Rock And Roll) and would appreciate what I had accomplished with my song. Well, my mother didn’t, for one. She just KNEW there was something wrong with a song that had “kick” and “Jesus” that close together in the title. And she wasn’t alone. But Elvis Costello and Bill Clinton understand it and like it.”
Three years ago I wrote to Craft via his website, eager to learn more, but never heard back. Maybe he was jack of talking about the song.
Jesus drop kicked Paul Craft, aged 76, to the big Super Bowl way up in the sky in October 2014. He had, 13 days prior, been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The song lives on. And irks a few people. Phil Dirxc, a columnist for The San Luis Obispo Tribune wrote in 2009:
‘On Super Bowl Sunday, I was part of a gathering that sang Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts of Life.That song has always pressed my peeve button. For years I’ve wanted to tell somebody that it should be “Placekick Me,” not “Drop-Kick Me.”
‘The drop kick is obsolete. It’s a rarity. It’s a museum piece. The drop kick was already archaeological in 1976, when Bobby Bare’s recording of Drop Kick Me Jesus climbed to 17th on the Country Western Music charts.
‘A drop kick isn’t a punt. To do a drop kick, the kicker must drop the ball and wait for it to hit the ground before kicking it. It was used for field goals and conversions. The drop kick quickly became a curio after 1934 when the shape of the football was modified to today’s slimmer, pointier configuration. It has a less predictable, less kickable bounce than the former shape.’
Well, at least the Australian Rules drop kick had another 40 years on the American drop kick. Craft’s song was a hit at a time when the Australian Rules drop kick was fast losing favour. But it had nothing to do with the shape of the Sherrin (the best-known brand of football for Australian Rules).
Blame the demise of the drop kick on Australian Rules football’s version of economic rationalism. On the changing game. On consistency and accuracy versus flair and romance, on constant movement versus reflection and patience, on common sense versus risk, on winning versus losing.
But you can still see it at our local footy ground in Williamstown, on a Sunday morning coming down.
This story first published at our partner site footyalmanac.com.au