A Very Zendejas Thanksgiving

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Professional football has its share of families associated with one speciality or another.  In a theoretical Thanksgiving game of touch football, a Manning would be under center while Matthews brothers patrolled the offensive and defensive lines. Unless a Bahr or a Gramatica lived nearby, your kicker would probably be named Zendejas.

No fewer than eight Zendejases have played college football, and four have played in the NFL. In 1984, the Zendejas family was even featured in People Magazine. Tony and Luis also played in the USFL, while Luis played in the Arena Football League (as did Tony’s brother and Luis’ cousin Marty).  This does not count Luis’ mid-1990’s stint with the CFL, or his time with the Professional Spring Football League, which folded before playing a game in 1992.

Luis is by far the best known of the kicking Zendejases.  An All-American with Arizona State in 1983, he gained notoriety by going 4 for 5 and scoring all twelve of the Philadelphia Eagles’ points in 1988’s Fog Bowl.  The following Thanksgiving, while with the Dallas Cowboys, his second half kickoff against his former team resulted in infamy. Rookie Eagles linebacker Jessie Small charged at Luis, who didn’t make things better for himself by charging back, leading with his helmet and going after Small’s shins. Mike Tanier of Sports On Earth, a lifelong but realistic Eagles fan, tells me that Small’s tackle would still be legal today, but referees would still find an excuse to penalize him.

The first Bounty Bowl, as the game would come to be known, is perhaps the only thing football fans know Luis Zendejas for, other than his large and strong-footed family. If you search his name on YouTube, however, there is a treasure trove of Luis Zendejas-related footage, besides the obvious Bounty Bowl stuff and the less-obvious inclusion of Luis blazing bars on the 1988 rap paean to Buddy Ryan, “Buddy’s Watchin’ You”. Much of the Zendejas footage on YouTube is from a single, mysterious account, the owner of which we can only presume is a member of the Zendejas family. It could be Luis himself. At the very least, the account owner is definitely a really avid fan of Arizona semi-professional football.

And so there are clips of Luis, now pushing fifty and a community liaison for the Arizona Cardinals, teaching the methods of kicking off and practicing field goals. One of the easiest and least popular ways to sound patronizing is to say that someone gives you real insight into special teams. Still, if you are a young placekicker and can’t afford an instructional DVD, there are worse places to learn these particular specialties, and most of those worse places presumably charge for the experience.

Those videos are good, but for the hardcore Zendejas-head, or just anyone interested in settling into a serious post-turkey coma this Thursday, there are other options. Namely there is a single, mesmerizing, faintly Tarkovsky-ish video that consists of 51 solid minutes of kickoffs and made field goals and extra points. It’s set, in a non-Tarkovsky touch, to a combination of arena rock and pseudo-Crystal Method late 90’s techno. The fact that it is actually the same 26-minute video shown back to back only adds to its hypnotic quality. Here it is:

There is the chance that all this Zendejas is too much for you. If so, this video is a nice change of pace. It starts with the standard Luis Zendejas kicking practice footage, then transitions into Cowboys game footage against the Eagles. (You can tell this is from his first stint with Dallas because they actually score in this game.) At the 17:20 mark, and apologies for a spoiler here, a Paul Rodriguez comedy special interrupts the K-hole. Instead of the whizzing and whirring of a late 1980’s video recorder, you hear the man behind A Million To Juan talk about Michael and Janet Jackson, and says of Madonna, “Like A Virgin? LIKE I’M STUPID!”

You might, at this point, have forgotten to eat, or lost the ability to eat. If you are near San Dimas, California, you could go to the Mexican bar & restaurant that Tony Zendejas runs there; they have karaoke on Wednesday nights. See if they have “Buddy’s Watching You.”

Illustration by Sorry Your Heinous.

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