Chuck Landon: Winning kick was meant to be Haig's
Fate is an elusive concept.
It can't be proven, but it can't be disproven, either.
So, there are believers and non-believers. Me? I believe.
And, now, I have company. After all the remarkable events that occurred in Marshall place-kicker Justin Haig's life last week, count him among the number who believe in fate.
"Yes, I do," said Haig steadfastly.
How could he not?
A mere eight days ago while attending the annual memorial service commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Marshall airplane disaster that occurred on Nov. 14, 1970, Haig learned he wears the same No. 23 that place-kicker Marcel Lajterman wore before dying in the crash.
Fate or coincidence?
Haig chooses fate. Particularly considering who informed him about the place-kicking history of No. 23. It was Moses Lajterman, featured speaker at the memorial service, who also is Marcel's younger brother.
Haig was stunned by the information.
"It gave me something to think about," said the redshirt sophomore from Delray Beach, Fla. "It really did."
Then, the karma grew when Moses Lajterman showed up at Marshall's football practice in Edwards Stadium the very next day.
Lajterman, who was a star collegiate place-kicker at Montclair State (N.J.) and, then, professionally with the New York Stars in the short-lived World Football League, actually traded field goals with Haig during that practice, one week ago today.
"It was a great experience," said Haig. "Even though he was a little on the older side (late 50s) and wearing dress clothes and dress shoes, he is definitely really good at kicking.
"I think he made a 30-yarder in dress shoes. It was really impressive."
That's even more remarkable than the 40-yard field goal Lajterman booted to give the Stars' their first win of the 1974 WFL season, defeating the Philadelphia Bell, 17-15.
This fateful saga doesn't end there, however.
Two days after kicking with Lajterman and still wearing Moses' late brother's No. 23, Haig booted a career-long 45-yard field goal with only seven seconds remaining to give Marshall a 44-41 win over Houston.
"It was meant to be," he said.
It's difficult to debate that belief. The week of the Marshall plane crash anniversary, the week Haig learned he wears the same No. 23 the late Lajterman wore, the week he actually kicked with Lajterman's younger brother, Moses, in practice, is the very week Haig booted the biggest field goal of his life.
As far as fate is concerned, this would convert a non-believer.
"I'm definitely a believer," said Haig. "I couldn't have picked a better week to hit a game-winning field goal.
"I've got Moses Lajterman's (phone) number and we're keeping in contact through emails and stuff. I'm just very fortunate to be in the situation that I am. ... learning about the past and all the history that was here.
"He said Marcel was a great kicker. He said his brother cared a lot about football and was just a great all-around guy."
Forty-two years ago, Marcel Lajterman and I lived three doors from each other on the sixth floor in old South Hall. And I watched him kick a 50-yard field goal in the 1970 season.
As a sports writer for The Parthenon, I already had written a feature story on Marcel that was scheduled to run sometime during the week of Nov. 15, 1970.
Marcel never returned. The story never was published. But I still have it to this day.
How could anybody not believe in fate?
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.