The 1986 Boston Red Sox were one out away from winning the World Series …until a ball rolled through first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs. The NY Mets won the game, forcing a decisive game 7, which they also won. Buckner became a sports pariah, but he’s not the only athlete ever to screw up.
Nice Going, Spike
In one of his first NFL games in 2008, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson caught a long pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb. Running it in for his first pro touchdown, Jackson spiked the ball and started celebrating. Then the other team, the Dallas Cowboys, called foul: A videotape review showed that Jackson had thrown the ball down on the oneyard line, before he crossed into the end zone. Result: The touchdown was taken away. Amazingly, Jackson had lost a touchdown the same way in a high-school football game six years earlier.
No Time For You
In the 1993 men’s college basketball national title game, Michigan trailed North Carolina by just two points, 73–71, with less than 30 seconds to go. After North Carolina missed a free throw, Michigan’s Chris Webber got the rebound and hustled the ball down to the other end of the court. With 20 seconds left, Webber called a time-out to reset the play. Except that Michigan didn’t have any time-outs left. For the mistake, Webber was issued a technical foul, which gave North Carolina a couple more free throws, securing them the win.
A Very Big Oops
Colombia was one of the pre-tournament favorites to win soccer’s 1994 World Cup. But in the opening rounds, the team surprisingly lost to the United States 2–1, with the second goal for the U.S. coming when star Colombian defender Andres Escobar accidentally scored a goal on his own net. Colombia was eliminated from the tournament. (Sad ending: When the 27-year-old athlete returned home to Medellin, Colombia, he was murdered, reportedly by someone related to angry members of a gambling syndicate.)
Just minutes into the 1993 Super Bowl, the Buffalo Bills fumbled the ball on their own 45-yard line, where it was recovered by Dallas Cowboys lineman Leon Lett. He then did what few linemen ever do: He ran it all the way to the other end for a touchdown. As he was about to cross the goal line, he slowed down to celebrate the moment, raising the ball in triumph…and it was knocked out of his hands by Bills receiver Don Beebe. Lett had no idea Beebe was on his tail. Instead of Dallas getting a touchdown, the Bills got the ball (although the Cowboys won the game anyway).
Tommy John pitched for more than 20 years and won 200 games, but he’s best known for two things: 1) for being one of the first to undergo arm-strengthening elbow surgery (“Tommy John surgery,” as it’s now known) and 2) for making three errors in a single play. John was on the mound for the Yankees in 1988 when Milwaukee’s Jeffrey Leonard hit an easy ground ball to him. John bobbled it (error #1), and Leonard made it to first base. John threw the ball to first base anyway, but the throw was wild and wound up in right field (error #2). The right fielder then threw it back to the catcher in an attempt to tag a runner at home plate. John intercepted it and threw it to the catcher himself—again, his throw was wild (error #3, which tied the Major League record).
Friend or Foe
The 1982 men’s college basketball championship game was a fight to the finish, with 15 lead changes and neither Georgetown nor North Carolina ever ahead by more than three points.
Georgetown was leading 62–61 with under a minute left to play, when North Carolina freshman Michael Jordan hit a jump shot to make the score 63–62. Georgetown’s Fred Brown quickly rebounded the ball and ran to the other end, where he confidently passed it to an open player, James Worthy. Only problem: Worthy played for North Carolina. Georgetown quickly fouled Worthy to stop the clock. He missed both foul shots, but it didn’t matter—there wasn’t enough time left for Georgetown to score, so North Carolina won the game.