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The Dumbest Plays, Errors, and Mishaps in Sports History

The Dumbest Plays, Errors, and Mishaps in Sports History


OAKLAND, CA - MAY 31: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on May 31, 2018 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

Naturally, sports are full of errors and bad plays, but none are worse than these plays here. These plays take stupidity, cockiness, and absurdity to the next level and are memorable for all of the wrong reasons.

Introducing the dumbest plays, errors, and mishaps in sports history.

Desean Jackson celebrates early

A touchdown is scored if and only if the ball crosses the goal line. It’s a simple, fundamental rule of football, one DeSean Jackson apparently never fully grasped. As you can see below, Jackson was full of enthusiasm as he approached the goal line against the Cowboys. The problem was that enthusiasm led to bad decision making.

In a moment of total lapse in awareness, Jackson casually dropped the ball a mere inches before the goal line and proceeded to celebrate his now-famous non-score. For most of us, this would be a painful lesson learned. For Jackson, it wasn’t, as this was not the first time he made such an egregious error.

Manny Ramirez lays out for all the wrong reasons

A classic instance of “Manny being Manny,” former Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez made one of the dumbest plays in Red Sox history by intercepting a Johnny Damon throw from center field. Johnny Damon threw a laser beam to home plate, and everyone in Fenway Park was holding their collective breath waiting to see the impending play at the plate.

Unfortunately, one of the most exciting plays in the game was interrupted when Manny dove and cut off Damon’s throw to the plate. Did he think he was the cutoff man? No chance. Did he think he could have had a better chance at throwing out the runner from his knees? Maybe. Either way, the run scored and Manny looked like a clown.

Leon Lett fumbles away a record

Leon Lett was an absolute monster on the field, but will always be remembered by the most famous fumble in NFL history. Late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 27, Lett recovered a fumble in Dallas territory and proceeded to run towards the endzone. While Lett was staring at the jumbotron, Bills receiver Don Beebe was sprinting as fast as humanly possible to catch Lett, and he did.

Just before Lett scored, Beebe knocked the ball out of his hands and through the endzone, forcing a touchback rather than a touchdown. And while the game was already out of hand with Dallas up 52-17, the fumble did cost the Cowboys seven points and the Super Bowl record for points scored in a Super Bowl.

Patrick Stefan comes up empty

There is no scenario where it would have been easier to score in an NHL game than the one Patrick Stefan, a former No.1 overall pick, had. Back in 2007, Stefan and his Dallas Stars were up one against the Edmonton Oilers, a team that had pulled its goalie. Stefan gained possession of the puck and found himself alone in front of an empty net. What should he have done? Shoot it and end the game right there. What did he do?

Casually skate towards the net and attempt a foolish backhand. Right as he went to shoot it, however, the puck hit some bad ice and bounced over his stick. Stefan tumbled to the ice and cleared the puck towards his own goal, which started Edmonton’s fast break. To rub salt in the wound, the Oilers went the full length of the ice and scored with two seconds left, forcing overtime.

Chris Webber and the not-so-fab timeout

The most infamous timeout in history? We think so. Chris Webber and the Fab Five were looking to avenge their prior season’s national championship loss and found themselves for the second straight year in the national championship game, again facing a team from North Carolina.

With 11 seconds left and down two points, Webber brought the ball up the court and right into UNC’s trap in the corner of the court. Webber panicked and called a timeout. Unfortunately, his team had none remaining. A technical foul was given, one that virtually sealed Michigan’s fate. To this day, Webber has yet to fully move on from his disastrous timeout.

Lindsey Jacobellis slides to silver

Nothing like blowing your chance at gold with some premature celebrations. Lindsey Jacobellis may be the most famous silver medalist in U.S. Olympic history thanks to her colossal fail at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Jacobellis was leading her signature event, snowboard cross, by a large margin heading into the course’s penultimate jump.

Rather than doing the jump with little flare and pizzaz, Jacobellis decided to execute a board grab, one that threw off her balance and put her on her backside as the rider in second zoomed by her for gold. Jacobellis recovered in time to finish with silver but has failed to medal in the three Olympics since her showboating disaster. Why did she go for the grab? Because she “was having fun. Snowboarding is fun.”

Colts being the Colts

We’ve tried, but we simply cannot find a reason for the Colts lining up like this. Back in 2015, the Colts busted out the strangest punt formation ever. They lined up two guys on one side of the field, a snapper and someone to receive the snap, and everyone else on the other side of the field. This odd formation was supposed to be perfectly executed trickery, leaving the Patriots totally unsure of how to defend it.

But then, the Pats realized the solution to the Colts’ genius. Line up four or so guys over the Colts’ two and pummel them the moment the ball is snapped. And that is exactly what New England did. The play blew up from the start and still, to this day, does not make any sense whatsoever.

Zinedine Zidane sends France into panic

Costing your team a World Cup is not a good look. France and Italy were deadlocked at one goal apiece late in the championship match of the 2006 World Cup. Both teams were doing whatever it took to win, and Italy’s Marco Materazzi decided to get a little creative and tug on French star Zinedine Zidane’s jersey.

After one too many tugs, Zinedine told the Italian pest that if he wanted the jersey so much, he could have it after the game. Materazzi replied in jest that he would prefer Zinedine’s sister. That quip prompted a perfectly executed headbutt to Materazzi’s chest. Zinedine was issued a red card and France succumbed to Italy on penalty kicks.

Gus Frerotte sends himself to the hospital

In the timeless battle of man versus immovable object, man has yet to claim a single victory. And Gus Frerotte proved to be no exception to the rule. The former Washington quarterback decided to celebrate his touchdown jaunt against the rival New York Giants with a ferocious headbutt against the padded stadium walls.

Frerotte ended up spraining his neck and was removed from the game. He was then transported to a local hospital to undergo further testing. Meanwhile, his team finished the otherwise forgettable game in a 7-7 tie. To this day, Frerotte still cannot go anywhere without being asked about his infamous injury.

Terrell Owens: a star is born

Terrell Owens was a lot to handle, on and off the field. And nothing epitomized Owens’ antics than that one time in 2000 when Owens became public enemy No.1 in Dallas. Yes, Owens instantly become the most reviled man in the city for his touchdown celebration. Owens could have spiked the ball, or he could have done a little dance.

Instead, he jogged to the 50-yard line and posed on Dallas’ famed star logo. That move drew instant boos. Then he did it a second time, and the boos wouldn’t be the only thing Owens felt. Cowboys safety George Teague, defending the star’s honor, charged Owens and shoved him away from the logo.

Dramatica Gramatica

Nothing like a celebration injury. Bill Gramatica has the most famous celebration injury in NFL history, and maybe in sports. Kickers already have a hard enough time earning the respect of their peers and the fans, and nothing can erase years of hard work building respect than injuring yourself celebrating a kick.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to former Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica. After converting an easy field goal early in a regular season game against the Giants, Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica jumped with joy, fist pump and all. In classic kicker fashion, Gramatica landed awkwardly and tore his ACL, ending his season. To boot, Arizona lost the game.

Scott Hartnell, a goon with no glove

A notorious NHL goon, Scott Hartnell was prone to making dumb plays and doing dumb things on the ice. That pretty much summed up his average career. However, Hartnell’s desperation glove throw takes the cake when it comes to stupid things he did on the ice. Hartnell, who had lost his stick earlier in his shift, was racing back to help stop a breakaway.

But he was too slow, and he was stickless. With no other option, at least in his clouded mind, Hartnell decided to throw his glove at the skater on the breakaway. The move may have altered the shot but proved to be costly. The opposing team was awarded a penalty shot (which the goalie also stopped).

CFL celebration catastrophe

There’s a reason not many people know of this quarterback, and there’s a reason not many watch the CFL in general. It’s an inferior brand of football full of players who couldn’t make it in the NFL. Case in point is this quarterback, stumbling, tripping, falling, and flailing his way through a touchdown celebration. His initial spike was bad enough.

It was like a half-hearted attempt that he waffled on at the last second. He followed that up by getting in the face of a defender who promptly shoved the quarterback to the turf. As the quarterback tumbled back to reality, he decided to take someone with him, undercutting the legs of a different defender. Yikes.

Dan Orlovsky toes the line

Awareness is key in life and in sports. And for quarterbacks, being aware is absolutely essential. As you can see below, former Detroit quarterback Dan Orlovsky may have not been the most aware quarterback in the game. He certainly wasn’t on this play. When the ball is on the goal line and you take a snap from the shotgun, you better be aware that the back of the end zone is just a few feet behind you.

And should you step on that line, it’s an automatic safety. Well, Orlovsky, bless his heart, didn’t take a step on the line, nor did he graze the line by an inch or two. No, he full-out ran a few feet behind the line for about half the width of the endzone, completely unaware that he had just gifted the opposition two points.

Roscoe Smith full-court fail

Again, awareness is key. We saw it with Chris Webber’s erroneous timeout. We saw it with Dan Orlovsky’s safety. And here we see it with Roscoe Smith’s full-court heave with 11 seconds left on the game clock. UConn was attempting to take down 12th-ranked Texas in Austin, and they were gifted a golden opportunity: the ball with 11 seconds left. UConn, in theory, had plenty of options. They had two timeouts and 11 seconds to hit the game-winning shot.

Instead of executing a play or calling a timeout, Roscoe Smith, completely unaware of the situation, fired a full-court shot to the surprise of everyone in the arena. Had the shot been even remotely close, maybe Smith would be off the hook. Maybe. But it wasn’t. The shot sailed into the stands and gave Texas the ball back.

Ronnie Brown flail, fumble, and fail

Ronnie Brown, what are you thinking? Rule No.1 of running backs and ball carriers in general is to hold the ball at all costs. There are a few instances where laterals are acceptable, but trying to get in the end zone from a half a yard away is not one of them. Maybe Brown was trying to re-invent the way the game is played.

Maybe he was trying to make it on Sportcenter’s top 10 plays of the week segment. Whatever the reason, everyone and their grandpas knew Brown’s lateral/spike/fumble/whatever-you-want-to-call-it play was plain stupid. Dumb. Thoughtless. After the game, Brown said, “I’ve just got to make a better decision with the ball.”

Ryan Tannehill throws a pass to the grass

Ryan Tannehill never lived up to his potential as a starting quarterback and first round pick, and there isn’t a single play that sums up his career better than this horrible gaffe. Now it is possible that Tannehill’s career could have gone a bit differently had he played for a better team than the perennially awful Miami Dolphins.

But he didn’t, and he never made his situation much better. Seriously, how does a pass go that poorly? Backward passes are dangerous because if they are not caught, they are considered fumbles. Ok, so there was some inherent risk with his backward pass, but how did it turn into this?

The hard head of Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco was a man of many talents, none greater than his hard head. The former superstar slugger and notorious juicer was more well-known for his prowess at the plate than his finesse in the field, and the GIF below is all the evidence we need to confirm this. Canseco tracked back to the outfield wall to catch a deep hit.

Had he used his glove, he surely would have caught the ball that was not going to clear the fence. Instead, he opted to use his head, and that move didn’t work out so well. The ball plunked him right atop his dome and bounced over the wall for the greatest assisted home run of all time.

Butt fumble

This just about summarizes Mark Sanchez’s career. The former fifth-overall pick never really lived up to the hype he created for himself after a stellar college career at USC. The NFL was a completely different ball game, one that Sanchez couldn’t quite figure out.

In a 2012 game against the Patriots, Sanchez made the worst error of his career when he ran directly into his offensive lineman’s backside. As a result, Sanchez was sent sprawling to the turf, fumbling the ball in the process. New England picked up the loose ball and returned it for a score, a gaffe Sanchez can never disassociate from.

The Dallas disaster

Down one point with 1:19 left in the game, the Cowboys were looking to collect their first playoff win in what felt like decades. After advancing down the field, Dallas found themselves in a primed position to win. All they had to do was hit a chip shot field goal. Then Tony Romo happened. Romo bobbled a perfect snap and fumbled the ball. With only one remaining option at that point, Romo picked up the ball and scrambled towards the end zone.

Initially, it looked like he had a clear path to score, but his lack of speed was quickly realized when he was caught from behind and dragged down about one yard short. Dallas went onto lose the game in what would become the most dubious distinction in Romo’s career.

Roberto Baggio costs Italy the World Cup

Shooters shoot. However, using similar logic, a shooter can only score if he/she puts the ball/puck on goal. Airmailing a shot into the second row may be a great souvenir for one lucky fan but is a surefire way to not score. It’s literally impossible, and the goalie doesn’t even need to break a sweat. The 1994 World Cup came down to a shootout between Italy and Brazil, two powerhouses.

And it ended with Roberto Baggio airmailing his penalty kick deep into the stands at the Rose Bowl. Following the game, Baggio procured a bunch of semi-valid excuses as to why he missed the biggest shot of his life, but at the end of the day, badly missing a penalty shot in a shootout to decide the World Cup is about as bad as it gets.

An imperfect call ends a perfect game

There have been 23 perfect games in Major League Baseball history. Some of you may be thinking, “Wait, there are 24!” Sadly, Jim Joyce ruined what would have been the 24th. In 2010, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was throwing absolute fire and had retired 26 batters in a row. On the 27th batter, Galarraga threw a beauty and the batter hit a grounder to first.

Galarraga covered first and the throw beat the runner by a step or two. But perfection was not to be found. First base umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled the runner safe at first. Perfect game spoiled. Galarraga retired the next batter, leading the media to refer to the game as the 28-out perfect game.

Bill Buckner keeps the curse alive

What’s the most embarrassing play a fielder in baseball can make? One of them is letting a grounder go right through their legs. Players are taught from a young age to ensure that out of all the errors one could make in the field, a grounder slipping through the five-hole isn’t one of them. But errors happen, they’re just a part of the game.

Yet a grounder through the five-hole to lose Game 6 of the World Series? Inconceivable. In 1986, Bill Buckner did just that, allowing a grounder to squeak through his legs, costing the Red Sox the game in extra innings. The Mets would eventually win the World Series by beating Boston 8-5 in the pivotal seventh game.

J.R. Smith takes down his own team

J.R. Smith did just about everything wrong in this situation. The Warriors and Cavs were tied at 107 with 4.7 seconds left in regulation when J.R. Smith collected the huge offensive rebound off a missed free throw. Considering he was right under the basket, Smith could have put up a high percentage shot from close to win the game. Or he could have passed. Or he could have called timeout.

Smith, however, went with option Z, and decided to dribble out the clock, completely unaware that the Cavs were not winning. With about a second left, the lightbulb in Smith’s head went off (or maybe it was LeBron screaming at him to pass) and he realized they needed to shoot. Urgently, Smith passed the ball to the corner where George Hill’s shot was swiftly blocked. The Cavs lost in overtime en route to getting swept.

Pete Carroll calls for a pass and gets pick

Super Bowl 49 was Seattle’s to win. Then Pete Carroll decided to call the worst play call in history. No hyperbole or exaggeration here. Just ask anyone who knows a sliver about the NFL. The Seahawks had the ball on the 1-yard line with the league’s best short-yardage back, Marshawn Lynch, ready to score.

With 26 seconds left in the game, a Seattle score seemed inevitable, leaving New England and their two-timeouts without many options to drive down the field and score. Rather than running the ball in and virtually handing the Patriots another Super Bowl loss, Seattle called a pass, one that was intercepted in a play that can only be described as shocking. Pete Carroll hasn’t been the same since.

It doesn’t get any easier than this

We can’t really explain this one. The guy was shooting from point blank and had a 99.999999999 percent chance of scoring. So, maybe we should give this guy some credit for doing the impossible: missing the shot. But in all seriousness, how is this possible? How did he miss the shot? If he was trying to elevate the shot, we must ask ourselves why?

Just put the ball in the back of the net and get on with it. Then again, there’s a reason we don’t know who that guy is or what beer league he’s playing in. Great players — scratch that, even halfway decent players — will bury that “shot” every time. No exceptions.

Ronald Flemons fumble

Oh Ronald Flemons, what are you doing? What are you thinking? And what are you going to do to ever live this down? It’s not often that big men get the ball and have an opportunity to rumble their way to a touchdown.

And when that opportunity does present itself, you better believe these hogs, these buffet busters, these warriors in the trenches are going to do everything in their power to score. After a brief NFL career, Ronald Flemons ventured up north to Canada to play in the CFL, where, to date, his most memorable play came on this disastrous attempt at a scoop and score.

College basketball player defies physics

This should be an automatic ejection. This shooter wasn’t your average Joe playing pickup at the YMCA. This shooter was a Division I athlete playing in a collegiate game. Yes, the school’s featured here aren’t basketball powerhouses, but they are Division I nonetheless, and anyone and everyone at that level should be able to have a respectable free throw shot.

Somehow, this shooter never got the memo and put up one of the most atrocious free throw attempts on record. The ball didn’t clank off the rim. It didn’t fall a foot short, and it didnt’ careen off the backboard. Nope, it, improbably, was shot sky high.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is no slam dunk

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led a respectable NBA career since entering the league out of Georgia back in 2013. However, KCP did one of the most foolish things possible in the NBA that made everyone question the former eight overall pick. Pope pulled up his dribble and thought he had no options, despite there still being 11 seconds left on the shot clock.

Instead of passing or calling timeout, KCP went for the self-made ally-oop off the backboard, a streetball classic. But things did not go according to plan, as KCP tossed the ball right over the backboard and into the stands, giving new meaning to he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Fly ball? Not my ball

What do they teach you in little league? To call “I got it” when preparing to catch a fly ball. Here on this play, all of the Reds infielders forgot this rudimentary rule and watched in awe as the towering infield fly ball descended into the dirt. No one moved, flinched, or batted an eye; they simply watched their pitcher give up an unnecessary hit on one of the easiest plays in the game.

This play, however, is quite fitting for the Reds, a team that has long been irrelevant when it comes to good baseball teams. Once the Reds master the art of catching fly balls, then they can focus on becoming relevant again. Or maybe they are relevant, but for all the wrong reasons?

J.R. Smith’s head is somewhere else

A repeat customer, J.R. Smith is king of the bonehead plays. This play is simple yet dumbfounding. The Kings missed the shot. J.R. Smith collects the rebound off the miss. Then J.R. Smith proceeds to walk out of bounds, turning the ball over. Is this guy’s lack of awareness next level or what? The two plays that landed J.R. on this list weren’t because of a lack of effort.

They weren’t because of some crazy fluke instance or experience that happened. No, they were simply products of Smith’s inability to keep his head in the game. Luckily, this error only cost his team a possession, not a game in the NBA Finals like his running-out-the-clock mishap.

Falling against the Freeze

You don’t get cocky when racing the Freeze, the greatest attraction in the Atlanta baseball scene since the late 1990s. Baseball’s popularity in Atlanta has been waning for years as the team has gotten progressively worse, and it took a gargantuan, superhero effort to recapture the public’s interest. With that in mind, Atlanta introduced “The Freeze,” a sprinter dressed in costume who races unsuspecting fans in between innings.

Most fans lose to the freeze, a trained sprinter, but most do so in standard fashion. This guy, however, got a little too cocky and went down in a heap, tripping over his cargo shorts while making an absolute joke of himself.

Patrick Roy taketh, Patrick Roy giveth

Much to his credit, Patrick Roy was one of the most outstanding goalies the NHL has ever seen. A four-time Stanley Cup winner, Roy was a brick wall in net and made spectacular saves with ease. However, during a Game 6 playoff matchup against the Red Wings, Roy thought he made the save and raised his glove sky-high, crowning himself champion of the moment.

The problem was, he didn’t have the puck. Detroit did, and they capitalized, scoring the goal while Roy celebrated. To rub salt in the wound, Detroit won Game 6 over the Avalanche, the defending champions, and went onto win Game 7, ending Roy’s chance at winning his fifth Stanley Cup.