35 Unforgettable Sports Fails
Some of the most memorable moments in sports are the epic fails that most of these athletes would like to forget more than anything. These sports fails run the gamut from embarrassing bloopers to overzealous celebrations, epic collapses, and major mental gaffes. A fail of the right caliber in the sports world can be the ultimate breaker of spirits.
Take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the greatest goofs across different sports and around the globe. These brutal sports fails have it all: some had game-altering outcomes, while others were simply slapstick funny fails that bring out the third grade sense of humor in all of us.
Check any sympathy at the door, because the laughs and gasps ahead are most definitely all at the expense of others.
1. Kemba Walker Celebration Fail
There’s no better feeling in basketball than getting the hot hand. During Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker’s first All-Star season, he was dialed in for a December matchup with the Miami Heat. Walker wanted to give the home crowd a show, so he gave them a little victory dance after launching a three. But the only thing celebratory about this moment was how quickly it turned into an infamous sports fail.
Walker may have been just a bit too dialed in, though. He was so focused on delivering a fire celebration with his walk away Walker shimmy, he forgot to make sure the ball actually went in.
It did not. And we couldn’t be happier, since the unwarranted celebration fail is always a favorite.
2. Olympic Runner vs. Sprinter
Fans may know Romanian long distance runner Gabriela Szabo as a three-time Olympic medalist in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games. However, those less entrenched in the wild world of track and field may remember Szabo as the woman that got blown up by a jumper mid-sprint.
The bro rocking the orange watching the race from in back is our spirit animal. There’s a split second where he sees these two are on a violent collision course, immediately followed by the realization of how big this boom is about to be. This fail then instantly delivers on those expectations.
3. Between The Legs
Baseball player Bill Buckner enjoyed a long, successful MLB career. He worked his way up in his early years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then, Buckner rose to more prominent status in the league. He played with the Chicago Cubs, even earning an All-Star selection in 1981. With his third team, the Boston Red Sox, Buckner reached the 1986 World Series.
Then, in the blink of an eye, Buckner nearly wiped away almost his entire career’s worth of success.
Game 6 of the World Series against the New York Mets went into extra innings. Boston scored two runs at the top of the 10th, but New York responded with three straight singles to tie the game back up.
Then came Buckner’s infamous missed catch. A grounder slipped right between his legs, allowing New York’s game-winning run. The Mets went on to win the next game too, and clinch the World Series. Buckner’s brutal sports fail went down in baseball history.
4. Get Out Of Seg-way!
By 2015, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was already firmly established as the fastest man in the world. At the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, he added to his illustrious career with three more gold medal finishes in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m.
After running an incredible 19.55 in the 200m, Bolt had a terrifying run-in.
Of all the ways an athlete can get injured, getting run over by a cameraman whose Segway is doubling as a bulldozer is a brutal way to go. What initially looked like the worst case scenario or a devastating Achilles injury, fortunately ended with both parties in one piece.
5. Ronda Rousey Makes Opponent Eat Her Words
Trash talk is one of the greatest parts of watching sports. Seeing athletes try to get under each other’s skin is just part of the game. Leading up to UFC 190 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, MMA megastar Ronda Rousey and Brazilian Bethe Correia were preparing to fight. While talking about the whooping she was going to put on for her home country, Correia crossed a line with her choice words for Rousey.
Correia had made some pretty gross comments about Rousey’s late father, but Rousey promptly made her eat those words. Once the fight began, Correia didn’t just eat her words, she also ate a bunch of fists to the face.
Rousey knocked Correia out in a grand total of 34 seconds. Ouch.
6. Finish Line Fail
This viral video unintentionally pulls off dramatic irony better than most writers can. The buildup is intense. Everyone knows the girl in charge of the finish line ribbon is headed for disaster – everyone but her.
As far as insane and hilarious sports fail videos of unsuspecting people getting jacked up goes, this one tops the list. That is, it’s funny until reality hits. This 400m race was at the New Balance Nationals indoor championship, and the girl exploding into a billion pieces had devastating consequences.
The runner, who wrecked girl at the finish line was Taylor McLaughlin of Union Catholic High School, and he finished first. So what was the big deal? He was disqualified for a lane infraction.
On a positive note…
“Oh my gosh, he just wham-sauced the meet crew” is one of the greatest lines ever uttered by an announcer in sports history.
7. Foul Ball Fan Fail
By far one of the more devastating sports fails, the precautionary tale of Steve Bartman shows just how cruel the sports world can be, even to fans. Steve Bartman, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, attended Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The Cubs were playing the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Cubs held a 3-0 lead and had already recorded two outs. Then, the infamous moment occurred. The Marlins’ Luis Castillo hit a foul ball, which Bartman reached out to grab. Cubs outfielder Moises Alou attempted to make the grab, but the ball ricocheted off Bartman. The Cubs gave up eight runs, blowing the game, then losing the series in seven.
8. Baseball Selfie Fail
At an MLB game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, a promo flashes across the big screen. The promo urges fans to “Tweet your strongest fan photo!” Whether or not that was actually the inspiration for the photo shoot that took place, the result was hilarious. The general consensus in the stands seemed to be:
“I can’t wait to watch this game, but first… let me take a selfie.”
The announcers are having the time of their lives trashing these diehard D-Backs fans. “Oh, hold on. Now take a selfie with the hot dog, selfie with the churro, selfie just of a selfie!”
Maybe it was just bad timing, and they were totally paying attention the rest of the game. Well, that argument holds until Arizona gets a hit… and not even one member of the group looks up from their phone. Pure insta gold.
9. London Falling
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London were not kind to U.S. Olympic runner Morgan Uceny. The Cornell University track star made it through the Olympic Trials and preliminaries to reach the final round of the 1500m race. After so much hard work, tragedy bit her in the heel.
As the pack of runners made their first turn of the final lap, Uceny’s leg inadvertently clipped the back of Russian runner Ekaterina Kostetskaya. Years of training and preparation went down the drain in that devastating moment. Worse yet, Uceny’s work was all torn down by the equivalent of a self-inflicted flat tire.
10. TD Celebration Sports Fail
CFL quarterback Kerwin Bell of the Toronto Argonauts had some some added incentive to win against his former team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. When Bell scrambled on a broken play and got loose for a touchdown, he wanted to rub it in his old teammates’ faces just a little bit extra.
Bell goes from being a baller to being embarrassed in an instant. He spikes the ball in an opponent’s face, only to get shoved backwards – while, simultaneously, the ball he spiked hits him in the crotch.
As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, Bell falls backwards into the legs of another opponent, promptly getting a faceful of booty. Not the way he imagined his showboating would go.
11. Hurdler Hulk Smash
As far as disastrous track and field performances, this hurdler at the 2012 Chinese University Games pulls off 110 meter’s worth of embarrassment in a very impressive fashion. How this guy even found himself in this race is another discussion entirely. Clearly, he did not make the team that competed in London that summer.
This dude went full on Hulk mode, straight up smashing through those first few hurdles like they were tooth picks. The more hurdles he faced, the more he did not scale them. In the spirit of sportsmanship, this lost cause also does a bang-up job of ensuring that his teammate’s race is ruined too.
12. The Butt Fumble
There has never been anything quite like it, and yet it’s the only thing we ever expect to see when watching the New York Jets play. There are still plenty of mental lapses at the NFL level, but QB Mark Sanchez took spacing out to new heights with this one.
What was going on in his mind will likely never be explained. There is literally an entire field to move around, yet Sanchez dialed into his teammate’s butt and accepted that as the only path. He was so shocked by passing through his lineman’s butt that he jacked himself up, fumbled the ball and gave up a touchdown.
Only the Jets.
13. Face-Spike Fail
This high school volleyball playoff game in Iowa was filled with energy, as the two teams fought for a berth into the state championship. This volley didn’t last long, though.
Right after the serve came a massive spike that sent the volleyball back into one girl’s face like a heat-seeking missile.
Painful moments like this can end up with more hurt pride than anything – in this case, we’ll assume her face stings more.
If there’s any positive for this athlete, who appears to have literally sacrificed her soul for the team, it’s that her face inadvertently took out a fan in enemy territory. Impressive.
14. The Worst Fake Punt Ever
Kickers and punters: oh, those poor human beings. The two most thankless positions in football are remembered for their accomplishments. When they are remembered, it always seems to be thanks to a missed field goal or blown opportunity.
This player out of Western Kentucky earned himself a spot in the latter category, courtesy of a cringeworthy fake punt attempt against Florida International.
No matter how many times this video replays, one can’t help but mutter, “C’mon, buddy. Stay up.” He never does.
For any athletes who make a living playing football with their feet, this video presents a challenge. Moments like this make the sentiment “kickers are more athletic than people think” much harder to believe.
15. Baserunning Blooper
The San Francisco Giants’ Ruben Rivera had one of the most unfathomable, pathetic attempts at baserunning in MLB history.
It was crunch time – bottom of the ninth with the score knotted at two. Rivera was waiting on first base with one out when a deep fly ball to center was dropped.
The opportunity offered Rivera an easy trip home, or at least to third. It’s like Rivera did everything in his power to screw this one up. First, he started with some indecision, then uncertainty, followed by a little doubt, finished off by some reckless confidence. This fail really screwed the Giants over. Their coach’s reaction says it all.
16. UConnot Have Worse Timing
In one of the more highly anticipated games of the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season, the No. 9 ranked UConn Huskies faced off with the No. 12 ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin.
The game lived up to expectations with the game tied 73-73 as the final seconds ticked off the clock. When UConn’s Roscoe Smith grabbed a big rebound, he had a shot at being a hero – so he heaved a full court shot.
Of course, heaving a full court shot makes way more sense when the clock is literally about to expire. Not so much when there are 11 seconds left on the clock. Fortunately for Smith, his Huskies would survive overtime and walk away with the win.
Smith got his redemption at the end of the season, as the Huskies made a Cinderella run to win the National Championship. Still, he had to endure weeks upon weeks as SportsCenter’s undisputed No. 1 “Not Top 10” play.
Honestly, both feats are equally impressive.
17. Winning Is For Losers
On April 14, 1968, Argentine professional golfer Roberto De Vicenzo entered the final round of the Masters two strokes behind the leader.
He played lights out on that Sunday and managed to tie Bob Goalby for first place, forcing an 18-hole playoff the following day. There was only one problem. One really big problem.
De Vicenzo’s playing partner, Tommy Aaron, incorrectly marked a three-stroke birdie on the 17th hole as four strokes. De Vicenzo, not paying attention, signed off on the incorrect scorecard, which cost him a penalty stroke and lost him the Masters.
In the words of De Vicenzo himself, “What a stupid I am.”
As if the scoring fail wasn’t devastating enough, it also happened to be De Vicenzo’s 45th birthday. Hopefully the fam wasn’t planning a surprise party after the big game.
18. Nice Shot!
In Game 7 of the 1986 Smythe Division Final, the Edmonton Oilers looked to knock off their division rival the Calgary Flames. The Oilers needed a win to advance, hoping for a repeat Stanley Cup championship. Instead, one lapse in judgment by rookie defenseman Steve Smith ruined those hopes.
With just under 15 minutes remaining in the third period, Smith grabbed the puck behind his own goal and made an errant pass to a teammate. The puck ricocheted off the back of the goalie into their own net to tie the game at 2-2. Calgary went on to win 3-2, knocking Edmonton out of playoff contention.
19. Dan Orlovsky Drops Back… Way Back
Turn the clocks back to 2008 when the Detroit Lions, unbeknownst to them, were on their way to an 0-16 record. Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky had the unenviable task of stepping into the starting role for a team already four games into its downward spiral.
This infamous play in the first quarter pretty much summed up how the remainder of the season went.
The Lions were already backed up at their own goal line, and the QB could not have been any less aware. Orlovsky steps out of the end zone, getting a safety, and just keeps on running looking for his man.
The after effects of the brutal play were even worse. Those two points ended up being the difference in the game, as the Vikings held on to win it 12-10.
20. Jose Canseco Takes One To The Dome
Some sports fails are actually remarkable achievements in their own weird way. This particular infamous moment in former Major League Baseball star Jose Canseco’s career was legitimately impressive. Granted, Canseco probably would have preferred to have been the batter in this embarrassing scenario. The man was never known for his defensive prowess.
Canseco has been very open about his history of juicing throughout his career. Still, who knew that it gave his noggin more muscle to rip those homers.
Props to him for taking it like a champ – making sure he was okay consisted of little more than a single head pat.
21. Where Are We?
“How?” That is the only word necessary to sum up one of the more perplexing screwups in organized basketball.
This isn’t some random neighborhood pick up or park and rec game, either. This fail went down at the 2017 FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup. After Russia knocks the ball out of bounds, the horn blows for substitutions. Rather than Spain inbounding the ball, everyone simultaneously forgets how to play basketball.
Spain’s No. 12 totally thought she was supposed to go inbound the ball. When the Russian player grabs the ball, she has a telling moment of hesitation – but then she goes for it.
Sure, we could chalk up No. 12 simply going with it to the player following the hive mindset. But let’s go with the alternate reality that it was all a clever ploy to have Russia do all the dirty work just to score against themselves.
22. Goalie Early Celebration Fail
A professional Thai soccer playoff game between Satri Angthong and Bangkok Sports Club appeared to be normal enough. By the end of stoppage time, the score was tied at 2-2. Once the game went into penalty kicks, thought, things got weird. It’s safe to say that the game was already out of hand when this crazy shot happened, as the shootout was knotted at 19 apiece!
In one of the most bizarre goals imaginable, a shot off the cross bar got some serious help from mother nature. Amazingly, the wind carried the high-flying ball towards the now-untended net.
The poor goalie realized what was happening just in time to see that his premature celebration was about to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
23. Slam Dunk Teamwork Fail
Unfortunately, teamwork does not always make the dream work. After their basketball team missed their first two shot attempts, two girls tried teaming up to pull off a dunk. Considering the generally unathletic 10 seconds leading up to the dunk attempt, the way things turn out isn’t really surprising.
Since the girl on the red team appears to be laughing, we can hope that the horrifying smack sound wasn’t actually her flightless opponent’s face shattering into a million pieces. Either that, or No. 20’s reaction while walking away is a much more accurate representation of how it really looked.
24. Runaway Train
There’s nothing better than a wild end to a championship football game. But the craziness of this sports fail went down after the game. After a Texas high school state championship game at Cowboys Stadium, the winning coach was giving an interview when things quickly got out of hand.
One second, the coach is on Cloud 9 after winning the chip. The next, he’s an unwilling passenger on a runaway golf cart wondering how many people he just mowed down.
As for his escape, it’s nice to see that this coach does his own stunts. Admirable roll. Quick thinking by the guy who stopped the cart, too. If he hadn’t stopped the cart, though, this could have looked like an action film. An exploding golf cart in the background after the coach’s daredevil escape would have been an all-timer.
25. Never Slide Into First
One of the unwritten rules in baseball is that sliding into first base is a big no no. It can be dangerous and actually slows down the runner’s momentum. Maybe this softball player thought that rule only applied to baseball. She learned the hard way that it, in fact, does not.
There could not be a better example to show that sliding is dangerous and slows down the runner, especially when you begin the slide about 20 feet from the bag. The real question here is whether or not this was an intentional slide. If so, their coach needs to start buying some bubble wrap for the squad.
26. Um, What Formation?
If there’s one thing all football fans have in common, it’s that we all have a little Monday morning quarterback in us. That means that at some point in the game, we’re yelling at the TV or telling our friends that “this is what they should have done.”
We may all be guilty of some disagreements when showing off our 20/20 hindsight, but we’d all agree that this next play was doomed. Seriously, this fail from the Indianapolis Colts vs. the New England Patriots was set up for failure from the start.
The Colts took a major risk trying to run a play on fourth down. Going for it in a one-possession game on their own side of the field made this a highly questionable decision.
Then, they added a trick play into the mix that involves moving the entire team to one side of the field so safety Colt Anderson can get the direct snap completely unprotected and alone. This really doesn’t leave much room for rational explanation.
Let’s hope there was some shady gambling going on behind the scenes to force this play into existence. It’s easier to swallow the illegal gambling theory than to accept that someone on the Colts payroll made bank to call that play.
27. Football Flip
Early celebrations are a plague throughout college football. Breaking away from opponents for a wide open touchdown only to drop it just before the goal line while prematurely celebrating is now simply known as “pulling a DeSean Jackson” after the star NFL wide receiver’s (numerous) incidents.
Despite the overwhelming shame that accompanies such an easily avoidable mistake, college athletes running on pure adrenaline tend to forget the concept of repercussions. Take Utah’s Kaelin Clay as a prime example.
What makes Clay’s costly error so bad is that, not only did he keep his team from putting six points on the board, an Oregon defenseman picked up the football and took it to the house. Clay went from big man on campus to embarrassing football fail of the year.
Getting rid of that “excess weight” to get some proper chest pounds probably wasn’t worth it in the end.
28. WNBA All-Star Dunk Fail
Brittney Griner missed not one, but two, slam dunks on ESPN’s SportsCenter, drawing some attention to the upcoming WNBA All-Star Game.
Leading up to the 2015 WNBA All-Star Game, the league wanted to drum up publicity before the event aired on ABC. Disney’s fellow broadcast affiliate, ESPN, offered some coverage to hype the upcoming event.
So what better way to get everyone excited for the All-Star Game than to watch league superstar Griner throw down some jams?
Standing at a commanding 6′ 9″ Griner was literally and figuratively already one of the biggest names in the WNBA. Despite her height, Griner managed to deliver not one, but two, ugly bricks on live television before making the third.
The lowlight of this unbearably sad sight was the awkward silence while she re-laced her kicks after the first miss… because that was obviously not the problem.
29. MMA Knockout Taunt
Just like in any other sport, combat sport athletes at all levels make an incredibly high number of questionable decisions. Even in a high risk form of competition like mixed martial arts (MMA), athletes’ judgment is often imperfect.
At the British Challenge MMA 18, featherweight Joe Harding was apparently feeling really good vibes. He couldn’t help busting out some dance moves in the middle of the fight.
Shockingly, Harding’s showboating did not go as planned.
Harding was so into flaunting his move, stepping back from opponent Johan Sega and doing a little arm wave dance. During the dance, though, his eyes weren’t even on the fight anymore.
It didn’t take Harding long to realize he should have been looking elsewhere. Sega’s foot quickly connected with his jaw, dropping him like a sack of potatoes.
Then again, it might’ve taken Harding a while to figure out his mistake, because the man. got. shook.
30. Blindfold Slam Dunk Sports Fail
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has a long way to go before it reaches NBA status. Even though it may seem silly to even consider the possibility of the PBA approaching NBA status, moments like this don’t exactly help that one-in-a-billion shot.
Meet Justin Melton, the man who put the 2015 PBA Slam Dunk Contest on the map for all the wrong reasons.
Melton did his best Michael Jordan impression, trying to give the crowd something they’d never seen before. Rather than jumping from the free throw line, Melton tried jamming with a blindfold on.
The result was so bad it actually looked like it was intentionally garbage. Man, did he even try this once in practice to see if maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t go as planned?
Worse yet, this wouldn’t have even been a first. Cedric Ceballos actually pulled it off back in ’92.
31. The Final Showdown
For the sake of everyone involved, let us pray that this was the first and last time these poor girls ever ran a track meet. At least let it be the last time they were thrown into an event involving hurdles of any sort.
This was legitimately painful to watch. The runner in the grey shirt in the inside lane is the first to take a digger. After that, it turns into some sort of machismo showdown between grey shirt and red hoodie to see who can endure the most pain. If we only look at it from that perspective, they’re both winners.
32. Overzealous Celebration Fail
In Week 16 of the 2001 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals faced off against the New York Giants. Not even halfway through the first quarter, the Cards and kicker Bill Gramatica set up for a 43-yard field goal attempt to put the game’s first points on the board.
Gramatica celebrated this field goal like he hit the game-winner as time expired. He jumped for joy, but quickly fell to the ground as he tore his ACL.
At least Gramatica could take solace in helping his team get the win. Oh, except they lost 13-17. And these teams both finished that season with 7-9 records. Sheesh, what was this kicker so pumped about?
To his credit, Gramatica kept a sense of humor about the incident afterwards. It’s now an infamous sports fail and a lesson in overzealous sports celebrations.
33. Weightlifting Fail
There was a scary moment at the 2009 World Weightlifting Championship in South Korea. Power lifter Shemshat Tuliayeva of Belarus was competing in the 69 kg category when she appears to have completely forgotten how to lift… midway through her clean and jerk. Tuliayeva hits the clean, then pauses with the barbell on her chest as she dips before the jerk.
Instead of driving the bar back up, though, she collapses underneath it. Maybe she’s kind of tired… she thinks a quick nap will help her get in the zone. Tuliayeva takes her quick nap. Hopefully, she woke up and realized it was time to go home and take an ice bath.
34. Strike a Pose
It was Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings. Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy makes a fantastic save with 39 seconds left in the first period. Then he busts out his signature Statue of Liberty pose celebration.
Roy’s impulsive need to celebrate the save could not have been any worse. The save simply deflected the puck right back to two wide open Red Wings. That early celebration effectively resulted in a goal.
The Avalanche would go on to lose the game 2-0, forcing a Game 7 in which they lose 0-7. Whoops.
35. Fool Me Once…
Amherst College is a small yet prestigious school in Massachusetts, considered one of the “Little Ivies” for its academic excellence. In 2012, the D-III women’s soccer program took on its NESCAC conference opponent, Colby College. During the game, Amherst defender Emily Little didn’t quite exhibit the competitive spirit one might expect from a prestigious college athlete.
With her team up 1-0, Little ran up the field for a throw-in – except she wasn’t quite trying to toss it up for a shot on goal. The first throw drilled into an opponent’s face. Little initially seemed to feel bad about the hit. But, after she drilled the opponent in the face a second time, the ref handed Little a much deserved yellow card.