The Most Epic Sports Fails of All Time

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Sports are electrifying. Supported by the most dedicated fans on the planet, athletes and teams go head-to-head with everything they’ve got. Despite the quality on both sides, and the odds either being for or against, the true power of competition is that anything can happen.

Clare Champion / John Kelly

It doesn’t matter who, what, when, where, why or how, the direction of a game or match can change at any moment. The only thing better than celebrating a big win, is witnessing an insane loss. From football, basketball and baseball, to soccer, hockey and golf, this article showcases exactly the kinds of surprises that keep sports interesting. There’s even a wild collection of MMA fails waiting for you at the end.

Read about your favorite teams and players, some succeeding at the expense of an epic fail, and others failing in the face of an unexpected success. The details are shocking and unpredictable. This article, ordered chronologically from over a hundred years ago to the present, will keep you on the edge of your seat as if you’re watching an actual game unfold. But before we go back in time, let’s look at couple cases that were too crazy for just one date...

Iron Mike Tyson

The Fight City

Mike Tyson is one of the most famous/infamous athletes of all time. For 30 years he made a huge impact on the sport of boxing. He was the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title, racked up seemingly endless knockouts, and some of his fights ended almost before they even started. But on the flip side, his sordid reputation outside of the ring, and some instances of completely dropping the ball inside it, makes him the perfect first entry for this article.

In 1990, he defended his title against the underdog Buster Douglas, and got KO’d. Not to mention the time he lost to Evander Holyfield after biting off a chunk of his ear. In 2002 he was knocked out by then-champion Lennox Lewis. If that’s not bad enough, he somehow ended up having to file for bankruptcy, despite amassing hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of his career. He has since appeared in several movies and television shows, and even put together a one-man show in Las Vegas.

It’ll be hard to beat Tyson’s extreme up and downs, but the other entries in the article sure give him a run for what’s left of his money...

The Curse of the Billy Goat

Flickr / Spablab

Before finally winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs had suffered an unprecedented 108 year losing streak. While they were failing well before 1945, it was then that this curse got a name. The specific details of The Curse of the Billy Goat are up for debate, but it has something to do with a local tavern owner’s pet goat smelling so bad they were asked to leave Wrigley Field, and not being too happy about it.

They lost the World Series that year, and then in 1969 a stray black cat played a vital role in them losing a crucial game to The Mets. In 1984, they had a chance to advance past the NLCS, but Leon Durham let their win slip right between his legs. When they got more chances in 1989, 1998 (despite the addition of NL MVP Sammy Sosa), 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2015, they just couldn’t make it happen. To add insult to injury, dozens and dozens of former Cubs, including coach Bill Buckner, went on to win championships with other ball clubs. Thankfully their story has a happy ending, unlike most of the other entries in this article…

Merkle’s Mistake

Wikimedia Commons

The time was 1908, and the Cubs were about to win against the New York Giants. But Fred Merkle was about to set the bar for a rookie mistake. There aren’t many rules in baseball more basic than needing to touch the bases after getting a hit, especially a game-winning one. Well someone forgot to tell Fred, and his premature celebration could’ve been the biggest meme of the year if they had those back then.

In One Day and Out the Next

Wikimedia Commons

As bad as the last entry was, this one from 1912 doubles down on it with two epic fails. First, star player Ty Cobb was suspended for allegedly beating up a handicapped heckler. Then the rest of the Detroit Tigers protested, forcing the owner to find replacements. Enter Allan Travers. In his one game as an MLB pitcher he allowed 26 hits, 24 runs, an MLB-record 14 earned runs and 7 walks. Ouch.

The End of a Streak

Wikimedia Commons

In 1930, the Boston Bruins had a record breaking season. They earned an .875 winning percentage and never lost two games in a row. Until The Stanley Cup Finals. After a historic year, the Montreal Canadiens beat them in back-to-back games, one of which was close but in the other the Bruins didn’t even score a single point. Oh how the mighty fell. Read ahead for an even crazier hockey fail...

Call It a Comeback

Wikimedia Commons

Fast forward 12 years after the previous entry to the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals. This time it’s the Red Wings vs the Maple Leafs. With Detroit taking the first three games, all they had to do was win one more. Spoiler alert, this was the first Stanley Cup series to go seven games, and it wouldn’t be here if it didn’t make history. Toronto’s feat would only happen a few more times after, but none quite like the first.

Keep It 100

Wikimedia Commons

On the other side of Wilt Chamberlain’s unmatched 100 point game, was the guy who failed to guard him. Darrall Imhoff of the New York Knicks didn’t stand a chance against one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Unfortunately for everyone but Imhoff, the game was not televised and there’s never been any recovered footage. As crazy as it seems now, the NBA wasn’t that popular then, and there weren’t even a lot of fans in attendance.

The Phold of ‘64

Wikipedia

Pictured above is the Phillie Phanatic, the mascot who made his first appearance in 1978. While this epic collapse took place over a decade before, it’s a fitting image. In the final two weeks of the season, they went from being first place in the National League to a series of injuries. Eventually they suffered “The Curse of Chico Ruiz” after the Reds’ player stole home and broke their spirit. Philadelphia went on to lose ten straight games.

Fumble!

Logans Sports Ratings

In the same year as the previous entry (1964) but a much different sport (football) this fail belongs to one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Hall of Famer Nick Dawson was a Super Bowl MVP and multi-championship winner. Beyond his impressive resume, he also hold a much less flattering record: With 7 total, he’s responsible for the most fumbles ever in an NFL game. Butterfingers much?

The Miracle Mets

Metsmerized Online

Back to the diamond, this time in 1969, for another World Series blunder. It was the New York Mets against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles. But, again, this article doesn’t feature the expected outcomes, it instead showcases the upsets. Especially ones like this, which has gone down to be considered the greatest in Series history. The Mets were the first expansion team to win a division title, a pennant, and the World Series. Read ahead for the most amazing coincidence...

The Namath Guarantee

Wikimedia Commons

That same year, another heavily favored Baltimore team, the Colts, entered Super Bowl III against another underdog New York team, the Jets. What are the odds? Speaking of odds, legendary quarterback Joe Namath (pictured above on The Brady Bunch) famously made a guarantee that his team would win, and you can’t say he’s not a man of his word. This historic upset was the third AFL/NFL Championship game, but the first to be called the Super Bowl.

Blame It On the Wind

Daily Mail

Doug Sanders was about to win the 1970 British Open going into the final hole. After his drive, he only had 74 yards to go, which, if you’re not familiar with the sport, is nothing when you have a few shots to spare. But he somehow used up all his strokes just getting to the green, and if that’s not bad enough, he then missed an equally standard putt to clench the win. More, much worse, golf fails later…

“No Más”

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@handsofstonemov

In a dramatic shift from a gentle sport to a brutal one, we go from the fairway to the ring. Before Roberto “Rocky” Duran’s life became the 2016 film Hands of Stone (seen above), he uttered two of the worst words ever in the history of boxing. After beating Sugar Ray Leonard six months before, he didn’t have as much luck in the rematch. He barely made it eight rounds before saying “No Más” to the referee and quitting.

The Great Win

Edmonton Journal

Another hardcore sport is hockey, and this playoff comeback is one of its biggest. Edmonton Oilers’ rookie goaltender Grant Fuhr set the record in 1982 for the longest undefeated streak in NHL history. But the LA Kings, led by “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, came back against a 5-0 lead in the third period and eventually scored 6 points to win in overtime. If you think this seems impossible, check out the next fail…

Not Worthy

Big Blue History

The 1982 NCAA Final Four championship game was between the Georgetown Hoyas and the North Carolina Tar Heels. With 17 seconds left in the game, Michael Jordan secured a 1 point lead for the Tar Heels. Then it was up to Fred Brown to setup one more shot to take back the win. He instead passed the ball to James Worthy, from the other team, and was famously consoled by his coach on the sidelines. Need a hug?

The Hat Trick

Flickr / Oyosan

It’s about time for a soccer fail. And what better place than the World Cup. Brazil was the favorite going in and had won five straight games leading up to their match against Italy. While the first three matches were a draw, the next saw Brazil taking the lead 2-0 toward the end of the game. But then Italy’s striker, Paolo Rossi, staged an unheard of comeback by scoring 3 goals back-to-back-to-back to win the match.

The Play

Wikimedia Commons

If this article was a list, The Play could be at the top. There were four seconds left in “The Big Game," named after the rivalry between the Stanford Cardinals and the California Golden Bears. Looking like Stanford was about to win, the band came onto the field to celebrate. But the Bears were still in the middle of a play that would end with a winning touchdown. Despite endless debates about the final decision, this was unquestionably epic.

Buckner’s Blunder

Wikimedia Commons

The second to last game in the 1986 World Series between the Mets and the Red Sox was down to the final inning with Boston winning. Then Mookie Wilson got a hit that went straight for Buckner, and right between his legs. They ended up losing the whole thing. But almost 20 years later, during the 2004 ALCS Championships, they redeemed themselves, becoming the only team in MLB history to come back from an 0-3 deficit in a series.

Winning the Hardaway

NBA

This fail is extra special because the player’s team ended up winning. But his performance was so bad it had to be included. The Golden State Warriors’ Tim Hardaway set a terrible record by going 0-17 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s 17 shots, all missed. And this is nothing compared to a series of horrible comments he made off the court later in life. Trust us, don’t feel bad for Tim Hardaway.

Three In One

NY Daily News / Dan Farrell

Tommy John is know for the revolutionary tendon surgery that was named after him, as well as being a four time All Star pitcher. But we’re going to talk about the time he somehow managed to commit a record breaking three errors in one play. He couldn’t seem to pick up the ground ball, finally did and threw over the first baseman’s head, then fumbled the relay from right field before throwing past the catcher. Kind of amazing actually.

The Timeout

Wikimedia Commons

It was the 1993 NCAA Championship game between Michigan and North Carolina. The Wolverine's Chris Webber (of their Fab Five, seen above) had the ball with 15 seconds left and they needed two points. He then proceeded to travel, which the refs didn't see, and tried to call a time out, which the team didn't have. The rest is a very painful history with 35 million witnesses.

The Comeback

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That same year, another legendary fail occurred during the AFC Wild Card Game. The Warren Moon-led Houston Oilers were up 35-3 early in the third quarter, and the Buffalo Bills were using their backup quarterback Frank Reich and backup running back Kenneth Davis. This set the scene for what is still the biggest comeback in NFL history. The Bills ended up winning by 3 points in overtime. Unreal.

Four Free Throws

Sneaker History

All the Orlando Magic’s Nick Anderson had to do to win Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals was make a single free throw shot. Just one straight-forward basket. And on top of that, he ended up with an unheard of four chances to do so. Guess what happened? He missed, they lost and the team was so demoralized they proceeded to lose the next three games and the title. Read ahead for an even crazier fail...

Meltdown at the Masters

National Club Golfer

The Masters is the Super Bowl, or World Series, of golf. And it’s rare that anyone plays as well as Greg Norman did throughout the first three days back in 1996. But it was the last day that got him. He had broken a course record on day one and was in the lead before the final round where he had three straight bogeys, a double bogey on 12, and missed on his last of many failed chances to take home the green jacket.

There’s No Crying In Boxing

Instagram - @boxinglegacy

With another big jump from golf to boxing, comes maybe the most epic fail of them all. It was the 1997 rematch between Lennox Lewis and Oliver McCall, who had recently fallen apart outside of the ring. After several run-ins with the law and an ongoing battle with drug addiction, it wasn’t looking good for him. But it somehow ended up being much worse. He basically refused to fight, and honestly, the picture says it all.

Before Black Mamba

Wikipedia

Before Kobe Bryant was nicknamed The Black Mamba, he was a rookie struggling through a season-ending performance against the Utah Jazz. He’s always been a bit of a ball hog, but this was probably as bad as it ever got. It was Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, and with the series on the line, he shot four air balls to lose the game. Even some of the best of all time have off days.

Just One Kick

Star Tribune

The 1998 NFC Championship between the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons was almost over. It was up to Vikings kicker Gary Anderson, who had hit every single field goal that season without one miss, to nail a game-clenching 38 yarder to secure his team’s win. At this point you know where this is going. He picked a bad time to break his streak, and the Falcons ended up winning the whole thing.

The Choke

Golf Digest

There have been multiple golf fails in this article, while some were spared (Rory McIlroy’s 2011 Masters’ collapse) but this one is really bad. Jean Van De Velde just needed a double-bogey to win, and yes, he got a triple-bogey. Adding insult to injury, the engraver, who had already started to put his name on the trophy, had to scratch it off following the meltdown. Choking this bad in golf is now often referred to as a “Van de Velde.”

Music City Miracle

Titans Online

Into the 21st Century, and the chokes keep coming. It was a Wild Card game between the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) and the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo was winning with only 16 seconds left. The final play was a kickoff and all they had to do was prevent a touchdown, which almost never happens. Well this time it did. After a controversial lateral pass upon receiving the ball, the 75 yard return won the game.

Boswell’s Over It

Yahoo News

This list wouldn’t be complete without cricket, and Scott Boswell’s choke at the end of the 2001 C&G Trophy Final is maybe the biggest in the history of the sport. He bowled a 14-ball that was definitely one of the worst overs ever. If you’re unfamiliar with the rules and terminology of cricket, just take any choke in this article and put this one right up there with it.

The Hall of Lame

NBA

While this marks Kobe Bryant’s second appearance here, this isn’t about him. It’s about the poor guy from the Kings who had to guard him during the 2002 Western Conference Finals. But his choke didn’t come during the game, it happened in a controversial interview with his wife for a New York Times article that was easily one of the worst PR blunders in basketball.

River City Relay

Wikimedia Commons

Think back to The Play, when The Stanford Band ran onto the field at the last second and cost their team the game. Well if that had happened after 2003, the New Orleans Saints might’ve claimed that name for themselves. At the end of the game, they pulled off three lateral passes in one play for a touchdown, all they needed was the extra point to go into overtime. Enter John Carney, who missed that very kick. Unbelievable.

The Golden Sombrero

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This term is used for when a baseball player does the unthinkable by striking out four times in a single game. In 2004, in a game against the Anaheim Angels, the Milwaukee Brewers' Geoff Jenkins did this, plus two addition strike outs for good measure. This gave him the illustrious distinction of being one of eight players in MLB history to receive a Golden Sombrero and a half, also knows as a “Horn.”

Foul Foul Again

Wikimedia Commons

Some of the best chokes happen at the very end of the game. And we’ve already seen how epic missing some easy free throws is. This brings us to the 2008 NCAA Championship. With 2 minutes and 12 seconds left, the Kansas Jayhawks started desperately fouling the Memphis Tigers to stop the clock and slow down the game. And it worked, the Tigers missed almost all of their free throws and the Jayhawks won in over time.

Fairwell to Favre

Wikimedia Commons

Some of the biggest athletes of all time have been represented here, and now Brett Favre, arguably the best, is too. He is one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in NFL history, but no one is immune to failure. In the 2009 NFC Championship, he was playing with the Vikings against the Saints. Unfortunately, he threw two crucial interceptions in what would be his final playoff game. A sad farewell to one of the greats.

Three Zero Lead

Wikipedia

There are some epic instances of teams in seven game series blowing a 3-0 lead. In 2009, the Detroit Tigers failed to make it to the playoffs after allowing the Minnesota Twins to win four straight games. Ouch. And back in 1975, during the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, the New York Islanders did the same thing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many fails in this article are focused on one player, but these teams spread the blame around. How generous.

The Brotz Medal

Wikipedia

The then-undefeated (spoiler alert) Boise State could’ve beaten Nevada in regulation, but Kyle Brotzman missed a 26 yard field goal, sending the game into overtime. To make things worse, he then, with an almost immediate chance at redemption, missed a 29 yard field goal in said overtime, leaving his team with no shot at a national title. The only thing worse than missing a simple game winning field goal, is missing two.

Mixed Up Martial Arts

Instagram -
@georgestpierre

While not every single sports fail is discussed here, we have to include MMA. Like the time Fred Ettish, a traditional karate guy who wanted to legitimatize his style against a far superior kickboxer, was humiliated so badly that it immediately became one of the worst beatdowns ever. Or when welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre was defeated by Matt Serra at UFC 69 in one of the greatest upsets in MMA history. Keep reading for even crazier chokes...

Ultimate Failing Championship

Wikimedia Commons

These next fails didn’t even happen in the ring. At UFC 24, Kevin Randleman slipped backstage and knocked himself out. Ken Shamrock injured himself so badly while training for Kimbo Slice he couldn’t fight. And finally, we saved the best for last. That being the time when Tim Sylvia had an accident in his pants during a UFC fight, even worse than when he got knocked out in nine seconds in arguably the worst loss in MMA history.


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