American sports have brought us some of the greatest moments (and blunders) in television history. Let’s take a look back over the last 100 years or so to see some of the biggest sports blunders in history.
- The first big sports blunder occurred before the TV was invented and was more bad judgment than a “blunder.” In the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, Fred Lorz was on his way to accepting the gold medal for finishing first in the marathon event. Just before the gold medal was handed to him, it was discovered that Lorz had some help getting across that finish line. After nine miles of the marathon race, Lorz stopped running due to exhaustion. His manager gave him a ride in his car for the next 11 miles, but it broke down before Lorz arrived at his destination. Lorz got out of the car and walked back to Olympic Stadium where he broke the tape at the finish line and was greeted by spectators as the marathon winner. Lorz played along like he had run the race but quickly admitted that he hadn’t run the entire marathon and had gotten a ride in a car. Lorz was banned for life by the Amateur Athletic Union but was soon reinstated because he apologized for the silly stunt and officials realized he had not intended to defraud the Olympic committee.
- Canadian hockey player, Steve Smith, did something that athletes have nightmares about—score for the other team. In 1986, tied 2-2 in game seven of the NHL playoffs, this Edmonton Oiler put the other team (and arch-rival no less), the Calgary Flames, up one by scoring in his own net. The Flames held that lead for fifteen minutes and eventually won the game.
- This blunder was committed by NFL Head Coach, Walt Kiesling, in 1955. The Pittsburgh Steelers picked Johnny Unitas in the ninth round of the 1955 NFL Draft but cut him before the season even began. The coach said, basically, that Unitas was not smart enough to be an NFL quarterback. As most football fans know, Johnny Unitas is a Hall of Famer who is known as one of the greatest passers in NFL history. In fact, “The Golden Arm” held the record of throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games for 52 years until the Saints’ Drew Brees broke that record in October 2012.
- A coach gets the credit for what has been dubbed “The Game of the Century” (and not in a good way!). In 1966, No. 1 ranked Notre Dame faced No. 2 ranked Michigan State and with only 34 seconds left in the game with the teams tied 10-10, Notre Dame decided to run out the clock instead of going for the win. This cowardly decision somehow resulted in the two teams sharing the National Championship trophy even though Alabama was 11-0 for that season.
- A huge mistake was made in the final seconds of the 1982 NCAA Basketball Championship title game. The Georgetown Hoyas were down one point and had possession of the ball . Then, Hoyas guard, Fred Brown, threw the ball right into the hands of North Carolina’s James Worthy, which sealed their fate of losing the title.
- In this heartbreaking blunder, a timeout was the team’s demise. With less than 20 seconds left on the clock, Michigan was trailing North Carolina by two points in the National Basketball Championship game. Michigan player, Chris Webber, dribbled up court and called a timeout with only 12 seconds on the clock but the team had no remaining timeouts. Webber’s blunder resulted in a technical foul and when North Carolina sunk their two free throws, they clinched the game!
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