50 famous sports goofs

November 12, 2019
Ezra Shaw // Getty Images

50 famous sports goofs

World-class athletes can seem immortal. They run faster, jump higher, and hit harder than any other human beings on the planet. But when these mythical players trip, fumble, or screw up in hilarious ways, fans get to relish in the briefest of moments when these surreal characters prove themselves to be mere mortals after all. Fans—even in their laughter—can empathize with a player's plight on the field, finding a momentary connection to the humanity of their heroes.

Thanks to technology like instant replay and social media, sports goofs are indelible. Adoring fans around the world can like, share, and laugh over and over again at the often-tragic moments that occur in these rare, fallible instances.

Stacker investigated some of the most embarrassing, craziest, and strangest sports goofs in history to help fans and wannabe athletes alike get a good laugh and feel a little less bad about their feats in their own sporting lives. The unique list draws from several sources and includes embarrassing bloopers across different sports. From a mix-up leading to a 54-year marathon time to premature celebrations to running the wrong way on the field, this gallery includes some of the most well-known goofs (and many you may not have heard of).

Click through for a list of 50 famous sports goofs that will bring about a sense of nostalgia for witnessing greatness fail for the first time. But don't feel too bad for the offenders—most of these athletes are still making millions.

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Chris Webber calls a timeout

It was April 5, 1993. The Michigan Wolverines had the Fab Five (an all-freshmen starting lineup) consisting of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. They were playing against perennial favorite North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game and were down by two points with 11 seconds to go. Webber infamously grabbed the ball and called a timeout, not realizing the Wolverines were out of timeouts. He was assessed a technical foul for the mistake. As a result, Michigan lost the game and Webber will forever be remembered for the mishap.

Bill Buckner makes a blunder

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the score was tied in the 10th inning and the Boston Red Sox were up three games to two against the New York Mets. This was the year that the Red Sox were going to break the famous Curse of the Bambino...until Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a routine ground ball to first baseman Bill Buckner and the ball miraculously rolled through Buckner's legs. The Mets won the game and eventually the series. It took 18 more years for Red Sox fans to forgive Buckner when they finally won the World Series again in 2004.

Steve Bartman interferes

The Chicago Cubs were another cursed team. Heading into the 2003 baseball season, the team hadn't won a World Series in 95 years. The '03 team had the third-best record in the league and it seemed possible that they would finally break the Cubs' losing streak. Except on Oct. 14, 2003, during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, Steve Bartman happened. Florida Marlins player Luis Castillo hit a pop-up down the left line, and when left fielder Moises Alou went for the catch, he collided with Bartman's outstretched glove and missed the ball. The Cubs quickly unraveled and lost the series and Bartman.nearly had to go into witness protection because of the anger Cubs fans directed at him. Luckily, he reconciled with the team after the Cubs won the 2016 World Series and was given a championship ring.

Mark Sanchez butt fumbles

The New York Jets are generally considered one of the worst teams in the NFL. They haven't won a Super Bowl since 1968, and almost always finish with a subpar record during the season. That's why the “Butt Fumble” wasn't all that surprising. Partway into the second quarter, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was running a play against the New England Patriots when, just after the snap, he ran directly into the butt of teammate Brandon Moore, fumbled the ball, and the Patriots recovered and scored. Typical Jets.

J.R. Smith doesn't realize game is tied

LeBron James had just played the best game of his career in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors couldn't stop James, who put up 51 points that night. The one thing that did stop him, however, was his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith. With the score tied 107-107 and almost five seconds left, Smith grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw, rushed the ball out, and threw a bad pass to George Hill, who then missed the game-winning shot. Smith was confused and didn't realize the game was tied; if he had the team could have used their remaining timeout and called a decisive play. The Cavs lost the game and the moment is forever memorialized in a classic LeBron meme.

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Leon Lett has a premature celebration

In Super Bowl XXVII, the Dallas Cowboys were facing off against the Buffalo Bills. On a pivotal play, Cowboys star Leon Lett recovered a fumble and ran all the way to the endzone for a sure-thing touchdown. Lett, however, celebrated a tad too early, and when he got to the two-yard-line, Bills player Don Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett's hand, preventing the score. Fortunately for Lett, the Cowboys destroyed the Bills 52-17 and the play is merely a footnote, rather than the worst mistake in Super Bowl history.

Carl Lewis throws the first pitch

After winning nine gold medals over the course of his Olympic career, track star Carl Lewis was invited by the Seattle Mariners to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in 2003. What came next was quite possibly the worst first pitch in MLB history; the ball took six bounces to make it to home plate. His rendition of the National Anthem wasn't much better.

Jim Marshall goes the wrong way

Jim Marshall is widely recognized as one of the best defensive ends in Minnesota Vikings history. Marshall is also infamous for one of the biggest blunders in NFL history. On Oct. 25, 1964, the Vikings were playing the 49ers and Jim Marshall recovered the ball on a fumble. Marshall then ran 66 yards in the wrong direction, and instead of touchdown for the Vikings, it was a safety instead. Luckily for Marshall, the Vikings still won the game.

DeSagana Diop misses a free throw

While playing for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012, DeSagana Diop was fouled and got his requisite time at the free-throw line. Unfortunately for him, he missed the basket by about three feet and will forever be remembered for shooting the worst free throw in NBA history. Diop's days playing professional basketball ended about a year later and he now coaches for the Utah Jazz—hopefully with some better free throw tips.

Gronk dents Lombardi

When an NFL team wins a Super Bowl, they're rewarded with the Vince Lombardi trophy, named after legendary coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. When the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, they were asked to come out for the first pitch with the Boston Red Sox. Patriots star and team clown Rob Gronkowski decided to play around with the trophy and took a pitch from Julian Edelman using the trophy as a bat. Gronk jokingly feigned a bunt but accidentally hit the ball anyway, denting the trophy. Fortunately for the Patriots, they have five other Lombardis in pristine condition.

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Michael Ryder dents Lord Stanley

The NHL's Stanley Cup is the oldest physical trophy in all of sports. When an NHL team wins, each player is given a full day to spend with the cup however they like. The Boston Bruins won the Cup in 2011, and the tradition continued as always. When Bruins player Michael Ryder took the cup to Canada, he placed it on a shaky table and the cup toppled over, denting on the ground.

Sergio Garcia hits 5 shots in the water

In 2018, the reigning champion Sergio Garcia went into the tournament looking to defend his title; he lost his chance in the first round. During the 15th hole, the golfer hit his ball into the water five times in a row while trying to reach the green. Garcia ended up finishing the hole in 13 strokes, tying for the worst score on one hole on the course and sinking himself to the bottom of the leaderboard.

Japan's first Olympian takes 54 years to finish the race

Shizo Kanakuri, Japan's "father of the marathon" and one of the country's first Olympians, came to the 1912 Stockholm Games at a disadvantage. Japan had little experience training Olympic marathon runners and Kanakuri was stuck on the Trans-Siberian Railway for 10 days before the games with little opportunity to train. He collapsed in the middle of the race because of extreme overheating and was taken in by residents before returning to Japan. Kanakuri forgot to inform race officials of his withdrawal from the race and he was marked missing. 55 years later—after a long and successful running career—he was invited back to Stockholm to finish the race; his final time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

Joba Chamberlain faces the midges

Forever remembered as “The Midges Game,” Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians became one for the history books. It was an unusually hot and humid day at the ballpark and in the middle of the seventh inning, an infestation of midges ravaged the field. Joba Chamberlain was the Yankees reliever on the mound and was inundated with the bugs. Chamberlain wound up getting shellacked by the Indians batters, costing the Yankees the game and ultimately the series.

Woody Austin goes for a swim

The Presidents Cup is a golf match that pits the American players against the rest of the world, minus Europe. During the 2007 match, American golfer Woody Austin tried to hit his golf ball as it rested in water. Not only did Austin miss the ball, but he slipped and fell face-first into the lake. Luckily, he was completely fine and after the hole, Austin rallied and helped his team to a tie for the match and ultimately a Presidents Cup win for the U.S.

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Lindsey Jacobellis falls to silver

U.S. snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis was the favorite to win gold in the 2006 Olympics women's snowboardcross race and as she approached the finish line, it seemed almost certain she would live up to expectations. On her final jump, Jacobellis grabbed her board in mid-air in a move called the Method. This additional flourish proved to be her literal downfall, as she lost her balance in a gust of wind and came toppling down just before the finish line. Jacobellis watched as a Swiss snowboarder rushed past her for the gold and she had to settle for silver.

Sergio Ramos drops the cup

One of the biggest soccer's biggest rivalries is between Barcelona and Madrid, specifically when they play for the Spanish Cup in the Copa del Rey competition. In 2011, a new trophy was created for the winner, who happened to be Madrid that year. While celebrating in the streets of Madrid, defender Sergio Ramos accidentally dropped the trophy from the top of a double-decker bus, and the bus proceeded to run right over it. Still, a win is a win.

Steven Bradbury is the last man standing

The finals of the 1000m Olympic short-track speed skating was packed with four talented athletes all battling for gold. The fifth, Australia's Steven Bradbury, only made it to the finals due to some lucky disqualifications and falls in the quarter and semi-final rounds. His luck would hold however, when all four of the gold metal favorites fell in a massive pile-up right before the finish line. Bradbury, who had been lagging behind the entire race, skated past his competitors to claim the gold.

Jose Canseco headbutts a ball out of the field

MLB's Jose Canseco is known for many things. He was a famous power-hitter. He used steroids during his playing days. And he once helped a ball become a home run when it bounced off his head. On May 26, 1993, Canseco chased a fly ball into right field, but it missed his glove, bounced off his noggin, and went over the wall, giving Carlos Martinez a home run.

'The Play' surprises Stanford

In the annals of sports, it's simply known as "The Play." It was Nov. 20, 1982, and the California Golden Bears were squaring off against conference rival the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinals were winning 20-19 with just four seconds left. They kicked the football to the Golden Bears, who began lateralling the ball back and forth, trying to score a touchdown on the last play. Certain its team had won, the Stanford marching band stormed the field in the middle of the play and began playing music. As that happened, the Golden Bears ran the ball in for a touchdown, winning the game 25-20.

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Brianna Otto throws up mid-lift

Powerlifting has some interesting side effects. When the body goes through extreme stress—like lifting massive amounts of weight—things can, well, come up. During a deadlift competition, female weightlifter Brianna Otto pushed her body so hard that she began vomiting mid-lift. To her credit, she didn't drop the bar.

Stephan Feck does a back flop

When Olympic divers miss their spots, it's not a pretty picture. During the London Olympics in 2012, German diver Stephan Feck lost his grip on his legs mid-dive and flopped as if it was his first time trying. Feck scored all zeroes from the judges and ultimately got knocked out of the competition with nothing but a viral moment to show for it.

Enzo LeFort loses his phone

It's hard to walk five feet nowadays without seeing a person staring at their phone. So, maybe it shouldn't be that surprising when an Olympian competes with a phone in their pocket. During the Rio Olympics in 2016, French fencer Enzo Lefort was competing against Germany's Peter Joppich, when Joppich leaned in for a strike and LeFort's phone fell out of his back pocket. He ultimately lost the match but his phone mishap had little to do with it.

Michael Beasley wears the wrong shorts

Michael Beasley is well known in NBA circles for being a bit of an odd duck. On multiple occasions, he's broken both NBA rules and the laws of the United States. That's why very few people were shocked on Jan. 17, 2019. While playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Beasley tried to check into the game but he wasn't allowed because he was wearing the wrong shorts.

The Super Bowl loses power

The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in America, so major mistakes or problems rarely occur outside the field. During Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, however, the lights suddenly went out in the stadium. At the time of the outage, the Ravens were winning 28-6 and seemed to have the game in hand. But after a 34-minute delay, the Niners charged back. They still lost 34-31 in one of the most memorable games in Super Bowl history.

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A dog bite saves Torquay

One of the most unlikely scenarios in soccer helped spawn a Netflix series. Torquay United was playing Crewe Alexandra in a consequential match. If Torquay didn't win or tie the match, there was a chance they would be relegated to a lower league. United player Jim McNichol was hoping to tie the 2-1 match in the final few minutes of play when a police dog—believing its owner was in danger—took a bite out of McNichol's leg. Torquay was able to score a goal during injury time added to the game because of the dog bite and staved off relegation for the year.

Nick Kyrgios forgets his shoes

Nick Kyrgios is one of the most colorful players in professional tennis. He typically wears basketball sneakers when he strolls onto the court, before changing into his tennis shoes. But when he walked out on the court for the second round of the Western & Southern Open, Kyrgios forgot his shoes altogether, scrambling to find them before winning the match in three sets.

Manchester City and Reading play rock, paper, scissors

After the coin toss at the beginning of each soccer match, the winning team decides which goal it wants to attack in the first half. In a Super League match between Manchester City and Reading, referee David McNamara forgot his coin in the locker room and instead had the two captains play rock, paper, scissors to determine the winner. Unfortunately for McNamara, he was suspended for his split decision.

Brandon Marshall fails to communicate

Brandon Marshall has always been one of the most vocal players over his NFL career. As a result, the NFL asked him to wear a microphone during one of his team's games. In an incredibly awkward sideline moment, Marshall was caught on mic asking his teammate how to spell "communication," which is ironic considering his nonstop jawing on the field.

D'Angelo Russell escalates a prank war

D'Angelo Russell was pulling a prank on Los Angeles Lakers teammate Nick Young when he got Young to admit on camera that he was cheating on his famous fiancée Iggy Azalea. The tape leaked, Young got caught, and Russell got traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

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Cleveland Browns 'The Fumble'

The Browns found themselves down a touchdown with just over a minute left in the 1987 AFC Championship Game with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line. They advanced the ball to the 1-yard line, when Earnest Byner took the handoff and was stripped on his way into the end zone. The Broncos won and caused one of the many infamous Browns moments.

Cleveland Indians’ Ten Cent Beer Night

In the summer of 1974, the Indians, to increase attendance, held a promotional night in which beer was discounted from 65 to 10 cents. With no restrictions on purchases, the plan backfired; fans rioted in the ninth inning and the Indians forfeited the game.

Dan Orvlosky’s infamous safety

The Lions’ Dan Orlovsky proclaimed himself an “idiot” following his first career NFL start in 2008. In a moment of confusion, the quarterback scrambled away from a sack, only to run through the back of his own zone for a safety. Worse yet, Detroit lost by exactly two points, and went on to an 0-16 season.

Cody Parkey: 'Double Doink'

Nicknames: the most telling sign of an infamous NFL moment. Down one with 10 seconds remaining in the Bears 2018 Wild Card Game against the Eagles, kicker Cody Parkey doinked not once, but twice—off the upright, then the crossbar—to end Chicago’s season. It was his sixth (sixth!) time hitting the uprights in the season.

Scott Norwood misses 'Wide Right'

Al Michaels' call of "No good...wide right" became so infamous in the years following the Buffalo Bills' first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses, that many simply refer to the game by the nickname. Kicker Scott Norwood, with Buffalo trailing the Giants by one point with eight seconds remaining in Super Bowl 25, lined up for a 47-yard field goal. The kick drifted wide of the uprights in the most famous Super Bowl miss to date.

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Blair Walsh: Freezing cold miss

The Vikings played their 2015 home games outdoors at the University of Minnesota prior to their move to a new indoor stadium. In severely freezing conditions, they hosted the Seahawks in the 2015 Wild Card Game. Loyal fans gutted out the inhumane conditions for three hours, only to watch Blair Walsh miss a 27-yard game-winning field goal. 

Greg Norman’s 1996 Masters collapse

Australian great Greg Norman led the 1996 Masters by six strokes heading into the final round, and by four strokes with 11 holes remaining Sunday. His ball went in the water on the 12th and 16th, ultimately shooting a six-over 78 to lose by five strokes. His collapse to his knees during the meltdown is the surviving image.

Jean van de Velde’s 18th-hole meltdown

There is no more famous golf meltdown, however, than Jean van de Velde at the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. The Frenchman led by three strokes entering the final hole yet took an aggressive approach off the tee that fortunately avoided the water. But his second shot sailed wide, bounced off the grandstand and a rock backward, settling into deep rough; his third shot went in the water short of the green; his fifth into a bunker; his sixth onto the green; and his seventh in the hole for a triple bogey. He lost the eventual playoff.

Dustin Johnson’s 2010 PGA Championship blunder

Dustin Johnson, seeking his first major win, led the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits by one stroke heading to the 18th hole. It appeared he’d bogeyed to force a playoff; however, officials ruled Johnson had “grounded” his club in a fairway bunker (golf rules state a one-shot penalty for a club touching the sand prior to a swing in a bunker). They changed his score to a double bogey and dropped him from the playoff. As the sides of the fairways had been heavily trampled by spectators for four days, Johnson had thought it was just a piece of bare ground rather than a sand trap.

Jordan Spieth goes in Rae's Creek twice

Defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth entered the back nine of the 2016 final round with a five-stroke lead but went into a tailspin that crescendoed with a quadruple bogey on the 12th hole. The famed Rae's Creek sits at the bottom of the short par three, protecting the front of the green and claimed Spieth as one of its notorious victims. His tee shot splashed. Having taken a subsequent penalty drop just in front of the creek—as opposed to hitting another tee shot—he "chunked" a short wedge back into the water. After carding a 7, Spieth settled for a tie for second.

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Auburn fouls Virginia with less than 1 second in Final Four

Down by two points in the national semifinals of the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Virginia’s Kyle Guy was fouled on a last-second three-point attempt (0.6 seconds to be exact). He made all three, sending Virginia to the finals, where the Cavaliers won their first title in school history.

'Kick Six:' 2013 Alabama vs. Auburn

The Iron Bowl is one of the most famous sports rivalries. In 2013, #4 Auburn hosted #1 Alabama. In a tie game, the Tide attempted a 57-yard field goal with one second left, while Auburn’s Chris Davis stood at the back of the end zone in case the kick was short—and returnable. The kick fell just under the crossbar and into Davis’ hands. Alabama’s coverage was unprepared and, for 100 yards, failed to tackle Davis, who took it the distance for a walk-off touchdown known as the “Kick Six.”

Disco Demolition Night

In another baseball promotional night gone awry, the Chicago White Sox discounted tickets for a July 1979 game, in which a radio DJ would blow up a crate of disco records on the field in between games of a doubleheader to mark the end of the once-popular music’s popularity. Thousands of unexpected fans snuck in, however, ultimately storming the field, while the DJ tore a hole and created a fire in the outfield. A full riot ensued, and the White Sox forfeited the second game.

Serena Williams penalized at 2018 U.S. Open final

Serena Williams trailed Naomi Osaka 2-6, 3-4 in the 2018 U.S. Open final when her frustration with chair umpire Carlos Ramos bubbled over during a break. Ramos had issued a first warning for receiving coaching from her box, followed by a point penalty on her second rules violation for slamming her racquet. With the match slipping, Williams argued she had been cheated out of a point, demanded an apology from Ramos, and called him a thief. Ramos penalized her a full game—as her third code violation—for verbal abuse. Williams told officials she wouldn't have experienced the same if she were a male. Despite the controversy, Osaka won her first major.

Saints 'No Call' in NFC Championship

The Saints and Rams were tied under two minutes in the 2018 NFC Championship Game; though future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and New Orleans were inside the Rams' 20 approaching a potential touchdown. On a 3rd-and-10 pass, Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis appeared to be obviously interfered with—well, crushed—by the Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman prior to the ball's arrival. The refs failed to throw a flag; the Saints settled for a field goal and three-point lead, and the Rams won in overtime.

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Super Bowl 49: Seahawks goal-line interception

In the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, rarely do opposing teams find themselves with a golden opportunity to beat New England in the Super Bowl. In February 2015, Seattle trailed 28-24 with the ball on the Patriots’ 1-yard line and 26 seconds remaining. Rather than attempt a higher-percentage run with workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson tried to throw for the win, only to be picked off on the goal line by Malcolm Butler, who read the play perfectly, jumped the route, and sealed Super Bowl 49 for New England.

Maximum Security DQ’d in Kentucky Derby win

In the 145th Kentucky Derby in 2019, betting tickets believed to be winners were furiously torn up, and those thrown in the trash were quickly dug out. Twenty minutes after Maximum Security crossed the finish line first, officials disqualified the winner for (barely, almost unnoticeably) leaving his path and interfering with the others on the final turn. 30-1 long shot Country House was awarded the win in the most controversial finish in Triple Crown history.

Zinedine Zidane World Cup headbutt

The 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy went to extra time tied 1-1, when French goalscorer Zinedine Zidane headbutted Italian Marco Materazzi and was shown a red card. The two had been jawing, and Materazzi had tugged at Zidane’s jersey. Soon after the Frenchman lost his composure and headbutted the Italian in the chest in one of the most shocking moments in World Cup history. Italy won the penalty shootout in the absence of Zidane.

Cleveland Browns’ 'Bottlegate'

Cleveland was a victim of suspect officiating in 2001, when the Browns trailed 15-10 at home to the Jaguars in Week 14 with around a minute remaining. Refs reviewed a completed pass from two plays prior on a fourth-down conversion and overturned the call, ruling it incomplete, and giving the ball to Jacksonville with 48 seconds. Apoplectic Browns fans threw debris onto the field—including many beer bottles—and as a result the refs ended the game prematurely, as well as Cleveland’s playoff hopes.

Fail Mary

The 2012 NFL season saw a referee lockout become the "replacement ref" phenomenon, as the full-time judges were on strike. On a seemingly innocuous Monday night matchup between the Seahawks and Packers. Seattle possessed the ball down 12-7 with eight seconds remaining, so Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary into the end zone as time expired. Both a Seattle receiver—who appeared to clearly push off—and Green Bay safety came down with the ball simultaneously, two refs made opposite calls, the play—officially deemed a touchdown—was reviewed, and the score was upheld on insufficient evidence. ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote: "The final game of Week 3 finally gave the NFL what it deserved: An apparent mistake by its inadequate replacement officials impacted the outcome of the game. The Packers were the very unfortunate victims."

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