How often during a sporting event, do you hear that? I was having a beer with a friend last week at the Lagerhaus Brewery in Palm Harbor when our stammtisch discussion swung toward the worst calls in sports.
The owner and brew master (Franz) stocks a large assortment of German, Austrian, Belgian, and craft beers. Franz introduces guest beers each week. This week’s were from Czechoslovakia. After enjoying a Bohemian Dunkel and midway through a Staropramen, we had concluded our discussion. We decided that if the following were not the worst sports calls ever, they were at the very least among the worst calls we could remember.
- Football. The Tuck Rule from the 2001 AFC divisional playoff game on January 19, 2002. You all know the circumstances. Raiders lead 13-10 with about two minutes left in the game. The Patriots’ Tom Brady is bringing the ball forward when he is hit and fumbles. The referee reviews the play and determines that even though Brady has his non-throwing hand on the ball, the forward movement constitutes a forward pass. The Patriots retain possession, tie the game, win in overtime, win the AFC Championship game over the Steelers, and win Super Bowl 36 over the Rams. Brady goes on to meet and marry a model and quarterback the Patriots dynasty over the next decade plus. The Tuck Rule was repealed in March of 2013.
- Hockey. Leon Stickel. ‘Nuff said? If you are a Flyers fan, you remember or heard about the non-call in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Flyers and Islanders on May 24, 1980. Butch Goring accepted an off sides pass and fed Brian Sutter for a go-ahead, 2-1 goal. That the goal occurred late in the first period is often forgotten. Most fans attribute Stickels’ no call to Bob Nystrom’s overtime goal.
- Basketball. How about any Michael Jordan travel. No? Okay, the 1972 Olympic Gold medal game between the USA and USSR on September 10, 1972. A probably concussed Doug Collins sank 2 free throws with 3 seconds remaining to give the USA a 50-49 lead. The in bounds pass was deflected and time ran out. Gold medal USA. Wait. The USSR was given a new 3 seconds and missed a desperation shot. Gold medal USA. Wait, again. The head of FIBA, Renato William Jones, came out of the stands to award the Soviets another 3 seconds and this time they converted a full court, Chris Lattner-like pass and lay up to win the game, 51-50. Cheaters! The USA players refused to accept their silver medals. The loss ended American domination of the sport. The USA carried a 63-0 record into the Gold Medal Game. Their silver medals remain unclaimed in storage in Switzerland.
- Baseball. There are a lot of bad calls in baseball even with instant replay. One of the worst I remember is the non-interference call on Derek Jeter’s fly ball to the right field wall in Game One of the ALCS on October 9, 1996. A young fan reached ovr the wall and deflected the ball into the stands. The blind umpire, standing at the wall ruled home run and the game was tied. The kid didn’t even hold on to the ball. However, the worst call (in my opinion) was by Don Denkinger in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. In a play that was eerily similar to the blown call in Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS between the Phillies-Dodgers (Black Friday), Denkinger blew an out call at first base in the ninth inning that helped the Royals come back against the Cardinals. The Royals trailed in the game 1-0 and in the series 3 games to 2. The blown call allowed the leadoff batter to reach base.
Before putting this together, I checked online to verify some of the facts. It’s amazing how the stories’ facts can differ from one article to another.
Agree? Disagree? Have a worse call? Share below. Enjoy the Super Bowl if you follow football. I don’t anymore. I’m just a casual viewer. We had a lot of blacked out games when we moved down here. A steady diet of the Buccaneers soured me on the sport, so I lost interest. If I were a betting man though, Carolina. Top 30 poll continues next week.