If there’s one thing that can bring entire countries together (and divide them, naturally), it’s sports. And for every team in every sport, it seems like there’s some kind of insane lore surrounding one play, one player, one game, one season—one whatever—where things were perfect. Fans use these stories of triumph as crutches in bad times, and soapboxes in good times. They depend on them to keep their team’s dream alive. Eh. Fuck that. What about those times when our favorite sports icons or franchises completely fucking blow it and bring their fans nothing but shame? Yeah baby! That’s the story we’re interested in. Here are the six most epic sports fails in history.
1. John “We All Choke Sometimes” McEnroe—1984 French Open: If you ask famous tennis player John McEnroe what his best season was, he’ll tell you it was 1984, without a shadow of a doubt. He hadn’t lost a single match and was coming off a 42-win streak when he came into the finals of that year’s French Open against Ivan Lendl. He killed Lendl in the first two sets, and then apparently had an outburst because he thought a cameraman’s headphones were too loud. He couldn’t get it back together after the melt down, and wound up losing to Lendl in a battering five-set loss. To this day, he says he’s never quite gotten over it.
2. The 1992 Houston Oilers—January ’93 NFL Wildcard Playoffs: At the time, the Oilers were considered one of the best teams in the NFL. So it shocked pretty much nobody that by the beginning of the third quarter in their wildcard playoff matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the Oilers led the Bills by an astonishing 35-3. We won’t go into the nitty gritty, but by the end of overtime—yes, overtime—the Oilers had thoroughly choked and the Bills took home the “W” with a final score of 41-38. To this day, it is the greatest comeback (and choke) in NFL history.
3. Atlanta Falcons—Super Bowl 51: You know, it sure is fun to hate on a team like The New England Patriots, because they’re the perfect pretty boy named Chad of NFL teams. And fuck Chad. But when they really do the damn thing, you have to give it to them. The Falcons were having a solid season with an 11-5 record that was good enough to give them the No. 2 spot in the NFC playoffs. They came into Super Bowl 51 very strong, stretching a lead over the Patriots of 28-3 going into the 3rd Quarter—and by the 4th, sat comfortably at 28-9. But then fail happened. Tom Brady, that fuck, started putting points on the board, the Falcons lost their composure and New England wound up winning 34-28 in overtime, which today is officially remembered as the biggest choke (or biggest comeback victory, if you’re not a pessimist) in Super Bowl History.
4. Boston Bruins—2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals: The Bruins met with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, and by all indications, they were a shoe-in for a place in the finals. They took an early 3-0 series lead against the Flyers and everything was looking excellent. But then, they failed. For whatever reason, the Bruins were outplayed and gave the next three games to the Flyers, tying the series at 3-3. On the night of the last bout, the Bruins took an early 3-0 lead in the first period, a feat that would make even the most worthy adversary think twice. But their celebration was short-lived, as the Flyers would come back to win the series in a crushing 4-3 defeat. We heard people in Boston literally cried over it.
5. Boston Red Sox (Bill Buckner)—Game 6 of 1986 World Series: It’s hard to believe, but it has been over 30 years since a guy playing a game accidentally let a ball go through his legs, and here we are, still talking about it, still writing about it, still laughing, crying or fuming about it… And that’s kind of the point. Boston Red Sox First Baseman Bill Buckner wasn’t having a very good game in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against The New York Mets, and in the bottom of the 10th, things took a drastic turn for the worse. Mookie Wilson hit a basic slow roller to Buckner at first base—it was an easy ball that would have basically given him the out the Red Sox needed to send the game into an 11th inning. But Buckner failed, the ball rolled left of his glove, right between his leg and into right field, leaving the road open for Ray Knight to score the winning run from second base, tying the series. The Mets would come back to win Game 7, giving them the second World Championship in their franchise’s history, and forever establishing Buckner as the single biggest sports fail of all time.
6. New Orleans Saints (John Carney)—December 21, 2003, Against Jacksonville Jaguars: Over a decade later and well in our rear view mirror, this is just one of those awful, awful NFL happenings that we can’t help but laugh at now. The Saints had just thrown three lateral passes to score a touchdown as the clock ticked down through regulation, bringing the score near-even at 20-19. All veteran kicker John Carney had to do was not miss the one-point kick and the game would have went into overtime, thus keeping the Saints’ dreams of reaching the playoffs alive. But Carney failed, blew the kick and ended the Saints’ season right then and there. It was so bad even the announcers couldn’t hold back their astonished discontent. And what made it even worse was that, earlier in the season, Saints Head Coach Jim Haslett had told reporters that he trusted Carney so much that he’d stake his life on it. Lololololol. We know! Are you cringing? Because we’re cringing, and we love it!