Recapping the worst blown calls in sports history

Recapping the worst blown calls in sports history

Photo Credits: DAVIS WHALEN / AGGIE

Missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship among the worst in history

With just over two minutes to play in this year’s NFC Championship game, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees dropped back in the pocket from his own 44 yard line and hit wide receiver Ted Ginn for a 43 yard gain, advancing the Saints into the red zone. With the game tied and a Super Bowl birth on the line, the Saints stood just 13 yards away from the endzone and had an 88 percent chance to capture the win, according to ESPN.

All the momentum was on the Saints’ side, but this changed just three plays later. On the third down and 10, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman got away with an egregious pass interference penalty on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Robey-Coleman not only made downfield contact in an obvious attempt to prevent Lewis from catching the ball, but he also made head to head contact with Lewis.

This play could have drawn at least two different penalties, but not a single one was called. The NFL’s Head of Officials, Alberto Riveron, told Saints Head Coach Sean Payton that the officials “blew the call” by not penalizing the Rams for pass interference late in the fourth quarter.

Had the pass interference been properly called, the Saints would have had the ball first and goal inside the Rams’ ten yard line, as well as a much better chance to score a touchdown and go ahead by at least six points. Instead, the Saints were forced to settle for a field goal to take a three-point lead that the Rams were able to overcome after forcing overtime.

Essentially, the Saints appeared to have been robbed in what many are calling the worst missed call in NFL history. Some Saints fans have even gone so far as to file a lawsuit against the league for the mistake, and others staged a massive protest during the Super Bowl. While this mistake was shocking, it begs the question: was this the worst blown call in all of sports history?

Arguably one of the worst calls in all of sports history took place rather recently, back in June of 2010, in a game between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. With veteran umpire Jim Joyce calling the shots at first base, Detroit’s Armando Galarraga took the mound against the Indians and pitched the best game of his career.

At the time, only 20 pitchers in MLB history had pitched perfect games, in which the other team did not hit a single ball, receive a single walk or benefit from a single error; 27 straight outs are the only things recorded on the team’s scorecard. That evening, Galarraga had recorded 26 straight outs and was one out away from completing the coveted perfect game. With two outs in the ninth inning, he faced Cleveland shortstop Jason Donald for what was expected to be the final of Galarraga’s perfect game.

Donald hit a routine ground ball to the Tigers’ first baseman, and Galarraga covered first base to receive the ball from his teammate mere seconds before Donald’s foot hit the bag. Joyce, however, saw the opposite. He called Donald safe and, despite cries from the fans and the entire Tigers team, stuck to his call, ending Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game.

At the time, instant replay was only allowed to be used in MLB playoff games — a rule that has since then been abandoned — so the umpires were not required to review the play. The instant replay that fans saw on their televisions at home, however, showed that the call was completely wrong and that Galarraga had caught the ball before Donald stepped onto the base.

Though Joyce could not be persuaded to change his mind during the game, the umpire broke down in tears after the final out was recorded and he saw the replay, admitting to reporters that he cost Galarraga a perfect game.

Though Galarraga publicly forgave Joyce for the call and the two men went on to publish a book together titled “Nobody’s Perfect,” baseball fans have never forgotten his major blunder.

Next on the list of all-time officiating catastrophes comes the missed handball in the quarterfinals of the 1984 FIFA World Cup between Argentina and England. With the game tied in a scoreless match, Argentina pushed down the field following halftime. Argentinian legend Diego Maradona chased down a ball that was misplaced by an English defender, where he was on track to collide head-on with the goalie.

As they both approached the ball, Maradona elevated and extended as far as he could to attempt to head the ball in. England goalie Peter Shilton thrusted forward to punch the ball out of the air, but it was the fist of Diego Maradona that punched the ball into the net. Because his hand was so close to his head, and the officials apparently having a historically embarrassing angle, the handball was not called. Not only did Argentina win that game by a single goal but also went on to win the entire World Cup tournament. Later on, Maradona would dub his infamous goal ‘the hand of God.’

The 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich, West Germany also left a sour taste in sports fans’ mouths — specifically for U.S.A. basketball fans — after a botched call. Going into the Olympics, the United States’ men’s basketball team had an undefeated 62-0 record, the longest win streak in all of Olympic history. This was thought to have sealed the deal on the claim that basketball was an American dominated sport — something that Renato William Jones, president of the International Federation of Amateur Basketball, worried about.

The U.S.S.R., however, refused to believe this. The Soviets assembled a team of veterans to make up their basketball team and even sent a bribe in the form of high quality vodka and cigars to Jones, among other things.

The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. met in the gold medal game. Toward the end of the contest, the Americans led by two points with just one second left on the clock. The Soviet team complained to officials that the time out they tried to call before the most recent free throw was completely ignored, and Jones demanded that three seconds should be added to the clock. The officials complied, and three seconds were added, but it was not enough for the team to pull ahead.

Jones complained again that the clock had started prematurely, and an additional three seconds were added back. This was just enough time for the Soviets to score the winning basket, breaking the American’s undefeated run. The American team refused to accept the silver medal, and it remains unclaimed to this day in a vault in Switzerland.

Although it is difficult to determine which call, or missed call, was the most egregious, it is fair to say that no sport is safe from poor officiating.

Written by: AJ Seymour –– sports@theaggie.org