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Original Issue

Dumbest Sports Moments

It's true that someone has to win and someone has to lose, but nobody has to make these kinds of colossal blunders


Oct. 12, 1989
In the third-worst trade in history, behind beads-for-Manhattan and Ruth-for-cash, the Super Bowl--contending Minnesota Vikings exchange five players and eight draft choices for one man with two bad wheels and a penchant for speaking in the third person. Herschel Walker, newly acquired from the Dallas Cowboys, runs 47 yards on his first play as a Viking. Unbeknownst to delirious fans, though, that'll be his typical output for entire games. Dallas and Dynasty were famous soaps in the '80s. But the words were synonymous in the '90s, thanks to the Vikings.


Jan. 30, 1999
The night before Super Bowl XXXIII, Atlanta Falcons free safety Eugene Robinson leaves his wife and two children in a Miami hotel and propositions an undercover cop posing as a prostitute. He does so 100 yards from a police sub-station. With 5,000 sportswriters in town. Hours after accepting the Bart Starr Award from Athletes in Action for exhibiting "high moral character." The next day he gets torched on an 80-yard John Elway-to-Rod Smith touchdown pass in Atlanta's 34-19 loss to the Broncos. Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mr. Robinson.


June 4, 1974
By holding a 10-Cent Beer Night, the Cleveland Indians give new meaning to bad hops. Some 25,000 fans come and--to be fair--they don't all streak across the diamond or sprint into centerfield to moon the bleacherites. But many do. With the game tied 5-5 and the Indians at bat in the ninth, the bases weren't loaded but the crowd was. Umpire Nestor Chylak and Cleveland reliever Tom Hilgendorf are both hit over the head with chairs by fans. When order proves impossible to restore, the Indians, having forfeited their dignity, also forfeit the game.


Memorial Day
Let's see--The Indianapolis 500 is a beloved institution run damn near every Memorial Day since 1911. So in 1996, open-wheel racing splits into two factions, CART and IRL. As a result the best drivers leave for a race no one cares about, and the race people care about is left with no drivers. Gentlemen, start your angina. For no good reason you've ceded motor-racing supremacy in this country to NASCAR. True, CART and IRL appear to have patched things up, but that's a bit like Hall patching things up with Oates. Will anyone still care?


June 28, 1997
In a third-round clinch with Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson bites off a chunk of the Real Deal's right ear, which he then spits onto the canvas at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Referee Mills Lane urges Iron Mike not to bite Holyfield again, but Tyson promptly does just that, launching a thousand Sportsman of the Ear puns.


May 10, 2001
As the brainchild of wrestling impresario Vince McMahon, the XFL is an orphan, and yet--on Feb. 3, 2001--the football league debuts to enormous television ratings and sold-out stadiums in Las Vegas and Orlando. Fittingly, these are the twin capitals of make-believe, and Americans, after Week 1, tune out, almost to a man. When the plug is pulled three months later, games are drawing the lowest prime-time ratings in the history of network television. He Hate Me, indeed.


July 18, 1999
With a three-shot lead on the 72nd tee of the British Open, France's Jean Van de Velde need only make a double-bogey six on the par-4 18th at Carnoustie to win the claret jug. That fairway is crossed three times by a creek, and yet Van de Velde, inexplicably, hits driver off the tee and into the rough. From there he need only get back onto the fairway with a wedge, but Van de Velde unaccountably chooses to hit a two-iron, and his ball bounces off the greenside grandstand and into deep heather. He does manage to get out of the heather, but unfortunately, in doing so, he gets into the creek. After taking a drop in the gorse, he chunks a wedge into a bunker. Mon dieu, is this happening? From the beach, Van de Velde does manage to get up and down for triple-bogey 7, which puts him in a playoff with a stunned Paul Lawrie, who promptly wins his first, and almost certainly his last, British Open. Says Van de Velde afterward, "Next time, I'll hit the wedge."


Aug. 4, 1993
Feeling insufficiently pained after being struck by a Nolan Ryan fastball, White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura decides to charge the mound. The 26year-old throws himself headlong at the torso of the 46-year-old Ryan in the posture of a bullied freshman preemptively bowing to accept a headlock. The Texas Ranger obliges, putting Ventura into a textbook noogie hold before delivering six consecutive punches to his immobilized noggin. With each blow, the pitcher appears to be hammering out a message in Morse code: Don't mess with Texas.


June 19, 1984
With the first pick in the NBA draft, the Houston Rockets select Hakeem Olajuwon, who will bring two championships to the city. With the second pick, the Portland Trailblazers take 7'1" center Sam Bowie, who sat out two seasons at Kentucky with manifold physical afflictions. Not everyone is impressed with Portland's selection. "The risk," writes Alexander Wolff in the '84 NBA preview issue of SI, "is ... that selecting Bowie in the first round instead of Michael Jordan might remind Portland fans of the Blazers' screw-up in '72, when they chose LaRue Martin instead of Bob McAdoo." Blazers fans still LaRue the day.


April 14, 1968
Roberto de Vicenzo shoots a final-round 65 at the Masters, but his playing partner accidentally puts him down for a par 4 on number 17, instead of the birdie 3 de Vicenzo actually made. When de Vicenzo signs this incorrect card, 66 becomes his official posting, and he misses the green jacket by one phantom stroke. Afterward de Vicenzo's spirit and English are both broken. "I lose my brain," he says of his gaffe, then he utters the most famous line of self-flagellation in all of sport. Speaking for so many others, he says, "What a stupid I am."