The 6 Most Successful Sports Careers Defined by a Single Moment of Failure

Remember Scott Norwood as the guy who passed O.J. Simpson as the Buffalo Bills all-time leading scorer? Probably not. He’s better remembered as the guy who pushed a long field goal wide, thereby losing Super Bowl XXV for the Bills.


This inspired the plot to “Ace: Ventura, Pet Detective”, thus allowing Jim Carrey to make about four dozen stinkers. This final infraction has doomed the placekicker to the ninth circle of Dante’s hell, along with traitors and people who buy stuff from spam e-mails.

Many noble men have dedicated their lives to the perfection of their sports abilities, only to screw up once and forever be spat upon by the sports-going public (and rightfully so). Some athletes have had particularly exceptional careers derailed by one lapse of concentration, and are now remembered solely for that feat of misfortune. People like:

That Guy Who Head-Butted That Defender in the World Cup Championship

International soccer fans saw Zinedine Zidane become the hero of the 1998 world cup finals. In 2006, he became one of only four players in World Cup history to score in two different finals, and sweat five different flavors of Gatorade at the same time.


In that same game, Zidane also became one of the only two players to be ejected in two different World Cups when he buried his forehead in the undoubtedly hairy chest of an Italian defender. Oddly enough, Zidane got his starting job when the previous player was suspended for one year for attacking a fan.

That Guy Who Missed the Pole Vault and the Olympics

Dan O’Brien was on his way to becoming the most successful of the millions of people named Dan O’Brien. Three consecutive world titles in the Decathlon and an Olympic Gold in Atlanta Decathlon in 1996 would’ve helped solidify that, had he not already completely goofed up his career.


He was the co-subject of a 1992 high-profile Reebok campaign which was supposed to follow O’Brien and Dave Johnson through the qualifying rounds and into the Olympics. At the quals, after a record-setting Day 1 for O’Brien, he set the pole vault at a lofty, and unnecessarily high, 15 feet 9 inches for his first jump. He failed, and didn’t even qualify for the Olympics. Since Bruce Jenner’s already cornered the “decathletes on reality television” market, O’Brien’s pretty screwed for a career.

That Guy Who Let the Ball Roll Through his Legs and Lost the 1986 World Series for Boston

Bill Buckner had 2715 career hits in his 20-year career. He won a batting title, went to an all-star game, and was the first major leaguer to wear high tops (thus protecting millions of white people from break dancing injuries). In 1986, batted .340 and drove in over 100 runs.


Nobody cares. Nobody in Boston anyway, where Bill Buckner flubbed a routine grounder that would’ve ended the World Series inning, and Boston might have been able to end the Curse decades earlier.

That Dude Who Choked on a 3-foot Putt

Doug Sanders won 20 PGA tour tournaments and sponsored the Doug Sanders international junior golf championship. But everybody knows him as the guy who missed a three-foot putt to choke away the 1970 British Open, and indirectly ensuring seedy sports psychologists would have careers for decades.


Jack Nicklaus won the championship, and the victory sparked a comeback for his career.

That Guy Who Muffed the Fly Ball in the 1912 World Series

Fred Snodgrass was an outfielder for the New York Giants, Snodgrass played in 3 consecutive World Series from 1911 to 1913. True, he missed an easy catch in the 1912 series, but all reports say he made up for it with spectacular play the rest of the game.


Additional sloppy play by teammates lost that game. Despite this, in 1974, NY Times obituary headline read “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.” You probably have to be a bitter dick to be an obituaries editor.

Leave a Comment

  1. thomasmmm says:

    nick anderson (ORL v. HOU NBA Finals) missing 4 free throws

  2. Phll says:

    Jackie Smith. . .Hall of Fame tight end who dropped an easy TD pass from Staubach in the Super Bowl against the Steelers and they ended up losing by 4 points.

  3. CZA says:

    Mitch Williams for a blown save after giving up a walk-off home run to Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth game of the 1993 World Series.

  4. CZA says:

    Dennis Eckersley for giving up the walk-off home run to Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

  5. CZA says:

    Chris Webber. His team was down by 2 points with less than 20 seconds to go i nthe NCAA title game. He called a timeout when Michigan didn't have any timeouts left. The that mistake helped the North Carolina win 77-71.

  6. CZA says:

    AH MAN this one hurts me the most. Even if he didnt have a great career. Neil F****** O'Donnell. In SuperBowl 30 Threw 2 BIG interceptions (to Larry Brown defensive back of the Cowboys) to set up short touchdown drives in the second half.

  7. Josh says:

    That guy on CBS's Sunday football program thats in the hall of fame that quarterbacked the dolphins to zero titles in his career.

  8. Luke says:

    Danny Heatly – Scored 39 goals or more 5 times, 50 goals twice, and one accident while speeding and it all means nothing

  9. Big Bad John says:

    Mike Tyson for doing "it" with a lying floozie. Oh, and biting off Holyfield's ear.

    I LOVE the reference to Danny 'Happy Feet' Marino!



  10. Hans says:

    Build a thousand bridges but suck one dick and you'll always be known as a dick sucker.

  11. Ryan says:

    You are should never try to write humorously again. You are not funny.

  12. e cigarette says:

    Bad moves by these sport stars!

  13. Mike says:

    Roger Craig. Great career with the niners………………………….until…………………………he freakn' muffed the ball (with the help of Lawrence Taylor it must be added) and the stupid Giants went on to beat the niners out of what might have been ultimately a threepeat. All he had to do was hang on but nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

  14. Steve says:

    Brett Favre throwing the worst pass possible to the only receiver being covered during the 2007 NFC Championship game. Has turned into a bitter twisted diva ever since then.

    • bigyaz says:

      Really? You're saying that's the thing that Brett Favre will be most remembered for? Did you miss the whole point of the article?

  15. adrian says:

    Zizou's headbutt wasn't a failure. It was the perfect full stop in a poetic career, at the risk of sounding ridiculous.

    Great list though.

  16. Cousin Dave says:

    Steve Smith, All-Star defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers, will forever be known for scoring an own goal against arch-rival Calgary in the seventh game of the finals of what was then known as the Smythe Division. The goal was the game-winner for Calgary, knocking Edmonton out of the playoffs. Calgary went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.

  17. Cousin Dave says:

    Roberto Guerrero will forever be remembered for spinning out and crashing on the pace lap of the 1992 Indianapolis 500, after having won the pole and being the odds-on favorite to win.

  18. Cousin Dave says:

    Woody Hayes went 205-61-10, with three national championships, in his 27-year career as head football coach at Ohio State. But his enduring legacy to the sports world is the punch that ended his career, when he socked Clemson's Charlie Baumann in the 1978 Gator Bowl, immediately after Baumann had intercepted an Ohio State pass.

  19. Matt says:

    Earl Hebner was one of the greatest referees in professional wrestling history, but will always be know for "The Montreal Screwjob" of Brett "The Hitman" Hart.

  20. Eco Friendly says:

    Even if he didnt have a great career. In SuperBowl 30 Threw 2 BIG interceptions (to Larry Brown defensive back of the Cowboys) to set up short touchdown drives in the second half.

  21. anonymous says:

    Steve Rogers. The most successful pitcher in Montreal Expos history, with a 158-152 career record and an ERA of 3.17. In Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS, he gave up the series-ending home run to Philadelphia's Rick Monday.