The pride, the glory, the chance to be remembered… Sporting legends are not always what their subjects might have hoped they would be. Here is a short collection of classic sporting fails.
Jim Marshall’s four Super Bowl appearances and record 270 consecutive starts in 282 games over an 18-year career is Hall of Fame material by most standards. But then there was this…
In Marshall’s defence, the Vikings went on to win the game thanks to another fumble caused by Marshall’s own sack of the opposing quarterback. You might think that – and his remaining 15 years of service to the club – would have been sufficient to erase the wrong-way run from memory. Of course it wasn’t.
Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita might have earned his nickname – “The Madman” in Spanish – for his links to drug lord Pablo Escobar, had he not already earned it for this spectacular blunder in the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
Higuita might have his drug lord friends to thank that the repercussions were not worse, however – four years later the defender Andrés Escobar (no relation) was murdered after his own goal knocked the Colombian side out of the tournament.
“You’ve just dropped the World Cup!”
Dropped catches can be embarrassing at the best of times. Most have to be put down to the difficulty of the chance or the simple fact that even the most capable sportsmen will fumble occasionally given enough opportunities.
Harder to disguise are those embarrassing failures that seem to stem from a mixture of complacency and premature celebration, as with Herschelle Gibbs’s catastrophic drop of Australian captain Steve Waugh in the 1999 Cricket World Cup semi-final. With the match ultimately tied and Australia advancing thanks only to a higher run rate in the earlier stages, it’s hard to argue with Waugh’s (possibly apocryphal) retort to Gibbs that he had “just dropped the World Cup”.
PEN, Gilbert, 80’
Only one man called Gilbert has ever played international rugby for Australia – Herb Gilbert, who earned three caps in 1910. When the list of sporting embarrassments is included, however, he is joined by a second – Kurtley ‘Gilbert’ Beale, so named for the imprint said by teammates to have been left on his head during this unexpected encounter with the ball.
Playing the ball with your head in rugby is not a knock-on, but it might have been better for Gilbert and Australia if it had been. With possession turned over to the Boks, the Wallabies almost immediately thereafter conceded a costly penalty, turning their slender two-point lead into a one-point deficit with less than four minutes to go.
It proved time enough for redemption, however, with Australia awarded a penalty in the dying seconds. At 55m out, the prospects were not good – except this was Bloemfontein, 1400m above sea level, ordinarily providing the Boks the kind of fearsome home advantage that explains Australia’s failure to win there in almost 50 years, but here offering slim hope of a penalty from distance. The penalty taker? Gilbert. Enough to erase the memory of that header? Not even enough to erase the name on his head, according to some.