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Top Three Worst Sports Calls Of My Life

There’s Nothing Worse Than Bad Calls in Sports

I remember the successes of my sports teams. Adam Wainwright snapping off a beautiful curve against Carlos Beltran or Albert Pujols hitting a monstrous home run against Brad Lidge. I remember the failures of my sports teams. Matt Holliday letting a ball carom off his chest or Tyus Edney dribbling the length of the court uncontested to score a lay-up in the last few seconds of the 1995 NCAA tournament.

I also remember the blown calls against my teams. Sometimes worse than success or failure, a blown call that takes the game out of the players’ hands makes it all tougher to accept. As a soccer fan, watching the U.S. vs. Slovenia game with a few hundred other fans as Koman Coulibaly overturned the goal by Maurice Edu last Friday, I thought, (expletive deleted), there goes a win. As I later watched replay after replay, with no certain foul in sight, I felt anger, then sorrow, then anger again as the US’s chance to take control of Group C went up in a puff of a whistle.

So, in honor of that feeling, here are three of my most memorable blown calls.

1. The Flea Kicker.

I watched this game at a bar in Delaware. Only one TV had this game as the others were all tuned to Penn State. I sat alone in a sea of other fans until finally the Penn State game got out of hand and the excitement of this match-up attracted everyone else. Then came the kick in the end zone that led to overtime. After that kick, I already knew what the outcome would be. So close, yet the Cornhuskers would win again. Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw a Nebraska fan who would take the time to rub that game in my face again after over twelve years.

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2. The 5th Down.

I was at this game. I watched from the stands. One of my friends thought that the down markers were incorrect long before the stands started buzzing about the error. How could they lose count? Even the fifth down play looked like they didn’t get in the end zone. That’s still the only time I have ever rushed the field of a sporting event. I was in the mob that torn down the goal posts. I still don’t know if it was a celebration of a win that should have been or a protest of bad officiating. I just know that in a run of years where four wins was an accomplishment, it seemed like a moment to do something.

3. Denkinger.

I still don’t like thinking of this one. (Seeing Don Denkinger on Studio 42 with Bob Costas helped though.) He was out. That’s all I have to say. Looking back, not getting to celebrate with the wonder and enthusiasm of a kid watching the first World Series that he cared about, sucked. Just sucked.

Eventually the anger toward those bad calls faded away and just the memories remained as my teams had more chances to win. The Missouri Tigers got to and won a bowl game the next year and have now played in bowl games for five consecutive years. The St. Louis Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1987 and 2004 before winning it in 2006.

Yes, there are many, many more bad calls in the history of sport. But, they don’t involve my team, so they aren’t as memorable. On the other side of these infamous bad calls, fans of the opposing teams probably remember the calls fondly. (Nebraska and Colorado went on to share National Championships in those years. Kansas City won the World Series and the kids watching in Kansas City got to celebrate the only championship in the history of that franchise so far.) I’m sure if you ask any fan, they remember the bad calls against their teams or the calls that went the way of their favorite teams. (Mention yours below. I know Managing Editor has a positive opinion on A.J. Pierzynski’s drop-third strike call in the 2005 ALCS.) Still, each team has to capitalize on the bad calls or overcome them. The game is decided on the field. Even if it isn’t, there is some culpability meted out by the official’s bosses.

What’s frustrating is that FIFA does not comment on the play or the ref. What’s frustrating is that the game ended just a few minutes after the call. What’s frustrating is that the U.S. may not get to play beyond their next game and will have to wait another four years to play in the group round again, if they qualify. What’s frustrating is that one bad call could mean that people will not find the beauty of the game and will just see an arbitrary result. (Especially if England and the U.S. have to go to the final tie-breaker – drawing a name out of a hat.) As a soccer fan that keeps hoping soccer will become a major sport in the U.S., none of those things are conducive to making people excited about the sport, but will make them hate the sport, or worse, stay ambivalent. Depending on what happens in this year’s World Cup, the Koman Coulibaly call could be nicknamed “The Mortal Whistle Blow of U.S. Soccer.” Then again, give me another few years and I’ll probably be a little less dramatic.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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