It's time to announce the winner of this week's inaugural Great Moments in Sporting Failure contest. This was so much fun we're going to have to do it again. Four amazing, terrifying, brutal, uproarious stories of just complete and utter athletic humiliation. Simply glorious, glorious stuff. You all inspire me, truly.
First, the four stories, followed by the naming of the winner.
Tyler Heffernan led us off with a Randy Johnson-esque bird's death by football:
Once in fifth grade, we were playing football during recess and one of my positions was punter. So, on fourth down and a mile, I skyrocketed the ball higher and farther than I ever thought I was capable. Turns out a bird nearby didn't think my kicking skills were that good either. The poor guy (or gal) got drilled, and it thumped down in a heap about 20 yards away. The feathers drifted down afterward. My teacher saw it and was thoroughly horrified. Being a young boy, most of the other kids high-fived me and the others called it "yucky." I felt kinda bad. We were herded back inside; I had ruined recess. Rumor had it a janitor came and shoveled it over the fence. Yucky, indeed.
And to that Jonathan Smith countered with just an awesomely disgusting story about ankles:
My freshman year of college I was playing intramural ultimate frisbee with my dorm against another team. I had the frisbee close to the end zone with most of my team trying to get open in the end zone. I had one guy covering me so I jumped, threw the frisbee and landed in a divot in the field. Unfortunately when I say landed I really mean my ankle landed sideways and my foot slid out of my ankle dislocating completely. I started screaming in pain and one of the guys said it was just a cramp and to walk it off to which I yelled back I can't walk this off. They came over and called an ambulance and wouldn't let me look at my foot telling me it looked fine while it was not attached to my ankle. One guy said his dad was an EMT and that it looked ok (apparently when you're the son of an EMT you instantly receive their training). When I was put in the ambulance the first words out of their mouth were "Wow. That looks really bad."
ESPN's own Alex Scarborough countered with the riveting and epic saga of how one young boy dared to be a hero on the basepaths only to become a villain—but a villain, apparently, sent by God:
Well, everyone else wrote a short anecdote. But, what the hell, it's my first comment on the site and I'm going for it.
I remember next to nothing from my childhood. My first day of school is a wash, as is the time I learned how to ride a bike. I don't dream, either. You think I'm joking, but I'm not. My girlfriend thinks I'm weird, a writer with an apparent lack of imagination. But without visions of sugarplums dancing through my head I've gotten many a good night's sleep.
I do daydream, however, and there's one moment in my pre-pubescent years that haunts me like the sorrowful looks of Leonardo DiCaprio on Growing Pains or the pained expression of Uncle Jessie when those wretched twins broke his spectacular guitar.
The moment in question takes place on a baseball field as Americana as any daytime TV show: Rich red clay infield, bright green grass beyond the shortstop, all incased in cheap chain-link fence. There are parents watching, friends hovering by the concession stand, rotting their teeth with Sour Patch Kids and Big League Chew.
Me, well the 12-year-old version of me that stands a hair shorter and a tad chubbier than I am now, is on first base. I reached on a walk, strange considering I needed glasses and didn't know it at the time. I had an uncanny ability to draw walks even though I had the largest strike zone on the team at nearly 6-foot. I'd say pitchers were afraid of me, but I couldn't hit very well so I'll attribute it to my patience at the plate. Unwittingly, I was becoming a sportswriter, thinking the game through even as I was playing it.
With one foot anchored to first base and the other stretched toward second, I waited for the next pitch to be delivered. The batter behind me was not as deliberate as I was, swinging at the first thing he saw. He probably became a lousy food critic given his apparent lack of self-control.
With two outs, I moved on the sound of contact, a sharp liner to right field. I made it all the way to third base on the single, my team -- the Mets, Southern California 13-and-under edition -- trailing by one run. I rounded third and stopped -- momentarily.
Now comes the part I remember as vividly, and painfully, as the first time I saw those two girls and their one cup on YouTube: The ball is thrown from the catcher back to the pitcher, me on third and the future food critic on first. The play is over. The pitcher walks back to the mound, his head down in shame. He's in his own world -- surely thinking about how disappointed his parents are with him. (They'll beat him, he's sure). It's sad, but don't greave for him as I'm about to do him a favor. Twelve-year-old me gets an idea: I'll run for it. I'll ignore the third-base coach two feet from me and sprint home for the game-winning run.
It's the one and only time I've ever tried being the hero.
My plan self-destructs the moment I make my move. What did I think, no one was watching? By the time I'm halfway down the line, the ball is already back in the catcher's glove. I continue running, my heart somewhere in my throat by now. I'm tagged out. I didn't even bother to slide.
I was stunned. My coach was, too. He didn't yell, though. He didn't ask what I was thinking, because clearly I wasn't. No one said a word, except the pitcher who threw the ball home for the final out of the inning.
"Thank God," was all I heard from the opposing dugout.
"You're welcome," is all I thought as I sat on the bench the rest of the game.
And in the eleventh hour, Andrew Johnston squeezes in with one of the dumbest injuries in the history of golf. Golf!
My junior year of high school during fall golf season. I am on a Par 3. I hit a really bad 8-iron, hit it fat - so I do the Tiger Woods take-one-hand-off-of-the-club and let it helicopter around my head...only the iron head strikes me above the right-eye. I touch my face because it hurt. I'm profusely bleeding. I hold a towel to my head and continue to finish that hole (making par) and then the final hole of the round (also making par).
So, I guess this is a fail that was followed by a couple successes.
After much deliberation, I'm proud to announce that the first ever BrandonSneed.com Sporting Failure of the Week IIISSSSSZZZZZZZ ... .
The stories were all just classic, fantastic examples of how amazingly we all can fail at sport, and how sports can fail us. I really and truly hate to pick one over the other, but what put AJ's over the top for me was—DUDE IT'S GOLF HOW DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF BLEED ON A GOLF COURSE! On top of that, he hurt himself after getting mad, so it was self-inflicted SHAME BLEEDING. But the dude rose up, finishing the round towel-to-head—and I'm assuming one-handed or something. Sure, he was probably lying, but you know what they say in sports and stupid blog contests: If you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'.
(Standard responsible journalism teacher disclaimer: Only, don't do it if you're writing for, you know, a real website/magazine/book/whatever. Didn't work out so great for Jonah Lehrer.)
So, Andrew, email me your contact info (bmsneed at gmail dot com) and I'll get you that free book swag.
Other readers—agree or disagree? Did Tyler, Jonathan or Alex get totally jobbed? Do I suck as a story judge? How awesome were all of these stories? What was your favorite? Comment!
And start thinking up your own sporting fail stories. We'll be back again.