Watching an athlete break a record can be a beautiful thing to behold—strength married to drive, focused by a burning fire to win regardless of obstacles and opposition.
But achievements can be sad, as well. Sometimes athletes and teams can go a little too far—be it in the name of a record or just plain old spite.
Today I am going to delve into the Ten Most Shameful Achievements in Sports, where winning can feel like losing.
We all like to look back at the past with rose-colored glasses from time to time.
Sometimes we look back and tell ourselves little lies, like “I’m so glad I went stag to prom” or “She looked like an 8 at the time”.
Then there are the big lies like “Remember when Alabama won 14 national championships? That was swell!”
That’s what Alabama’s Rolltide.com claims: 14 national championship ranging from 1925 to 2011, while some fans claim 12.
The claims of 12 and 14 are dubious; so far only seven of the Tide’s national championships have been credited by the NCAA as consensus wins.
14 is rosier than seven, but it looks a lot more like shameless judgement calls by ‘Bama in their favor.
Like any other healthy 24 year old Olympic swimmer, Cameron van der Burgh engaged in the occasional “double dolphin” from time to time.
So what? Every swimmer is throwing an extra “dolphin kick” on their turns from the wall these days, according to van der Burgh. Dolphin kicking in swimming is a gentlemen’s agreement among competitors—like cyclists taking mule steroids.
But then van der Burgh went triple dolphin.
That’s right: in the 2012 Summer Games, van der Burgh swam the 100 meter breast stroke for South Africa and won the gold medal by a tenth of a second, breaking Australian swimmer Brenton Rickard’s former world record of 58.58 with a time of 58.46.
After winning the medal, van der Burgh confessed his cheating to the press. The crime: three illegal dolphin kicks on the turn that almost certainly sealed the gold for him.
As there were no underwater cameras in the Olympic pool, and thus no replays available for the poolside judges, van der Burgh’s shame-stick of a gold medal still stands.
It turns out the highest scoreline in association soccer history was a series of own-goals scored by Madagascar club Stade Olympique L’Emyrne in a 2002 match against arch-rivals AS Edema.
Players on Stade Olympique began kicking the balls into their own net in protest of an alleged biased refereeing decision made against the club earlier in the week.
Stade Olympique was punished by the Moroccan sports ministry, with several players receiving suspensions and the team’s coach earning a three year ban from coaching soccer within the league and attending games.
While shameless and an utter waste of time, SO L'Emryne's 149 own-goals is still a monumental achievement of spite, requiring both bitter leg power and troubling determination.
One play can forever define you as an athlete, and characterize how people will remember you for the rest of your career and natural life.
For Ricky Davis that play was a missed shot on his own basket.
In the final seconds of a 2003 game against the Utah Jazz, Davis—then a Cleveland Cavalier—needed only a single rebound to chalk a triple-double for the night.
Instead of letting the final seconds run out and just walking away happy with a meager 28 points, 12 assists (a career high) and 9 rebounds, Davis decides to take an in-bounds pass and lay the ball up off his own rim in order to receive a 10th rebound.
Needless to say, the rebound was not counted by stat-keepers or well-received by Utah’s DeShawn Stevenson, who responded to Davis’ self-centered BS by body-checking him nearly to the floor.
Funny thing is, the Panthers did not have a bad offense - they hadn’t even been able to run a single play from scrimmage. The Bruins had received the initial kick-off, scored on their first drive, and proceeded to on-side kick, recover the ball, and then score their way to a 29 point lead.
And all of this was possible because of the bat-stick crazy style of football Bruins Head Coach Kevin Kelley has designed for his team.
Kelley approaches play-calling like Ndamukong Suh approaches seven-layer dip - aggressively and with little regard for human life or public opinion. Kelley also claims he has done the math and has figured out the best way to play football is kicking on-side kicks and going for it on fourth down every time.
Other team punts the ball? Let it go, says Kelley. He believes the probability of a fumble on a return is too high to warrant fielding.
One can imagine it’s a frustrating system to play against, but in this case I’m going to have to spread the real shame on the Cabot Panthers defense.
Before she was winning titles in the WNBA and throwing down jambalaya all over people’s faces, Lisa Leslie was an up-and-coming star player at Morningside High School in Inglewood, California. And it was there when she did an amazing but reprehensible thing.
Playing against a vastly outgunned South Torrance High School team, Leslie decided to take off the velvet gloves and go for Cheryl Miller's 105 point single-game scoring record for high school girls basketball.
Leslie dropped the gauntlet in a way that boggles the mind—lighting up the scoreboard with 101 points in the first half.
How did South Torrance’s coach respond? With an inspirational halftime speech laden with brimstone rhetoric and Gordon Bombay quotes? Did South Torrance come out of the tunnel gunning for glory?
No, the team took a vote and decided to forfeit. Still four points shy of her goal, Leslie approached Cabot's coach and asked if the team would allow her to score 3 more times before conceding the game. They declined.
Come on Leslie, you’re better than that.
The most lop-sided victory in American baseball history came when the Boston Red Sox cream-pied the now-defunct Saint Louis Browns 29 to 4 on June 9, 1950.
The 29 runs by the Sox broke the single-game MLB record, passing the 1929 St. Louis Cardinal’s previous record of 28.
Boston’s bats unceremoniously took the Browns to the woodshed, with Bobby Doer, Walt Dropo and Ted Williams combining for 7 runs and 20 RBIs.
The record stands to this day, but karma made sure the glory was short-lived for the Red Sox. They went on to lose 9 of their next 10 games and fall completely out of the race for the American League pennant.
Nothing screams “winner” like dumping 138 points on a small Christian school, which is exactly what Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor did last Tuesday.
Taylor chucked up 108 shots in a single game against Faith Baptist Bible College to set a new NCAA record for individual scoring—and a new low for humanity.
Taylor shot 25 of 37 from 2-point range and 27 of 71 from behind the arc. And had zero assists.
ESPN forgot to mention that little tidbit in the ensuing firestorm of publicity that followed Taylor’s 138-point night.
Another fact that was glossed over was that Taylor scored his points against a non-NCAA team and spent nearly the entire game cherry-picking.
Faith Baptist Bible College is a small school in Iowa with a student body of 302, and a Division II team in the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association). Grinnell head coach David Arseneault’s style of play is basically designed around taking advantage of small teams.
It’s not that Taylor’s a bad kid, but he’s a good example of why NCAA records should only be awarded for contests between NCAA teams.
Few words can accurately describe the kind of waxing Georgia Tech’s football team laid on Cumberland College in 1916.
The highest scoring game in NCAA history, a 220-0 Georgia demolition derby, was an event Cumberland tried its hardest to avoid. The smaller Tennessee college had no intention to play football in general, and had disbanded its football team earlier in the year.
But Cumberland forget to alert Georgia Tech of its plans to cancel and were held contractually liable to play in the contest.
Faced with paying a $3,000 forfeiture fine, Cumberland decided to sack-up and send a "14 man team” (read: blood offering) made up of frat guys and whoever else was around to square off against the powerhouse Georgia Tech squad.
What ensued was less of game and more of a napalming. Little did Cumberland know, but Georgia Tech’s head coach Joe Heisman was out for blood—holding a grudge over the 22-0 drubbing Cumberland’s baseball team had levied on Tech the prior year. Heisman flicked the kill-switch from the first second of the game, and ordered his team to lay down the hammer the entire time.
Georgia Tech pounded Cumberland College like a steel drum - ripping off 978 rushing yards and not allowing Cumberland a single first down.
Hopefully mankind will never see the likes of this kind of game again.