50 Worst Ideas in Sports History
LeBron James has taken a considerable amount of flak for his lack of loyalty, lack of etiquette, and lack of tact in announcing to the world during a one hour primetime special that he was leaving Cleveland to sign with the Miami Heat.
So where does ESPN's one hour primetime LeBron special, entitled "The Decision," rank amongst the Top 50 Worst Ideas in the History of Sports?
Let's take a look.
50. Having the Designated Hitter in Only One League
Whether you like the designated hitter, don't like the designated hitter, or don't care about the designated hitter, surely we can all agree on one thing:
What's good for the goose should be good for the gander, and having two leagues that play by completely different rules is a bad idea.
49. 2005 New Orleans Saints Playing a Home Game at Giants Stadium
Hey New Orleans, in honor of your football stadium and your city having just been destroyed by one of the worst natural disasters in American history, we're going to let you play your 2005 home opener against the New York Giants in the New York Giants' home stadium.
48. The Decision
Frankly, I think we'll all get over it someday.
In fact, I think I already am.
47. The WUSA
Let me get this straight: the United States has never warmed to soccer, and the United States has never warmed to women's professional sports.
So, somewhere, a group of people got together and decided to form a women's professional soccer league?
How could it have failed?
46. The XFL
Actually, the XFL was probably a good idea plagued with bad decisions.
For example: letting Vince McMahon be the face of the league; spreading eight teams across the country instead of having more teams or taking a regional approach; playing in hard to fill venues instead of smaller, cozier environs; putting a team in Birmingham, Alabama.
The XFL actually gave football numerous innovations, including Rod Smart's "He Hate Me" jersey, "sky cam," and non-sudden death overtime.
45. High End Baseball Cards
Remember the mid-to-late 1980s when baseball cards positively took over the world, and every kid in every neighborhood in America was buying packs of 15 cards for 55 cents apiece and filling their rooms with these treasured slices of Americana?
Then, along came Upper Deck and the world changed forever. Nowadays, the only people buying baseball cards are rich kids and creepy middle-aged weird guys.
44. Giving the Portland Trail Blazers Lottery Picks
We're just glad we aren't Portland Trail Blazers fans.
Sure, you can forgive drafting Bill Walton No. 1 overall in 1974; he was a great player, and there was no one else. That he spent his career injured was just bad luck.
But then the Blazers drafted Sam Bowie second overall 10 years later, ahead of Michael Jordan, who went third overall to the Bulls and changed basketball history.
Then, 23 years later, the Blazers drafted Greg Oden first overall in the 2007 NBA draft, one spot ahead of Kevin Durant, who just won his first scoring title at the age of 21.
Oden, meanwhile, has played a combined 82 games in three seasons.
43. The Possession Arrow
What's wrong with the jump ball? Too much fun, athleticism, and winner-take-all for ya?
42. The Prevent Defense
It's late in the game, and the New Orleans Saints have just taken a tenuous lead. With less than two minutes, the opposing quarterback takes the ball at his own 20 yard line, and prepares to drive the length of the field for the final score.
New Orleans, lined up in the prevent defense, allows the quarterback to do exactly that, and the Saints come away with another loss.
We've just described Sunday afternoons in the Chancey household, circa 1987-1995.
Actually, we would argue it wasn't the turf so much as the lack of padding under the turf that made Astroturf so dangerous.
Nevertheless, how it is that football and baseball allowed their sports to be played on grass in some stadiums and green concrete in others, I'll never understand.
40. The BCS
Here's a good rule of thumb for "how do I know if I've got a bad idea":
If–in this highly politicized world in which professional politicians guard every word they say, intent upon offending no one–the President of the United States is willing to go on national television and say that your system is bad and you need a playoff system, well, you may have a bad idea.
39. The "In the Grasp" Rule
Just remember, under the NFL's old "In the Grasp" Rule, this play would have been ruled a sack, and we would have all been deprived of one of the greatest moments in NFL history.
38. Penalty Kicks
In 1994, at a point in the history of soccer in the United States when the common U.S. sports fan was most ready to get next to soccer, the World Cup final went scoreless in regulation and the entire World Cup came down to penalty kicks.
A moment was lost.
37. Professional Sports in Kansas City
I'm not knocking Kansas City as a town, and I'm not knocking Kansas or Missouri as sports states (though Kansas City is obviously in Missouri).
In 115 combined seasons, the Kansas City Royals, Chiefs, Kings, Cowboys, and Athletics combined for a total of two championships, a smattering of playoff appearances, three relocated franchises, and more losing seasons than one can count.
If we were to count, though, we'd find that the A's never had a winning season in KC, the Kings were losers in nine of 13 seasons, and the Cowboys were losers in two out of three years.
36. Disco Demolition Night
A Chicago White Sox promotion gone awry, Disco Demolition Night invited fans to attend a White Sox-Tigers game for 98 cents if they brought a disco record to be blown up in center field.
The promotion turned out 90,000 people, which exceeded the stadium's capacity by about 38,000. The details of the day are hazy, but before it was all over, the field had been torn to pieces, numerous fires had been set, a game was forfeited to the Tigers, and over 30 people were arrested.
35. Dan & Dave
Reebok, in its last ditch effort to avoid forever becoming the Pepsi to Nike's Coca-Cola, launched the Dan (O'Brien) & Dave (Johnson) ad campaign in the spring of 1992, hoping to generate excitement for Reebok and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The slogan for the campaign was:
"Who will be the world's greatest athlete–Dan or Dave? To be settled in Barcelona."
While the campaign made household names out of Dan and Dave, it proved ill-fated: Dan failed to even qualify for the Olympics in 1992, and Dave injured his foot and came away with a bronze medal.
34. Permanent Seat Licenses (PSL)
The latest installment in the organized sports world's effort to make sure common people never get to attend sporting events.
33. Caddyshack II
This could have been Major League II, but I think more people regard Caddyshack as a timeless classic.
And frankly, I think Major League II may have had more redeemable value than Caddyshack II.
32. Naming Rights
Joe Robbie Stadium became Pro Player Stadium in 1996, which became Dolphins Stadium in 2005, which then became Land Shark Stadium in 2009, which then became Sun Life Stadium in 2010.
Need we say more?
31. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
30. MLB Contraction
Remember less than a decade ago when Bud Selig pondering getting rid of the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos?
Since the idea was bandied about in the fall of 2001, the Twins have won the AL Central division five times in eight years.
29. Putting Isiah Thomas in Charge of Things
It's not like Isiah Thomas is merely bad at business. It's not like his teams merely miss the playoffs and usually fail to finish the season with a winning record.
Since retiring from basketball Isiah has:
a) Become part owner and executive vice president of the Toronto Raptors, only to leave the team after four years because of disagreements regarding the future of the team.
b) Bought up the entirety of the CBA and ran it into the ground in only three years. By the time the league was filing for bankruptcy, Thomas was already coaching the Indiana Pacers.
c) Coached a relatively loaded Indiana Pacers team to three straight first round defeats in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In his third year, the Pacers were the three-seed but lost to the six-seed Boston Celtics.
d) Become President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks, during which time he endured numerous embarrassing disasters, including having the highest payroll and second worst record in the NBA, missing the playoffs every season, trading away numerous first round draft picks to acquire mediocre talent, and ultimately becoming embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit which cost Madison Square Garden $11.6 million, the largest sexual harassment award in history.
e) Become head coach of the Florida International University basketball team.
28. Spider-Man 2 Ads on the Bases
Look. we're all about making money, but come on.
This is ridiculous.
27. The Chicago White Sox Shorts Uniform
What is this, professional baseball or some White Guys Over-40 Softball League?
26. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Original Uniforms
Say, who could go from a Creamsicle right about now? I'm definitely in the mood for a Creamsicle.
25. Boise State's Blue Football Field
Boise State's playing field, known colloquially as "the Blue," is well-known by football fans for having inspired the NCAA to ban all non-green playing surfaces–except for Boise State, whose field is grandfathered in–and for the numerous birds each season who plunge to their death thinking that the playing field is a body of water.
Much to our surprise, neither of those stories are true.
24. Throwing a Drink Cup at Ron Artest
Are there really people out there at don't know Ron Artest is crazy?
Apparently, the last guy in the United States who didn't know tossed a drink cup on Artest in the waning moments of a game against the Detroit Pistons in 2004, setting off one of the ugliest moments in NBA history.
And I'm not so sure Artest came out looking like the bad guy.
23. Letting Celebrities Sing the National Anthem
Roseanne Barr, Carl Lewis, Keri Hilson, Jesse McCartney, Cuba Gooding, Sr., Hayden Panetierre, David Hasselhoff...the list goes on and on.
The Star Spangled Banner is not an easy tune, and we should really leave the singing to the singers.
Let Roseanne throw out the first pitch if she must be involved in the game somehow.
22. The World Series Home Field Advantage Rule
The dumbest rule in professional sports.
Making home field advantage in the World Series depend upon which league wins the All-Star Game is like making the Presidential election depend upon whether a Democrat or a Republican won the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
21. Expanding the NCAA Tournament Beyond 64 Teams
In 2010, one of the so-called "play-in" games featured a matchup between Winthrop and Arkansas Pine Bluff to see which team would get the honor of losing to Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Here's a nice rule of thumb: If you have a tournament where the lowest seeded team in a bracket never ever ever beats the highest seeded team in the bracket, you've got enough teams in your tournament.
20. Sudden Death Overtime
As much as I love the New Orleans Saints and don't love Brett Favre...
Yes, sudden death overtime in any sport is crazy. The notion that both teams wouldn't get the opportunity to score is the essence of unfairness.
19. The Super Bowl Shuffle
In retrospect, it's awful.
At the time, it was awful.
It is totally bad ass that they recorded this thing in November, well ahead of the Super Bowl, but still.
18. Leaving Travis Henry Alone at the Team Hotel
Here is a picture of Travis Henry with six of his kids.
Or, put another way, here is a picture of Travis Henry with two-thirds of his total children.
17. Joe Morgan in the Broadcast Booth
Hey, on the field Joe Morgan was, in most people's opinions, second only to Rogers Hornsby amongst second basemen all time.
But in the broadcast booth, Morgan comes across as a relentless self-promoter and expounder on all things incorrect.
Morgan has inspired at least two separate websites dedicated to how bad he is as an announcer, including firejoemorgan.com and joemorgansaid.com.
One of my chief qualms with Morgan has always been his refusal to acknowledge the advances in baseball statistics when, in fact, those advances are the very ones that show him to be an even greater player than he actually was.
Then I read this, from Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated:
"The disconnect between Morgan the player and Morgan the announcer is one that I’m just not sure anyone has figured. Bill James tells a great story about how one time Jon Miller showed Morgan Bill’s New Historical Baseball Abstract, which has Morgan ranked as the best second baseman of all time, ahead of Rogers Hornsby. Well, Morgan starts griping that this was ridiculous, that Hornsby hit .358 in his career, and Morgan never hit .358, and so on. And there it was, perfectly aligned—Joe Morgan the announcer arguing against Joe Morgan the player."
16. Ryan Leaf, NFL Quarterback
One of the greatest moments in People Who Get Paid Too Much to Talk About Sports history, before the 1998 NFL Draft many pundits had the temerity to wonder aloud whether Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning would be the greater NFL quarterback.
A couple of underrated points:
1) Coming out of high school, many pundits thought Josh Booty was a better quarterback than Peyton Manning.
2) It isn't like the San Diego Chargers merely blew a No. 2 overall on Leaf. They traded up from number three to get that pick, and in order to move up just one spot in the draft they sent the Arizona Cardinals two first round picks, a second round pick and four time Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf.
15. Banning Dunking in College Basketball
If there is anything basketball fans have proven to hate over the years, it is dunking. I don't even know why the NCAA brought dunking back.
14. Michael Jordan, Baseball Player
Michael, what the hell are you doing? (Part One).
13. Coming Out of Retirement
Michael, what the hell are you doing? (Part Two).
12. Trying To Catch a Foul Ball at a Cubs Game
You can't blame Steve Bartman for the collapse of the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins.
But you still do.
11. Running onto the Field Before the Game is Over
With Stanford leading 20-19 with four seconds left in a hotly contested game against Cal, the Golden Bears fielded a kickoff and used five lateral passes to score the winning touchdown and earn a disputed 25–20 victory.
The winning touchdown was scored amidst a sea of Stanford band members, who had taken the field thinking the game was over.
Somehow, while bands don't tend to storm the field early, fans still do. See below for one example, dubbed the Bluegrass Miracle.
10. Performance Enhancing Drugs
What's better—using performance enhancing drugs to win gold medals, only to have to return them years later, or never winning the gold medals in the first place?
To tell you the truth, I'm not completely sure I know.
9. The Wildcat
It seemed ingenious when the Miami Dolphins used it to shock the New England Patriots in a regular season game in 2008. Once everyone started using it—and started figuring out how to defend it—it became a relatively useless gimmick.
8. Betting on Baseball
I'll bet Pete Rose, once one of the most beloved baseball players in MLB history and the all-time leader in that most fundamental of baseball statistics—hits—scoffs when he hears people talk about Tiger Woods and squandering a public image.
7. Dog Fighting
"Psst, hey Michael."
"Yeah, what's up?"
"I've got this idea whereby we can be incredibly cruel to 'Man's Best Friend' while at the very same time completely wasting your once in a lifetime talents and any chance you might have to be one of the greatest football players of all time. You in?"
"Man, you had me at 'incredibly cruel.'"
6. Charging the Mound Against Nolan Ryan
That Robin Ventura would take offense to being beaned by Nolan Ryan, at the time the venerable old man of Major League Baseball, was alone absurd. That he would charge the mound against the 46-year-old living legend and hero to every kid in America was just insane.
But not nearly as insane as what happened next.
In the blink of an eye, Ryan had Ventura in a headlock and began furiously pummeling Ventura in the head with his fist. Here's Ventura, a 25 year old, just getting the crap beat out of him by a 46 year old who'd announced his retirement at the beginning of the season.
It was one of the greatest beatdowns ever delivered by a pitcher to a charging hitter.
Watch the video and decide for yourself what the best moment is: the moment where Dean Palmer, who had come to Ryan's rescue, realizes Ryan is sh*t-canning Ventura and backs away, or the "I crap bigger than you" look on Ryan's face after the brawl.
5. Ten Cent Beer Night
Probably no need to explain this one: Cleveland Indians offer absurdly cheap beer, Indians fans get absurdly drunk, riot ensues, game forfeited to the opposing team.
4. Getting Between Bo Jackson and the End Zone
In one of the most heavily anticipated matchups of the season, Seattle Seahawks hotshot rookie Brian Bosworth faced off against Bo Jackson, who had just become an Oakland Raider after the completion of his first full baseball season, on Monday Night Football in 1987. Bosworth talked some trash in the week before the game, boasting that he would contain Jackson.
All Jackson did that night was rush for 221 yards and score three touchdowns, including an untouched run 91 yards down the sideline, only slowing down as he passed through the entrance to the field tunnel to the dressing rooms.
That game also featured the iconic moment (unfortunately) of Bosworth's career. With Bo heading for the end zone on a short yardage play, Bosworth got between Bo and the goal line and looked ready to stuff Jackson.
Bo simply barreled right through Bosworth, taking him into the end zone for the touchdown.
It was just what Bo does.
3. Getting on the Wrong Side of Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan will eff you up. Just ask Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Shawn Kemp, Charles Barkley, and Karl Malone.
Be sure you ask Karl Malone twice.
2. Trading Babe Ruth
Sometimes I wonder if perhaps too much is made of the trade that sent Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in exchange, essentially, for cash.
Ruth would go on to become the greatest player of all time, while putting the New York Yankees on the map and making them the greatest franchise in professional sports history.
Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox went the next 86 years without winning another World Series and have chronically finished in second place to the Yankees for nearly a century.
No, I don't think we're making too much out of this.
1. The Color Barrier
Forget racial equality. Forget All Men Are Created Equal. Forget the repugnance of separate but equal and Jim Crow.
In the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s Major League Baseball teams voluntarily refused the services of guys like Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and James "Cool Papa" Bell, some of the best players to ever play baseball, just because they were black.
Think the Philadelphia Athletics could have dominated the American League with a one-two punch of Satchel Paige and Lefty Grove? So do I.
As the Dodgers discovered when they signed Jackie Robinson, followed quickly by Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe, and then went with him to six World Series in 10 years and won their first ever championship, there was some talent over in the Negro Leagues.
And voluntarily passing on that talent because it had a black face was the worst idea in the history of professional sports.
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