Wayne Rooney And The Most Stunning Big Stage Flops In Sports History
"Stage fright" refers to an individual's tendency to experience tremendous anxiety when performing in front of an audience. Although the term generally pertains to the realm of theatre, its place in sports is undeniable.
With the exception of major political happenings, professional sporting events draw arguably the largest crowds in the world. Thus, it is only natural that certain athletes would be hard pressed to cope with the overwhelming expectations, pressure, and hype surrounding them on the big stage.
In no particular order, this slideshow will count down some of the most surprising big stage flops in sports history. I'm sure there were some that have slipped by me, so feel free to add any I may have missed.
Here's to having gametime heart rates under 200 bpm.
2010 FIFA World Cup: Wayne Rooney
This past World Cup was supposed to be Wayne's world, with Rooney leading jolly old England to the promised land.
Unfortunately for England, the only promised land the Three Lions may have visited after the World Cup was a fish and chips restaurant.
Coach Fabio Capello was ultimately unable to fit his exceedingly high billing, and England bowed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals, only after barely advancing out of group play.
Although the entire squad underperformed terribly, Wayne Rooney was easily the star that shone the dullest. The Man U striker entered the tournament as arguably one of the worlds best footballers and a possible favorite for the golden boot award.
Instead, Rooney managed only four shots on goal the entire tournament, no goals, and no assists. The 2009-2010 Barclays Player of the Season was virtually a non-factor. After the team's draw against Algeria, he vented his frustration by responding to less than happy English fans with these comments--"Nice to see your home fans boo you, that's loyal supporters."
Rooney has since apologized for his comments, but his inability to perform on the grandest of stages may have left some deeper scars.
1985 NCAAB National Championship: Georgetown Hoyas
Georgetown entered the 1985 National Championship Game as the overwhelming favorites against fellow Big East competitor Villanova.
The Hoyas, a one seed, featured the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year and arguably one of the greatest college basketball players of all time, Patrick Ewing. Villanova's appearance in the championship game came as a complete shock to the rest of the college basketball world, as the Cinderella Wildcats entered the game as an eight seed.
In what is considered the greatest upset in college basketball history, the Wildcats knocked off the defending championship Hoyas by a score of 66-64. The game was Ewing's last in college, and Nova became the lowest seed to ever win an NCAA Championship.
2001 World Series: Byung Hyun Kim
Kim's appearance on this list is certainly questionable, as his talent level was not head and shoulders above his competition. However, his failure to convert on the big stage not once, but twice (on back to back days, mind you) makes Kim worth mentioning.
The Arizona Diamondbacks entered game four of the 2001 World Series with a 2-1 lead. After 8 innings of play, a 3-1 D-Back edge indicated that Curt Schilling and company were about to put a stranglehold on the series.
Kim relieved Schilling in the eighth and performed admirably. In the bottom of the ninth however, he let up a two run homer to Tino Martinez, tying the game at three apiece. Derek Jeter hit another home run off Kim in the very next inning, giving the Yankees a dramatic series tying victory.
The very next night, manager Bob Brenly decided to call on Kim yet again, hoping that this time he would be able to redeem himself. With another two run lead, Kim was yet again unable to secure a victory, surrendering a home run to Scott Brosius in the bottom of the ninth. The Yanks would eventually emerge victorious in the bottom of the twelfth, gaining a 3-2 edge in the series.
Luckily for Kim, the D-Backs salvaged the remaining two games and won the series, thus preventing him from becoming one of the most notorious closers of all-time.
1996 Masters: Greg Norman
Greg Norman entered the final round of the 1996 masters primed and ready to build upon his world number one ranking. Instead, the Great White Shark attacked himself.
Despite a six shot lead, Norman was unable to seal the deal, shooting an abysmal six over par 78, costing him the green jacket. The meltdown is considered one of the worst in golf history, and has often been compared to Ken Venturi's 1956 Masters abomination. Venturi began the final round of play with a four shot lead, only to shoot an 80 and lose the tournament by a stroke. Venturi is not included on this list due to the fact that he was only an amateur at the time.
2004 United States Olympic Basketball Team
Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Dwanye Wade, Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson, Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, Amar'e Stoudemire, Emeka Okafor.
Sounds like a pretty good team, doesn't it?
Despite a star-studded lineup, the 2004 Mens Olympic Team was unable to bring home the Gold Medal. Their failure to achieve world supremacy marked the first time the United States did not win the Gold Medal with professional players on their roster.
I guess loads of talent doesn't always win championships...
Super Bowl III: Baltimore Colts
The defending NFL Champion Colts were dubbed by the sports media as "the greatest team in Pro Football History." Unfortunately for Coach Don Shula and company, the Colts were unable to live up to the hype.
Despite being favored by an astouding seventeen points, the Colts were unable to defeat the upstart New York Jets, who, aided by the overconfidence of quarterback Joe Namath, defeated the Colts in what is known as the most stunning upset in Super Bowl History.
2006 FIFA World Cup: Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho came into the 2006 World Cup as the consensus world's best player, and his Brazilians entered the tournament favorite.
By months end, neither of these universal understandings seemed to hold any truth.
Brazil was knocked out by France in the quarterfinals by a score of 1-0. Ronaldinho was virtually nonexistent the entire tournament, as the 2004 FIFA Player of the Year, known for his prolific goal-scoring abilities, registered zero goals and recorded only one assist, which came in an easy 4-1 group stage victory over Japan. In the deciding match against France, Ronaldinho managed only one shot on goal.
1999 Open Championship: Jean Van De Velde
Van De Velde was actually surprise competitor at the 1999 Open, and had the Frenchman maintained his final hole lead, his victory would have been regarded as a rather considerable upset. Sadly however, hypotheticals are only that--hypothetical.
Instead, Van De Velde became the unfortunate victim of his infamous 18th hole collapse at Carnoustie. Up by two strokes entering the final hole, all he needed to do was score a double bogey to become the first French born player to win the tournament in nearly 100 years.
A wayward tee shot, a granstand, and a bunker later, Van De Velde ended up with a triple bogey, falling into a three-way playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard, with Lawrie emerging victorious.
"Stunning" is a highly applicable word to describe this one.
1990 and Beyond: Mike Tyson
In 1990, Mike Tyson was on top of the boxing world. As undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Iron Mike seemed all but unstoppable.
Then along came a man by the name of Buster Douglas.
Despite overwhelming 42-1 odds, Douglas inexplicably knocked out the most feared boxer (and men) on the planet in the 10th round. The result is considered one of the most stunning upsets in sports history. Since that incident, Tyson's career spiraled considerably downhill, plagued by a plethora of serious legal issues.
Once a titan on the grandest of stages, Iron Mike declared bankruptcy in 2003.
1980 Winter Olympics: USSR Hockey Team
We all know the outcome of the 1980 Winter Olympic Hockey Game between United States and the Soviet Union. We all know Al Michael's famed "do you believe in miracles? Yes!" We all know that the event has been immortalized as one of the greatest moments in American sports history.
With every action however, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Such is the case with the USSR Hockey team.
The Soviet machine's loss to a bunch of amateur "cawledge hawkey" players is unquestionably one of the most stunning big stage debacles. Entering that fateful game, the Soviets were 27-1-1 since the 1960 Olympics, outscoring their opponents 175-44 during that time period. Even more impressively, the Soviets dismantled the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in an exhibition match a few months prior to the games.
After the "Miracle on Ice, the Soviets did not lose another game for five years.