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Calvin Johnson Catch and the 20 Most Costly Sports Mistakes Ever

Sam WestmorelandFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2010

Calvin Johnson Catch and the 20 Most Costly Sports Mistakes Ever

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    After Week 1 in the NFL, Alex Barron and Calvin Johnson might be contenders for the worst play of the season. Johnson made what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown catch, only to leave the ball on the field after coming down with it, which according to NFL rules is an incomplete pass. 

    Barron was guilty of a blatant hold on Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo on Sunday night, negating what would have been the game-winning touchdown for the Cowboys. 

    But in the grand scheme of sports, where do Barron's and Johnson's flubs rank? Here's a list of the 20 worst screw-ups, blunders and bloopers in sports. 

20. Bill Gramatica Is Too Happy about an Extra Point

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    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Gramatica was always a little eccentric, best known for his exuberant celebrations after every made kick—even extra points.

    The Cardinals put up with his harmless fun until midway through his rookie year, when Gramatica jumped up and down after a routine field goal, only to tear his ACL in the process. He played just three more seasons in the NFL and was last seen in the Arena League. 

19. DeSean Jackson Can't Count

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Jackson may be a sure-handed receiver for the Eagles, but during his rookie season, his brain seemed a bit shaky. 

    Jackson caught a what appeared to be a surefire 60-yard touchdown strike from Donovan McNabb, only to set the ball down on the 1-yard line. Fortunately, the Eagles would score on the drive, but not before Jackson entered the pantheon of boneheaded athletes. 

18. Calvin Johnson's Catch that Wasn't

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When is a touchdown catch not a touchdown catch? When the NFL's ridiculous rules are involved.

    Johnson had control of the ball, was down, and to most people looked to have won the game. But, NFL rules say that a player must maintain control of the ball after it touches the ground for it to be complete, which they allege Calvin did not.

    The decision cost the Lions the game. 

17. Alex Barron Tries Out for the UFC

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    For those who don't know, here's a tip: it's illegal for offensive linemen to try and choke out their opponent. It's especially stupid for them to try and do it on what would have been the game-winning play. 

    Last year, Barron was the second-most penalized lineman in football, behind teammate Flozell Adams. Now? He's got no one between him and that dubious distinction. 

16. Tony Romo Can't Catch

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    This is why the punter is the holder for Dallas now.

    In 2006, Romo was the Cowboys' backup quarterback to start the season and was therefore the team's holder on field goal tries. But on the final play of Dallas' playoff clash with the Seattle Seahawks, as the Cowboys lined up to kick the game-winning field goal, Romo let the ball slip through his hands. 

    Needless to say, Romo doesn't hold for kicks anymore. 

15. Leon "Letts" Victory Slip Through His Hands

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, the Cowboys were leading the Miami Dolphins late in the game. The Cowboys blocked an attempted field goal by the Dolphins, and 10 Dallas players stayed away from the ball, not wanting to give Miami possession. 

    Unfortunately for Dallas, Leon Lett was the 11th Cowboy on the field, and Lett dove after the ball, inadvertently knocking it toward the Cowboys end zone. The Fish recovered the ball, successfully converted another field goal try, and walked off with a victory. 

14. Hale Irwin Blows the British Open

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Irwin's blunder didn't happen on the final hole, but ultimately cost him a shot at the 1983 British Open title. Irwin missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and, in his frustration, whiffed on the two-inch gimme that followed it. 

    He missed the ball completely.

    The man known as one of the 50 greatest golfers of all time swung and missed like Adam Dunn on a Barry Zito curveball. 

    Irwin ultimately lost to Tom Watson by a stroke. 

13. San Diego Chargers Whiff on Ryan Leaf

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Leaf was selected as the second pick in the 1998 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. Scouts saw him as a decent starting quarterback in the NFL with a high ceiling. But Leaf has gone down as one of the worst busts in the history of the league, totally washed out of football by 2002.

    This would rank higher if Drew Brees and Philip Rivers hadn't come along and fixed the Chargers. 

12. He Who Shall Not Be Named

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    Words are not necessary.

    You know who he is.

    You know what happened that night in the Windy City.

    You even know that Moises Alou admitted later that he might not have caught the ball.

    But none of that matters. This man cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series. 

11. Leon Lett Is a Colossal Idiot

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    Leon Lett is fat and slow. Don Beebe is not. This never ends well.

    Leon Lett is slow. He's also fat.

    So when he recovered a fumble and took it towards the end zone during Super Bowl XXVII, the last thing Cowboys fans wanted to see was big, fat, slow Leon Lett slowing down to showboat.

    But he did, and speedy Bills receiver Don Beebe chased him down, knocking the ball from Lett's hands, costing the Cowboys a touchdown. 

    It didn't make a difference in the game, as the Cowboys routed the Bills 52-17. But it does make Lett a fat, slow idiot. 

10. Jackie Smith Is Sick

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    Bless his heart

    The Cowboys trailed the Steelers, 21-14, in the third quarter of Super Bowl XIII when, on third down from the Pittsburgh 38, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach floated a pass to reserve tight end Jackie Smith, who was alone in the end zone.

    At first, Smith appeared to make the catch, but he lost the ball as he hit the ground. The Cowboys settled for a field goal and ultimately lost 35-31. 

    The drop prompted Verne Lundquist to say "Bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America right now." Smith retired after the game. 

9. Fred Brown Is Not Worthy

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    James Worthy reminds Georgetown's Fred Brown who he plays for.

    Brown was Georgetown's starting point guard in the 1982 NCAA championship game. The Hoyas trailed by a point with less than 10 seconds left, when Brown, for whatever reason, passed the ball to North Carolina's James Worthy, who ran out the clock, giving Worthy and Michael Jordan their first national title. 

8. Jean Van de Velde Blows Up

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    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Van de Velde led the 1999 Open Championship by three strokes heading into the 18th hole at Carnoustie. The Frenchman needed just a double bogey to become the first Frenchman to win the Open Championship since 1907. 

    However, Van de Velde gave us a choke for the ages, coughing up a triple bogey to cost him the tournament outright. His confidence shattered, Van de Velde ultimately lost to Paul Lawrie in the playoff. 

    Van de Velde's name is now forever associated with terrible chokes. 

7. Sam Bowie?! Really?!

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Poor Sam Bowie. It's not his fault the Blazers opted to take a fifth-year senior with a history of serious knee issues over the most dynamic, exciting player in the history of basketball. 

    But it is Portland's fault. The Blazers appear to have replicated that feat with their 2008 draft, in which the team took Greg Oden first overall, instead of the dynamic Kevin Durant. 

6. Lindsay Jacobellis Learns Showboating Is Bad

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Lindsey Jacobellis is a female snowboarder from the U.S. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, Jacobellis held a significant lead over the rest of the field in the women's snowboard cross as she launched from the final jump. 

    Unfortunately, Lindsey got fancy, grabbing her board. The move cause her to crash, and cost her a gold medal. 

    Jacobellis didn't get a chance to redeem herself in 2010, as she was forced to hit a gate to avoid another racer and was disqualified. 

5. Chris Webber Can't Count

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    The infamous call.

    The North Carolina Tar Heels led the Michigan Wolverines, 73-71, in the 1993 NCAA Championship Game  when Webber rebounded a free throw and his brain shut down. 

    Webber signalled for a time out, apparently forgetting that his Wolverines had already used them all. The ensuing free throws sealed the win for North Carolina and sent Webber to college basketball infamy. 

4. Scott Norwood's Case of the Shanks

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    George Rose/Getty Images

    Norwood made 72.8 percent of the field goals attempted in his career. But in Super Bowl XXV, he missed  the biggest kick of his career, sending the ball wide right and sending his Bills to defeat.

    During warmups, Norwood had seen his kicks hook to the left and in, so he took the infamous kick the same way. 

    The only problem was, the ball didn't curve. He played just one more season in Buffalo, but never lived the moment down. 

3. Roberto Baggio's Case of the Shanks

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    The Italian national team found themselves in the 1994 World Cup final against Brazil, and Roberto Baggio was a big reason why. He'd scored five goals in the tournament, all of which came in the knockout phase of the competition. 

    So when the final match went to penalties, it was a given that Baggio would score. But a funny thing happened on the way to immortality: Baggio shanked the kick, sending it well high of the crossbar.

    The Italians lost the match.

2. Andres Escobar's Own Goal

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Escobar was an incredibly talented Colombian footballer. The defender scored an own goal in the team's match against the U.S. during the group stages of the 1994 World Cup, accidentally knocking the ball into his own net while playing a cross. 

    The Colombians were ultimately eliminated from the tournament because of the loss, and Escobar was killed days after returning to his country. It was suspected that his killing was related to the heavy losses numerous gambling syndicates took when the team was eliminated. 

1. Zinedine Zidane Heads His Opponent, Not the Ball

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Ah, the biggest screw up in sports history.

    Zidane was playing in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy, his final international match. The French forward was sent off in the 110th minute of the match, after headbutting Italian defender and all-around pest Marco Materazzi in the chest. 

    The French ultimately lost in a shootout, 5-3, and Zidane's absence was largely blamed for the defeat. He never played in a French uniform again. 

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