Top 25 Sports Mulligans: Athletes Who Would Love Do-Overs

Colin Ward-HenningerContributor IApril 29, 2011

Top 25 Sports Mulligans: Athletes Who Would Love Do-Overs

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    RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 12:  Robert Green of England misjudges the ball and lets in a goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between England and USA at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 12, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa
    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Golf is a great game, but it's extremely frustrating. For guys like me who golf about twice a year, the best part is the tee shot on a par five.

    You get to blast the ball as far as you want with no regard for "touch" or "finesse." That's why it's that much more frustrating when you shank it into the woods or top a ball that ends up three feet in front of you.

    That's where the mulligan comes in. It was supposedly invented by some guy named David Mulligan who, after a poor shot in 1920, decided he wanted to tee it up again and re-shoot.

    I'm sure the idea existed well before that, but thanks to Dave, now we have a name for it.

    Unfortunately there are no mulligans in competitive sports (not even golf), though some athletes wish they could go back and fix their mistakes.

    Here are the athletes who, if they had their way, would go back and take a mulligan on their embarrassing moments.

25. Larry Walker Gives Ball to Fan

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    Larry Walker is a kind-hearted individual who always wants to give back to the fans. That's exactly what he did one sunny day in Los Angeles in 1994.

    The Dodgers' Mike Piazza hit a foul ball that sliced towards the seats down the first base line in right field. Walker, then playing for the Expos, ran over and made the catch just before running into the stands. Pleased with himself, Walker handed the ball to a kid in the stands as a souvenir.

    Unfortunately for Walker, his catch was only the second out of the inning and the runner on first tagged up and advanced while Walker sheepishly took the ball back from the kid and threw it to the infield.

    The ball was ruled dead and the runner was awarded third base. And yes, the kid was given a baseball at the end of the inning.

    If Walker had a mulligan, he'd remember only to be a nice guy with two outs.

24. Tony Romo's Butterfingers

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    The fans have been told for a long time that Tony Romo is the quarterback that's going to lead them back to the Super Bowl.

    He's not helping his case with plays like this. The Cowboys were a 19-yard field goal away from winning their playoff game against the Seahawks in 2007. This time it wasn't the kicker who messed up, but the holder.

    Some teams have the punter hold, while others have a special player designated for it. The Cowboys allowed Tony Romo to hold this one...or attempt to hold it.

    Romo couldn't get a grip on the ball and the kick was never attempted. Time ran out and the Cowboys' season was over.

    If he had a mulligan, maybe Romo wouldn't have eaten all that fried chicken before taking the field. 

23. Roberto Alomar Spits on Umpire

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    One of the best things about baseball is that when a player gets thrown out of the game, he pretty much has free reign to do whatever he wants.

    Whereas in sports like basketball, the fight ends when the player gets ejected, in baseball, the fight is just beginning.

    This was the case in 1997, when Orioles second baseman Robby Alomar was playing against his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Maybe he thought he was being cheated out of putting on a show for his old fans, but Alomar took exception to a call made my home plate umpire John Hirschbeck.

    Alomar got his money's worth, getting in Hirschbeck's face, but the incident went to another level when Alomar rared back and launched a loogie into the umpire's face.

    If Alomar wishes he had a mulligan for spitting, he also wishes he had one for the way he reacted. After claiming that Hirschbeck had used a racial slur, Alomar said that the umpire was upset because one of his sons had died of ALD and his other son had just been diagnosed.

    Alomar was suspended for five games and donated $50,000 to ALD research. He was also elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this year.

22. DeSean Jackson Celebrates Prematurely

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    DeSean Jackson is a big-play receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles who made a poor impression in his rookie season of 2008.

    Jackson caught a pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb behind the defense and had a wide-open lane to the end zone. Jackson was ready to celebrate what would be his first NFL touchdown so he dropped the ball and began doing his dance.

    But the Cowboys challenged and determined that Jackson dropped the ball before the ball crossed the goal line, so the touchdown was called back.

    The Eagles still scored the touchdown, but Jackson probably wants a mulligan to make sure his first NFL touchdown actually counted.

21. Kyle Brotzman Misses Two Huge Field Goals

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    Boise State had been upset for years that they hadn't received a national title shot because they played in a weak conference.

    In 2010, they headed into the last game of the regular season against Nevada undefeated-- a win would give them a legitimate shot at the BCS National Championship game.

    They had a chance to win at the end of regulation. All kicker Kyle Brotzman had to do was make a 26-yard field goal, something every high schooler playing around on the field after a game has done in his life.

    He missed, of course, and the game went into overtime. There Brotzman got a shot at redemption, a 29-yarder that would put the Broncos up by three.

    He missed that one, too.

    Nevada went down and kicked a field goal to win the game, and Boise State's national championship hopes went up in flames.

    Anybody can have a brief lapse in concentration, so the first one is permissible. But for the second missed field goal, Brotzman definitely needs a mulligan.

20. Steve Bartman Interferes with Foul Ball

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    Okay, so Steve Bartman's not exactly an athlete (as he clearly displays), but since he is attempting to catch a fly ball, I think we can include him on this list.

    The Cubs led the series 3-2 and the game 3-0 in the eighth inning when "the curse" reared its ugly head. An arguably catchable foul ball was deflected by a headphone-clad fan as left fielder Moises Alou jumped to catch it.

    The ball went foul, the Cubs lost the game and the series, and Steve Bartman went down in infamy in Chicago.

    Of course everyone outside Chicago realizes it wasn't Bartman's fault at all that the Cubs lost the series, but just to make his life easier, I'm sure Bartman wouldn't mind a mulligan.

    *Note: this was the best video I could find of the incident so please forgive me for the atrocious song that accompanies it. That's why the mute button was designed.

19. Derrick Rose Misses Clutch Free Throw

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    Derrick Rose is the likely NBA MVP for this season and he's hoping to lead his top-seeded Bulls to their first title since MJ, but there's one title Rose will never have.

    After leading by nine with two minutes left in the NCAA championship game, Rose and his Memphis Tigers saw their lead over Kansas whittled down to just two with 10 seconds left.

    Kansas fouled Rose, then a freshman, who went to the line with a chance to put the game out of reach and cement the championship for Memphis.

    Rose watched the first of his two free throws rattle out of the rim (1:40 in the video), ensuring that it would remain a one-possession game. He made the second, but Kansas guard Mario Chalmers made one of the most memorable shots in NCAA history to tie the game.

    The Tigers eventually lost in overtime and Derrick Rose, despite having a terrific game, will be remembered for missing that crucial free throw.

18. Alex Rodriguez: The Slap

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19:  Pitcher Bronson Arroyo #61 of the Boston Red Sox has the ball knocked out of his glove by batter Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees on a tag-out at first base as first baseman Kevin Millar #15 looks on in the eighth inning
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    It was Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. The Yankees had been up 3-0 on their rival Red Sox and had famously blown leads in Game 4 and Game 5 to put the pressure back onto the Yankees in the Bronx.

    Trailing 4-2 against reliever Bronson Arroyo, Alex Rodriguez took a mighty hack and hit a weak dribbler down the first base line. Arroyo picked up the ball with his glove and went to tag Rodriguez, but A-Rod wasn't having any of that.

    A-Rod took a swing at the ball in what would come to be known as "The Slap" and knocked the ball loose. At first he was elated to have reached base safely, but the umpires got together and called Rodriguez out for obstruction.

    It was only a matter of hours before the incident blew up on the Internet, calling A-Rod various effeminate names and using Photoshop to create some less-than-flattering images.

    If A-Rod had to do it over again I'm guessing he would have just taken the tag...or at least punched Arroyo in the face...anything but a slap...

17. Fred Brown Passes to the Wrong Team

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    People knew Michael Jordan was going to be a good NBA player, but they got a glimpse of his clutch abilities when he hit the game-winning shot with 16 seconds left against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA Championship game.

    Of course, that might not have been the game-winning shot had Georgetown guard Fred Brown not passed the ball to North Carolina's James Worthy on the ensuing possession. (The NCAA has disabled the embedding of their video, but you can watch it here.)

    Worthy was fouled and missed the free throw but all Georgetown could muster was a Hail Mary at the buzzer.

    Georgetown lost and Michael Jordan started a grand tradition of beating Patrick Ewing's teams, but all of that may not have happened if Fred Brown had looked before he passed.

16. Nick Anderson Misses Four Straight Free Throws

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    In 1995, Orlando had made it to the NBA Finals faster than anyone had expected. They were led by Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal, who were in their second and third years in the league, respectively.

    They had a tough matchup against the defending champion Houston Rockets. In Game 1, the Magic were looking to set the tone and prove to the Rockets that they belonged with them. They were well on their way until Nick Anderson stepped to the free throw line to ice the game.

    Anderson shot 70 percent from the stripe in the regular season and, holding a three-point lead, needed to make just one of four free throws to put the game out of reach. The pressure of the Finals proved too much for him as he was unable to knock any of them down.

    The Magic lost Game 1, and eventually the series, to the Rockets and didn't make it back to the Finals until 2009.

    If Nick Anderson could have a mulligan, I'm sure he'd take it for one of those doinked free throws.

15. John Carney Misses Extra Point

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    John Carney is one of the most prolific kickers in NFL history, but he sure wishes he could have this one back.

    Trailing by seven points, the Saints needed to pull off an absolute miracle on their final play to beat force their game with the Jaguars into overtime.

    The miracle play, they got. Overtime, they did not.

    After an improbably complicated touchdown play (later dubbed the "River City Relay"), the Saints celebrated on the sidelines while Carney, as steady as they come, lined up for the extra point.

    Maybe he was a bit too excited as he missed the chip shot wide right, which produced an anticlimactic end to a sterling finish.

    Just so you know, Carney has only missed 10 out of 638 extra points in his entire career.

14. Mitch Williams Blows World Series

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    On second thought, maybe I should have gone with the fastball.

    Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams certainly lived up to his nickname while pitching for the Phillies, never more prominently than in the 1993 World Series against the Blue Jays.

    After the Phillies took a 6-5 lead, Williams was brought on to save the game . Down 3-2 in the series, the Phillies' World Series hopes now rested on the mullet of Mitch Williams.

    Williams' saves were always eventful (he was known for questionable control and falling down after his pitches), so it was no surprise when he put two Blue Jays on base with one out, bringing up Blue Jays slugger Joe Carter.

    Williams worked to a 2-2 count and decided to throw a slider that Carter promptly deposited over the left field wall for a walk-off, World Series-winning home run.

    It was one of the best moments in baseball history for the Blue Jays, but Williams wouldn't mind having that pitch back.

13. Jose Canseco Uses His Head

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    Jose Canseco probably has a lot of regrets, but this one has to be at the top of the list.

    Never known for his defense, then-Ranger Jose Canseco went back on a fly ball, jumped at the warning track, and came down without the ball.

    He looked around for a while until he realized that the ball had bounced off his head and over the fence for a home run.

    If he had a mulligan, I'm guessing Jose would have just let the ball bounce off the wall for a double and saved himself countless appearances on Jumbotrons across the country.

12. Ron Artest Goes After Fans

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    Ron Artest is known for being, let's just say...quirky. These days most of his antics are light-hearted and harmless, but there was a time when he was quite a hothead who was putting himself in dangerous situations.

    The most famous of these, of course, was the Malice at the Palace, when Artest decided to go after the fan who threw a beer on him.

    I don't know if Artest (or any amped-up athlete) would ever be able to sit still while the crowd was throwing beer on him, so the mulligan is for lying on the scorer's table in the first place.

    On one hand I feel bad for him because he was originally trying to avoid the conflict on the court. Unfortunately, he ended up starting his own conflict in the stands.

    There are definitely some other athletes (Jermaine O'Neal at 0:46) who wish they had a mulligan on this night, but since everyone else blames Ron Artest, why shouldn't we?

11. Greg Norman Collapses at the Masters

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    Usually you can point to one moment that an athlete would like to go back and change. For Greg Norman, it's pretty much the whole day.

    The Australian golfer known as "The Shark" entered his final round at the 1996 Masters up six shots on his closest competitor, Nick Faldo.

    Nobody is quite sure what happened, but Norman played terribly on the final day and saw his six-shot lead evaporated after just nine holes.

    Norman shot a 77 for the day, lost the Masters, and was never in contention for the green jacket again.

    Maybe we need another name for a mulligan for an entire round. How about a "Norman"? 

10. Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield

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    There are probably a lot of things in life that Mike Tyson wishes he could take back, namely the permanent ink pattern he decided to etch into his face, but in the ring, there's one moment that truly stands out.

    It was June 28, 1997, and Mike Tyson was trying to reclaim his position atop the boxing world in his second fight with Evander Holyfield. Tyson had been knocked out in the sixth round of their previous fight seven months prior.

    Apparently Tyson thought this one was headed in a similar direction, as in the third round Tyson decided his best strategy was to bite Holyfield's ear. During a tie-up, Tyson took a huge chunk out of Holyfield's ear and spit it onto the mat.

    Referee Mills Lane decided not to disqualify Tyson, but rather penalized him two points and continued the fight.

    Lane immediately regretted his soon as Holyfield and Tyson got tied up again, Tyson took a bite out of Holyfield's other ear.

    At this point, Lane had no choice but to disqualify Tyson.

    Boxers are extremely competitive and Tyson apparently thought that Holyfield was intentionally headbutting him, so I can excuse the first bite as an act of passion.

    But when you go back for a second helping, you know you're a lunatic.

9. Steve Lyons Drops Pants

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    People of my generation know Steve Lyons as a baseball announcer, but we know that he played because of one memorable blunder during a 1990 game.

    After executing a pretty good drag bunt and diving head-first into first base, Lyons was called safe with an infield single.

    Lyons got some dirt in his pants from the slide and decided he wanted to get it out right there in front of an entire stadium of fans.

    You can't blame the guy for wanting to be clean, but if he had a mulligan, he would probably wait until he went back to the dugout to get the dirt out.

8. Robert Green Misplays Shot

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    Soccer was at the height of its popularity in America last summer during the World Cup. It helped that the USA actually did pretty well for a change.

    Part of the reason they did so well was an upset tie with England, but it's safe to say just a little bit of luck was involved.

    Trailing 1-0 in the 40th minute, American Clint Dempsey blasted a shot from well outside the penalty box, the type of shot that England goalie Robert Green has handled thousands of times in his career.

    But this time, on the world's biggest stage, Green fumbled the shot and allowed it to trickle into the goal.

    The match ended in a 1-1 tie, which was essentially a victory for the U.S. and an embarrassment for Green and the English team.

7. Leon Lett Makes Two Bonehead Blunders

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    Not only does former Cowboy Leon Lett have not one, but two plays on ESPN's list of the Top 25 Sports Blunders, but they're both in the top three.

    That's a difficult feat, but if anyone deserves it, it's definitely Leon Lett.

    The first mishap occurred in the Super Bowl in January 1993. He recovered a fumble on Buffalo's 45-yard line and ran it back towards the end zone. As Lett neared paydirt, he slowed down to savor it and held the ball out to celebrate.

    Unfortunately he didn't see Bills receiver Don Beebe, who chased down the 350-pound Lett from behind and knocked the ball out of his hands. It went out of the end zone and resulted in a touchback.

    The Cowboys still won the game handily, 52-17, but it cost the team the record for the most points ever scored in a Super Bowl game (55).

    The second came later that same year on Thanksgiving against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys were up 14-13 when the Dolphins lined up for a 41-yard field goal that would give them the lead. The Cowboys blocked the kick in mid-flight and watched as the ball spun around on the icy surface.

    In an unfathomable case of deja vu, Lett inexplicably tried to recover the ball, slipped on the ice, muffed the ball, and the Dolphins recovered, giving them another shot at a game-winning field goal. This time it went through as time expired and the Cowboys lost, 16-14. 

6. Scott Norwood: Wide Right

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    Kickers have a rough life. They make thousands of field goals during their careers, but usually the only ones we remember are the ones they miss.

    Such is definitely the case for Scott Norwood, whose name is synonymous with "choking kicker." He missed a 47-yard field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXV that would have given the Bills their first NFL championship. Instead they lost to the New York Giants, 20-19.

    The people of Buffalo eased up on Norwood slightly as the Bills went on to lose four consecutive Super Bowls (the other three were hardly Norwood's fault), but something tells me he still wouldn't mind a mulligan on the kick that went "wide right."

5. Brett Favre Plays the Gunslinger

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    Brett Favre is a coach's dream and worst nightmare rolled into one. He's the NFL's all-time leader in both touchdowns and interceptions, and he's been known to "go for it" in situations where the smart thing is to play it safe.

    In 2009 Favre decided to return to play for the Minnesota Vikings and he had arguably the best season of his career. The Vikings looked ready to make a run to the Super Bowl and were well on their way in the 2009 NFC Championship game against the Saints.

    And then everyone was reminded about the downside to Brett Favre.

    All he had to do was throw the ball away, take a knee, anything but throw back across his body across the middle. But Favre saw something nobody else did and made the throw, had it intercepted, and the Vikings lost the game.

    Favre came back and gave it another shot in 2010 but had an awful, injury-marred season. If he could go back, I'm sure he would throw the ball away, win the game, and retire with a Super Bowl win.

    If only he had a mulligan.

4. Zinedine Zidane Headbutts Opponent

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    In the 2006 World Cup final, Italy and France were tied, 1-1, in the 110th minute of extra time. That's when things went downhill for French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane.

    Zidane, who had already announced his plans to retire after the tournament, took offense to something Italian player Marco Materazzi said to him and unleashed a head butt directly into his chest.

    The assault resulted in a red card and ejection for Zidane, the French team's best scorer.

    The game went into penalty kicks and Italy won 5-3 for its fourth World Cup title. If you watch Zidane's explanation, he claims that Materazzi said "very hard words" about his mother and his sister and continued to repeat them even after Zidane had walked away.

    While Zidane's mother and sister may have appreciated the gesture, I'm sure even they wish Zidane could have a mulligan on this one. 

3. Chris Webber Calls Timeout

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    Chris Webber was a tremendous NBA player. He is one of five players in NBA history to average over 20 points, nine rebounds, and four assists for his career and played on some of the best teams never to win a championship when he was in Sacramento.

    Unfortunately nobody will remember that because of the bonehead play he made while playing at Michigan. We all know the situation by now.

    Michigan trailed 73-71 in the National Championship game against North Carolina. North Carolina missed a free throw, which was rebounded by Webber, who proceeded to travel, then dribble all the way to the opposite baseline before calling timeout.

    The Wolverines, of course, didn't have any timeouts left and were assessed a technical foul, which put the game out of reach and cost Michigan the title.

    Webber may wish he had a mulligan, but at least he has a sense of humor about it.

    He founded a charitable organization in 1993 dedicated to providing positive educational and recreational opportunities to youth. The name of the organization?

    The Timeout Foundation.

2. Jean Van De Velde Disaster on 18

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    Jean Van de Velde was a promising young French golfer who was having the tournament of his life at the British Open at Carnoustie in 1999.

    He had played virtually error-free golf for the entire tournament and came into the par-four final hole needing only a six to win the championship.

    Then the errors started.

    You can watch the agonizing video, which has been replayed countless times when talking about all-time sports chokes, but the biggest mistake seems to have been going for the green on his second shot instead of laying up.

    He finished the hole with a seven, forcing a three-way playoff which was won by Paul Lawrie.

    As you can imagine, Van de Velde's career never quite took off after the monumental collapse. If only he had a mulligan on that second shot. 

1. Bill Buckner Takes the Blame

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    If there's anyone in the world who needs a mulligan, it's Bill Buckner. Outside of one play, Buckner had a solid major league career and even won a batting title in 1980.

    But that one play is all he will be remembered for.

    Much like Bartman, the loss wasn't really Buckner's fault. The Red Sox pitchers had already allowed the game to be tied with a wild pitch. On top of that, the Sox still had to go on to lose Game 7.

    He's No. 1, not because he made the biggest mistake, but because of the agony he's had to live through because of it.

    *Note: people rarely get to see the full at-bat, but Mookie Wilson doesn't get enough credit for fouling off countless tough pitches before putting the ball in play.