2018 had almost everything when it came to sports: all the usual leagues and series, as well as the Olympics and the men’s FIFA World Cup. All of those events and matches meant one thing: there were more opportunities than usual for things to go wrong. Herewith the best sports bloopers of the past year.
I would argue this is less of a blooper and more a piece of brilliant performance art, but the fact remains that at his first Flyers game ever, Gritty fell flat on his back. The fuzzy orange monster had been unveiled as the hockey team’s mascot earlier that week, and I was skeptical. Who was this overgrown Muppet who looked like he’d fallen into a vat of radioactive fluid and clawed his way out? Were the Flyers trying too hard to go viral?
No. They weren’t. The minute Gritty slipped, I saw his whole orange, shining self in all his purely outrageous glory. This spectacular specimen has gone on to become a beacon of authentic mischievousness. What started as a head-scratcher has grown into a full-blown movement. Gritty took America by storm, and, I would argue, became the best thing to happen to us in a long time. Long live Gritty. We barely deserve you.
The MNF crew and Booger McFarland’s machine
It might be mean to call an entire broadcast crew a blooper, but I say it with love: I don’t really know how to pick just one moment of dysfunction when it comes to ESPN’s Monday Night Football team. The show features a two man-booth of Joe Tessitore and former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and a one-man crane of Booger McFarland. I’m assuming you’ve all seen or heard about this, but in case you haven’t: There are two guys in the booth and one man suspended in mid-air above the sideline on a cherry picker/forklift/crane/whatever you want to call it. This would be fine if the quality of the commentary was fine, but it is unfortunately quite stilted and lopsided.
I have to admit that I have done a 180 on this show. I love Monday Night Football now. I watch to see what bizarre musical halftime performance—filmed in black and white and lasting only about one minute-long—the Worldwide Leader will bless us with. I tune in for the painful banter between Witten and Tess, who clearly don’t love each other but try to pretend, and Witten and Booger, who don’t even pretend anymore, and Tess and Tess, who loves himself. When Tess calls a touchdown, he sounds like a used car salesman promoting a Christmas deal. Much like Gritty, this is performance art.
Titus O’Neil's Tumble through the ring at the Royal Rumble
Wrestlers are known for their grand entrances, but Titus O’Neil took things to a new level in Saudi Arabia when he entered the bottom of the ring instead of the top. Watch the video—it’s like something out of a Buster Keaton movie. Wrestling fans had a field day with it: you can even buy t-shirts commemorating this legendary trip.
Sergio Garcia's meltdown at the Masters
I have never related more to an athlete than when Sergio Garcia shot a 13 on one hole at the Masters. What golfer hasn’t completely unraveled before? At least once a round I find myself deep in the weeds, physically and metaphorically, as the ball once again refuses to go where it’s supposed to. Garcia’s mistakes were a refreshing reminder that athletes are human and susceptible to the same kinds of meltdowns that we mere mortals experience. As my dad always says, “Golf is 90% mental and 10% mental.”
Own goals at the World Cup
Okay, I lied when I said that I’d never related to an athlete more than when Garcia shot a 13. I also deeply identified with every single own-goal soccer players scored during the World Cup (which was somehow this year even though it seems like we’ve taken 13 trips around the sun since). The title of my memoir will one day be I Did This To Myself, so these really hit home. Every time I lock myself out of my apartment, I think of Moroccan forward Aziz Bouhaddouz heading the ball into his own goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to lose the game to Iran and I feel a bit better.
Fox Sports and the Sandy Koufax/Bill Nye Mix-Up
This tweet, folks, was an all-timer. During the World Series, Fox Sports posted a picture with the caption: “The stars are out tonight in LA!” and tagged Rob Lowe and Bill Nye. The only problem was that the man they identified as Bill Nye was, in fact, all-time Dodger great Sandy Koufax. Look, we’ve all made mistakes online (hello!), but to misidentify one of the greatest Dodgers of all time during a Dodgers World Series is just such a faux pas that I was actually speechless. And not only did they misidentify Koufax, they took him for Bill Nye! The Science Guy! Yes, they’re both two older white dudes, but science is not baseball. Baseball is much harder. I just hope the person who did the bad tweet was simply very young. That’s the only explanation that wouldn’t make my Jewish ancestors rise from their graves in aggrieved indignation.
Elizabeth Swaney at the 2018 Winter Olympics
This wasn’t a blooper on Elizabeth Swaney’s part but on the IOC’s. Here’s what happened: Swaney simply attended and entered enough events on the women’s World Cup circuit in halfpipe. You have to qualify in the top 30 for a certain number of events to make it to the Olympics, and because there were usually only 28 to 29 skiers at each one, Swaney was able to come in dead last almost every time and still claim a spot in PyeongChang. When it came time to compete, she simply skied down the halfpipe without doing any tricks, the way she had been doing all along. Should the IOC have a better plan for stopping people from gaming the system? I mean, probably. But I sincerely hope they never wise up, because this was a highlight of the games. Swaney gave us all hope.
J.R. Smith in the NBA Finals
Have you ever booked a train ticket for the wrong date? Or showed up to a party at the wrong time? It sucks, right? But it’s not the end of the world, because usually the entire country isn’t watching. Unfortunately for J.R. Smith, all of America watched him forget that Game 1 of the NBA Finals was tied and attempt to dribble out the clock because he thought the Cavaliers were winning. The game then went to overtime and the Warriors proceeded to crush Cleveland, a team that was only there because LeBron James had hoisted them onto his back and carried them uphill all season. LeBron’s reaction to J.R.—that exasperated look, those outstretched hands—quickly became a meme. J.R. is gonna J.R.
Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns
Hue Jackson, man. Huuuuuue Jackson. I don’t know where to start with this guy. First, he leads the Browns to 1-31 over two NFL seasons. Then, he’s handed Baker Mayfield, one of the most promising young quarterbacks to come through the league in a while (since, well, Patrick Mahomes the year before him, but still). And what does Jackson do? Continue to royally mess up! The top brass in Cleveland fired Jackson after the Browns lost to the Steelers, and also got rid of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. So now they’re left with interim head coach Gregg Williams, the mastermind behind Bountygate, where he’d pay players to hurt opponents when he coached for Saints in 2009. In a matter of weeks, Williams has gone on to win as many games at Jackson ever did in a little more than two years. And when Gregg Williams is able to have more luck than you are? That’s when you know it’s time to put your tail between your legs and make some apologies.
But Jackson didn’t—he instead went on a media blitz where he blamed everyone but himself for the Browns’ failures before joining the Bengals as head coach Marvin Lewis’ special assistant (basically Assistant To The Regional Manager, a la Dwight Schrute in The Office). Well, all I can say is that having Jackson fail up into a job working for one of the Browns divisional rivals may, in the end, be a blessing for Cleveland. To quote Bill Belichick, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
ESPN bumps the WNBA semifinals for bad college football
ESPN2 decided that a college football game between Prairie View A&M University and North Carolina Central University was a higher priority to viewers than the semifinals of the WNBA. Which means the network only showed 15 minutes of the Mystics-Dream game and then aired the entire college football game between two schools that you’re only just learning exist. Not great, Bob.
NFL kickers Mason Crosby and Cody Parkey
Kickers had a tough moment there in the middle of the NFL season when Mason Crosby missed five of his kicks for the Packers, and then the Bears’ Cody Parkey hit the uprights four times in one game a few weeks later. I’m not saying that climate change bent the earth’s gravitational force and really screwed everything up for everybody, but scientists should probably at least consider the possibility.
Reds and Rockies unravel all at once
Just watch the video. This series of plays is what Shakespeare wrote A Comedy of Errors about.
Nathan Peterman’s time with the Buffalo Bills
Well it’s nine o’clock on a Sunday night,
And the Buffalo Bills hope to win,
There’s an old man sitting in the stands,
Screaming “why on earth is Nate Peterman in?”
He says, "Nate, can you give me an RPO,
I'm not really sure how it goes.
But you’re on the hot seat and you throw incomplete,
So let’s try, what the hell, who can know"
Sit on the bench, you’re the Peter Man
Sit on the bench, tonight
‘Cause we’re all in the mood for a quarterback
And you just aren’t playin’ alright.