Monday, March 12, 2012
Reader's Revenge: Most Embarrassing Sports Moments
By Shane Ryan
It's Daylight Saving Time, and things are about to get weird. All this extra sunlight must have given us a touch of the Vitamin D Madness that's going around, because we're about to turn Grantland over to you, the unpredictable, erratic reader.
"Reader's Revenge" is the most basic of concepts — I ask you to write in with your personal stories on a weekly topic. Examples used in the past have been "worst date," "coldest breakup," etc. You e-mail, I read, and we print the top 15 every Monday. Those of you who have already joined the About Last Night party will recognize this as Participation Friday, re-branded. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the gist is that we've already done this a few times within the About Last Night columns that run every morning, but now it has its own post. Turns out there are some funny SOBs among Grantland's readership, and y'all just couldn't be contained.
Caught up? In a sidebar with this post, you'll find links to the older columns if you care to check them out. (In those old posts, the reader stories are at the bottom of the news items.) ALSO, at the bottom of this post, you'll find this week's question along with the e-mail address where you should send your stories.
We're going to start this shebang with last week's topic: Most Embarrassing Sports Moments. Ten of these 15 stories will be redundant to About Last Night readers. Sorry — I was traveling this week, and I wanted to start on a high note without having to exert myself beyond eating overpriced room service food.
No more talk! Here are the Top 15:
15. I was in sixth grade, playing my first year of organized basketball on the middle school B team. We were awful, but that day we were in the game until the end, playing our crosstown rivals on their home court. We were down by four points with about two minutes left in the game, and our opponents had just scored a basket. As I stepped out of bounds to inbound the ball to one of my teammates that was about 10 feet away, I looked over at my coach, who was yelling, "roll the ball!" while frantically making an underhand throwing motion. Being new to the game and not quite familiar with all the rules, I didn't realized that the clock doesn't start until a player touches the ball, and that what the coach wanted me to do was to gently roll the ball inbounds so that my teammate could run alongside it without touching the ball until he got to midcourt in order to save some time on the clock.
I was, however, very familiar with the five-second inbound pass rule. So, between the confusion of my coach yelling at me to "roll the ball" and the panic setting in knowing that I had to get the ball in play in 5 4 3 seconds, I wound up and chucked the ball as hard as I could, bowling style, across the length of the court, zipping it past the teammate that was 10 feet in front of me and straight into the hands of an opposing player. Groans from the sidelines; I glance over to our bench and see my coach's face buried in his hands.
14. Dear Shane Ryan, First of His Name, Joker of the Realm,
In my freshman year of high school, I played on the freshman soccer team. I only played recreationally previously, unlike most players on the team who played on traveling teams. This relegated me to standing on the side line for 90 percent of the game. In the end of the year tournament, we played our cross-town rivals in the championship game. Late in the first half with the game tied 0-0, I got put in at forward to rest the far superior players for the second half. Miraculously, I scored my first and only goal of the season. Elated, I put my shirt over my head and did an airplane celebration, which had been a running joke for the team during practice all year. Unknown to me, they had implemented a rule before the year that any goal celebrations resulted in an instant red card. I was unceremoniously ejected from the game, and my team ended up losing 2-1, having to play 10-on-11 for the rest of the game. I was called "The Airplane" for the rest of the school year.
—Scott, Madison, Wisconsin
13. At the end of my 5th grade school year I participated in a city-wide elementary school basketball tournament. My team was undersized but we still managed to make it to the finals. The other school had a kid that was about 5-foot-8 and virtually unstoppable. My coach (and history teacher) devised a plan of attack to shut down our towering foe. I’ll never forget the pregame huddle when he proposed the idea, “We’re going to pinch him," Mr. Buford said. We were all confused, and asked for a further explanation. The general idea was that anytime the big guy was in the post with or without the ball we were just going to pinch him in the back as hard as we could.
While initially this sounded ridiculous it turned out that was also the beauty of it. Pinching a guy when your behind him is surprisingly highly effective because (a) it is virtually undetectable and (b) the refs think he is a lunatic when he complains about it. We preceded to pinch the hell out of the kid every time down the floor until he eventually lost it. In a screaming rage and with his parents filming, he shoved a guy to the floor and yelled 5th grade profanities at the officials. He had to be restrained by his coaches, was ejected and forced to leave the arena in complete shame. We went on to win the tournament and the free ice cream party.
—Seth, Conway, Arkansas
12. I was never a terribly good football player, but was fast enough to be a starting safety and second-string tailback on my high school JV team. Second to last game of the year, we were playing a team that had beaten us by five TDs earlier in the season, and our varsity was off that week, so our coach had the varsity starting tailback play in the JV game (classy). He ran for something like 350 yards and six TDs in the game, but with 15 seconds left we gave up a touchdown to go down by 8. Foolishly, they kicked off to the hero from the varsity, who pulled off a TD return USC-era Reggie Bush could only dream about — switched fields like three times, backtracked about 20 yards, broke 5,000 tackles, the whole production. By the time he scored, he could barely even breathe, but we still needed the 2-point conversion to get to OT. The coach calls for the JV starter to fill in for the 2-pointer, but he can't find his helmet, so of course I get to go in.
I've carried the ball about 10 times the entire season, but for some reason Coach Genius decides I'm getting the ball in this do-or-die situation. (JV FOOTBALL — LIFE OR DEATH!) He calls a basic off-tackle run, I get the ball and meet a linebacker at about the one-yard line. He's pushing me, I'm pushing him, and in the course of twisting around, he's slipping off but grabs a hold of my pants, which of course come down as I lunge forward into the end zone. Jock came down too, so I'm hopping off the ground all excited about my game-tying moment of glory, naked from waist to ankles. I'm pretty excited, so I don't particularly care, and decide to spike the ball emphatically. In the grandest of sports bloopers, it bounces right back up and drills me in the crotch. Glory: over. Pain: immediate. Nakedness: continuing. I didn't even get to see overtime, as I was doubled over on the sideline, being examined for testicular damage by the school trainer.
11. It was also the year 1998 and my 8th grade junior high basketball team was playing a district rival at their home gym. The 8th grade boys game tipped off 20 or so minutes after the 8th grade girls contest ended, so we didn’t go to the visitor locker room to change until the start fourth quarter of the previous game. Upon opening my gym bag I quickly realized I had brought the “home dark” jersey instead of the “away white." I frantically found my coach to inform him of the mix up and to ask for the extra uniform that was always brought on road games. Turns out, the manager did not bring any extra uniforms that evening, and since my jersey did not match the rest of my team I would not be allowed to play. The only option would be to borrow a jersey from one of the 8th grade girls since they were the same color and closely resembled the guys uniform. I swallowed my teenage pride, met the team manager outside the girls locker room, and ran out for warm-ups in a dripping wet no. 55 LADY KNIGHTS jersey. The cackles and taunts from the opposing team, along with the stench of no. 55’s sweat, had me immediately regretting my decision.
—Thomas A., Dallas
10. T'was 1998 and my brother played eight-man football at a small Christian high school in Georgia. His team was perhaps the worst eight-man football team in the history of eight-man football. My dad and I (a sophomore in college) decided the Fighting Saints needed a little extra motivation. On a Wednesday night we hopped a fence to sneak onto school property and dressed up several tackling dummies with old dresses my mom provided. And then we situated poorly designed signs from the opposing team that accused our team of being cheerleaders or something like that. (Considering their record, a totally legitimate assertion.) Oh, I forgot to mention, we got permission from the assistant principal in case we got arrested while trespassing on school property at 2 a.m.
We thought it would be harmless, but word travels fast at small Christian schools in Georgia. By kickoff, our players, fans, and coaches were whipped into an absolute frenzy. The assistant principal made us swear an oath of secrecy. I quote: "This thing's gotten bigger than us, y'all." We found out that the opposing Christian school had given several students the gestapo hot light treatment to no avail.
Long story short, the Fighting Saints overcame at least 10 personal fouls to earn a one-point victory — their lone victory over a three-year stretch.
My dad, the assistant principal, and I sat lifeless in the bleachers. Didn't even stand to cheer. Good Christian southern women wanted blood. Our players refused to shake the opposing team's hands after the game. We were too stunned to cheer.
Six months pass and my mom tells the story to a coworker in another state, who tells a random friend who happens to know the football coach. Small world. Busted. Dad and I have to apologize to the students from both schools to keep my brother in the school. But we took the bullet for the assistant principal — we didn't want him to lose his job.
—Greg, Lilburn, Georgia
9. I was a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1996-97. As such, I was (OK, I still am) a rabid KU basketball fan — my dorm was practically next to Allen Fieldhouse. After our season ended with a loss to eventual champion Arizona in the NCAA tournament, the seniors went on the traditional barnstorming tour. The seniors that year were Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, Jerod Haase, B.J. Williams, and two walk-ons (Steve Ransom and Joel Branstrom). One of my friends managed to get tickets to watch the guys play in nearby Overland Park. Prior to the game, they held an autograph session. All six were lined up at a table and they were signing that year's posters, as well as whatever else the fans put in front of them. Scot Pollard was at the end of the table.
As I worked my way down, I noticed that Scot's nail polish that day was silver. When I shuffled my posted in front of Scot, I said, "Wow. We are both wearing silver nail polish. It must be a sign!" Scot looked up at me briefly and, with a note of condescension, said: "Of what?" Obviously, I hadn't thought that far ahead, so I stammered something about not being sure, took my poster and hurried out the door. My friends had witnessed the exchange and came after me. I was too mortified to stay to watch the game, particularly since we were in a local high school gym, so we skipped the game, with my friends repeating "It must be a sign" all the way back to Lawrence.
—Kristin R., Lawrence, Kansas
8. One of the running gimmicks for my senior year of basketball was brainstorming the most thorough way to psychologically mess with the other team's best player. Midway through the season, after a slew of mostly failed attempts, my friend and I got a brilliant idea.
The gist of the idea was this: See what dirt we could dig up on the other team's best player by pretending to be a smokin' hot girl. More so, the idea was to get this player to reveal potentially embarrassing information/stories/eccentricities about himself by talking to him as the "smokin' hot girl." (Yeah, trick him into believing that he's going to hook up with the hottest girl from his conference rival.) So, we created a faux-MySpace account, finding pictures by Googling "hot blonde high schooler." In addition to that, we created an AIM screenname so that we could chat with him in "real-time." We called this girl "Amy."
Conversations with this player went on for two weeks leading up to our game. Everyone at our school was in on this prank, and there were probably 10 or 12 people that had access to "Amy's account." So, whenever one of us was free, we would log on and chat with this guy. He revealed some pretty heavy stuff, almost to the point where we started to feel guilty. But we're heartless, soulless bastards, so we stuck with the plan anyway. And, to our credit, the plan was coming to fruition to a degree of perfection that is unimaginable. I'll put it this way: This guy thought he was going to hook up with "Amy" after the game in her white SUV.
Smash-cut to game day. Several girls made T-shirts with pithy word-play, one guy bought a remote controlled white SUV, and almost everyone had a discriminatory poster of some sort. All with the same theme: Making fun of this guy for something he said about himself to "Amy." I told everyone in the student section to hold off on the signs and chants and jeers until he was at the foul line. Shooting free throws is like being on an island, and I wanted to unleash our prank while this player was most vulnerable. I was the point guard for our school's team, and knowing that I rarely got into foul trouble during games, I assured everyone that I would send him to the line the first chance I got.
Fortunately, that chance came 25 seconds into the game. We lined up to shoot free throws; I was standing at half court, biting my jersey to hold back the laughter at what was getting ready to happen. The student section had been instructed to erupt once the player had the ball in his hand for the first free throw. Well, incidentally, there was something wrong with our clock. So, before the free throw attempts, the referees had to meet at the scorer's table to get things sorted out. Both teams are standing around, lined up to shoot free throws, and I assume that this player thinks these are going to be your run-of-the-mill free throw attempts. Spoiler alert: they weren't.
Waiting for the referees to get the clock situation sorted out must have taken too long from the perspective of somebody in the student section, I guess, because one of the guys, all by himself, in the midst of a murmuring gym, belted: "AMY'S-NOT-REAL! (CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP) AMY'S-NOT-REAL! (CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP). Then everyone in the student section joined in. From there, debauchery ensued. Somebody held up a poster with the screen name we created written in black, boldfaced type. Another poster had Amy and the player's name written on it with a heart drawn around the two names. A group of girls in the front row unveiled their shirts that they had made, which had a photograph of the picture we used for Amy on it. And then there was the guy who brought the remote controlled SUV, driving it up and down the sidelines.
The player realized what was going on, of course, and dropped his head in disbelief. The look on his face was one of colossal embarrassment and sheer terror. Everyone on our team was cracking up, and hell, even the players on the other team were giggling, too. The student section heckled and berated this player for probably five minutes as he stood on the free throw line waiting for the clock to be fixed. I'm uncertain about a lot of thing in life, but one thing I do know is that this was the most embarrassing moment of this guy's life to date.
He missed the first free throw so terribly that it was like an injection of adrenaline to the student section's antics. He received the ball from the referee for his second shot. He cupped the ball on his hip, glared at the student section, shook his head, muttered to himself, and then swished the second free throw. Then that player went on to score 35 points against us. In fact, that was our most thorough beating of my four years of high school basketball.
So, I guess there's a couple of things to take away from this story. For one, this and the movie Catfish is all the proof anyone needs to never believe anybody on the Internet. Also, don't ever try to embarrass people who are better than you at something.
—Chad, West Virginia
7. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia where soccer was king. Growing up in an American school (PCS), our biggest rivals was a British school known as Continental.
I was playing goalie for our 8th grade team and we were playing a game that went down to the wire with the score leveled at 1-1. Now, all the soccer games we played internally at my school in the after school league do not do injury time. You got two 15 minute halves, and that was that. What I didn't realize, was that the injury time rules do apply at Continental, and it set me up for the lowest sports moment of my life.
So it's 1-1, and the clock reaches the full 30-minute mark. Thinking the game was over, I immediately relaxed and stared off into the crowd, seeing if Continental's girls were in fact more attractive than ours (they weren't). Next thing I know, my bench is screaming for me to pay attention as one of the forwards from the Continental side was on a break away and running toward me. By the time I had realized what was happening he launched a rocket in my direction. I freaked and in self defense stuck my hands out in front to shield myself.
I will never forget what happened next. The ball struck my hands and for that split second a wave of relief washed over me, thinking I had made a last second save. Unfortunately, the ball deflected to the top bar, and hit me in the back of the head and rolled into the net.
We lost the game, and to make matters worse, everyone knew I had blanked out temporarily against our fiercest rival in injury time. One of my teammates asked why I didn't charge the player in an attempt to stop the ball, and the best I could do was muster a bad joke and say "Well, what's the net for?"
No one laughed.
6. I was 20 years old and home from school for the summer. I was working at a restaurant chain that had an all-day softball tournament between the different local area stores. Being the super-overly-competitive guy that I am (thanks Dad!), I was 100 percent on-board and started organizing my store’s team. Being a pretty heavy guy, I wasn’t generally known for my speed, but I could hit the ball a ton. Throughout the day, it was either a home run (we were playing on little league fields, so this wasn’t as big of an achievement as I made it at the time), a deep fly ball for a single, or a ground ball I couldn’t outrun.
Overall we were having fun, but my teammates and the other teams were pretty relentlessly busting my balls about my lack of speed and it was starting to piss me off. (At one point, my boss made a spectacle about pinch-running his 6-year-old kid for me.) We hadn’t lost all day going into our 4th game of the day, but we were tied going into the final inning with a runner on third. The other team’s pitcher was this 16-year-old girl who probably weighed 70 pounds with her pockets full of change and she was serving up meatballs. The first pitch is right in my wheelhouse. I swung, intending to hit the ball as hard as humanly possible. I hit the ball solidly, but got a little on top of it for a low line drive up the middle toward the shortstop (shading toward 2nd base).
Feeling as though I could win the game by beating the throw, I sprint as fast as my overtaxed legs would take me, reaching base safely and easily beating the throw. I turn to our bench and in true good sportsmanlike manner, tell them where they can go and how they should get there for doubting my Big Papi-esque wheels. After my initial rant is over, I notice everyone is looking concerned and not at all excited as they should be. I turn around toward, the field to see the other team rushing toward the mound. The pitcher is laying on the ground crying and I notice the ball laying a few feet to her left. In my haste to win the game, I failed to notice my line drive hit her directly in the kneecap, knocked her leg from underneath her and caused her to fall to the ground and land face first in the dirt With her father at third base to watch the whole thing.
Final tally: One broken kneecap, one broken nose, and one overweight idiot celebrating outrunning a throw that never happened.
5. So about 20 years ago I was playing golf on a public course that is divided by a road. Thirteen or 14 holes are on one side of the road, and the other holes are across the street. The property next to the four or five holes on the other side of the street is a small cemetery.
We're playing one of the road holes on the main side of the course. I tee off and hook the ball over or through some trees toward the road. (This is not atypical.) I forget if I hit again or decided to take a drop where I thought the ball went out of play. Anyway, the others in my group (including my dad) hit their tee shots, and we start toward the fairway. As we are just getting to the fairway, a man in a black suit and tie comes over the crest of a hill from the direction of the street. Apparently, he found my ball.
As it turns out, he was driving a hearse leading a funeral procession to the cemetery across the street, and my tee shot smashed the windshield. The procession came to a halt — with cars lined up in the street — while the driver tried to figure out who broke his windshield. After much hemming and hawing about how they knew it came from us (as opposed to other golfers playing other holes along the road), my dad stepped up and said it was his shot. Why? Because I had no renter's insurance and he knew the personal liability rider on his homeowner's policy would cover the damage. From a financial standpoint, then, I came out OK; but I have not played a single round of golf with my father or brothers since then without hearing about it.
4. I would like to tell you about the time I was in third grade, playing baseball in St. Louis. I had just moved, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, from the Seattle area to the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Now, this was quite the change to begin with, and when coupled with the fact that I was a bit unsettled by it all and even found myself becoming lost in the hallways of my school, I believe I was swooning into some sort of 9-year-old PTSS.
That being said, one thing I knew I was good at was baseball (I ended up pitching D-I, and think I threw about as hard when I was 9 as 19) and figured this was the one place I would feel at home. Now, St. Louis has quite the plethora of little league baseball options. There was something like 12 different levels at which you could play as a 9-year-old, and we even threw from 45 feet with a smaller baseball (which was perfect for my sausage-link-esque fingers). I went through tryouts and ended up on one of the top teams in the top leagues. Needless to say, I was pretty anxious to impress. Unfortunately, I was (am) a bit scatterbrained at times.
Situation: man on first, one out, I’m at the plate. I get a single and move him to third. Pretty happy. At this point I believe I start up a very cerebral conversation with the opposing team’s first baseman — I would guess either about what his favorite POG slammer is or whether he had 28.8k or 56.6k modem at home. At this point it dawns on me: Brian, it’s first and third, one out, this is the first year you’re allowed to steal off the pitcher swipe that bag! I get a pretty aggressive lead, solid jump, and steal second standing up. I stole it so well that neither the shortstop nor second baseman even bothered covering.
Now about this point something seems a bit amiss — I mean, neither the shortstop nor second baseman were covering, and I was always a bit more Mack truck than Corvette. I turn around and notice almost the entire stands (parents, probably someone’s hot 12-year-old sister in headgear) laughing and it slowly dawns on me that in the middle of my life-alteringly deep conversation with the first baseman, the other team had decided to switch pitchers and I had stolen second off one of the pitchers warm-up throws.
3. It was my senior year of high school, our baseball team needed one more win to make the state tournament. We were playing another Cape team that needed a win to make the states. The game was tied in the 5th or 6th inning when I stepped to the plate with one out and a runner on third. My coach decided to squeeze the runner home (a questionable decision, in retrospect), and wanted me to lay a bunt down the first base line. The pitcher delivers, the runner takes off, I square to get the bunt down and the pitch comes straight toward my head.
Because I was positioned to bunt, avoiding the pitch was awkward. I ducked my head hard and managed to knee myself squarely in the face. I knocked myself out briefly and broke my nose. I came to a moment later, covered in blood. Plus, I collapsed right next to the plate, so the runner couldn't even attempt to slide in. He was tagged out. My teammates were dying laughing as the ump and our coach guided me back to the dugout. I didn't even get to finish the at-bat, and the trainer wouldn't let me back in the game.
We lost the game and missed the state tournament when my replacement in center field misplayed a popup as I watched from the bench.
2. I don't know if my moment was embarrassing such much as dumb luck. I played rec league soccer from 2nd through 8th grade prior to playing on my high school's soccer team which won state (humblebrag) the two years I didn't play. (What's the opposite of humblebrag?)
Anyway, it was the playoffs and I was in 3rd or 4th grade. A couple of days prior to the game, my dog just died (RIP, Smurf) so I was a little overly emotional and dedicated that game to his memory just like professional players do. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as well for me. The game went on pretty quickly and my team jumped out to a 2-1 lead going into the last 10 minutes. In the league I was in, we were allowed to sub as much or as little as you wanted to eventually the idiot we had playing goalie decided he wanted to try his hand at defense for the first time all season. The coach picked me to play goalie since I had a little experience playing that position in years past.
Eventually, the other team retains possession and drives down to our goal. The idiot goalkeeper-now-defense-man gets beaten badly on the wing which gives them a two-on-zero with me left to block the shot. Naturally, they put it in between my legs with about TWO minutes left in the game. The other team begins celebrating like they just won the World Cup and I begin to sob like a child just out of kindergarten who is getting a shot for the first time. Needless to say, the other team's players saw this and started taunting me, which didn't help the situation.
I compose myself before the next kickoff since we are now in sudden death. My team can't seem to scrape together a single offensive possession, and I am consistently being bombarded by insults from the other team. After blocking one of the shots from a classmate on the opposing team. he said, "I am going to bury this next one just like your dog." I become livid and as he turns to run back awaiting the punt, I throw the ball at the back of his head, which I hit squarely this then sends the ball lofting over my reach and into the goal.
I didn't leave my back for 4 to 5 minutes and didn't hear the end of this story at school for an additional 4 to 5 weeks.
1. About My Friend Dennis: Who is hilarious, was the best man in my wedding, and just got back from four years teaching English in Japan.
When we were in 8th grade, my friend Dennis finally made the basketball team after trying out the three previous years and getting cut. He was tall and fairly athletic, but just goofy and not at all confident. Our team was really good, so Dennis would usually get in during mop up time in the fourth quarter and would always do something hilarious. About eight games into the season, it became the running joke to see what crazy thing he would do when he got in. In [what I think was] about Game 10, he did not disappoint.
After the other team had thrown the ball away under their own hoop, eight guys on the floor all ran to the other end as our buddy Lucas took the ball out of bounds. Dennis was receiving the inbounds pass, which was weird because he was our post guy, but we all just figured he would give it back to Lucas (our PG) to dribble it up the court. So as Dennis catches the inbounds pass at the elbow, you can see in his eye, he's not giving it back to Lucas. So with no one around him, he takes his 1-2 step into the pass and just nails the 15-footer — in the wrong hoop! Our whole bench, including our coach are dying laughing that he scored two points for other team, but after the game what our coach said was even better, and true: "Why did you shoot the jumper when you could have got a layup?" Dennis' response: "I just couldn't believe that I was so wide open!"
During one of the last games of our senior season, our basketball team was playing a rival school. The other team was shooting a foul shot and our coach was yelling at my friend Dennis that he would be the one to take the ball out of bounds for our press-breaker. Dennis nodded back that he would and the kid took his foul shot. The ball rimmed out of the hoop and Dennis grabbed the rebound — and then did exactly what he was told to do — he took the ball out of bounds. Everyone in the gym just kind of stopped and even the referees didn't know what to do with the kid who just ran out of bounds with a live ball. Finally, the one ref half-heartedly blew his whistle and with a shrug of the shoulders said, "Traveling?"
One week later, I still love Dennis. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Next week's topic: In honor of the waiter who got fired for posting a picture of Peyton Manning's generous tip, I'm asking for your most fireable offense. As usual, this can also be about a friend or someone you know, and you're allowed to be anonymous.
The summer after I graduated, with no plans and prospects, I worked maintenance at a private university in New York. My crew, which consisted of about eight guys my age, developed an elaborate lookout system that would allow half of us to sleep until about noon in one of the empty dorms every morning. If we were found out? Totally shit-canned. Let's hear your stories, amigos. Send them in to email@example.com, and instant fame may await you next week.