Watching Steve Johnson drop a potential game winning touchdown pass for the Buffalo Bills in overtime on Sunday is yet another reminder that nobody is perfect. Not even the best athletes in the world are immune from making mistakes no matter how hard they try. Regardless of how easy the play is, in this case a pass that seemed to nestle directly into the palms of Johnson’s talented hands, errors are a part of sports just like they are a part of everyday life. Who is to blame? Johnson seems to think God is at fault. He tweeted “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…”
Initially you might have felt sorry for Johnson. But, now that he’s thrown God under the bus, he has set himself up to be vilified for years. Was God to blame for his other four dropped passes in the game too?
Most of us strive for perfection. Or, near perfection. Or, at least to be ostensibly perfect. It’s impossible. And, for some it is a cruel reality. Just ask Bill Buckner, who will never be forgiven by some Red Sox fans for letting the ball go between his legs in game 6 of the 1986 World Series. He had a simple explanation for the miscue: “I watched the ball. I think it hit something and bounced to the right. It went above my glove so it wasn’t something that I didn’t stay down on. The ball just bounced and I missed it. It wasn’t because of any stress or whatever, just a bad bounce.”
A few years ago Mets second baseman Luis Castillo dropped an easy popup that would have been the last out of a win against the rival Yankees. It turned into a loss instead, and Castillo was the goat.
From Leon Lett’s fumble for the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving to Jim Marshall running the wrong way into the wrong end zone for an opponent’s touchdown, sports gaffes are prevalent.
In baseball it goes all the way back to 1908 when New York Giants base runner Fred Merkle failed to touch second base on a potential game winning hit. He was subsequently forced out and the play is forever known as “Merkle’s Boner.”
More recently, San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle ended an NHL playoff game by inadvertently shooting the puck into his own net on a clearing pass. After the game he predicted nightmares and he admitted before the next game that he had not “turned the page.” Fortunately for Boyle, the Sharks won that series against Colorado and all was forgotten.
Boise State football fans recently went to an extreme in forgiving kicker Kyle Brotzman for missing two short field goals-one with two seconds left in regulation and the other in overtime-in the Broncos’ loss at Nevada that ended the team’s 23-game winning streak and hopes of playing the in the national championship game.. They started a facebook page titled, “The Bronco Nation Loves Kyle Brotzman.” According to USA Today, more than 14,000 people had clicked on the “Like” button on the page and hundreds of supportive messages had been posted. If only facebook was around for Bills kicker Scott Norwood after he went wide right in Super Bowl XXV against the Giants.
It’s not as easy to forgive those who knowingly choose the wrong path. Pete Rose gambling and lying to us for so many years was inexcusable. All of the major league baseball players involved in the steroids scandal are hard to exonerate no matter how you justify it. Tiger Woods and his infidelity had nothing to do with the sport itself on the course, but his image is shattered forever.
A key question to ask yourself: Are we more willing to forgive our athletic heroes than ourselves? Or vice versa? The problem with mistakes is that there are usually consequences. Sure you might have a little fender bender and not leave a scratch. But, more often than not, cause and effect comes into play, sometimes in a comical fashion.
A couple of personal examples come to mind. Two years ago, I was flying to Buffalo to cover an NFL game. My connecting flight in Chicago was canceled, so I took to the road for a long drive to Western New York. I arrived at around 5 am, hoping to check in and get a few hours of sleep before heading to the stadium for the Patriots/Bills game. After checking in at the Hyatt hotel front desk, I got off the elevator and barely noticed the security guards on my floor. They didn’t question me, and I was too tired to ask why they were there. Using the restroom was my top priority upon opening the door to the room. MY room, I thought. But, while using the facility, I noticed a toiletry bag on the sink counter. Uh oh. As soon as I flushed, I heard a man’s voice inside the bedroom. He yelled out, “Who the hell is in my bathroom!” The voice was recognizable and distinctive. I knew right away it was Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. I didn’t get to see if he was wearing his hooded sweatshirt because I ran out of the room as quickly as possible. On my way back to the elevator I noticed a sleepy security guard who probably never saw me on the “Patriots floor.” The front desk attendant apologized, but didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. She may have learned a little lesson about attention to detail. I have a story to tell for a lifetime.
More recently, a CBS colleague was deplaning in Newark when a confluence of events led to him being separated from his luggage. While leaving his seat he was blocked by the likes of a 300+pound woman who should be signed by the 49ers to protect one of the Smiths. She inadvertently ran interference while a man named Dan Martin grabbed my friend’s bag. The pieces may have looked similar, but unbeknownst to Mr. Martin, the bag he took has a tag reading, “Not Yours.” Dan was oblivious to that little warning and my friend couldn’t see him behind the refrigerator woman. Unfortunately, Mr. Martin was connecting to Tel Aviv and he toted the bag 5,683 more miles than it should have ever expected to travel. My friend purchased new clothes for the weekend in New Jersey. Dan got to use an electric razor. He’ll probably need a converter in Tel Aviv though.
Whether it’s a dropped pass, an inadvertent shot, a botched hotel room assignment or muffed luggage pickup we are constantly reminded of our mortality. Dan Martin’s airport blemish will never be confused with Bill Buckner’s blunder even though both men encountered a simple task. At least Martin only has to answer to one man. Buckner crushed a nation of fans and disappointed his teammates in unforgettable fashion.
As 1986 Buckner Red Sox teammate Don Baylor once lamented on my XM radio show with a glazed look in his eyes, “It was just a ground ball. A GROUND BALL.” His voice trailed off. I got the feeling he wished his memory of that imperfect night wasn’t so vivid.Share