When you think of Dwight Clark of the 49ers, what do you think of? Most fans associate him with “The Catch,” one of the most memorable plays in NFL history. Clark, who made the remarkable catch to send the 49ers to the Super Bowl, is one of the lucky ones who will be remembered for doing something well; others are not so lucky. Let us take a look at these unfortunate ones. We will ponder what would happen if the mistake had not been committed and catch up to them after the mistake.
Bill Buckner – First Baseman for the Boston Red Sox.
The situation: On Oct. 25, 1986, Buckner and the Red Sox held a three games to two lead to the New York Mets in the ’86 World Series. In the bottom of the 10th inning with two outs, Mookie Wilson hit an easy ground ball that was headed to Buckner. Instead of making the easy third out, the ball rolled under Buckner’s glove, through his legs and into the grass of Shea Stadium. The costly mistake caused New York Met Ray Knight to score and win game six of the World Series. The Mets went on to win game seven and the World Championship partly due to Buckner’s error.
What if: Buckner made the play, and Boston won game six? He and the 1986 Soxs would forever be remembered as the team which ended the Curse of the Bambino forever.
After the mistake: Buckner had a mediocre career with the California Angels, Kansas City Royals and one more stop with the Red Sox.
Did you know: Buckner wore a Chicago Cubs batting glove underneath his fielding mitt when he committed the infamous error?
Earnest Byner – Running Back for the Cleveland Browns.
The situation: It was the 1987 A.F.C. Championship Game, and the Browns had already lost to John Elway and the Broncos the year before with the “drive.” The Browns were driving deep and posed to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. With just over a minute to go, Byner, who already had more than 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns, made a cut with the football. During the cut, Broncos Jeremiah Castille stripped the ball from Byner, and the Broncos recovered. Elway and Denver were given the right to go to the Super Bowl with a score of 38-33.
After the mistake: Byner won a Super Bowl with the Redskins in 1989 and was named one of the 70 greatest Redskins in 2002.
What if: Byner scored the tying touchdown, and the Browns went on to win the Super Bowl? Would the Browns have received a new stadium and stayed put in Cleveland?
Did you know: Byner went to East Carolina University and was picked the 280th draft pick in 1984?
Scott Norwood – Place Kicker for the Buffalo Bills.
The situation: In 1991, the New York Giants played against the Buffalo Bills for the Super Bowl Championship in Tampa, Fla. Norwood, who already made one field goal in the game, was called on to kick a 47-yarder to win the game for the Bills. Before the game started, Norwood noticed that his kicks were hooking left, and for his final kick of the game, he made what he thought were the proper adjustments. His potential game winner did not hook, and as Al Michaels said: “No good! Wide right!” The Bills lost 20-19, giving the Giants their second Super Bowl Championship.
After the mistake: Norwood lasted one more season with Buffalo, but he was inconsistant and was released in 1993.
What if: Norwood made the 47-yarder; would the Bills be the only team in history to win four Super Bowls in a row?
Did you know: Norwood attended Thomas Jefferson High School and James Madison University?
Leon Lett – Defensive Tackle for the Dallas Cowboys.
The first situation: In Super Bowl XXVII (1993) in the last minutes of the game, Lett recovered a fumble and took his nearly 300 pound body towards the end zone. As he approached the end zone, he let up and held the pigskin away from his body as a way to celebrate. Lett failed to see Buffalo Bills wide receiver Don Beebe coming down the field at full speed; Beebe knocked the ball out, and a touchback was rewarded to the Bills. Lett and his Cowboys (how bout them?) won 52-17.
The second situation: Lett and the Cowboys faced the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving. With the whole nation watching, Lett again had a mental slip, for which he will be remembered forever. His big “turkey moment” came after Dallas’s defense blocked a last-second field goal; the ball landed on the snowy field, and all Dallas had to do was wait for the referees to blow the ball dead. Unaware of the possession rule, or thirsty for the ball, Lett tried to swat at the ball. Miami had the good fortune of Lett’s blunder and recovered the ball. Dallas, instead of winning 14-13, lost 16-13.
After the mistake: He had a stellar career with the Cowboys and played his last year with the Denver Broncos in 2000.
What if: Lett would have scored; would he responsible for giving the Cowboys the biggest win in Super Bowl history?
Did you know: ESPN’s Biggest Sports Blunders ranked Lett’s two bonehead plays as two and three on their list?
Chris Webber – Power Forward for the University of Michigan Wolverines.
The situation: Webber’s Wolverines were trailing University of North Carolina’s Tar Heals by two points with 19 seconds to go. After grabbing a missed free-throw rebound, Webber drove the length of the basketball court. He was forced into a corner and called a timeout. Michigan, unfortunately for Webber, was out of time-outs. UNC’s Donald Williams made four last-second free throws to ice the game for North Carolina.
After the mistake: “C-Webb” has played a stellar career with several NBA teams and also has his own record label.
What if: This question is void because of Michigan’s self-imposed sanctions which forfeited all games they won during Webber’s career due to financial loans to players.
Did you know: In 1993, Webber turned his misfortune to a positive by creating the Timeout Foundation in order to give inner-city youths recreational opportunities?
So what lessons can be learned from these mistakes? You can feel lucky that your mistakes are not replayed on ESPN Classics or the NFL Network and cherish that you can learn from these mistakes.