THE SUPER BOWL is sport’s biggest stage, the most-watched sporting event of the year, every year. On a stage this large every play is magnified and one moment can follow you for a lifetime, can become synonymous with your name. But not everyone can be the one to make the big play, and sometimes the plays people remember you for you might like to forget. Like the plays on this list:
1. Super Bowl XXVII: Leon Lett
Oh, you know they play, the one where Leon Lett taught children everywhere the importance of not showboating. I’m sure you’ve seen it: Lett recovers a fumble and is rumbling down the field towards pay dirt, with nothing but the end zone in front of him, he slows and, watching himself on the Jumbotron, extends the ball out from his body only to have Don Beebee race up from behind and bat the ball out of his hand for a touchback. Fortunately for Lett, the Cowboys were leading 52-17 at the time, so all his gaff cost them was the Super Bowl scoring record.
2. Super Bowl VII: Garo Yupremian
So let’s say you’re an undersized place kicker sent out to kick a field goal with your team leading 14-0 with a little more than two minutes to play and the kick gets blocked, and bounces right into your hands, you fall on the ball and preserve the lead right? Not if you’re Garo Yupremian, you don’t! Instead Yupremian threw what is still regarded as the most ill-advised pass in Super Bowl history, a lamest of lame duck passes, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Luckily for Garo, the Dolphins won the game 14-7 to cap off the league’s only unbeaten season.
3. Super Bowl XIII: Jackie Smith
Wide Receivers are paid to catch the ball. So when you drop a pass that any football player, at any level or any age, could and should easily catch, people are going to notice. Do it in the end zone, on third down, with your team trailing the Super Bowl 21-14, and people will never stop talking about it. Just ask former Cowboy Jackie Smith. After Smith’s bobble, the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal and trailed the rest of the game, losing to the Steelers 35-31. And Smith never played another down in the NFL.
4. Super Bowl XXV: Scott Norwood
Do the words ‘wide right’ mean anything to you? No? Then you’re not form Buffalo. I can tell you they mean something to Scott Norwood, something like his legacy. On the final play of Super Bowl XXV, trailing by one point, Norwood, who struggled with his distance all season when kicking off grass, had sufficient distance on a 47-yard field goal attempt but missed it a foot to the right, and the Bills lost. It didn’t help Norwood that the Bills would go on to get beat soundly in the next three Super Bowls, making his miss loom that much larger, making it infamously legendary.
One foot to the left and Norwood’s a hero instead of a goat, remembered fondly not bitterly, his name spoken with reverence instead of spit. One lousy foot!
5. Super Bowl XXXVIII: The Wardrobe Malfunction
What fan doesn’t enjoy a bared breast with their football? Apparently there are some, apparently at the FCC. To be fair, Janet was wearing a pasty, and yeah, okay, it probably wasn’t a gaff but a choreographed stunt, and it’s not the biggest gaff committed by a performer during the big game—Christina Aguilera forgetting the words to the national anthem—but it remains the most memorable, and controversial, halftime show in super bowl history. And it was probably the greatest publicity for future half time performances, because as someone who missed it because “the halftime show is never worth watching” I can tell you I haven’t a minute of one since. Just in case.