My Dad Ranks My 7 Most Embarrassing Athletic Failures

Every Saturday we ask some of our favorite writers to fill in for us. Today, we have former Cracked.com writer Anthony Layser, who is now the deputy managing Editor of Asylum.com. Today he tells us why sometimes, the most important lesson you can learn from youth sports is that it's time to stop embarrassing your family.

Like many men, I spent my prepubescence idolizing sports stars and envisioning myself in the major leagues. In the end, I would not only fall shy of the professional ranks, but also bring shame on myself and my family while trying. To better illustrate, I had my father--a spectator at my seven most embarrassing failures--provide his recollections of each incident and rank them based on his degree of embarrassment.

#7. Being Dismantled By an Inner City Hoops Squad

After spending much of the summer between fifth and sixth grade playing basketball in the driveway, I was sure I ranked among the best in my suburban enclave, if not the country. The following winter I was selected for the second-team travel squad, an honor in my youth league. In our third game, we experienced a pummeling of unthinkable brutality at the hands of a team from the city. The honest-to-Christ final score: 128-23.


Nope, not even good enough to be the Washington General who gets pantsed.

I'd like to say I immediately relinquished my basketball aspirations. Unfortunately, any time you lose by 100 points, your evolutionary survival instincts temporarily black out the memory in order to keep you from dying of humiliation.

My Father's Shame:

"Honestly, I don't remember your team getting the ball past half-court. I think I only stuck around until the end because you needed a ride home."

#6. The Most Pathetic Win in Little League History

In the best of three series for the 10-12 age group recreation league championship, I was entrusted to pitch the third and deciding game. I earned a victory and was carried off the mound by my teammates despite giving up 32 earned runs, and 24 walks over six innings, in a game that lasted nearly seven hours and needed to be played over two days.


On-field celebrations are a surprisingly effective way to deliver covert kidney punches.

Some say, "An ugly win is still a win." I would maintain that those people have never seen an 11-year-old on the verge of tears, both physically and mentally unable to throw a strike as he labors to a 34-32 travesty of our national pastime. Looking back now, I might have been the first person to be carried off a field sarcastically.

My Father's Shame:

"This one wasn't so bad. I was happy for you. You were a champion that day, though it was pretty obvious you weren't Sandy Koufax."

#5. Automated Gary Carter Tells Me My Swing Is Fucked

With a prolonged slump limiting my usefulness to pinch bunting, numerous coaches attempted to help me return to my glory days (age 9) by explaining that there was a loop in my swing. The flaw was driven home when I went to a batting cage that had New York Mets' catcher Gary Carter giving prerecorded hitting pointers on a life-sized monitor. The arcade game immediately identified the loop in my swing, and offered a hearty, "You've got to straighten that out if you want to make it to the bigs!"


An enraged Carter throws off his gear after seeing a young fan drop a pop foul.

Keep in mind that robo-Gary was a piece of early 90s technology. There was no way that he was equipped to diagnose minor flaws in a swing. It was a little like being diagnosed with Parkinson's by a Power Glove.

My Father's Shame:

"That Gary Carter game was giving you the advice we were all giving you... I suppose it probably stung a bit more coming from an arcade gimmick."

#4. Turns Out, I Actually Have Negative Tennis Ability

In a stroke of good fortune, one of the best players in my tennis camp needed a new doubles partner, because his regular one contracted a bacterial infection. I filled in and we proceeded to win the camp tournament, earning an invite to the county championships. With each match in the counties, my partner entrusted me with less and less court coverage. By the finals, my assignment was to stand on the baseline and call out, "Let it go," if I believed the opposing shot was long.


"Well maybe you can start taking shots when you have a rad haircut too."

Due to my worsening eyesight, I couldn't accurately judge whether a ball would be in or out. I guess that, and the rules stating that I had to serve every once in a while, pretty much ensured our defeat.

My Father's Shame:

"Fortunately, doubles is to tennis what synchro is to swimming, so there weren't a lot of spectators."

#3. Exiting the Gridiron Concussed Via Ambulance

By seventh grade, I put my promising future in tennis and baseball on hold, so I could focus on football. I was made a running back, safety and kick returner after coaches found that I was one of the faster players on my team. When league play began, I quickly learned the difference between fast for my team, and actually fast. Our team won two games the entire season, and since my remarkably average foot speed was being protected by teammates who ran like old people walk, this ended with me being taken off the field in an ambulance.

A concussion on helmet-to-helmet contact is not in itself that embarrassing. What sticks with me to this day is that the injury occurred on a kickoff return in which I was attempting to kneel down on the five-yard line--five yards from where touchback is possible.

My Father's Shame:

"When it happened and your helmet went flying off, I was very concerned. Now that you're OK, I can't help but shake my head. In all my years of watching football, I've never seen someone down the ball on the five. What in the hell were you thinking?"

#2. Schooled By a One-Handed Baller

The summer before high school I went with a friend to visit his relatives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. At the basketball courts under the Verrazano Bridge, we found a rigid hierarchy that had new players designated to the scrub courts. To move up to the higher quality games, you needed to be picked. My friend and I were never picked. However, we did compete against a youngster who was missing the bottom half of his left arm. He was selected to move up fairly regularly.

I don't think it's disrespectful to the disabled to reason that if you have two hands and you're not better than a kid with one hand, then you're probably not NBA material.


We actually didn't touch this. The NBA logo is either sporting a nub or it's mocking Anthony.

My Father's Shame:

"I think that's a wonderful story. The sense of pride that one-handed kid's dad must get watching him play--I can't even begin to imagine."

#1. I Shame My Father In Front of His Childhood Hero, Johnny Unitas

Sporting-wise, I decided to spend most of high school playing Ultimate Frisbee and trying to beat my record for consecutive bong hits. For one season though, I was the starting cornerback on the JV football team. In a preseason scrimmage, we played a private school quarterbacked by the son of Johnny Unitas. In fact, the Hall of Famer was in attendance when his son threw a gift interception my way in the third quarter. I rejected the gift, letting the pigskin bounce off my face mask and fall harmlessly to the ground.


"If Unitas doesn't see me crying, maybe he'll think it's someone else's son."

I felt for my dad, but to this day, I still wonder what was going through Johnny Unitas's head as he watched me clumsily grasp for the ball as it bounced off my melon. On the one hand, he was probably relieved that his son hadn't been intercepted, but part of him had to have been a little ashamed that his own flesh and blood was playing in a JV game with such an incompetent athlete. While I'll never know for sure, I like to think that for that one shining moment, I was bad enough to make every father in the stands feel a little ashamed of their own son.

My Father's Shame:

[Sighs] Can I just say you've got a nice personality? Are you sure you want all this on the Internet?"

Check out Anthony's first column, in which he offers some Suggested Improvements for the Guy Who Mugged Me Last Week.

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