5 Dumb Ways People Have Won at Sports
The rulebook of your average professional sports league is more complicated than the tax code, with every possible scenario covered in excruciating detail. Chances are that if an athlete is thinking of cheating, the league has already devised 20 different ways to severely punish him -- which is of course because someone has invariably tried it before.
But, as many an athlete has proven, you don't need to cheat, per se; you just need to get creative. Some of the most interesting winning strategies seemingly kick logic, reason, and sanity right in their collective dicks, until you realize that they totally worked and were 100 percent by the book. Strategies such as ...
Both Teams Try Winning a Soccer Game by Scoring on Their Own Goals
There are few things more humiliating to an athlete than scoring an "own goal," which is when you kick/throw/vomit the ball into your team's goal, scoring a point for your opponent. It's the ultimate sports brain fart, the sort of thing you do in elementary school and never live down. But when Barbados' soccer team did it in 1994, it was pure, evil genius, and it set off one of the most bizarrely hilarious sequences in sports history.
It's a rare evil genius that can still look sinister in colorful knee-high socks.
Barbados was playing Grenada in the Group round of the Caribbean Cup and was winning 2-0 with seven minutes to go. Grenada then scored, making it 2-1. Even though Barbados was still winning, they were actually losing. Their win would tie the two teams in the standings, but Grenada would win the tiebreaker based on having scored more in previous matches. Barbados had to win by at least two goals or else they were eliminated.
With three minutes to go and Barbados still only winning by one, the team got desperate. Unable to score, they decided to force overtime. Since they were technically winning, the only way to do this was to score on themselves. Which they absolutely did. They didn't even pretend it was an accident; the kicker just kinda dicked around his own net for a bit and then gently lobbed the ball in, his goalie standing there and picking his nose the entire time.
So what? If they score in overtime, it's still just 3-2, and they still don't advance, right? Well, here lies the true reason for this move: The Caribbean Cup scoring policy, which was apparently written after a weeklong rum bender, stated that overtime goals counted double. Not just for this match -- for all matches. That must have been some strong fucking rum, because what ensued due to this rule made a mockery of this (and all) sports.
Pictured: the thrill of competition, apparently.
See, where Barbados needed overtime, Grenada needed to prevent it -- even it if meant losing. So now they started trying to score in their own goal, hoping to end the game by losing by only one goal, which of course would mean that they had won. Any dignity this match had left quickly went into the shitter as Grenada raced to score against themselves while Barbados was defending both sides of the field and attempting to score against themselves again. This four-minute farce finally ended when Barbados scored (miraculously against the other team this time), winning 4-2 and advancing to the next round.
Unfortunately for them, the mad scientists charged with devising their team strategy couldn't think of a new secret weapon, and they sure as shit couldn't use the old one any longer. As a result, Barbados was promptly crushed in the next round.
Winning a Bicycle Race by Purposefully Falling Off Your Bicycle
Next up is a story about using shady tactics in the Olympics, something that we'd have assumed never, ever, ever happens. But this isn't your usual tale of athletes doing so many performance-enhancing drugs that even Vince McMahon would stage an intervention.
"Steroids? No, I just filled my arms with old bungee cords."
Nineteen-year-old British bicyclist Philip Hindes was competing in a three-lap race during the 2012 London Olympics. Hindes got off to a crappy start and immediately realized that he had no hope in hell of catching up. But he didn't come this far, or train this hard, just to lose. He brushed off the mental dust gathering around his brain, envisioned victory anew, took a deep breath, and ...
... fell right on his ass. Now, you don't need to be an expert in racing rules to know that crashing normally means the rest of the racers just laugh at you and vanish over the horizon -- you've played Mario Kart. But in the Olympics, races restart after a crash. This meant that Hindes got a second chance to not look like a moron on national TV. And since he actually was a talented cyclist, he raced out of the starting gate this time around, cruising to victory and making everyone wonder if his childlike bumbling was really as hilarious/sad as it seemed.
Luckily, Hindes saved officials the trouble of investigating by immediately admitting that he crashed on purpose. As he put it, "We were saying if we have a bad start we need to crash to get a restart ... I just crashed, I did it on purpose to get a restart, just to have the fastest ride. I did it. So it was all planned, really."
Turns out we're better at cycling strategy than we thought.
Naturally, the International Olympic Committee, sick of the shady shenanigans that athletes were pulling (as opposed to simply being athletes), took one look at Hindes brazenly cheating and ... did absolutely nothing. They recognized his victory and let him keep his gold medal, with the rationalization that "fans were not deprived of any competition." Perhaps they were swayed by Hindes' retraction of his confession, where he insisted that he misspoke and that English was his second language. We presume his first language is made up of words carefully constructed by a team of handlers and a big guy with a pipe who "reminded" Hindes that he accidentally fell down and that he'd better make things right before he "accidentally" falls down again.
Winning a Baseball Game by Running the Bases Backward
Well, if accidentally scoring on your own goal is an elementary school mistake, running the bases backward in baseball is the kind of thing most of us grow out of in kindergarten. If your knowledge of numbers has advanced to the point where the Count from Sesame Street has nothing more to teach you, then you can grasp the concept of stealing bases. If you're on first, steal second. On second, steal third. On third, steal home. Baseball has a lot of complicated parts, but the base numbering system isn't one of them.
In fact, running the bases out of order is not only counterproductive, but illegal. However, there was no rule against it in 1908, so the Detroit Tigers gave it a shot.
Apparently Wrong-Way Ronnie had a better understanding of the game than we gave him credit for as kids.
The Tigers' Germany Schaefer was on first base, with his teammate Davy Jones on third. Back then, a common strategy for such a situation was for the runner on first to steal second, forcing the catcher to throw the ball to get him out. Successful or not, this gave the guy on third ample opportunity to steal home and score a run -- basically, the guy stealing second is just creating a diversion for the guy on third. But when Schaefer and Jones tried it, the catcher simply held the ball, allowing Schaefer to advance to second while keeping Jones at third. Even by 1908, somebody had figured out that it's not worth giving up a run just to keep some asshole off second base.
Also figured out by 1908: how to make a stunning baseball card.
At this point, Schaefer turned to Jones and yelled, "Let's try it again!" With that, he ran backward and stole first base (successfully, since that act probably isn't even covered in baseball's how-to manual). Now that they were on first and third again, Schaefer turned right around to steal second. Again. But this time it worked; the catcher, flustered by the two men making a mockery of his sport, mindlessly lobbed the ball to center field, allowing Jones to steal home and win the game.
Presumably he then turned around and retook third.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they weren't allowed to perform an encore of this goofy act, as Major League Baseball banned backward base running exactly one day later. They did so using the angriest language that the writer of an impartial rulebook could possibly muster: "Any runner is out when, after he has acquired legal possession of a base, he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game."
Related: Baseball Is Dead. Again.
Winning an Auto Race by Shutting Off Your Engine
The rules of auto racing are, on the surface, simpler than those of any other sport: go fast. That's pretty much it. Also, don't turn right unless your goal is to end your life in the most SportsCenter-ready way imaginable. As long as you keep turning left and keep going faster and faster, you'll win. And few were faster than Ned Jarrett. During the 1965 Southern 500, Jarrett managed to not only defeat but obliterate his competition, earning the largest margin of victory in NASCAR history. And he did it by shutting off his engine. Over and over again.
It's a technique anyone who's ever owned an '86 El Camino can endorse.
This all started because Ford, the company hired to build the race cars, sucked at its job. They decided to experiment with some brand-new radiators that year but didn't bother to test them before the race (because other than overheating and/or exploding at the worst possible moment, what's the worst that could possibly happen?). Sure enough, the new radiators had a problem with track debris (such as bits of tire) getting stuck in them, causing them to overheat.
Man up, Ford; it's just a little road grit.
Forced to either face flaming doom or slow down and attempt to cool off their engines, the drivers chose to slow down. Again, even a non-fan can see how this would impede a NASCAR race somewhat.
Jarrett, however, opted for another, more ridiculous strategy: shut that shit down. Basically, as he headed into the turns, instead of just decelerating/braking, he turned off his engine completely. This cooled down his engine by roughly 25 degrees, and then when he came out of the turn he just cranked it up again and headed down the straightaway under power. He actually kept his foot on the gas pedal the whole time the engine was off (meaning gasoline was still flowing into the engine, just not combusting), which meant he got a huge backfire every time he turned the engine back on. The crowd probably thought he was doing a drive-by shooting.
Nothing says "drive-by" like proper safety gear.
So, by sheer virtue of not having his car melt down like the rest of the racers, Jarrett won hands down, 19 miles ahead of his nearest competitor. All by violating what probably has to be Rule #1 in race car driving school.
Winning a Football Game by Fumbling the Football Over and Over
Here's the scenario: You're a football team losing by six with 10 seconds to go. The good news is that you're on the other team's 15-yard line. The bad news is that you only have time for one play and your offensive line is apparently made out of tissue paper. Sure enough, when the ball is snapped, the other team easily breaks through and makes a beeline for your quarterback, who, in a panic, fumbles the ball.
Just try not to think about the thousand pounds of angry linemen next time.
At this point we're going to bet that the stat geeks would peg the odds of winning that game at somewhere around .0001 percent. Well, that laughably rare scenario came to pass in 1978 in one of the most ridiculous plays in NFL history.
The Oakland Raiders were down 20-14 against the San Diego Chargers as they lined up for the final, desperate play of the game. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler suddenly found himself face-to-faces with a half-dozen pissed-off Chargers. Out of legitimate options and about to experience the most painful bear hug in history, Stabler chucked the ball to the ground at the last second.
But unlike most players who puke up the ball at the worst possible time, Stabler did this entirely on purpose. Fellow Raider Pete Banaszak grabbed the ball and, after using his secret psychic abilities to pick up on Stabler's improv showcase, fumbled it in the direction of yet another Raider, Dave Casper. Casper capped off the intentional clusterfuck by rolling the ball into the end zone like a dung beetle with a tiny football-shaped poop, then dove on it for a touchdown to tie the game. The extra point gave the Raiders an improbable 21-20 win.
There's a reason why "Touchdown" and "What the fuck?" are represented by the same gesture.
The play has since been dubbed the Holy Roller, which admittedly rolls off the tongue a lot smoother than "Huh, wha, guh -- HOW?" It was such an unprecedented, unorthodox way to win that even Raiders coach John Madden couldn't believe it worked -- his questioning of the officials afterward prompted the announcer to yell "Yes (it worked), get your big butt out of here!"
"Take your Tinactin and go, John."
We know what you're thinking: "Why don't teams just do that on literally every play! I'd never miss a game of that shit!" The answer is that the NFL immediately changed their rules so that only the quarterback could advance a fumble going forward. This was probably due to Stabler opening his big stupid mouth and admitting that he fumbled on purpose, furthering our theory that every athlete should be forced to hand over his voice box to Ursula the Sea Witch right after being drafted. You just had to go and ruin it for everyone else, didn't you?
Related Reading: The funniest part of youth athletic competitions are the parents who take them much too seriously. Like the dad who tipped the scales in his kid's team's favor by blinding the opposing team members with a laser. If pathetic abuses of power in sporting are more your bag, read about Ted Turner's day managing a baseball team. Last, check out these recklessly extreme versions of already extreme sports.