The Bible says ‘Pride goeth before the fall’. These days we tend to use the word ‘hubris’ to denote the phenomena of over-confidence. The tale is also told in the story of The Tortoise and the Hare where the hare is so confident of his victory in a race that he goes to sleep just before the finish line – allowing the tortoise to win. Sometimes, defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory through hubris’¦ but not always. Sometimes bad luck takes over. Here is a list of ten of the most interesting and noteworthy collapses:
1. Euro 2012
There is no two ways of saying it ‘ Germany absolutely dominated the tournament and few would have doubted their inevitable victory over an Italian side that was a shade of its former glory. In comparison, The Italian team was lacklustre with many surprised that they even got to the semi-final (beating an equally lacklustre England in the quarter finals). The German media – and presumably the players too – were so sure of their victory that the tabloid Bild showed the formation of the ‘losing’ Italian team on the plane ride home. Italy beat the German favourites but went on to lose to Spain 4-0 in the final.
2. Brooklyn Dodgers Take It Literally
This is without question the most epic collapse in baseball history. The Dodgers spent most of the season in first place ‘ racking up a massive 120 consecutive days in the top spot. Yet a following run of lacklustre results coupled with a resurgence of bitter rival New York Giants saw the sport forced into a play-off ‘ something that had been unimaginable earlier in the season. The Giants won the play-off and the single home-run that clinched the victory took MLB into a stunned silence.
3. Too Many Bogeys
Jean Van De Velde had the 1999 British Golf Open wrapped up ‘ it was his for the taking. All he needed at the final hole was a double bogey and the championship trophy would have been in the bag. Yet, he stumbled at that final hole and ended up scoring a triple bogey including having landed a ball in the water. This forced a play-off with his main rival Paul Lawrie which Lawrie won. Pundits blamed Van De Velde for taking too many chances and going for a spectacular victory when he should have played it safe.
4. Jana Novotna
If Jana Novotna ever looked back on a single day in her life and wondered where it all went wrong, it would have been the 1993 Wimbledon final. Her opponent was celebrated champion Steffi Graf. They were tied at one set each and Novotna was 4-1 up in the third and final set. All she had to do was hold a serve and break a serve and the title would have been hers. Unfortunately, she seemed to go to pieces and mess up every shot. She lost the set 6-4 ‘ an incredible five games in a row.
5. Jumping to Defeat
You wouldn’t think that snowboarding would lend itself to spectacular collapses but at the 2006 Winter Olympics that is precisely what happened. Lindsey Jacobellis had a comfortable lead in the Snowboard Cross. On the penultimate jump, she tried a little bit of showboating. Clearing the obstacle comfortably, she lifted the board off of the ground. However, she stumbled and allowed the second place competitor to pass her.
6. Lions Mauled
The Detroit Lions of the NFL had the worst possible season in 2008. Registering an eye-opening sixteen defeats from sixteen games, the team ultimately collapsed during the season and the board of directors used the disaster to initiate an enormous clear-out of playing and coaching staff. It remains the only total record of zero points in the history of the NFL.
7. Bruins Bruised
The NHL’s most famous collapse comes courtesy of New England’s greatest hockey team ‘ the Boston Bruins and it came at the hands of their near rival ‘ the Philadelphia Flyers. Three games up in the conference semi-final for the Stanley Cup, with such a lead you would have thought that their place in the final was secure ‘ they needed to win one more game. Yet it was Philadelphia who won the next four games ‘ and the final game was a nail biter for both teams.
8. Windies Blown Away
Test Cricket between England and the West Indies (Windies) is always eventful and despite both sides being giants of the game, both have had their fair share of epic collapses. The most devastating was in the year 2000 when the West Indies walked through the first Innings, registering a massive 134 runs. Their confidence was brimming over until one Andrew Caddick entered the bowling for England on the second day. He took the entire West Indies team ‘ they were all out for 54 runs.
9. Toon Army Heartbreak
It is often said of Newcastle United that they win hearts but never trophies. Kevin Keegan took the club to within a brink of the Premier League title in the 1995-6 season with a seemingly insurmountable 12-point lead over rivals Manchester United. Yet somehow the Toon Army dropped that lead to their rivals and finished the season in second place. It was also the same season that Kevin Keegan made his famous ‘I would love it if we beat them’ rant on live television. Was it hubris? Or did Newcastle United simply lose the bottle for the fight against Alex Ferguson’s mind games?
10. Tyson Busted
Who was Buster Douglas anyway? This was the question that most outside of boxing were asking themselves in the lead up to Tyson’s fight against the 45-1 outsider. Few expected Douglas to last more than a couple of rounds with ‘Iron’ Mike so when the fight reached Round Ten with Tyson struggling to stay on his feet, people started to believe the inevitable ‘ that Tyson’s career was about to take a spectacular nosedive. And it did ‘ Tyson lost the fight.
The say that the winning underdog and the spectacular fall from grace is what the sport movie is all about. Clearly though, we do not need to watch the latest blockbuster for these sort of shocking storylines. So long as there is sport, there will be the spectacular fail and the rise of the underdog.