Sports are complex, leading to a constant series of errors. In fact, success in many sports is the exception. For example, in baseball, a good hitter makes a hit only 30% of the time, meaning that most of the time the batter fails. Of course, the reason for a given lack of success is often hard to identify since the interaction of a large number of players creates a complex interplay of forces. In the above example, the hitter can fail to get to first base because of good pitches, poor swing, heavy shifting of the defense, a great play by an opposing player and sheer bad luck, to name just a few. Occasionally, a player makes a mistake that he can only look at himself and wonder how he did such a thing. The fans, even the most sympathetic ones, often react to such mishaps in the most direct way – boos. The less understanding ones want the head of the offending player.
Continuing with our first example, American baseball, players are faced with numerous situations where they are face to face with the ball, all by themselves. A loss of concentration can lead to the ball rolling between their legs, leaving the poor player looking really stupid. Sometimes, a player forgets to touch all four bags after he hits the ball out of the park, nullifying the hit. A very rare example of being spacey is thinking there are two outs when there isn’t or vice versa. That will lead to a lot of kidding and even a fine on some teams.
Basketball is fast paced, team game, which leads to many mistakes of circumstances. However, there are some moments of individual ridiculousness. The most common example is the player standing by the net with no opposing player around him and slamming the ball on the ring instead of the net. The only that goes higher than the ball is the blood pressure of the player. Ball handling skills are taken for granted, especially for guards. Yet, from time to time, the ball handler forgets that he has already dribbled but does it again in full view of the referees, who have no choice but to call double dribble. On a more ridiculous level, last minute confusion sometimes leads the player holding the ball outside the court to pass it quite accurately to a player of the other team. Try and explain that to the coach and fans.
American football combines speed, violence and complexity, also leading to a large number of mistakes and penalties. Most can be explained by the interaction of the large number of players but some cannot. An example is the player called for lining up behind the line of scrimmage when the rules require that the offense have at least seven players on the line of scrimmage. As the commentators so sarcastically note, it is not hard to look left and right to see where you are located. Another infrequent error is the poor pass between the center and quarterback, leading to a fumble. The two players practice this transfer tens of thousands of times. It should be automatic, right? On the defensive side, cornerbacks and safeties are supposedly taught to look for the ball. Unfortunately, under the pressure of the situation, a few forget to do so and get in the head with a flying football. If they didn’t have a helmet, they would have a red welt on the back of their head. Instead, they are merely very red-faced.
My discussion is limited is American sports with which I am most familiar. I would happily love to hear about unforgivable errors in other sports. For example, in European football, aside from a self-goal, are there other WTF moments?