SCHMIDT: Seven Blunders of the World

From inside his cell at Riker’s Island, Plaxico Burress – the troubled wide receiver serving two years for accidentally busting a cap in his own leg – was having nightmares. Not again, he thought. It can’t be.

The Packers and Bears Monday night game was flickering on a rusty television, and Burress was in absolute horror as he watched Green Bay shoot themselves in the foot 18 consecutive times. For a recovering blunderer like Chedder Plax, it was like being in the seventh circle of hell.

Even as a Bears fan, I’m man enough to admit that the Cheeseheads probably win that game if they don’t inexplicably transform into a football version of Rasheed Wallace.

It was one of the weirdest games I’ve ever seen, witnessing a finely tuned machine lurch around like Johnny 5,  but luckily for Green Bay it happened in week three and not in the playoffs, when such a performance can get you exiled from entire cities and result in insulting musical parodies being written about your ineptitude.

There have been far greater catastrophes over the years. Sports, by their very nature, breed failure and devastation. Where there is a winner there has to be a loser.

But maybe it’s better to be remembered for something terribly incompetent then not be remembered at all. Then again, maybe it’s not.

If there ever was a guy who wishes he could crawl into a hole and disappear, it’s Leon Lett, the crowned jewel of sports losers. The former Dallas Cowboys lineman is responsible for two of the worst mistakes in football history. You’ve seen the plays.

In Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills, Lett scooped up a fumble and ran it back 64 yards before sticking the ball out just before the goal line in a jubilant and idiotic display of showboating.

Sure enough, Don Beebe dove and knocked the ball out Lett’s hand, and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

If Dallas hadn’t gone on to win the game, Lett would have had a nice pair of concrete shoes to look forward to.

Blunder number two for Lett happened in the 1993 Turkey Bowl, when the Miami Dolphins were down 14-13 and kicked a go-ahead field goal, which was blocked. Game over? Not on Lett’s watch.

As the rest of the Cowboys celebrated, The Big Cat chased after the dead ball, sliding in the snow and muffing the attempted pickup. Miami recovered, kicked another field goal, and won the game.

Had Lett not been a professional saboteur and just let the ball stay dead, Dallas would have won.

But possibly even more embaressing than blowing a game for your team is getting hurt for absolutely no reason. Bill Gramatica, then a kicker for the Cardinals, drilled a 42-yarder against the Giants in the first half of a December 2001 game, then did a completely elegant, completely unnecessary celebration leap worthy of Broadway play.

He didn’t stick the landing, torn ACL, out for the rest of the season.

Then there’s quarterback Gus Frerrote, who headbutted a wall after scoring a touchdown for the Redskins in 1997, spraining his neck and finding out the hard way that cement isn’t very soft.

There are countless others. Jose Canseco getting an assist for a home run by letting it bounce off his head, Bill Buckner botching a simple grounder, Steve Bartman destroying an entire city’s hopes and dreams. And who can forget the Stanford trombone player getting closelined in a Cal victory?

Where there is a winner, there is a loser. That’s sports, and that’s never going to change. As a fan, all you can do is hope and pray that the ghost of Leon Lett doesn’t strike when your team least expects it.