Anti-Bucket List: 20 Things in Sports You'd Hate to Do
If I were a big-time athlete, coach or executive, certain accomplishments would be on my bucket list—these are not those things.
In fact, these are the opposite of those things—the anti-catch a Hail Mary, the anti-win a Super Bowl, the anti-get carried from the field as the crown chants your name.
These are things that make you cringe when you witness them happening to someone.
It could be an epic choke job like shanking a makeable field goal that would’ve won your team the Super Bowl.
Or it could be a dose of extremely bad luck, like suffering a season-ending injury shagging fly balls before a game.
Or it could just be a bummer set of circumstances that you are unfortunate enough to be a part of—a winless team or a season shackled by a senseless labor dispute.
These are not the sports-hero dreams of young children who aspire to make it big. These are their nightmares, ranked from not that bad to walk-off-the-field-mid-game bad.
This one isn’t terrible and will likely happen to a lot of NBA players, but I don’t imagine it’s fun. And it’s probably really un-fun when it’s all over sports news broadcasts the next day.
Basically, you never want to try to defend a Blake Griffin dunk.
Get Knocked out in the 1st Round
Getting knocked out would be pretty embarrassing (not to mention painful).
But getting knocked out in the first round? That is a shameful feeling I doubt any boxer ever wants to feel.
Get Traded Against Your Will
Andrew Wiggins told ESPN, “I just want to play for a team that wants me” as trade talks involving him between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves heated up recently.
The Wiggins trade to Minnesota eventually went through, and despite his public quotes on the matter, I can’t imagine I would be very happy to be shipped away from LeBron James' team.
Forget the Rules
Forgetting the rules in any profession would be embarrassing, unacceptable even.
But in professional sports, your blunder will likely be seen by thousands—or millions.
Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb didn’t know that ties could occur in regular-season football.
Former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag when he wasn’t allowed to throw one and it cost him a touchdown—and his team went on to lose.
The league has since changed the rule that crushed Schwartz, but the damage can’t be undone.
Get Stomped in a Big Game
No one has to think all that far back for an example of this happening.
Super Bowl XLVIII was hyped up to be one of the greatest Super Bowl matchups ever—the stifling defense of the Seattle Seahawks and the explosive offense of Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
The trouble was—it seems Denver never quite showed up to the game.
It was all Seattle from the very beginning, and the Seahawks took home its first Lombardi Trophy, winning by a lopsided score of 43-8.
Do a Bad Deal
Imagine being Brian Cashman, the general manager behind Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million contract extension with the New York Yankees.
This is widely regarded as one of the worst contracts in sports history, and it has haunted the Yankees incessantly in recent years.
Be on the Losing Side of a Miracle Play
How would you like to be one of the guys responsible for blocking during Chris Davis’ Iron Bowl return or the Music City Miracle?
Incredible plays to win games are breathtaking, exciting, exhilarating.
But not if you’re on the losing team, and especially not if you were on the field when it happened. Thoughts of “what if” undoubtedly haunt Alabama’s special teams unit to this day.
Commit an Untimely Penalty
One of the most exciting plays in football is a kick returned for a touchdown.
Unfortunately, all too often, even as we watch the run unfolding, we wonder in the back of our minds if the play will be called back due to a hold.
In January 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 31-24 and moved on to the AFC Championship Game.
After blowing a 21-7 lead, the Ravens had a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter, as Lardarius Webb returned a punt for a TD that would’ve put his team on top—had it not been called back because of a holding penalty on Marcus Smith.
Something not on my bucket list? To do what Marcus Smith did.
This goes for all untimely, and preventable, penalties though—false starts, offside calls, etc.
Be on a Winless Team
In 2008, the Detroit Lions became the first NFL team to lose all 16 of its games.
Teams had gone winless before, but not since the schedule had expanded to 16 games in 1978.
ESPN.com reported that at the time, Lions center Dominic Raiola said, “I've got to live with this. I've been here eight years. This is on my resume.”
As mentioned, some items on the anti-bucket list aren’t really in the control of individual athletes.
I realize that players unions represent the athletes, and their actions thus “represent” the feeling of its members.
However, even if an athlete agreed with the principles that led to a work stoppage, I doubt any of them ever wanted to be a part of one.
The 1994 MLB strike, the 2012-13 NHL lockout—no one wants to be a part of a labor dispute. Even if a good outcome is achieved, everyone loses something in the process (money, for one thing).
You never want to choke.
And you definitely don’t want to choke so badly that no one in history has ever choked in quite the same way.
You don’t want to be the 2004 New York Yankees, who became the first MLB team in history to lose a best-of-seven series after leading 3-0.
What's worse—the Yankees lost to their bitter rival Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.
Be on the Wrong Side of a Historic Upset
Remember in 2007 when Appalachian State went into The Big House and beat Michigan?
The Mountaineers overcame an (unofficial) 33-point spread and won the game over fifth-ranked Michigan 34-32.
I wouldn’t want to be anyone that had anything to do with that Michigan team—and I definitely wouldn’t want to be the poor kid that had that field-goal attempt blocked.
Getting cut from any team—whether it’s freshman football or the NFL—hurts.
It’s true that adversity makes people stronger. Hey, even Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team (or sent back down to JV for pretty legitimate reasons, but you get the point).
But despite the fact that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, I seriously doubt any athlete ever hopes to get cut.
The one redeeming factor about getting cut is that, most times, it is something that is on you as an athlete. Unlike trades or labor disputes, you personally can work to reverse your own bad circumstance.
Trip on the Last Lap
It’s one thing to just get beat by someone who is better, faster, stronger.
It’s another to suffer a cruel twist of fate, a trip on a race track for example, and to never know what might’ve been.
In 2012, U.S. Olympian Morgan Uceny fell during the last lap of the 1,500-meter final.
The particularly cruel part was that it wasn’t the first time. Uceny also fell during the final race of the 2011 world championships in South Korea.
The last thing you ever want to do as an athlete is choke with the game on the line.
Drop a game-winning catch or miss a game-winning jumper. Miss a penalty kick in a World Cup match or strike out to end a big game.
Or miss a Super-Bowl-winning field-goal attempt.
In Super Bowl XXV in 1991, Buffalo Bills place-kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal that would’ve won his team its first Super Bowl.
The Bills famously went on to lose three straight additional Super Bowls, and Scott Norwood will forever hear his name in conjunction with the phrase “wide right.”
You never want to get injured, period. But you really don’t want to suffer a season-ending injury.
Mariano Rivera tore his ACL shagging fly balls during batting practice. Derrick Rose has had season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back seasons.
The length of time on the sideline is difficult to grapple with, the FOMO is unbearable and the recovery is challenging.
Speaking of recovery…
Rehab from Injury While Team Waits
Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees is currently attempting to rehab from an elbow ligament tear (you know, the thing that usually requires Tommy John surgery?) without having surgery.
His team is barely within striking distance of a playoff spot in the American League, and having its high-priced ace back could do a lot of good.
Imagine the pressure of that situation—unsuccessfully trying to will your body to heal faster, knowing your team needs you all the while.
Become a Pariah
Think LeBron James circa “The Decision” or Alex Rodriguez in general.
Even though neither James nor Rodriguez were entirely innocent in the making of their villainous public personas, it would still be pretty terrible to go from talented and beloved to talented and hated.
James eventually achieved a turnaround, but unfortunately for A-Rod, it appears he will be shackled with pariah status for the rest of his baseball career and beyond.
Make the Wrong Call
Remember when Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game in 2010? No? Maybe that’s because an umpire ruined it for him.
Jim Joyce called a runner safe at first base with two outs in the ninth inning of a perfect campaign.
Video replay showed that the runner was not only out, but he was definitely out.
Joyce realized his error and apologized to Galarraga after the game (too late to count the perfect game, of course). He unfortunately carries that call with him to this day.
Forget How to Perform a Simple Task
Like throw to first base.
During the 1999 and 2000 MLB seasons, New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch started to have significant troubles making a simple defensive throw to first.
According to a 2000 article on the subject by Buster Olney in The New York Times, Knoblauch threw away three balls in a game against the Chicago White Sox. He became so agitated that he walked out of the game, and out of Yankee Stadium completely.
The sad thing about Knoblauch is he never recovered. A Gold Glove second baseman in 1997, Knoblauch was eventually exiled to the outfield in New York.
Sometimes the mental pressures of being a big-time athlete can really get to a person. And when that happens, there's almost nothing you can do.