Definitions

blunders

List of incidents famously considered great blunders

A blunder is a spectacularly bad or embarrassing mistake—a bad decision with a disastrous result. This is a list of what are widely considered to be major, historically significant blunders.

To be included in this list an incident must meet two criteria: (1) It must be an extremely bad or otherwise significant failure. (2) It must be a notable blunder--that is, it must be widely considered to be a disaster which was the result of bad decision making. To be objectively considered famous, it must appear in a list of blunders compiled by a respectable authority or be noted as a blunder by multiple, unbiased sources. If there is disagreement as to the nature of the blunder, or whether it is even a blunder at all, then the opinions of both sides should be summarized in the listing.

The majority of famous blunders are of a military nature; however, there are also a number of famous and significant blunders in business, politics, and other disciplines.

The list

Military

Military disasters commonly believed to be the result of a major mistake or extremely bad decision making.

  • 1788 - The Battle of Karánsebes in which an Austrian army started firing at each other, thinking that they were under the attack of Ottoman Empire forces. The battle caused 10,000 casualties, while the enemy was a two day march away.
  • 1854 - The suicidal and ill-advised Charge of the Light Brigade in the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. It was based on Lord Raglan's orders. Tennyson, in his famous poem praising the valor of the cavalrymen, wrote: "'Forward the Light Brigade!'/Was there a man dismay'd?/Not tho' the soldier knew/Some one had blunder'd." Of the action, French marshal Pierre Bosquet said C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre ("It is magnificent, but it is not war.") (Saul David, 1998, p. 13-24)
  • 1863 - Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, and it was arguably an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered psychologically. The farthest point reached by the attack has been nicknamed the high-water mark of the Confederacy.
  • 1876 - At the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also called Custer's last stand), George Armstrong Custer, having left behind additional troops and heavy weapons, having divided his force into 4 parts, attacked what turned out to be a vastly numerically superior force. Custer and all 210 men with him at the time perished.
  • 1899 - Battle of Colenso during the Second Boer War. Inadequate preparation and reconnaissance combined with uninspired leadership led to a heavy, and in some respects humiliating, British defeat.
  • 1930 to 1940 - The Maginot Line in France. The Maginot Line is widely considered a great blunder because the German armies went around it. However, the German forces did not dare attack the Maginot Line directly (except in Alsace, where it was successfully breached); Germany had to invade Belgium in order to circumvent it, and in the few incidents during World War II where the line was involved, it proved a highly effective defensive fortification. Thus, many historians feel that France blundered, not in building the Maginot Line (which was effective for what it was), but in relying too much on it for defense. (GBIH)
  • 1954 - Battle of Dien Bien Phu - Prior to the battle, the French forces established a military base in the bowl of a valley and left the heights surrounding the base unguarded since they were considered inaccessible for any military advantage; however, the Vietnamese under Vo Nguyen Giap used those heights to position heavy artillery and anti-aircraft weapons to bombard the base from an unassailable position and ward off air support respectively.
  • 1971 - Battle of Longewala - a pivotal battle of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, during which Pakistan's two Infantry Divisions and two Armored Divisions (totaling several thousand men) fail to take over India's 120-men strong Longewala base; the Pakistani units were finally decimated by the Indian Air Force. Pakistan lost more than 50 tanks and 100 armored vehicles; this battle constituted one of the largest and most disproportionate tank casualties for one side in a single battle after WWII.
  • 1999 - Kargil War - Considered to be more of a diplomatic and political than military blunder for Pakistan. Pakistani Army-backed militants infiltrated into Indian-administered Kashmir and captured Kargil, a mountainous region in north-western Kashmir. Though the operation, which also involved a few men from Pakistan's NLI was a well planned and executed one, Indian Army's swift counter-attack with its full force deploying more than 50,000 men as opposed to around 2000 Pakistani intruders and the full usage of its Air Force, coupled with worldwide condemnation, resulted in a withdrawal of Pakistani troops and a military coup which placed Pervez Musharraf as the President of Pakistan. Pakistani columnist Ayaz Amir remarked Kargil was "a piece of folly which only a Homer writing of another Trojan War can do full justice to."

Naval

Naval disasters commonly believed to be the result of a major mistake or extremely bad decision making.

  • 1893 – HMS Victoria collided with HMS Camperdown near Tripoli, Libya, during manoeuvres. The Victoria quickly sank, taking 358 crew with her, including the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon. At a subsequent court-martial, the collision was ascribed to an explicit order from Admiral Tryon. It has been hypothesized that he had confused turning his ships through 90 degrees with turning them through 180 degrees when he considered how much sea room was needed. The former manoeuvre was much more common and required considerably less room.
  • 1905 – The Battle of Tsushima – the Russian Baltic Fleet, under Admiral Zinovi Petrovich Rozhdestvenski, was intercepted by the Japanese Combined Fleet while sailing from Europe to the Russian port of Vladivostok and had two-thirds of its ships destroyed while inflicting minimal damage on the Japanese. The Japanese fleet, under Admiral Heihachiro Togo, managed to "cross the T" twice on the Russian fleet, easily outmaneuvering the older, poorly maintained Russian ships, which were slowed even more by the wear-and-tear of their long journey from Europe. Only three ships made it to Vladivostok, with three more ships fleeing to the American port of Manila. Russia lost nearly its entire Baltic Fleet, including all eight of its battleships, while destroying just three Japanese torpedo boats. The decisive Japanese victory also marked the decline of Russian influence in East Asia and the rise of Japanese dominance in the region.
  • 1941 - The Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 (December 8 in Japan standard time). Although the attack sank or crippled numerous US Navy capital ships, many military historians consider the attack a long-term strategic blunder. For instance, the American aircraft carriers (a priority target) were absent, and the oil storage facilities and drydock naval repair yard (whose destruction could have crippled the Pacific Fleet's operating capacity) were untouched. Worst of all was the psychological effect: instead of discouraging the USA as intended, it enraged the American population. Apart from the preceding, historians such as Richard Overy have pointed out that the Empire of Japan could never have won a full-scale war against the United States and its Allies. In other words: Japan lost the war the moment it attacked the United States, making it a truly disastrous blunder.

Political

Mistakes and missteps that caused a resignation or significantly contributed to the loss of an election or severe public condemnation.

  • 1908 – Daily Telegraph Affair. Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to give an interview to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph in an attempt to improve the Anglo-German Relationship. In the interview he managed to offend the British, annoy the French and The Russians, and imply that the German naval build-up was targeted at the Japanese, thus irritating them. His attempt at improving international relations was completely counter productive. In The Great War that eventually followed, all four nations were on the opposite side to the Germans. It's unlikely that the interview caused this result, however it did help foster a belief that Wilhelm was responsible for the war.
  • 1962 – Nikita Khrushchev calls chairman Mao Zedong an "old boot", but in Chinese the word for boot also means prostitute, so Mao thought he was being called an old whore. This eventually results in the split between the Soviet Union and communist China.
  • 1963 – John Profumo, the United Kingdom Secretary of State for War, lied to Parliament about his affair with Christine Keeler, a showgirl who was simultaneously involved with an attaché at the Soviet Embassy. When the truth came out, he was forced to resign and the ensuing scandal contributed to the resignation of Harold Macmillan and the subsequent defeat of the government of Sir Alec Douglas-Home in the 1964 election. (Coates)
  • 1972 – the Watergate Scandal. Five men working for Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) burgled the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. to sabotage Democratic candidate George McGovern's chances against Nixon in the 1972 presidential election. The burglary, and Nixon's participation in the extensive cover-up attempt, led to jail terms for several of Nixon's associates, and eventually caused Nixon to resign rather than face impeachment proceedings. The scandal was especially bizarre, as Nixon was far ahead of McGovern in the polls at the time of the break-in, and ended up winning the election in a landslide.
  • 1978 – British Prime Minister James Callaghan decided not to call an election that year despite leading in the polls, but to wait until the next year. The government was blamed for the multiple strikes of the Winter of Discontent, and was defeated in Parliament soon after, leading to an election in which Callaghan was defeated by Margaret Thatcher.
  • 1983 – In the 1983 UK General Election the UK Labour Party suffered its worst performance since 1918; this was mostly credited to their election manifesto, which was later dubbed by Gerald Kaufman "the longest suicide note in history". It included such electorally disastrous policies as the abolition of the House of Lords and unilateral nuclear disarmament.
  • 1988 – Outspoken junior British health minister Edwina Currie told Independent Television News that "most egg production in this country is infected" with salmonella, a statement that greatly exaggerated the problem. Egg sales plummeted and she was forced to resign.
  • 1990 – Despite a highly publicized promise in the 1988 election not to raise taxes, U.S. President George H. W. Bush agrees to a tax increase.
  • 1992 – The Sheffield Rally by the UK Labour Party, held a week before the UK General Election (1992), was meant to top off a successful campaign for the Labour party and to convince the electorate that Labour, ahead in the polls, was ready for government. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. People saw it as pretentious, triumphant when the election had not yet been won, and "too American". Labour lost the 1992 election.
  • 1993 – During the 1993 Canadian federal election, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, desperate to reverse a losing campaign, commissioned an anti-Jean Chrétien campaign TV ad that appeared to ridicule the Liberal Party of Canada leader, Jean Chrétien, for his facial paralysis. That offended many Canadians as a vile insult, and the blunder was considered by many the last straw in a disastrous election that saw the PCs reduced from 151 seats in Parliament to 2, a defeat from which the party never recovered.
  • 2001 – On August 6th, US President George W. Bush was given his President's Daily Brief entitled Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US. The brief warned of terrorism threats from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda over a month before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
  • 2002 – During the final runup to the United States Senate elections, 2002, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash in the northern part of the state. A few days later the Minnesota Democratic party held a memorial service in Minneapolis. The service was perceived by some to be more like a political rally for Wellstone's replacement, former Vice President and Presidential candidate Walter Mondale, than a service honoring Wellstone. At one point Governor Jesse Ventura stormed out of the arena, and CNN political commentator Tucker Carlson later criticized the proceedings. Mondale lost Wellstone's seat in a narrow 49%–47% defeat, while the Republican Party gained control of the Senate. This was an advantage that President Bush enjoyed until Democrats won back both houses in the 2006 Midterm election.
  • 2003 – During the 2003 Ontario provincial election, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party issued a press release that called the Ontario Liberal Party leader, Dalton McGuinty, an "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet." Although defended by some as a tongue-in-cheek statement, the name was condemned as a petty insult by many. It damaged the credibility of the Ontario PC Party, while the Liberals took maximum advantage of the incident to ridicule their opponent and increase support for McGuinty.
  • 2004 – After his defeat at the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses, Howard Dean made a concession speech ending with a yell characterized as the "Dean Scream". This outburst of passion was considered poor form, and particularly unpresidential. Dean, who before the Iowa caucuses had been the front-runner in the race to become the Democratic candidate for the 2004 U.S. presidential election, quickly lost credibility, and within a few weeks he was effectively out of the race.
  • 2004 – The ruling BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) was leading in all the polls during the general elections of 2004 in India. On the basis of a buoyant economy, largely stable macroeconomic factors, and the Indian Stock Markets reaching an all-time high, the BJP launched an "India Shining" campaign which tried to portray India as a well-developed economy. The campaign backfired as inflation in the prices of essential commodities, uneven development, and rising unemployment caused the majority rural population — disillusioned by the campaign promises — to vote against the NDA. NDA lost the election, and Congress-led UPA came into the power despite all exit polls showing an NDA majority. Today, all major Indian political leaders consider it a major political blunder.
  • 2005 – In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA becomes notorious for its slow and ineffective emergency response, especially in New Orleans. With over 1300 deaths (and 1900 still missing as of February, 2006), FEMA's incompetence was accused of contributing to dehydration, starvation, disease, and violence that, accusers allege, might have been prevented by swifter and better-organized relief action. The director of FEMA, Michael D. Brown, resigned following his removal from leadership by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Business

Misjudgments causing a severe loss of profit, often associated with the failure of an individual product.

  • 1958 model year – Ford Motor Company introduces the Edsel, a new car marque remembered as a spectacular blunder because of its association with the Ford family. The Edsel was named after Edsel Ford, former company president and son of Henry Ford. The vehicle sported a front grille described as looking like a horse collar or an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon, and was priced higher than competing companies' models. The Edsel was discontinued early in the 1960 model year. The model failure was responsible for Ford's losing nearly half of the $650 million raised by the company in its 1956 initial public stock offering (IPO). The Ford Edsel is such a famous failure that the name "Edsel" itself has become an appellation for something that's irredeemably flawed and thus doomed to failure.
  • 1977 – In exchange for a USD 20,000.00 salary cut as director of a feature length film, 20th Century Fox executives sign over all merchandising rights for products relating to the as yet unreleased first Star Wars film to director George Lucas, as well as merchandising rights to all sucessive films in the series, clearly underestimating the sales potential of toy spaceships and action figurines. The combined revenue from the sucessive mechandising of what became the most financially successful feature film franchise in filmaking history is estimated to have exceeded USD 3,000,000,000.00 at last estimate, and continues to grow annually. It remains today the single most lucrative deal ever struck between an individual and a corporate studio in entertainment history.
  • 1985 – Coca-Cola releases New Coke. The New Coke formula actually beat the old Coke in taste tests, but Coca-Cola's blunder was in failing to realize the immensity of the Coke legacy that they had built up over nearly a century. This legacy was so strong that the mere idea of changing Coke, by this time considered an American icon — even "for the better" — met with intense, passionate resistance. People felt as if Coke was turning its back on their drinking preferences, their childhood, and even their way of life. "Coke is as basic as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence." "Next week, they'll be chiseling Teddy Roosevelt off the side of Mount Rushmore." Coca-Cola eventually re-released a reformulated Coke containing high-fructose corn syrup as "Coca-Cola Classic".
  • 1991 – Millionaire businessman Gerald Ratner made a speech during which he made a joke rubbishing one of his own jewelry company's products and, by implication, their entire product range. These comments were widely reported by the news media and profits went into a nose-dive. As a result Ratner lost his job, and the company lost market share and had to rebrand. See Doing a Ratner.
  • 1992 – Hoover ran a promotion campaign in the UK, offering free flights to Europe and New York when customers spent more than £100 on Hoover products — significantly less than the cost of the flights. The company had been relying on customers being unwilling to go through the complex application process, but they severely underestimated how popular the offer would be, leading to the company denying customers their flights, and years of bad publicity. Eventually, Hoover was forced to honour many of these deals, at a cost of £48m. Parent company Maytag sold the British division to Italian electrical appliance firm Candy, and all senior staff involved in the promotion lost their jobs.
  • 1993 – PepsiCo introduced Crystal Pepsi, a clear version of its popular cola. After an initial boom, sales fell miserably as a result of consumer confusion about the taste and a lack of necessity for a clear cola that tasted like the original. The product was parodied in a memorable skit on Saturday Night Live featuring a product called Crystal Gravy and on Family Guy with Peter pitching the idea to Pepsi and presenting as his main argument for the product that you cannot see a serial killer through your regular Pepsi.
  • 2001 – Shares in Exodus Communications, a bankrupt internet firm, jumped by 59,000% when a rogue trader accidentally bid $100 for its shares, at a time when its value was 17 cents.
  • 2002 – In October, the US investment bank Bear Stearns entered an order to sell $4bn (£2.6bn) worth of stocks by accident in a late trade. The exchange said the order was the result of a "clerical error" and should have been for $4m. They managed to cancel all but $622m of the order before execution.
  • 2005 – A trader working for Mizuho Securities Co., part of the Mizuho Financial Group, mistyped and sold 610,000 shares for 1 yen — instead of the intended 1 share for 610,000 yen — of the stock J-Com Co. This represented a sell order for more than 42 times the number of shares on issue. Mizuho Securities managed to buy back about 480,000 shares, during which time the price rose to 700,000 yen. The eventual losses are expected to be around 100 billion yen which is roughly equivalent to $100 million (US).
  • 2005 – the Sony BMG CD copy prevention scandal. Sony BMG introduced copy protection software on music CDs in order to combat piracy. In October 2005, security researcher Mark Russinovich published an online analysis of the software showing that it installs itself on users' computers without notification and cloaking itself to run without detection. The software also was very difficult to uninstall, caused crashes in many systems, and presented a significant security threat by allowing piggybacking by other malware. Sony initially denied the software posed a threat, but later released an uninstaller. This only exacerbated the problem, as it was revealed that the uninstaller used an ActiveX component that caused an even larger security threat than the XCP software itself. In the wake of the scandal, Sony BMG's market share fell from 28.46% to 25.61% in 2005, likely as a result of Sony's having to recall and replace several million CDs in the middle of the holiday season. It also resulted in several class action lawsuits, many of which are still in litigation, and caused significant damage to the company's image.

Science and technology

  • The NASA Mars Climate Orbiter, launched in 1998, burned up in the Martian atmosphere. A mixup between metric and US Standard measurements in the controlling software caused the spacecraft to miss its intended 140–150 km altitude above Mars during orbit insertion, instead entering the Martian atmosphere at about 57 km.
  • The NASA Genesis mission was an attempt to sample particles from the solar wind. It successfully collected a sample and returned to Earth. However at the last moment the landing parachute failed to open and the return capsule smashed into the ground at high speed, contaminating the samples. The parachute failure was traced to an accelerometer installed backwards.
  • In the USSR and PRC, Lysenkoism seriously harmed agricultural production.
  • Microsoft Windows Vista was originally announced to include features such as WinFS, P2P, WPF integration and native WCF integration. After Vista's release failed to meet two target release dates WinFS and P2P were cut from Vista and .NET 3.0 (WPF and WCF) were nearly cut from Vista's original release due to performance issues.

Sports

  • 1919 – Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold star player Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000 and a $350,000 loan. With the Yankees, Ruth won four World Series titles and seven American League pennants, and is widely considered to be one of the best players in history. After trading Ruth (and several other players) to the Yankees, the Red Sox finished in last or near last place numerous times, and did not win an American League pennant again until 1946. A mostly fictional, but widely believed, account of the events that led Frazee to sell Ruth to the Yankees portrayed Frazee as a greedy villain; however, recently sports historians have pointed out that Frazee was facing a legal fight with the American League President, financial difficulties due to World War I, and that Ruth's behavior and demands had become a liability. Moreover, while Ruth was a good player at the time of the sale, nobody knew how great a player he would become with the Yankees.
  • 1986 – During the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner allowed a slow grounder hit by Mookie Wilson to go between his legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run for the Mets. The Mets went on to win Game 7 and the World Series. Buckner, despite a solid 21-year career, is now most remembered for his World Series gaffe, even though it is not clear that he would have beaten the speedy Wilson to the base had he fielded it cleanly, and even though the Red Sox still could have won the World Series by winning Game 7. Although Buckner's error is widely remembered, many fans blame manager John McNamara for not replacing the injured Buckner with Dave Stapleton, who was a better defensive player.
  • 1986 – Edmonton Oilers were in the final game of the seven game playoff series against longtime rival the Calgary Flames when Steve Smith accidentally banked his break-out pass off his own goaltender and into his own net late in the third period. The goal was accredited to the Flames, giving them a 3-2 lead which they never relinquished. The own goal stopped the Oilers from possible winning a third straight championship. Subsequently, the Oilers won three more championships in the next four years after.
  • 1989 – The Vikings trade for Herschel Walker and surrender draft picks which would later become star players such as Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodson. The Cowboys turned around from being a last place team to winning 3 super bowls in 4 years, while Walker stayed with the Vikings for less than 3 years.
  • 1990 – In the October 12th, 1990 NCAA football match between the 12th ranked Colorado Buffaloes and the unranked Missouri Tigers, the referees made a blunder that allowed Colorado to win the game, and clearly affected the National Championship. Trailing by 4 points, Colorado drove to the Missouri goal line for a first down with 40 seconds left in the game. They then ran 2 plays, followed by a Missouri timeout. After the second play, the referees forgot to change the down marker. This mistake gave Colorado a fifth down, on which they scored the game-winning touchdown. Colorado and Georgia Tech went on to split the 1990 National Championship.
  • 1992 – The Atlanta Falcons trade quarterback Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers for a first round draft pick which would be used to draft running back Tony Smith, who only lasted two unremarkable seasons.
  • 1993 – Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett had a solid 11-year career in the National Football League, but he is most remembered for two embarrassing blunders in 1993. During Super Bowl XXVII between Dallas and the Buffalo Bills, Lett recovered a fumble and rushed down the field for what he thought was a sure touchdown. Lett began celebrating before he crossed the goal line, which enabled Buffalo receiver Don Beebe to knock the ball from Lett's hand, resulting in a touchback. The following season, during the Thanksgiving Day game between Dallas and the Miami Dolphins, Dallas blocked a Miami field goal in the final seconds, which should have resulted in a Dallas victory. However, while several Dallas players celebrated their victory, Lett dove on the ball, and had it squirt from under him into the arms of a Miami player. This blunder allowed Miami another field goal attempt, which was successful, resulting in a 16-14 Miami victory. Ultimately, though the Thanksgiving blunder cost Dallas the game, neither blunder resulted in disaster. Dallas won Super Bowl XXVII 52-17, and won the Super Bowl again the following year (the year of the Thanksgiving day blunder) as well.
  • 1993 – On April 5, 1993, the University of North Carolina played the University of Michigan for the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship. With 19 seconds left and Michigan trailing by 2, Michigan forward Chris Webber rebounded a missed North Carolina free throw and dribbled across mid-court and into the corner, where, upon being trapped by the North Carolina defense, he called a timeout. Unfortunately for Webber and his team, Michigan had no timeouts left, and Michigan was called for a technical foul. North Carolina subsequently hit both free throws (and two more after a foul), and won 77-71. Webber had an otherwise stellar game, with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but that performance was overshadowed by his late-game blunder.
  • 1993 – On May 29, 1993, Texas Rangers slugger José Canseco convinced manager Kevin Kennedy to allow him to pitch the eighth inning of a blow out to the Red Sox. Canseco blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery, costing him the second half of the season. Because of the injury, Canseco could no longer play regularly in the outfield, and became primarily a designated hitter. In the following 8 years, Canseco played well offensively, but also bounced around between several different teams, was plagued by numerous injuries, and went from being one of the game's premier athletes to being known as one-dimensional and injury-prone.
  • 1993 – In Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals between the Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens, the Kings were leading 2-1 with less than two minutes left in the game. The Kings had the best chance to extend their series lead to by 2 games when the series would move to their home ice. Canadians coach Jacques Demers challenged the stick of Marty McSorley deeming it illegal. When referee Kerry Fraser confirmed the stick was illegal, the Canadians were given a power play, which they scored on to tie the game. The Canadians would later win Game 2 in overtime and tie the series. After that moment, the series momentum shifted entirely for Montreal, who won the next three games without ever trailing behind in scoring to win the Stanley Cup.
  • 1995 – On December 2nd, 1995, the Montreal Canadiens played a regular season game against the Detroit Red Wings at home. The Canadiens lost the game 10-1 and Canadiens head coach Mario Tremblay left all-star goalie Patrick Roy in for 9 of them. This act infuriated Roy and he demanded to be traded. 4 days later Montreal sent Patrick Roy and Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thiabault, Andrei Kovalenko and Mike Rucinsky. Roy would later be a crucial piece to the Avalanche puzzle, helping them win the Stanley Cup in the same season and eventually becoming the all-time winningest goalie in 2001, the same season he helped Colorado win another Stanley Cup where he earned the Conn Smythe. None of the players Montreal recevied made significant contributions and it took them almost 13 years to fully recover from the trade.
  • 1999 – The French golfer Jean Van de Velde nearly pulled off an upset victory at the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie, when he was the clear leader playing the closing holes. He arrived at the 18th tee needing only a double-bogey six to become the first Frenchman since 1907 to win the tournament. He had played error-free golf for much of the week and birdied the 18th hole in each of his two prior rounds. Despite a three-shot lead, Van de Velde chose to use his driver off the tee, a move widely considered to be ill-advised given the situation. He proceeded to drive the ball very far to the right. Rather than correcting his mistake by playing back to the fairway, Van de Velde decided to go for the green with his second shot. His shot drifted right and hit the grandstands on the side of the green. Had his ball landed in the grandstands he would have been given a free drop, but instead his ball bounced off of them — backwards fifty yards into knee deep rough. Van de Velde still had four shots to work with, and still could have safely played back to the fairway and then onto the green, but he decided to again go for the green. On his third shot, Van de Velde's club got tangled in the rough on his downswing, and his ball flew into the Barry Burn. He removed his shoes and socks and gingerly stepped through shin-deep water as he debated whether to try to hit his ball out of the Barry Burn, which guards the 18th green. Ultimately, he took a drop (which added a penalty stroke to his total), and then also hit his fourth shot (fifth stroke) poorly - the ball landing in a green-side sand trap. On his fifth shot (sixth stroke) Van de Velde pitched the ball out of the sand trap and onto the green about eight feet from the hole. He made the putt from there for a total of seven strokes on the hole. This disastrous triple-bogey seven dropped him into a three-way playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. After the playoff, the Claret Jug went to Lawrie.
  • 1999 – Mike Ditka, who was then head coach of the New Orleans Saints traded all of his team's draft picks to get Ricky Williams. Williams only lasted three years in New Orleans and was traded in 2002 to the Miami Dolphins where he won two rushing titles.
  • 2002 – During training just prior to the FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Spain's top goalkeeper, Santiago Canizares dropped a bottle of aftershave on his foot, cutting tendons. Subsequently, back-up goaltender Iker Casillas excelled in Canizares' place and is now the starting goalkeeper.
  • 2002 – Simarily, Brazil midfielder and captain Emerson dislocated his shoulder playing as a goalkeeper in a training session before the FIFA World Cup. He missed the entire tournament as Brazil went on to win the trophy with Cafu captaining the side. Striker Rivaldo, whose shot Emerson had saved, observed ""He doesn't know how to fall properly because he's not a goalkeeper."
  • 2003 – Brian Sabean, General Manager of the San Francisco Giants, traded pitching prospects Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan to the Minnesota Twins for catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski remained on the Giants for one year, while Liriano became the top pitching prospect in baseball, Bonser became a starter for the Twins, and Nathan became one of the best closers in the American League, all of whom are still with the Twins as of 2007.
  • 2005 – During the 2005 off-season in an effort to save the NAPA sponsorship money and better team chemistry, Teresa Earnhardt decided to swap the pit crews and cars of her stepson Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Michael Waltrip. The result was Earnhardt's failure to make the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup and Michael Waltrip's release. The swap produced only one combined win and 20th in the NEXTEL Cup points standings. The only positive about the season was admitting failure and the teams switched the crews back with five races left.
  • 2005 – Driver Kurt Busch was arrested on a driving under the influence (DUI) charge and was ticketed for aggressive driving on the weekend of the 2005 Checker Auto Parts 400 right after he was given his release to drive the #2 Miller Lite Dodge in 2006. Busch also was not cooperative with police (he said "don't you know who I am?"). Owner Jack Roush acted swiftly suspending Busch for the final two races of that season.
  • 2006 – At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis was well ahead in the Snowboard Cross final when she fell on the last jump while needlessly showboating and ended up finishing second behind Tanja Frieden of Switzerland.
  • 2006 – Florida Panthers GM Mike Keenan traded goaltender Roberto Luongo, defender Lukáš Krajíček, and a sixth-round draft pick to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Todd Bertuzzi, defender Bryan Allen and goaltender Alex Auld. Luongo would have an all-star season in Vancouver, breaking the team's single-game playoff save record in his first post-season game. Bertuzzi would play seven games with the Panthers before getting traded to Detroit, while Auld recorded seven wins in 27 games.
  • 2007 – Dallas Stars player Patrik Stefan had an empty net break away with 10 seconds left in the game and his team leading 5-4. He slowly skated in, but instead of scoring the insurance goal to seal the victory, the puck jumped over his stick and wide of the net. The Edmonton Oilers then recovered the puck and passed it to forward Ales Hemsky who scored to tie the game 5-5 with 2.1 seconds remaining. The Stars managed to win the game in the shootout.
  • 2007 – Another blunder from Dallas, during the NFL playoffs, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo cost his team a lead and potential win in a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys, the Seahawks were leading the Cowboys 21-20 with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys were at the Seattle 2-yard line on fourth and one and decided to go for a 19-yard field goal for the lead. But on the snap, Tony was unable to hold the ball which prevented Martin Gramatica from scoring the field goal. In panic Romo picked up the ball and attempted to run for the first down or a touchdown but was stopped short of the first down line by safety Jordan Babineaux turning the ball over to Seattle. The Cowboys lost 21-20 and their hopes for their 1st playoff win in 10 years was destroyed.

See also

Notes

References

  • Coates, Tim. John Profumo and Christine Keeler (London: Tim Coates, 1999) ISBN 0-11-702402-3
  • Darling, Roger. A Sad and Terrible Blunder: Generals Terry and Custer at the Little Big Horn: New Discoveries (Vienna, VA: Potomac-Western Press, 1990) ISBN 0-9621488-1-4.
  • David, Saul. Military Blunders: The How and Why of Military Failure, (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1998) ISBN 0-7867-0504-3
  • Heffernan, Richard and Marqusee, Mike. Defeat from the Jaws of Victory (London: Verso, 1992) ISBN 0-86091-351-1
  • Great Blunders in History television series first broadcast on the History Channel in 2001.

Further reading

  • Wrong! The Biggest Mistakes Ever Made by People Who Should Have Known Better, Jane O'Boyle, published by Plume Books (1999), ISBN 0-452-28112-1.
  • Wrong Again!: More of the Biggest Mistakes and Miscalculations Ever Made by People Who Should Have Known Better, Jane O'Boyle, published by Plume Books (2000), ISBN 0-452-28201-2.
  • America's Stupidest Business Decisions: 101 Blunders, Flops, and Screwups, Bill Adler and Julie Houghton, published by Quill (1997), ISBN 0-688-15152-3.
  • Great Military Blunders, Geoffrey Regan, published by Motorbooks International (2000), ISBN 0-7522-1844-1.
  • Scientific Blunders: A Brief History of How Wrong Scientists Can Sometimes Be, R. M. Youngson and Robert Youngson, published by Carroll & Graf (1998), ISBN 0-7867-0594-9.
  • The Greatest Blunders of World War II, Horace Edward Henderson, published by iUniverse (2001), ISBN 0-595-16267-3.
  • The 100 Greatest Sports Blunders of All Time, Eldon L. Ham, published by Masters Press (1997), ISBN 1-57028-159-9.
  • The Book of Heroic Failures, Stephen Pile.

External links

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