Power of 15

The worst calls, plus more memorable moments, from the last 15 years

Originally Published: May 1, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN The Magazine

MD JenningsRic Tapia/AP ImagesThe referee lockout ended after a replacement ref let the Seahawks Sam Shields' TD stand.

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1. Simultaneous catch: Sept. 24, 2012.
On the final play of the game -- a Hail Mary from QB Russell Wilson -- Seahawks receiver Golden Tate shoves Green Bay defender Sam Shields out of the way, wrestles Packers safety M.D. Jennings for the ball and is awarded a touchdown to give Seattle a 14-12 win. Following lengthy review, replacement referee Wayne Elliott lets the play stand. The subsequent outrage ends the referee lockout in days.

2. Almost perfect: June 2, 2010.
After Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga retires 26 straight batters, Cleveland's Jason Donald is ruled safe on a ground ball to Miguel Cabrera, even though Cabrera's flip to the covering pitcher clearly gets there in time. Umpire James Joyce later issues a tearful apology, is praised for his mea culpa and co-authors a book with Galarraga.

3. One foot in, one foot out: June 19, 1999.
With a foot clearly in the goal crease, Dallas forward Brett Hull scores over fallen Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek as the Stars close out the Sabres in triple overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. At the time, it was illegal to score a goal if an offensive player's skate entered the crease before the puck.

4. Too much Laker love: May 31, 2002.
The Lakers attempt 40 free throws to the Kings' 25 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, which LA wins 106-102. Kings guard Mike Bibby is called for a foul after being shoved and elbowed by Kobe Bryant. Ralph Nader, outraged by the officiating, later calls for a formal investigation.

5. Helmet goal: Dec. 6, 1998.
With the Jets trailing the Seahawks by five points in the final minute, New York QB Vinny Testaverde tries a quarterback sneak on fourth and goal. The ball is stopped a foot short of the line, but Testaverde's helmet crosses the plane, and the refs wrongly call a touchdown, giving the Jets the victory. The ensuing outcry leads to the NFL's reinstating a replay system the next year.

6. Turkey Day mishap: Nov. 26, 1998.
A lesson in speaking clearly. Steelers running back Jerome Bettis calls tails for the overtime coin toss. Referee Phil Luckett hears heads. Pittsburgh is forced to kick off and never sees the ball again, as a Jason Hansen field goal gives the Lions a 19-16 Thanksgiving Day win.

7. A helping hand: Nov. 18, 2009.
Officials miss an obvious hand ball by French striker Thierry Henry that leads to an extra-time goal by defender William Gallas. Swedish referee Martin Hansson fails to blow the whistle, and France qualifies for the World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Ireland.

8. Who needs bases? Oct. 1, 2007.
Rockies first baseman Matt Holliday races home on a sacrifice fly in the 13th inning and dodges Padres catcher Michael Barrett (who doesn't even have the ball but tries to block the plate) to score the winning run in a wild-card playoff. The catch? Holliday didn't touch home plate. But no matter; ump Tim McClelland doesn't notice.

9. The Bush push: Oct. 17, 2005.
With the Trojans trailing in the final seconds at South Bend, USC quarterback Matt Leinart is stopped short of the goal line. But he gets an illegal push into the end zone from running back Reggie Bush, and the Trojans log a 34-31 victory to extend their winning streak to 28 games. Who says Notre Dame gets all the calls?

10. The phantom tag: Oct. 17, 1999.
In Game 4 of the ALCS, the Red Sox ninth-inning rally is doused when Boston second baseman Jose Offerman is called out even though Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch is nowhere near making the tag. Umpire Tim Tschida later admits to the mistake.

11. Spike ... or not: Jan. 1, 1998.
Trailing 21-16 in the Rose Bowl, Washington State advances to the Michigan 26-yard line on a completion by QB Ryan Leaf. The Cougars line up with two seconds left to play. After the snap, Leaf spikes the ball with time left on the clock, but the refs whistle the game over.

12. The invisible catch: Jan. 23, 2000.
In the 2000 NFC championship between St. Louis and Tampa Bay, an apparent first-down catch by Bucs receiver Bert Emanuel is ruled to have hit the ground. Replays show the ball was clearly in Emanuel's grasp when it touched the turf. But no matter; Buccaneers lose 11-6. The Rams go on to win the Super Bowl.

13. The Jordan push-off: June 14, 1998.
Michael Jordan nudges Jazz forward Bryon Russell with his left hand and calmly sinks a jumper with five seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. No call, and the Bulls win their sixth NBA title in eight years. You didn't expect them to whistle Michael, did you?

14. Splitsville: June 9, 2012.
In a stunning ruling, Timothy Bradley is awarded a split decision over Manny Pacquiao, despite the fact that Pac-Man appeared to be the clear winner in the bout. The ruling for Bradley by judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross gives him the welterweight title and ends Pacquiao's seven-year unbeaten run.

15. No celebrating allowed: Oct. 3, 2009.
Georgia receiver A.J. Green catches a go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute to play against LSU. He then draws an excessive celebration penalty, and Georgia loses 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. With good field position, LSU scores the winning touchdown with 46 seconds to play. The SEC later admits the call against Green was incorrect.

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Doug Mittler

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