10/25/1964 - Marshall runs the wrong way
Jim Marshall had a terrific 20-year career in the NFL. He set numerous records for endurance -- playing in 282 consecutive games -- and was among the all-time leaders in sacks and fumble recoveries. That being said, he is also known for committing one of the most embarrassing, miscues in the history of the NFL.
In a Sunday contest against the San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings defensive end recovered a fumble at the Niners' 34. But Marshall had been hit on the play and somehow thought that he was facing the scoring end when he picked up the football. To the other Vikings' horror, Marshall scooped up the ball and continued running 66 yards down the opposite end of the field. When he reached his own end zone, he flipped the ball out of bounds in celebration, only to be told by his teammates that his touchdown run was actually a safety. (His -66-yard play is recognized as the shortest, most negative-gaining play in the history of the NFL.)
Marshall's highlight was replayed over and over again to audiences who could care less about his consecutive games record. It became the defining moment of his career, and temporarily made him a laughingstock in the public's spotlight. Roy Riegels, who became nationally famous for making the exact same mistake 35 years earlier, sent Marshall a letter titled, "Welcome to the club."
Unlike other sports figures who made horrible mistakes, Marshall was able to laugh at himself and avoid resentment from the fans. Marshall's wrong-way run occurred in a meaningless regular season while Riegels' faux pas happened during the Rose Bowl. Riegels' gaffe cost his team the game, while the Minnesota Vikings were able to at least pull out a win. In fact, Marshall forced a fumble later that game that led to a teammate scoring the game-winning touchdown.
"I never get credit for that fumble," Marshall later joked. Alas, being responsible for the worst of the NFL's 100 Greatest Follies is a bit more noteworthy.
10/25/1998 - Elam ties Dempsey's record
In the closing seconds of the first half, Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam connects on a 63-yard field goal -- tying Tom Dempsey's 28 year-old record for the longest field goal in NFL history. The Broncos went on to beat the Jaguars 37-24, but afterward, the story everyone was talking about was the record field goal.
"I am as happy as I can be," said Elam. "I knew before the snap that the kick would tie the record and I made sure to mark it right with my spot. Tom Rouen had a great hold and I got a good swing. I knew it was pretty close and I was trying to help it along. As I was running down the field I lost it for a second in the lights. I almost beat it down there."
With the win, the Denver Broncos moved their record to 7-0. In a year where they inevitably won it all, Denver won the first 13 games of the season and had many believing that they would finish 16-0. But in Week 15, the New York Giants shocked them with a 20-16 victory.
10/25/2000 - Stern punishes Joe Smith signing
Remember how everyone complained about the Bill Belichick Spygate incident, how the NFL didn't come down hard enough on the Patriots? Well I imagine that if Roger Goodell dished out the same punishment that David Stern did over the Joe Smith signing, no one would've said a word.
The NBA had just uncovered the tactics the Timberwolves used to sign the former #1 pick. In a nutshell, Minnesota gave Smith three consecutive one-year contracts that, when combined, weren't even worth $8 million. However, he would receive a $40-80 million "signing bonus" that wouldn't count against the salary cap. It was the basketball equivalent of cheating on your taxes.
NBA commissioner David Stern, a former lawyer himself, wasn't pleased. He released Smith from his contract, fined the Timberwolves $3.5 million, and took away five years of first round draft picks (two were later returned). Smith played with the Pistons for a season before heading back to Minnesota in 2001. Still, the under-the-table signing was a crippling transaction for a franchise barely in the playoff spectrum. The T'Wolves never collected enough young talent to put around Kevin Garnett, and the Joe Smith signing had everything to do with it.