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5 of the Most Controversial Calls in Sports History Still Get People Fired Up [VIDEOS]

Controversial Calls
David Cannon/Ezra Shaw/Simon Bruty, Getty Images

It’s no surprise that more and more sports are turning to video review. No matter how many rules and officials are in place, human imperfection is bound to cause the occasional mistake. Some of these errors are relatively small and have little bearing on a team’s future prospects. But every once in a while, a call is made that sparks a firestorm of controversy and causes the participating players to utterly lose their cool. Let’s take a look at a few sports disputes that stand out from the rest.

The Tuck Rule

The infamous “Tuck Rule” reared its ugly head during a 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. Trailing 13-10 in a torrential snowstorm, a young upstart named Tom Brady was on the verge of tying the game when Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson seemingly forced a critical fumble. Instead, a video review of the play led officials to declare the play an incomplete pass, citing the obscure “tuck rule.” The controversial decision allowed the Patriots to tie and eventually win the game, thus beginning the legend of Tom Brady.

Cold War On The Court

Nothing like the Cold War to stir up some sports controversy! The 1972 Olympic Games in Munich featured a gold medal basketball matchup between the United States and the USSR. A pair of late free throws gave the US a 50-49 lead with only a few seconds left on the clock. That’s when things started getting out of hand.

Confusion about a Soviet timeout and an improper clock reset allowed the Soviets an extra three seconds that they never should have gotten. One full court pass and buzzer-beating layup later, and Team USA had suffered its first-ever Olympic loss. The team refused its silver medals and still won’t acknowledge a Soviet victory.

The Hand of God

By the time the 1986 World Cup rolled around, Argentina’s Diego Maradona was the undisputed best soccer player on the planet. Led by his marvelous play, Argentina had rocketed to the quarterfinals to face a solid English squad. In the second half of that match, English defender Steve Hodge failed to properly clear a Maradona pass, causing the ball to deflect back to the Argentine star. Diego attempted a header, but accidentally punched the ball into the net instead. The referees allowed the goal, having failed to notice the illegal handball. Argentina went on to win the match (and the World Cup), and Maradona credited “the hand of God” with an assist. The game sparked a fierce, ongoing rivalry between the two nations.

The Not-So-Perfect Game

There have only been 23 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball — but there should be 24. On June 2, 2010, unheralded Tigers starter Armando Galarraga pitched the game of his life, setting down the first 26 Cleveland Indians he faced with just 88 pitches. When Indians rookie Jason Donald hit a weak dribbler to first, the crowd erupted, certain that they were about to witness history. Shockingly, umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe, despite the fact that he was out by a full step.

Joyce would later tearfully apologize to Galarraga, who showed nothing but class in the incident’s aftermath. When asked about Joyce’s mistake, he responded, “Nobody’s perfect.

The Jeffrey Maier Incident

The 1996 ALCS marked a colossal clash between a resurgent New York Yankees club and their dangerous AL East rivals, the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees trailed, 4-3 ,in the 8th inning of game one of the series when Derek Jeter drilled a pitch deep into rightfield. Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco appeared to settle under the ball, only to have 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier deflect it over the wall. Rather than correctly declaring an out as a result of fan interference, the umpire ruled Jeter’s blast a home run, allowing the Yankees to tie and eventually win the game. The play changed the course of the series and made Maier an overnight sensation.

Honorable Mention: Jerry Meals Says It’s Safe

This controversial call lacks the magnitude of the other controversies on this list, since it took place during a meaningless regular season game. Still, it warrants a mention based solely on the sheer lunacy of umpire Jerry Meals’ decision. Meals called an Atlanta Braves runner safe, despite the fact that he didn’t even come close to touching home plate before the tag. The missed call cost the Pirates a victory, and produced one of the funnier internet trends in existence.

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