12 most embarrassing premature celebrations in sports history

Leon Lett

Nothing is quite as sweet for athletes as the moment they pull off a big play, whether it be a momentum killing interception, buzzer beating 3-pointer, or tricky move to somehow eek out a win in a race you had no business of winning. These defining moments deserve to be celebrated accordingly, but, as these 12 athletes prove with their humiliating premature celebrations, always make sure that final whistle has blown, the checkered flag has been waved, or the horn has sounded before breaking out the fist pumps, high fives, and goofy dances.

12. Italian goalkeeper celebrates PK miss, forgets about backspin

A 2011 lower level Italian football playoff game between Termeno and Dro—the winner of which would receive promotion—had gone to penalty kicks. When Michael Palma of Termeno faced off against Dro goalkeeper Loris Angeli, he ended up nailing the crossbar, which sent Palma flailing on the ground in despair and Angeli running towards his teammates in jubilation. Too bad for the Dro goalie that he forgot about a little thing called backspin, as the ball would ricochet off the bar and end up rolling backwards into the net.

The referee awarded the goal to Termeno to put them up 5-4 in sudden death, and Dro, needing a goal to continue on, would be stopped on their next attempt, meaning that Termeno won the match and promotion to Eccellenza…except that Dro filed an appeal and won, meaning that the game was to be replayed.

11. CFL player celebrates astounding missed field goal return, gets tackled at 1-yard line

Football has a rule that the opposing team can return a missed field goal, so when the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes missed one against Hamilton during a game in 2012, Ti-Cats receiver Chris Williams dipsy-doodled his way to an impressive 116-yard return. Too bad that he needed to go 117-yards to paydirt, as his premature backpedaling allowed him to get caught and downed at the 1-yard line.

Said Williams about his gaffe…

“It was just a lack of judgment — it’s not who I am,” Williams said. “I apologized to coach (Marc) Trestman, my team, the fans … it was just poor judgment and it won’t happen again.”

10. Rugby player channels his inner Leon Lett, gets Don Beebe’d

If there’s a rugby version of the Leon Lett/Don Beebe play from Super Bowl XXVII, it’s this one. We’ll let Rugby Dump explain what went wrong during New Zealand rugby player Glen “The Flying Fish” Fisiiahi ‘s arm kiss/crowd wave celebration, because we know nothing about rugby…

Its the U20 Vodaphone Junior Warriors against the U20 South Sydney side in Australia and as Souths chip ahead they knock on for gasman Glen Fish Fisiiahi to collect and race away.

He sprints nearly 80m untouched before his celebration comes to an abrupt end as he is hit from behind, only to cough up the ball and learn the hard way that its probably a good idea to get it down before doing the hand gestures and salutes to the crowd.

Souths scored shortly after that, adding insult to injury, but luckily for the Fish, a late kick at goal won the game for his side, 19-18.

9. X-Games Moto X racer’s ill advised midair celebratory fist pumping doesn’t end well

From last week’s X-Games comes this perfect example of why midair celebrations on a motorbike usually don’t end well. Meghan Rutledge was cruising to victory in the women’s moto X 12-lap race, however, on the last jump of the race Rutledge pumped her fist in joy, which caused her to get over too far on her bike and wreck on the landing, which ultimately led to her losing a race that moments earlier seemed in the bag.

That right there is the epitome of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Hopefully Meghan will learn to keep her enthusiasm under control in future races, otherwise her coaches may have to start gluing her hands to the bike’s handlebars to prevent any further disasters.

8. Roller Speed Skater tries coasting to victory, fails miserably

In 2010 the World Roller Speed Skating Championships were held in Guarne, Colombia, and as luck would have it, countryman Alex Cujavante was the odds on favorite to win the men’s 20,000 final. Cujavante was a few meters from the gold medal with what he figured was an insurmountable lead, so he raised his arms in triumph as he coasted to victory. South Korean Sang Cheol Lee seized the opportunity and sprinted past the Colombian skater for the narrow win, much to the chagrin of the stunned Cujavante and the pro-Colombian crowd.

Turns out Cujavante would have been DQ’d anyway for a sprinting mistake earlier on in the race, which means he not only lost out on both the gold and silver medals, he also skated 20,000 meters for nothing.

7. Wizards Michael Ruffin’s celebratory heave ends up as Raps Mo Peterson’s game-tying trey

Morris Peterson was a pretty nice player for the Toronto Raptors after being the team’s first round draft pick in 2000. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the Michigan State product’s career came in a 2007 game against the Wizards. Washington had taken a 3-point lead with a mere 3.8 seconds left on the clock and the No.3 spot in the Eastern Conference on the line, when, after intercepting Toronto’s inbounds heave, the Wizards’ Michael Ruffin inexplicably hurled the ball toward the rafters, possibly to run out the clock, possibly in celebration of a sure victory.

What happened next? Mo Pete happened next, as the Raps forward caught the ball and threw up the miracle 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.

Of course there was no way the Raptors were going to lose the game after that incredible shot, and they didn’t, going on to the 123-118 OT win.

6. The Play

It is arguably the most famous play in the history of sports, so legendary it’s known simply as “The Play.” Mention it to even the most casual of college football fans and they’ll know exactly what game and what play you’re referring to. And even though it wasn’t the Stanford football team doing the premature celebrating, it is still a viable addition to this list because of the school’s band that had started making their way on the field in anticipation of a sure Stanford win, only to get infamously caught in the middle of Cal’s incredible final play comeback win.

Even if you’ve seen that clip a thousand times there’s no way you don’t cringe every time the unsuspecting trombone player gets plowed.

5. Lindsey Jacobellis hot dogs her way to silver at the 2006 Winter Olympics

It was as heartbreaking a finish as Meghan Rutledge’s poorly timed fist pumping, but for women’s snowboard cross racer Lindsey Jacobellis, the price was much, much higher. The seven-time X-games snowboard cross champion had built a comfortable lead in the women’s snowboard cross final at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turino, when she showboated a little bit by performing a method grab. Jacobellis landed on the edge of her snowboard and fell, allowing Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden to pass her and take the gold medal.

Said Jacobellis…

“I was caught up in the moment. I think every now and then you might see something like that,” Jacobellis said during a conference call. “I didn’t even think twice. I was having fun and that’s what snowboarding is. I was ahead. I wanted to share with the crowd my enthusiasm. I messed up. It happens.”

Gold medal or no gold medal, it’d be extremely hard to fault her for that.

4. DeSean Jackson so eager to celebrate TD he drops football short of the end zone

For all his prodigious talent, Eagles WR DeSean Jackson may best be remembered for a play in his rookie season during a game against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Jackson beat the Dallas secondary and caught a Donovan McNabb pass in stride en route to a 61-yard touchdown. So eager was the speedy Jackson to celebrate his first NFL score he casually flipped the ball aside…before he was in the end zone.

MNF announcer Mike Tirico called it “one of the all-time bonehead plays,” after it was reviewed and ruled a fumble. Tirico shouldn’t have been too surprised at Jackson’s stupidity, considering he did nearly the exact same thing in high school, albeit with an ill-timed flip into the end zone.

3. Motorcycle rider suffers massive brain fart, celebrates win one lap too early

Not only is motorcycle racer Riccardo Russo fairly clueless, he also can’t count worth a damn. Russo was leading the 2012 Italian CIV championship race in Mugello, when, after crossing the start/finish line, began exuberantly punching the air in triumphant glory before standing on his bike pegs and gesticulating to the crowd. Only problem—the race still had a lap to go, a fact that Russo finally clued in on when every other racer passed him at full speed.

Riccardo Russo went from first to worst in a matter of seconds, all because of one terribly crippling brain fart.

2. Cibona Zagreb too busy celebrating to defend KK Partizan’s game winning 3-pointer

The summer of 2010 produced one of the most thrilling finishes in a basketball game that anyone has ever seen, and it all took place in a matchup between Croatian club Cibona Zagreb and Serbia’s KK Partizan. Cibona had just taken the lead on a 3-pointer that left only 0.6 seconds on the clock. As the team was mobbed by the coaches, assistants and other personnel, Partizan quickly inbounded the ball and heaved a 75-footer that found nothing but net.

A stunning turn of events, but you know what they say, “live by the three, die by the three.” Of course, had Cibona played defense for the final 0.6 seconds, that cliche would have been rendered null and void.

1. Don Beebe chases down showboating Leon Lett, takes away sure touchdown

This has to be the grandaddy of all premature celebrations. Super Bowl XXVII was a blowout of monumental proportions, with the Cowboys destroying Buffalo 52-17 behind Dallas’ big three of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. But the margin of victory could have been even greater were it not for the hot dogging of Cowboys DT Leon Lett, and the misguided hustle of Bills WR Don Beebe.

In case you don’t remember—or are a Bills fan and have since killed all the memories of the team’s four Super Bowl losses with large quantities of alcohol—Lett recovered a Frank Reich fumble and rumbled his way 64-yards towards the end zone for what would have been a sure fat guy touchdown, had he not celebrated his score a tad early. Seems Beebe never stopped chasing Lett down, finally catching up to him on the 2-yard line before knocking the ball away right before the Cowboys defender crossed the goal line.

Leon Lett and Don Beebe will forever be linked because of that particular play, even though it had no effect on the outcome of the game whatsoever. And say what you will about Lett and his poor judgement—he produced an even more boneheaded gaffe against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day—but the man has three, count ’em, three Super Bowl rings. Infamy is a lot easier to live down when you’re a triple Super Bowl champion.


About the author: Jeff Greenwell


Jeff Greenwell is the writer/editor of Last Angry Fan. Jeff has been known to rock a Speedo while belting out Robert Goulet tunes from his front porch, and in his spare time he enjoys capturing and training feral goats to be his minions. Also known to dig a nice brick of cheese from time to time.

Website: http://lastangryfan.com


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  • Tom Nealon

    You might have forgotten about this one.


    • http://freerepublic.com GOPcongress

      That wasn’t really a mistake. Reggie was celebrating but it was during a time-out, and didn’t affect the flow of play. Chicago just made a terrific play on a poor defensive shift, but it was a defensive mistake in the heat of play, not a mindless celebration or brain-dead mistake like the other videos.

  • CharlesselragC

    But oh what the Cowboy’s would give right now to have Leon Lett, one of the biggest cats, back on the D. line.

  • JackL9898

    #8 it’s spelled COLOMBIA, with an “O”, as in “colOmbian”

  • chuck colton

    You boneheads forgot about the Hiedi bowl the Raiders 2 touchdowns behind came back and beat the Jets with just 9 second left on the game clock

    • http://freerepublic.com GOPcongress

      Actually, that wasn’t a mistake on the Jets. Yes, they played poorly to lose, but the bonehead mistake was made by the network when they switched from the game to Heidi in the last two minutes.

  • Guest

    how about that washington redskins qb who headbutted the wall?

  • http://freerepublic.com GOPcongress

    Actually, Leon Lett’s Super Bowl mistake was not as damaging as one other mistake he made later on in his career. When Dallas was defending a go-ahead field goal attempt by Miami at snow-covered Dallas Stadium (back when they had that “hole in the roof”, The lineman partially blocked the ball, and it skittered down the field. All Dallas had to do was not touch the ball, but Leon Lett tried to recover the ball, but he slipped on the snow and knocked the ball forward. Miami recovered it with three seconds on the clock, and ended up kicking the game winning field goal.

    Luckily, this had no effect on the rest of the season’s standings, as Dallas went on to win the Super Bowl in their rematch with Buffalo.



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