Memorable controversial calls
2012: "The Fail Mary"
The 2012 NFL season started with the referees holding out over a contract dispute. In a week three matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, the "replacement refs" were on full display. With eight seconds remaining and the Seahawks down five, Russell Wilson threw a hail mary to the back of the endzone. It seemed as if Packers safety M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass as he battled with wide receiver Golden Tate. As one referee waved his arms signaling an interception, another signaled touchdown. The replay clearly showed an uncalled offensive pass interference on Tate and that Jennings had possesion of the ball, yet the touchdown call stood. Two days later, the NFL reached an agreement with the referee's association, ending the run of the replacement refs.
2012: Pacquiao vs. Bradley
Timothy Bradley defeated Manny Pacquiao by a controversial split-decision to gain the WBO Welterweight title. Pacquiao was regarded as one of the best fighters in the world, and came into the fight a heavy favorite. Bradley receieved a cut over his left eye in the eighth round, and seemed close to being knocked down multiple times. However, the judges awarded the win to Bradley. Boxing promoter Bob Arum stated that Bradley himself said "I tried hard but I couldn't beat the guy." The WBO reviewed the fight, and all five judges scored in favor of Pacquiao, although they did not have the authority to overturn the decision. In their rematch two years later, Pacquiao won by a unanimous decision to regain the title belt.
2010: Armando Galarraga's perfect game
With two outs in the ninth inning, it looked like Galarraga was about to pitch the third perfect game of the 2010 season. Cleveland's Luke Donald hit a grounder to the right side of the infield, and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball. Galarraga ran over to cover first, and appeared to beat Donald to the bag for the 27th out. First base umpire Jim Joyce ruled him safe, though, and Galarraga was forced to settle for an especially memorable one-hitter.
2010 World Cup: Edu's goal disallowed
Trailing 2-0 to Slovenia at halftime of their second group stage match, the United States' hopes of advancing to the knockout round seemed slim at best. The U.S. rallied in the second half, and goals from Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley leveled the score 2-2.
In the 85th minute, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu appeared to put the Yanks up 3-2 with very little time remaining. Referee Koman Coulibaly waved the goal off, though, calling an unspecified foul on the U.S. in the penalty box. Replays showed only mutual contact between the teams and neither Coulibaly nor FIFA ever explained what exactly the foul was called for.
1985 World Series, Game 6
With the Cardinals leading the series 3-2 and entering the ninth inning of Game 6 with a 1-0 lead, St. Louis was only three outs away from a World Series crown.
Kansas City leadoff batter Jorge Orta hit a slow groundball to first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed the ball to pitcher Todd Worrell covering first. First base umpire Don Denkinger ruled Orta safe, even though replays showed him to be clearly out. The Royals scored two runs in the ninth to win the game 2-1, and won the seventh game to take the series.
1972: Olympic basketball gold medal game
USA's Doug Collins hit three free throws to put the Americans up 50-49 with just three seconds left. A series of controversial calls by officials allowed the Soviets three chances to score a winning basket. On the third try, they completed a full-court pass, and Aleksandr Belov made a layup to defeat the USA 51-50.
Upset by the officiating, the Americans refused to accept their silver medals. Since 1972, the IOC has offered several times to grant them their medals, but the players have refused on every occasion.
1990: Colorado gets five downs
The No. 12 Buffaloes, clinging to national championsip hopes, trailed Big Eight rival MIssouri with just 40 seconds and possession near the opposing end zone. After a spike and a failed running play, Colorado called a timeout. During the timeout, the officials neglected to flip the down marker to indicate that it was now third down. On the next play, a Colorado run again came up short. The Buffaloes, though, believing it was only third down, spiked the ball and ultimately scored a game-winning touchdown on "fourth" (acutally fifth) down.
1999: Brett Hull's Stanley Cup-winning goal
With the Dallas Stars leading the Buffalo Sabres three games to two, Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup finals dragged into triple overtime. When Brett Hull scored, it appeared that his skate was in the crease, and accoring to 1999 NHL rules, if a player's skate entered the crease before the puck, no goal could be scored. The rule had been applied inconsistently during the season, but officials ruled that Hull's goal was good, and the Stars claimed their first Stanley Cup.
1986: Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal
In the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and England, Maradona scored six minutes into the second half to give the Argentines a 1-0 lead over their rivals. Argentina went on to win 2-1, but replays showed that Maradona may have punched the ball into the net. After the game, Maradona said that his goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."
2006: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
Trailing the Sooners 33-20 with just 1:12 left in the game, Oregon scored a touchdown to cut the lead to six. On the ensuing onside kick, officials awarded the Ducks the ball despite replays showing that they had not, in fact, recovered it. Even after the play was reviewed by Pac-10 replay officials, Oregon kept possession. The Ducks took advantage, scoring a touchdown and notching a 34-33 win.
1999: Chuck Knoblauch's phantom tag
Trailing the Yankees two games to one in the 1999 ALCS, the Red Sox entered the eighth inning of Game 4 trailing 3-2 and desperately needing some offense to avoid a 3-1 series deficit. With Jose Offerman running from first to second on a ground ball, Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch stabbed his glove in an attempt to tag Offerman. Second base umpire Tim Tschida called Offerman out, despite replays showing that Knoblauch clearly missed the tag by several inches.
1983: George Brett's pine tar incident
With two outs in the top of the ninth, the Royals trailed the New York Yankees 4-3 at Yankee Stadium. Kansas City's George Brett hit a two-run home run to give the Royals a 5-4 lead, but umpire Tim McClelland ruled that Brett had more than the legal amount of pine tar on his bat and disallowed the home run. Brett came sprinting out of the dugout in protest and was quickly ejected.
After the game, though, American League President Lee McPhail ruled that McClelland had overreacted, and that the home run should stand. Weeks later, the teams replayed the game from that point, and the Royals posted a 5-4 win.
1996: The Jeffrey Maier game
In the first game of the 1996 ALCS, the Orioles led the Yankees 4-3 entering the eighth inning. In the bottom of the inning, Derek Jeter hit a deep fly to right field. Outfielder Tony Tarasco appeared to have the ball in his sights, but as he neared the wall, a fan reached over and caught the ball from over him. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled the ball a home run instead of fan interference, and the Yankees went on to win the game and the series. The fan, 12-year old Jeffrey Maier, became a minor celebrity in New York.
1998: Thanksgiving Day coin toss
The 1998 Thanksgiving Day game between the Steelers and Lions entered overtime with the score tied at 16. On the coin toss, Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis appeared to call tails, but referee Phil Luckett heard him say "heads," and when the toss came up tails, Luckett awarded the ball to Detroit. Amid protests from the Steelers, the Lions converted a field goal on their opening drive, and won the game 19-16.
2010 World Cup: No-goal for England
With England trailing Germany 2-1, Frank Lampard sent a shot off the crossbar. The ball came down at least a foot inside the goal line, but referee Jorge Larrionda waved play to continue. Television replays confirmed the ball was across the line. England went on to lose 4-1 and was eliminated. Six months later, FIFA announced it would implement instant replay using goal line technology.
2006: NBA Finals, Game 6
Dwyane Wade shot 25 free throws, equalling Dallas' team total. With the Heat trailing by one with time running down in overtime Wade was awared two free throws on a questionable foul call against the Mavericks. After Wade made the first free throw, the officials granted Dallas a timeout, despite the fact that the Mavericks wanted the timeout after Wade's second free throw so they could advance the inbounds pass to midcourt. Wade made the second, and the Heat won the series in six games.
2008: Chargers at Broncos
With Denver trailing by seven with just over a minute left in their Week 2 showdown with San Diego, Jay Cutler appeared to fumble the ball before he could attempt a pass. Referee Ed Hochuli blew the play dead, though, ruling the play an incomplete pass. Denver went on to win the game, and Hochuli later admitted that he made a mistake on the call.
2009: Champions League semifinal
Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo made a name for himself in the 2009 Champions League showdown between Chelsea and Barcelona. Ovrebo turned down four penalty appeals by Chelsea, and gave Barcelona's Eric Abidal a stright red card, despite replays showing that he did not make contact with Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka. After the match, Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink called Ovrebo's performance "the worst he has ever seen."
2007: Western Conference semifinals
The Spurs narrowly took Game 1 in Phoenix after Suns point guard Steve Nash missed the final minutes due to a gash in his nose after a hard foul. With the Suns leading late in Game 4, about to even the series at two, Nash was bumped hard to the ground by San Antonio's Robert Horry. Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw left the bench to defend their teammate, and were each suspended for one game, despite not being involved in the altercation. The Spurs went on to defeat the undermanned Suns in six games.
1991: Rocket Ismail's Orange Bowl punt return called back
Colorado led Notre Dame 10-9 with just 43 seconds left as the Buffaloes lined up to punt. On the return, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail ran the ball 91 yards to give the Irish the lead with almost no time left on the clock. The play was called back due to a dubious clipping penalty, though, and the Colorado held on to secure its first national championship.
1987: Leonard defeats Hagler
Sugar Ray Leonard came out of retirement to fight Marvin Hagler, the undisputed world middleweight champion, at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Hagler was a heavy favorite, but Leonard won on a controversial split decision, despite throwing over a hundred fewer punches than Hagler.
2009: Thierry Henry's handball
With their two-leg 2010 World Cup qualifying match tied at 1-1 on aggregate, France and Ireland needed extra time to determine who would advance to South Africa. In the 13th minute of the first extra time period, French striker Thierry Henry made a run into the six-yard box and clearly controlled the ball with his left hand. No handball was called, and Henry played the ball across the net to teammate William Gallas, who scored the game-winning goal.
After the match, Henry admitted than he played the ball with his hand, and even suggested that the match should be replayed. It was not, and France advanced to the 2010 World Cup.
1988 Olympics: Park Si-Hun defeats Roy Jones, Jr.
In the 1988 Olympic light middleweight final, held in Seoul, South Korea, native son Park Si-Hun defeated American Roy Jones, Jr. in a controversial 3-2 split decision. Later scoring indicates that Jones landed 86 punches to Park's 32, and Jones has said that Park apologized to him after the fight.
2003 Fiesta Bowl: Miami's pass interference
In overtime of the 2003 National Championship game, Miami had forced Ohio State into a fourth-and-three on the 5-yard line, with the Buckeyes needing a touchdown to tie the game. Quarterback Craig Krenzel's pass to Chris Gamble fell incomplete, and the Hurricane players and fans began celebrating their second consecutive national championship. The field referee, though, had thrown a late flag, and called pass interference on Miami's Glenn Sharpe. Ohio State had new life and won the game in the second overtime.
2002: The Tuck Rule game
Trailing 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass but dropped the ball after tucking it back into his body. The Raiders pounced on the ball for what would have been a game-clinching fumble recovery. However, after review, the officials determined that Brady's actions fell under the now-infamous "tuck rule" and that the play was an incomplete pass. The Patriots went on to win the game in overtime.
2002 Olympic figure skating pairs scandal
Despite executing what many observers thought to be a better program, Canadians Jamie Sal and David Pelletier were denied the gold medal in favor of Russia's Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. Later, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted that she was pressured into selecting the Russians.
Sal and Pelletier were eventually awarded duplicate gold medals, and the IOC overhauled its figure skating scoring system.