The headline in Monday’s Seattle Times cogently told the sad story of why the hometown Seahawks lost the Super Bowl:  “Worst play call ever.”  The reference was to the second-down pass play called or approved by the team’s head coach Pete Carroll on the New England Patriots’ 1-yard line with less than a minute left in the game, instead of giving the ball to the best running back in the National Football League, Marshawn Lynch.  As the largest audience in television history saw, the pass was intercepted by free-agent Patriot defensive back Malcolm Butler out of the University of West Alabama–and Seattle went down to a 4-point defeat.

Emmitt Smith, Hall of Fame running back of the Dallas Cowboys, tweeted with a bit of hyperbole:  That was the worst play call I’ve seen in the history of football.”

After watching the mistake that almost certainly cost the Seahawks a repeat win in the Super Bowl, I wondered what was the worst blunder a jockey made in a classic horse race.  It did not take me long to settle on the error Bill Shoemaker committed in confusing the 1/16th pole for the finish line in the 1957 Kentucky Derby.  Shoemaker’s mount, Gallant Man, had a short lead on Iron Liege and Bill Hartack at the 1/16th pole when Shoemaker briefly stood up in the stirrups, only to realize his gaffe and desperately urging Gallant Man on.  This momentary but monumental lapse in judgment allowed Iron Liege to seize the lead and win the Derby by the slimmest of margins.

Bill Shoemaker is one of the elite jockeys in turf history and Pete Carroll is a future NFL Hall of Famer.  Both will also be remembered, however, for the day their judgment faltered on the biggest stage in their respective sport.

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