Famous sports scapegoats

For every sports hero, there's a villain who plays the role of the goat, often times leading to tragic consequences. The list of players who've handed the other team the opportunity to taste the thrill of victory - usually in dramatic fashion - is long, sad and full of what ifs.

Many things must be present for a goat to emerge. Without such attributes the sporting misfortune is merely seen as a mishap, another bad loss, or perhaps a choke that is soon forgotten.

It must be on a big stage with much at stake. A playoff game, a drive to the championship, the number one ranking, the Final Four, the World Series, but always at the final minutes of the contest - the deciding moment where it's do or die, the sporting villain steps up and claims his spot on the goat honor roll.

Some goats manage to repair their image; others never do and eventually pay the ultimate price.

Here's a list of some of the biggest sporting goats and how they handled their infamous faux pas.

Kyle Brotzman

Kyle miss-kicked his name into Boise State College football history. He's the goat for the team's failure to get into the 2010 BCS and Bronco fans will not let him forget it. His two easy field goal misses at near extra point distances, lost the school millions of dollars, and perhaps a handful of top future recruits who would have otherwise Signed on to Boise State. The death threats and the embarrassing taunts began minutes after the final whistle blew. It remains to be seen if Kyle turns a negative into a positive and move on to bigger and better sports and life conquests.

Al Downing

Sometimes goats are not about a national championship, but about the biggest moment in baseball, when one hero is about to surpass another hero, but for him to do so he must beat a sacrificial lamb and claim his new title. It's 1974 and Henry Aaron is tied with the Great Babe Ruth at 714 lifetime homeruns. On the mound is Al Downing, a 20 game winner, all-star, 17 year career, Comeback Player of the Year winner, but history only remembers him as the guy who surrendered number 715.

Chris Webber

Not all sporting disasters fall under a physical error, or getting beat by your opponents, sometimes, a momentary lapse of sanity will do in even the best superstar player. It's April 1993, Chris Webber and his Fab Five team of Michigan is in their second college basketball final, down by two with 11 seconds left. He mistakenly calls a time -out that he didn't have, and receives a technical foul, which seals the game for North Carolina. Chris quickly recovers to have a brilliant near Hall of Fame professional career in the NBA.

Ralph Branca

It's the shot heard around the world, when Bobby Thompson hit a homerun to beat the Dodgers and help the Giants win the pennant. The pitcher who gave up that shot was the same pitcher that Bobby took deep in game one. Dodgers coach Clyde Sukeforth sent in Ralph Branca in relief instead of Carl Erskine and the result gave us the greatest home run call in the history of baseball, not to mention coach Clyde losing his job. Two goats for the price of one. Ralph took it all in stride and has made a good living off his famous gopher ball.

Ralph Terry

Call him Ralph Branca's cousin, and it's ironic that they share the same first name. Terry's claim to fame is
Surrendering a homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning, not for the other team to win the pennant, but instead the World Series. Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates took him deep in dramatic fashion, securing Ralph Terry's permanent place on goat mountain. Ralph recovered to later become a professional golfer after retiring from baseball.

Mitch Williams

In the 1993 with his team leading, Mitch "The Wild Thing" Williams faced Joe Carter in the bottom of the ninth inning of the sixth game of World Series, - looking for a save but instead permanently writing himself in the goat record books. Joe Carter's blast erased the 43 saves that Mitch registered that year and instead brought on hundreds of death threats from irate Philadelphia Phillies fans. Decades later, Mitch is a baseball analyst, a loveable character with a cool nickname, who will never live down that pitch to Joe Carter.

Steve Bartman

The Only non-player on the list, but could possibly be the biggest goat of all time. Imagine you are a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, and after nearly a 100 years, they are about to win the pennant, and you reach out over the railing and interfere with your outfielder and stop him from making a catch that would have put your beloved team four outs from the World series. That's the legacy of Steve Bartman, who had to be escorted by police out of the stadium away from angry fans. Steve has not been seen on the face of the planet since then, but I ask you, did he really interfere? Or was he just the last guy near the ball? Take a look and see.

Bill Buckner

A man slipping on a banana peel and falling down is funny on Uranus and every planet in this and every solar system. Letting a ball go between your legs is embarrassing in heaven and hell. The Mookie Wilson ground ball that found its way though Bill Buckner's pothole was a mean, slow roller that 99.99% of T-ball players would safely field but yet, it went through Bill's legs. The unknown truth behind the story is that Bill Buckner, a near Hall of Famer, was suffering from bad Achilles tendon. The manager would take him out of games in late innings for defensive purposes, but being the World series and for the first time in almost a century, the Boston Red Sox are only an out away from the championship, he keeps Bill in the game to savor the moment on the field. But that mean, slow rolling, nasty ball wouldn't have anything to do with it. Bill went into self-exile, but was later embraced by the team and fans.

Donny Moore

Donny was an all-star pitcher who was only one strike away from taking his team to the World series, but allowed a go ahead home run to Dave Henderson. There were no death threats, the fans just saw it as baseball, but Donny found it difficult to let go of his baseball blunder. He slipped into deep depression, unable to cope with allowing the near victory to disappear. One day in 1989, he reached the point of no return. Donnie shot his wife to death and then turned the gun on himself.

Andres Escobar

Americans see soccer as a game played by foreigners, but fail realize that it's the world's game, we're the odd ones out and missing on the appeal, beauty and passion of the game. Never was this passion higher than with Colombians for their 1994 World Cup team. Led by their captain Andres Escobar, who earlier signed a contract to be the first Colombian to play in the Italy. Colombia was picked by the experts to win the World Cup, but disaster struck when they lost their first match to Romania - needing a win against the lowly Americans to move on to the next round, they instead found themselves in even more trouble. Andres accidentally scored a goal on his own team. The hope of Colombia suddenly disappeared, followed by anger, embarrassment and disbelief. The team went home unable to fulfill their potential and promise to their country. Days later, Andres was shot in an argument with a fan about his accidental goal.

Scapegoats are a heavy burden to carry, some shake the effect, others profit from it, but a few never recover.

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Updated Thursday, Dec 9, 2010