Five days later, JR Smith’s gaffe still makes me smile.

If you don’t recall, here’s a recap of the situation. With seconds left in a tie game of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Cleveland’s Smith grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed free throw. Rather than try to get a potential go-ahead shot, Smith dribbled quickly to the perimeter, as if he suddenly remembered he left the stove on or didn’t know the score.

Yeah, he didn’t know the score.

Don’t bother trying to hold in the laugh. Let it out.

 

By losing track of the score and turning himself into the hottest meme of the week, Smith joins the not-so-exclusive Fraternal Order of Sports Goofs. It’s a big club, with an ever-expanding membership list. Dues are paid in mockery on social media and talk radio.

We point, shake our heads (or fists, if we’re Cavalier fans), and mock, because deep down, we know a simple truth. We’d do it, too.

Smith’s abject lack of awareness is funny (to most of us outside the Cleveland metro area, anyway) because it’s relatable. It’s walking into the grocery store knowing you need to pick up that one certain thing and leaving with a bag full of stuff, and that thing you went to the store for in the first place still sits on the shelf.

Smith’s mistake was on a bigger stage, obviously, but it’s forgetting a name. It’s forgetting a password. It’s being human.

There are mistakes attributed to not thinking and mistakes that are the result of over-thinking. Why pass on the 1-yard line when you can hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch? Why leave Malcolm Butler wilting on the bench?

When a football player doesn’t know the snap count and jumps offsides when all his teammates remain still, it’s instantly penalized and almost instantly forgotten. It happens so much it’s mundane.

 

Chris Webber calls a timeout in the 1993 college basketball national championship game when there’s no timeout to be called. In 1978, New York Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik doesn’t take a knee to let the clock run out. He fumbles, and Eagles defender Herman Edwards plays to win the game, scooping up the ball and running for the touchdown. Mention the Miracle at the Meadowlands to a Giants fan, and be prepared for something to be thrown at your head.

Like Smith’s sprint to the 3-point line, these are mistakes of unawareness. Time and score are no match for the poorly-timed brain fart.

The mental error seems to be less forgivable than the physical error. That’s not to say the athlete who makes a physical error is instantly forgotten or forgiven. Scott Norwood’s missed field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXV gave the Giants the victory and began the Buffalo Bills’ ample collection of second place trophies.

Bill Buckner was a pariah in New England for decades, and that’s all we’ll say about that.

There are sports mistakes we create with the benefit of years of hindsight. Trading Babe Ruth. Trading Jeff Bagwell. Let’s revisit trading Jimmy Garoppolo in 10 years.

Jose Canseco becomes a human pinball paddle and knocks a ball over the fence for a home run with his head and we groan. Trot Nixon forgets how many outs there are, tossing the ball to a fan after the second out, allowing the Angels runners to advance, and we roll our eyes. These are the mistakes more bizarre than maddening.

Then, there are the serves ’em right mistakes, the mistakes of hubris. Leon Lett of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates his Super Bowl XXVII touchdown far too soon, not realizing that Buffalo’s Don Beebe hasn’t quit and is about to knock the ball free. Lindsey Jacobellis nears the finish line of the boardercross final at the 2006 Winter Olympics. She raises her arms in victory, and falls, dropping from first place and a gold medal into fourth place and a living cautionary tale. They don’t put you on a Wheaties box for that.

As long as we’ve had sports, we’ve had sports mistakes. In the final seconds of the 1982 national championship men’s basketball game, Georgetown’s Fred Brown passes the ball to a wide open James Worthy, who happens to play for North Carolina. Just last January, New Orleans Saints defensive back Marcus Williams whiffed on a tackle of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who ran uncontested into the end zone for the playoff game winning touchdown as time expired.

For every Braden Holtby, there are a handful of JR Smith’s. The Washington Capitals goalie made one of the most how-did-he-do-that saves in Stanley Cup history, stretching across the open goal to get his stick down and save Washington’s win late in Game 2 of the finals last week. Approximately 24 hours later, Smith was forgetting the score of his basketball game.

Smith will carry his mistake for the rest of his life. In time, hopefully, he’ll be able to laugh at it with us. One thing Smith can take solace in now, though, is this. When it comes to sports mistakes, he’ll never be alone.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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