Social Media platforms started coming of age a decade ago, and have changed the way we interact in big sporting events and moments. Facebook was just coming into prominence back in 2007, and Twitter (founded in 2006), had just gone public late in 2006 and was starting to get users. So here, we focus on those events that pre-dated January of 2007, and try to pick out the NFL moments we think would have “blown up Twitter” and in some cases made being online unbearable.
What creates the most buzz today? Controversy, argument, political or social hot buttons, famous moments and shocking outcomes. Human nature hasn’t changed even though technology has
25. Joe Montana is Too Honest on SNL (1987)
In the 1980’s, Saturday Night Live was an institution and appointment viewing, and so was Joe Montana. Montana honestly expressing that he was going to be masturbating in his room still stands as the best athlete cameo on the show. RIP Phil Hartman.
24. Art Modell moves the Browns to Baltimore (1996)
In one of sports’ all-time back-stabbings, Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore (officially) in 1996 despite claiming he’d never relocate the franchise from Cleveland. News of the move leaked in November of 1995, but the move didn’t officially take place until early 1996. Modell’s hypocrisy in previously criticizing teams for moving would have been great Twitter fodder.
23. Music City Miracle (2000)
Maybe the greatest trick play in NFL history remains controversial to this day. Did Frank Wycheck throw a forward pass to Kevin Dyson on the kickoff return? Were the officials out of position? Was Phil Luckett the worst referee in the history of the league? The 1999 season was the first in which instant replay returned to the league, and this was the first postseason game where it became an issue. And to this day no one knows what the right ruling was.
The debate on Twitter would have been amazing.
22. Miracle at the Meadowlands (1978)
The New York Giants screwing up a play to end a game and giving up a 26-yard fumble return for a game-losing touchdown? That’s a perfect recipe for a Twitter meltdown.
We’ve seen things like Manny Pacquiao laying on a mat and Jameis Winston fumbling at Florida State become memes, so you know there would have been thousands of “Joe Pisarcik laying on the ground reaching for [things]” memes if social media had existed in its current form.
21. “Who the hell is Mel Kiper?!?”
Mel Kiper has long gone after execs who make bad draft decisions, and Bill Tobin made a terrible one. After selecting Marshall Faulk with the second pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, Tobin opted to take Trev Alberts instead of a quarterback at No. 5. Kiper went off on the Indianapolis Colts GM, and he responded with a now-legendary retort. Twitter would have gone bananas.
20. Garo Yepremian’s Super Bowl #Fail (1973)
The Miami Dolphins completed an undefeated season with a victory in Super Bowl VII, but most remember that game for kicker Garo Yepremian’s failed throw. The botched play would have been mercilessly mocked by observers on Twitter. You guys, the memes alone would have been worth it.
19. Bo Jackson trucks The Boz (1987)
Two of the most-hyped athletes of the 80s met near the goal in Seattle during the 1987 season, Bo hammered The Boz. Brian Bosworth had claimed the was going to “contain” Bo Jackson. Obviously the brash talk didn’t impress the Los Angeles Raiders running back, who went off for 221 yards rushing and three touchdowns — one of which included Boz getting blown up — in a 37-14 win. GIFs of this play would have been retweeted into oblivion.
18. Doug Williams winning the Super Bowl (1988)
It is insane to think there have been 51 Super Bowls, and the winning team has had a black quarterback just twice. Doug Williams was the first, as he led Washington to a 42-10 Super Bowl XXII thumping of the Denver Broncos in 1988. It would have been interesting to see how social media would have reacted to such a big moment.
17. Dolphins End Bears’ Undefeated Season (1985)
The Chicago Bears appeared headed for perfection in 1985. In fact, they wound up shuffling all the way to a Super Bowl title…with just one hiccup. That game in Week 13 when, fittingly, the Dolphins prevented Chicago from going undefeated with a 38-24 win. It was a huge moment in NFL history.
16. The Immaculate Reception (1972)
Some believe this was the greatest play in NFL history. Trailing the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with just 22 seconds to go, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they were toast. Then Terry Bradshaw’s 4th and 10 pass bounced off John Fuqua or Jack Tatum (no one knows), floated in the air and Franco Harris caught it.
It was ruled a 60-yard touchdown, and the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship. Did he catch it? Or did he? We’ll likely never know, but the debates on Twitter would have been amazing.
15. Ryan Leaf’s Locker Room Tirade (1998)
Following the worst outing of his career against the Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Leaf flipped out on venerable San Diego reporter (no editor) Jay Posner. The explosion is certainly the most memorable moment of Leaf’s disappointing NFL career and would have caused so much hand-wringing and mockery on social media.
14. Peyton Manning’s Three TD Comeback on MNF Against the Bucs (2003)
Peyton Manning had many great moments during his career, but the first time we saw him do something completely mind-boggling was in 2003. Down 35-14 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter, Manning somehow engineered a ridiculous comeback. His Indianapolis Colts wound up winning 38-35 in overtime. Seeing Twitter explode with questions like “did Tampa collapse or did Indy win it?” would have been amazing.
This was during the height of the Manning can’t win in the playoffs also, when every debate centered on Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and how Manning was a choker. The fights and diminishments of this comeback would have been epic.
13. The Minnesota Vikings Sex Boat Party (2005)
And you thought the Odell Beckham on a Boat story was big? This story would have dominated social media for a week and spawned roughly 20 posts on our site, as various details of the boat party on Lake Minnetonka emerged. You know that if this happened today, TMZ would be finding video of the party and putting out blurred images. Fred Smoot’s double-dildo story would have launched a thousand jokes. Roger Goodell wasn’t Commissioner yet, but the NFL would have suspended the entire team and lawsuits and testimony would have been a must-see.
12. Joe Namath Tries to Kiss Suzy Kolber (2003)
I mean, this is the exact kind of thing Twitter was invented for, right?
11. Bounty Bowl
A Thanksgiving Day game involving a bad Dallas team in Jimmy Johnson’s first season produced some major fireworks thanks to Buddy Ryan. Luis Zendejas stumbling off the field, going to the Eagles sideline after getting crushed would have interrupted many a Thanksgiving meal. In today’s climate with concerns over head trauma, this would have added an entire other level.
And then Jimmy Johnson and Buddy Ryan post-game would have sealed it as a viral event.
10. The Bills Comeback Against the Oilers (1993)
Twitter is never better than during an epic collapse or a great comeback. So the greatest in NFL history would have been an incredible time to be logged on. The Buffalo Bills trailed the Houston Oilers 35-3 in the third quarter in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, and somehow won 41-38 in overtime.
9. Joe Theismann Breaks Leg on Monday Night Football
Theismann was a star Super Bowl-winning QB and his career came to an end in horrific and dramatic fashion on the biggest non-playoff stage in the NFL at the time.
8. T.O. Celebrates on the Star, Mayhem Ensues (2000)
The Dallas Cowboys vs. Terrell Owens. Owens celebrated his first touchdown by running to the star, and then Emmitt Smith did the same after scoring. When Owens did it again, well, that was too much disrespect for George Teague.
7. Whitney Houston’s Star Spangled Banner before Super Bowl XXV, Then Scott Norwood Misses (1991)
This Super Bowl gave us an iconic national anthem performance and then an upset capped off by a devastating miss wide right. I’m convinced that Giants team would have been hated by everyone online not in New York.
6. The Tuck Rule (2002)
If we had known what Tom Brady would become, this would have been an even bigger event. But it was pretty massive as it was, featuring what was then still a big brand name in the Oakland Raiders getting the game ripped away from them by an obscure rule. The whining online would have been incredible.
5. The Jets Win Super Bowl III (1969)
You have to imagine back to what this was like. AFL vs. NFL. Fans of the NFL snubbed their noses at AFL. The leagues did not like each other. AFL was thought of as the Mickey Mouse league. Namath’s guarantee came as the Colts were a huge favorite and the NFL Champ had won in dominating fashion the previous two years. This would have been a four hour stretch of ironic RTs and freezing cold takes as the game unfolded.
4. Ray Lewis and the News of the Murders in Atlanta (2000)
People still hate Ray Lewis because of this case. That it happened at the Super Bowl, the night before the game, would have intensified it.
3. The Wardrobe Malfunction (2004)
Janet Jackson. Justin Timberlake. A boob. Morality and Salaciousness. On the biggest stage for a television audience.
2. The O.J. Simpson Verdict (1995)
The entire trial would have been fodder for months. And the verdict? With all the racial overtones, that would have been a train wreck day on social media.
1. O.J. Simpson’s White Bronco Chase (1994)
The White Bronco was an insane event, where if you were around then, you know where you were. It would have been magnified on social media. O.J. Simpson would have already been much-discussed as a result of the murder being reported, and news that he was charged with murder. The chase happened during a NBA Final game and so a sports audience would have been already tuned in. The vibrations from the news would have been huge, and Simpson being televised on a split screen with the NBA Finals would have dominated the cycle like no other story.
Other Notable Viral Moments:
Dennis Green Bears Rant (2006)
Aaron Rodgers Draft Snub (2005)
T.O. Desperate Housewives Skit (2004)
The Brett Favre Game after his dad died (2003)
The ending of the Giants-49ers playoff game (2003)
Rush Limbaugh on Donovan McNabb (2003)
Patriots beat Rams in Super Bowl (2002)
Dwayne Rudd Throws his Helmet Against Chiefs (2002)
Titans come up one yard short against Rams (2000)
Jets Monday Night Miracle (2000)
Rae Carruth Murder and caught in trunk of car (1999)
Jeff Triplette hitting Orlando Brown in the eye with flag (1999)
Saints trade seven draft picks for Ricky Williams (1999)
Eugene Robinson Super Bowl arrest (1999)
John Elway helicopters, Broncos beat Packers in Super Bowl (1998)
Neil O’Donnell blowing Super Bowl XXX (1996)
Chicago Bears fan leaps out of stands to catch PAT (1995)
Napoleon McCallum destroys his knee (1994)
Buddy Ryan punches Kevin Gilbride (1994)
Leon Lett Thanksgiving Day Gaffe (1993)
Montana’s drive vs. Bengals sin SB XXIII (1989)
Earnest Byner’s fumble (1988)
Buddy Ryan running up score on Tom Landry (1987)
The Drive by Elway (1987)
Robert Irsay moves the Colts to Indianapolis (1984)
John Elway refusing to play for the Colts (1983)
Dwight Clark’s catch (1982)
Chargers-Dolphins wild OT playoff game (1982)
The Holy Roller (1978)
First Monday Night Football Game (1970)
The Heidi Game (1968)