Failures of the Year 2010

The BP oil spill, National Opt-Out Day, Steven Slater, Christine O'Donnell and more.

Failures of the Year 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig in flames.

1. The BP Oil Spill
On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 crew members and seriously injuring 17 others, this despite a blowout preventer that was officially labeled “fail-safe” just a week before. Two days later the burning rig collapsed and sank (on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day). Ultimately, the months-long eruption from BP’s Macondo well would become the largest peacetime offshore oil spill in history, surpassing 1979’s Ixtoc I disaster.

Making matters worse, BP’s Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf of Mexico was pure fantasy. Among countless omissions and errors, the plan identified a Japanese home shopping site as the link to one of BP’s “primary equipment providers [for] rapid deployment of spill response resources,” and named a dead man as a national wildlife expert. The plan also listed sea lions, seals, sea otters, and walruses in its evaluation of how a spill might affect local wildlife—none of which live in the Gulf.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be a surprise if disaster struck again, as reports indicate that BP’s Alaska facilities are being “run to failure.”

2. The Widespread Rollout of Full-Body Scanners, the Introduction of “Enhanced” Pat-Downs
Two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: the reinforcement of cockpit doors and the realization among passengers that they must fight back. On second thought, screening checked baggage and doing background checks on airport workers is worthwhile too. But the intrusive pat-downs and full-body scans are a waste of time and money, and in the case of the latter, a possible health risk. Our acceptance of the scanners and the “enhanced” pat-downs mean that the terrorists win—every day.

3. National Opt-Out Day
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving air travelers were urged to opt out of the full-body scanners at security checkpoints and instead submit to full-body pat-downs. But the organizers were outfoxed by the TSA, as the government pre-empted the protest by turning off the machines in most airports. Everyone went through the metal detectors, just as before, and by the time Thanksgiving weekend was over the protest movement had petered out.

4. Armando Galarraga’s Near-Perfect Game
On June 2, major league baseball umpire Jim Joyce cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Galarraga pitched eight-and-two-thirds perfect innings versus the Cleveland Indians before Joyce incorrectly ruled that Galarraga failed to touch first base and record the final out. Afterwards Joyce admitted, “I just cost that kid a perfect game.” But Galarraga’s reaction earned him even more notoriety and respect than his pitching performance.  “Nobody’s perfect,” he said.

5. Brett Favre’s Final Season (hopefully)
In early 2010, Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre took the Vikings deep into the NFL playoffs. His last pass in the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints was intercepted, however, and it’s been all downhill ever since. This season he’s suffered a succession of injuries, thrown 19 interceptions, and had his consecutive starts streak snapped at 297. Then the roof of the Metrodome collapsed (see #6), and in the next game (played outdoors), Favre suffered a concussion when he was sacked and hit his head on the frozen turf. To date, he hasn’t returned to the field, though he has been fined $50,000 by the NFL for “failure to cooperate” in the league’s investigation that he sexually harassed former New York Jets employee Jenn Sterger.

6. The Metrodome Roof
On December 12, the roof of Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome—home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings—tore in three places and collapsed under the weight of 15-plus inches of heavy snow, forcing the postponement of a game against the New York Giants, and forcing Minnesota to play its final home game (won by the Chicago Bears, 40-14) at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

7. Steven Slater: Rogue Flight Attendant
On August 9, after JetBlue flight 1052 landed in New York City, flight attendant Steven Slater shouted a few profanities and announced to the plane’s passengers that he was quitting his job. He then grabbed a few beers, deployed the Embraer 190’s evacuation slide, and departed the aircraft via the slide. Later in the day, he was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass. Slater’s behavior received an inordinate amount of media attention, and he became a folk hero to some, the adulation completely undeserved. 

8. Christine O’Donnell
The failed Delaware Senate candidate cast a spell on Republican voters, who somehow chose her over Rep. Mike Castle in the state’s Republican primary. But she went down in flames against Democrat Chris Coons in the general election after running an ad in which she declared: “I am not a witch”—a public proclamation that hasn’t been made by a young woman since, like, 1692. Now she’s reportedly under investigation by the FBI to determine whether she used campaign money for personal living expenses. At this point, O’Donnell has fallen so far out of favor that even her own constituency is probably ready to say: Burn the witch!

9. Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods failed to win a PGA tournament in 2010 and never finished better than fourth place, part of the fallout from the 2009 Thanksgiving car crash that led the world to learn of his numerous extra-marital affairs. And unless Woods begins winning tournaments again, Tiger (the player and the brand), may never again approach the stratospheric heights he experienced during the past decade. For one, Tiger has lost an estimated 30 percent of his income, and he’s no longer considered the inspirational figure that made him a media darling. Just last week Gillette announced it will not be renewing his long-running endorsement deal when it expires at the end of the year, following the lead of Accenture and AT&T, who moved decisively to drop him many months earlier.

10. LeBron James and “The Decision”
NBA superstar LeBron James announced to the world he was leaving Cleveland during an ill-conceived ESPN special, the king of free-agents choosing the Miami Heat over his hometown Cavaliers near the end of one of the most painful-to-watch shows in television history.

Honorable Mention
Bristol Palin, Dancing With the Stars
Politics played a major role in Bristol Palin’s extended run on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, as she made it all the way to the finals—despite behind consistently near the bottom of the leader board. Of course, the show has never been about who’s the best dancer.

Bank Failures
Bank failures continued apace in 2010, as more than 150 U.S. banks failed, eclipsing the 2009 total of 140.