This Day in Failure: September 30

2008: During an interview with Katie Couric that airs on the CBS Evening News, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is unable to name a single newspaper or magazine that she reads for the purpose of staying informed. Asked what publications help her understand the world she replies, “I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.” Prompted for examples, she continues, “Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.” Prompted by Couric a third time she says, “I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, ‘Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?’ Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.”

2008: The NFL’s Oakland Raiders fire head coach Lane Kiffin just four games into his second season. Kiffin had compiled a record of 5-15 and, at times, publicly criticized the franchise. “It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy,” admits owner Al Davis, 79, during a lengthy news conference announcing the firing.

2007: Mexican politician and onetime presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo is seen grinning ear-to-ear and pumping his fists as he crosses the finish line at the Berlin marathon, recording a best-in-his-age-category time of 2:41:12. Eight days later he is disqualified from the race after an electronic tracking chip reveals he skipped two checkpoints and took only 21 minutes to cover a nine-mile section of the course.

2007: The Florida Marlins defeat the New York Mets 8-1, culminating one of the worst late-season collapses in Major League Baseball history. New York squanders a seven-game lead by losing 12 of its final 17 games, handing the National League East division title to the Philadelphia Phillies.

2007: Following a 16-3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn is bumped by a reporter in the team’s locker room as he cleans his ear with a cotton swab. Blackburn drops to the floor in pain—his eardrum nearly ruptured by the swab—and reports a loss of hearing.

2006: Just days after agreeing to sell Le Rêve (Picasso’s 1932 portrait of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter) to hedge fund executive Steven Cohen for $139 million, billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn accidentally punctures the canvas with his elbow while showing the painting to friends. Wynn proceeds to call Cohen and art dealer William Acquavella to tell them the deal is off; later he claims that the damage reduced the value of the work by $54 million.

2002: Renowned Swedish adventurer Göran Kropp, 35, falls to his death while climbing the Air Guitar route of the Frenchmen Coulee in central Washington State. With the exception of one piece, all of Kropp’s climbing protection fails, resulting in his 75-foot fall. The Swede’s most famous achievement came in 1996 when he cycled 7,000 miles from Sweden to Nepal, summited Mount Everest without oxygen, and then rode his bicycle back to Sweden.

2001: During an NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, chunks of turf up to 18 inches long are torn up on Ericsson Stadium’s grass field, leaving six- to eight-inch holes in the playing surface. Numerous players are hurt during the contest, including Packers safety Antuan Edwards and Panthers rookie first-round draft choice, Dan Morgan, both of whom suffer season-ending leg injuries. The Panthers’ head groundskeeper had been fired for off-the-field transgressions earlier in the year.

1999: Workers at Japan’s Tokaimura nuclear plant pour 35 pounds of powdered uranium (seven times the proper amount) into nitric acid, and the resulting nuclear accident kills one worker and injures 49 others. Making matters worse, plant workers forget to turn off the plant’s ventilation system and radiation is inadvertently released into the air, reaching nearby towns.

1938: British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the leaders of France and Italy make a pact with Adolf Hitler that allows Germany to annex a portion of Czechoslovakia in exchange for a promise of peace. After Hitler reneges and invades Poland in 1939, the agreement is decried as appeasement.

1955: Actor James Dean and his mechanic Rolf Wutherich are killed when Dean’s Porsche 440 Spyder collides head-on with another vehicle. A computer re-creation of the accident by Exponent Failure Analysis Associates has shown that Dean was not speeding at the time of the collision.