Most heartwrenching D.C. sports losses of the decade
We're a bit late to the Top 10 decade retrospectives, but we'll be ramping things up in the next few days, with a few local and national lists. In the meantime, I was wondering in the shower this morning where the Cowboys/Eagles/Saints triple-play of anguish would rank in a list of this decade's most gruesome D.C. sports defeats.
Of course, a decade is a long time, and this one seemed to last several centuries, so it turns out these most recent vomit-inducers aren't even close to qualifying for Top 10 status. So many to choose from. Ah well, here goes.
(And yes, this list is slanted toward the end of the decade. Because at the end of the decade I was writing about sports, and at the beginning of the decade I was selling cheese. So sue me. Also, no wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano has ever broken anyone's heart.)
(And also, the decade will end with the Caps having gone 1-5 in playoff series, the Wizards having gone 1-4 in playoff series, and the Redskins having gone 2-3 in the playoffs.)
10. Raptors 2, Not Possible 0, 2007-2008: Let's start this off with some regular season madness. Probably this doesn't deserve to be here, but it led to one of the greatest broadcasting moments of the decade, so we'll make an exception. The agony started on March 30, 2007, when, in an attempt to polish off the clock, Michael Ruffin...well, let me let Ivan Carter take over:
There are shockers and then there is seeing Michael Ruffin, game and third place in the East in hand, attempt to loft a ball up in the air and kill the clock only to have it slip out and wind up in the hands of Morris Peterson, who then threw in (I swear he didn't shoot it; it was more like a loft) a threeball from 31 feet away, tying the game, forcing overtime and all but ripping the heart out of the Wizards and their fans. Unreal.
The rematch with the Raptors the following year didn't have quite as much at stake, but the Wizards still had the game completely and totally won. And then, magic:
(You'll note below that there are many more worthy candidates, but damn, that audio is good.)
9. Duke 95, Maryland 84, March 31, 2001: Having had their hearts crushed by Duke just more than two months previously (see below), the Terps met the Devils again in the Final Four, and improbably seized a 22-point lead, 39-17. Maryland still led by 11 at halftime. And then, blech.
"One of the most bitter defeats in [Maryland] history," Thomas Boswell wrote.
8. Seahawks 35, Redskins 14, Jan. 5, 2008 The final score is entirely misleading, because well into the fourth quarter, fans were convinced this team was headed for the NFC championship game. Remember, Washington--behind Todd Collins--had gone on that remarkable late-season four-game winning streak to make the playoffs. A win here, and they'd be off to Dallas, against the crumbling Cowboys whom they had just whipped, and who were dealing with Tony Romo's Cancun-gate.
They were down, 13-0, late in the third quarter, but then there was the touchdown drive, the LaRon Landry interception, the quick strike to Santana Moss, and the team of destiny was ahead, 14-13. The Seahawks botched the next kickoff and Washington had the ball at the Seattle 14. You couldn't have possibly convinced me they'd lose. But then suddenly the offense went away, Shaun Suisham missed from 30 yards, and it all fell apart, culminating with the two returned interceptions and the 21-point loss in Joe Gibbs's final game.
"There is no logic behind feeling cheated Saturday, but that pang is still there," Mike Wise wrote. "Every time a stirring, pixie-dust run like this ends abruptly, an emotional response follows from the aggrieved player or fan, who believe teams with heavy hearts should have divine endings, who deeply feel the Washington Redskins deserve to keep going, because it would somehow be right and fair."
7. Davidson 74, Georgetown 70, March 22, 2008:
The Hoyas were coming off a Final Four year. They were a second seed, with four high school All-Americans. They were up 17 in the second half. Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace and Tyler Crawford, the seniors who had led Georgetown's resurgence, were ready for another trip to the Sweet 16.
Then Stephen Curry happened. After starting out 2-for-12 from the field, he scored 25 of his 30 points in the final 15 minutes. The comeback seemed to be over in about 20 seconds. The Hoyas are still waiting for their next NCAA tourney win.
Thomas Boswell, who has made a habit of witnessing heartbreak, wrote that it was Georgetown's "most shocking boot from March Madness in more than 20 years."
6. Lightning 2, Capitals 1 (3 OT), April 20, 2003: Mentioned far less often than the more recent defeats by heartsick Caps fans, but the details seem compelling. The Caps won the first two games of the series in Tampa, with Michael Nylander scoring two goals, one of which was a game-winner.
Then came four straight losses, three by a single goal, two in extra time, three at home. Both overtime goals came on power plays, with the first one the NHL's first overtime five-on-three goal in 70 years, and the final one a too-many-men-on-the-ice call against Jason Doig. "Heartbreaking but familiar," wrote Jason La Canfora in his gamer."
In this final game, the Caps led 1-0 late in the second period, but couldn't score again.
"Things just happen, I don't know why," Olie Kolzig said. "Why haven't the Red Sox won the World Series in how many years? For some reason every series there is something that we can't control that happens and seems to turn the series around for the opposition. Things just happen."
(I know you're all going to complain about me including this over the Flyers, but I just couldn't have it be so late-in-the-decade heavy. Still, feel free to let me have it.)
5. Buccaneers 14, Redskins 13, Jan. 15, 2000: Sure, you maybe didn't expect Norv to lead his team to the NFC championship game, but c'mon, this was bad. The Redskins were up 13 with 8 minutes left the third quarter. The Bucs were led by Shaun King, a rookie quarterback. The Super Bowl years were still fairly recent memories. The city was even warming up to Daniel Snyder: "Pleased by Success, Fans Decide Snyder May Not Be So Bad," read a WaPo headline this week.
The frittering was bad; early in the fourth quarter, Brad Johnson fumbled in his own territory, and on the ensuing possession, King was sacked and fumbled on third down but Warrick Dunn picked up the ball and ran it for a first down.
And even after the lead was fully frittered, there was a chance to win, with Brett Conway lining up for a 52-yard field goal. And then the snap got screwy, bouncing halfway to Conway; he said that would happen "one time out of probably 10,000."
"The steak was on the plate, it was all cut up, and then we can't eat it," Tre Johnson said.
4. Duke 98, Maryland 96 (OT), Jan. 27, 2001: The Terps played a brilliant game against their ultimate rivals, who were ranked second in the country, and led by 12 with 70 seconds left and by 10 with a minute left. The fans were chanting "overrated" and getting ready to storm the court. "They need a miracle," the TV guy said. His color man said a Terps loss would be "catastrophic." The miracle happened. There were no titles at steak, but for pure absurd, unforgettable agony, this one ranks.
"The whole team kind of just collapsed," Steve Blake told William Gildea.
"That's the worst loss that I've been associated with," Mike Mardesich added.
3. Penguins 6, Capitals 2, May 13, 2009: The exact opposite of the Caps loss below. Instead of a last-second heartbreaker, it was a nasty dose of anti-climax. The Cavs were just becoming the Wizards' rivals, but the Penguins had always been so. The Caps had the home ice, and seemed to have the fates on their side, until the fates decided to extract various livers and kidneys and other innards and just stomp on them. Things were brightened up by that late-game standing ovation, but only marginally. Instead of a celebration, fans had witnessed a disaster.
"I've never really seen anything like this and I've never been a part of anything like this," Brian Pothier said. "Every time we touched the puck, it seemed to explode. Every time they touched it, it was a goal. It was just crazy. You have these nights during the season, during the regular season, but I've never really experienced it in Game 7 of such an emotional playoff series."
"No way to describe it," Tom Poti added.
2. Cavaliers 114, Wizards 113 (OT), May 5, 2006. Yes, it was just the first round. And yes, it was just Game 6, and true heartbreak should always come in Game 7.
But consider the circumstances. The Wizards had already lost two games in this series by a single point. They had their best player on the free throw line in overtime with a chance to clinch things, but instead the loathsome Crab Dribbler whispered in his ear and he missed twice. Then Damon Jones, one of the least likable players on the planet, came off the bench ice cold. He played just 14 seconds in the game, but he hit the ultimate dagger, leading to the pile up on the Wizards' home court. And it led to a first-round knockout a year after the Wizards had been to the second round.
"To give away one, as precious as playoff games are, is demoralizing," Michael Wilbon wrote. "To give away three in one series is a sin."
1. Bills 17, Redskins 16, Dec. 2, 2007. Washington Post headline: "A Kick to the Gut." Sean Taylor had just died. People were emotionally wrecked. The weather was crummy. The Bills were using their third-string running back. Washington had the game won, 16-14, but couldn't run out the clock. The Bills--the awful Bills--got the ball back on their own 22 with less than a minute left. Somehow they wound up in field-goal position.
And then the legend, Joe Gibbs, the man who was keeping it together for everyone else called those consecutive timeouts, leading to the 15-yard penalty. As players got ready to fly to Taylor's funeral, they anonymously ripped Gibbs to the press.
Thomas Boswell said it might have been "the saddest game in Redskins history." "The Redskins ended the day with a 17-16 defeat as bitter to swallow in every respect as a mere game can be," he wrote. "Nobody said life had to be fair, but this is getting to be ridiculous."
Honorable mentions: Flyers 3, Caps 2 (April 22, 2008), Seahawks 20, Redskins 10 (Jan. 14, 2005), Florida 73, George Mason 58 (April 1, 2006), Buccaneers 36, Redskins 35 (Nov. 13, 2005), Eagles 23, Redskins 20 (Nov. 26, 2000), Penguins 3, Caps 3 (April 24, 2001), Rams 19, Redskins 17 (Oct. 12, 2008), Saints 33, Redskins 30 (Dec. 6, 2009).
(Photos by John McDonnell and Toni L. Sandys - TWP)
December 7, 2009; 12:53 PM ET
Categories: Caps , College Basketball , Redskins , Terps , Wizards
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