Do you know that feeling when your favorite sports team loses, your stomach drops, and you feel absolutely nauseous? Unfortunately we’ve ALL been there before…some of us many times.
Watching the Arizona softball late-inning meltdown(s) this weekend against Baylor in the Super Regionals made me wonder…how would I rank my most painful sports losses?
It’s been said that most people tend to remember the more intimate details of their worst losses as compared to their biggest wins. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons and their fans after blowing a 28-3 halftime lead in the Super Bowl this year!
While my athletic experience has mostly been limited to recreational activities, I can completely relate in that I can remember the smaller details of my most painful defeats I’ve personally experienced.
Fortunately for you, the reader, this list won’t detail my (lack of) on-field exploits.
Here is the first half (6-10) of my list of the games in sports that hurt…the ones I won’t forget…but for the wrong reasons. Tomorrow I’ll break down the sadder than sad top 5.
–NFC Wild Card: Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (OT) (1/10/10)
–NFC Divisional Playoffs: Cardinals 26, Packers 20 (OT) (1/16/16)
Both games went to overtime and Green Bay lost heartbreakingly both. Even worse, I had to witness them in person.
–1993 NBA Finals Game 6: Bulls 99, Suns 98 (6/20/93)
The one time the Suns went to the Finals and I still say they were the better team than the Bulls that year. John Paxson’s shot was the first notable sports heartbreak for me.
–2003 Fiesta Bowl (National Championship Game): Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2 OT) (1/3/03)
My parents are Miami grads and the ‘Canes were my favorite college football team growing up. To be at the game – wearing the only Miami shirt in my upper deck end zone section – and watching the Hurricanes’ 34 game win streak die in double OT was excruciating. An astounding 58 players from that game eventually played in the NFL including 18 of whom were drafted in the first round. Quite possibly one of the top three college football games ever played.
–2009 Holiday Bowl: Nebraska 33, Arizona 0 (12/30/09)
When you pay money to see your team play in a bowl game, you expect them to show up and even better, win. I stayed in my nosebleed seats in the rain for 2.5 quarters and barely saw my team cross midfield in an utterly embarrassing 33-0 loss.
#10: Reds 2, Cubs 1 (12 innings) (9/30/04)
A weird one to start the list, I know. The Cubs, having choked away the NLCS in 2003 (more about that later on), were in the midst of a monumental final week collapse to lose a Wild Card berth to the Houston Astros. Star pitcher Mark Prior tried to stop the bleeding by striking out 16 Cincinnati Reds in a dazzling 9 inning pitching performance. Yet the Cubs being the Cubs at the time gave him virtually no run support and lost. I was a senior in college and barely made it to my 3:30 class at the time; it was so damn painful for some reason. I wanted to see this team make it back to the playoffs and repeat the magical run of 2003. Unfortunately they lost 7 of their final 9 games, five of which were decided by a single run. The great (and eventually tarnished slugger) Sammy Sosa was traded in the offseason to Baltimore and Prior, the phenom pitcher never again came close to repeating his success from 2003-2004.
#9: NFC Divisional Playoffs: Eagles 20, Packers 17 (OT) (1/11/04)
Brett Favre’s dad passed away suddenly the night before he played the best game of his career against the Raiders on Monday Night Football. The Packers got into the playoffs the following week thanks to a miracle victory by the Cardinals over the Vikings. Green Bay defeated Seattle in overtime the following Sunday to set up a matchup with the Eagles. Everything seemed to be coming together for Favre and company to make a Super Bowl run. Leading by 3 with a minute to go and with the Eagles facing an improbable 4th and 26, this happened:
Philly kicked a field goal, intercepted Favre in overtime, and won on a 31 yard boot by David Akers.
#8: West Regional Final: Kansas 78, Arizona 75 (3/29/03)
Top seed in the West, a loaded team with future NBAers Luke Walton, Andre Iguodala, Hassan Adams, Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire, plus very good college players in Jason Gardner and Rick Anderson. And yet another UofA choke job. Having beaten Kansas by 17 on the road earlier in the season, the Wildcats were expected to cruise to another Final Four. Here we are almost 15 seasons later and the Wildcats arguably haven’t had a more talented team nor made it past this round ever again. Dare I say this started the Wildcats current Elite 8 jinx!?
#7: Oregon 44, Arizona 41 (2 OT) (11/21/09)
ESPN’s College Gameday made its first ever trip to Tucson to see the underdog Wildcats take on the mighty Ducks. Of the many Wildcats home games I’ve attended over the years, I can’t remember a more ruckus atmosphere off the top of my head. It was a blast and with the Wildcats leading by a touchdown in the final seconds, Tucson was about ready to party! The Zona Zoo (student section) managed to break their barriers and make their way to the Arizona sideline while Oregon was mounting a game-tying drive. Watching from the opposite side of the stands, it was like a horror film to me. If there was only a way we could’ve told those kids to stay in their seats / section! Oregon scored with six seconds left, then scored another touchdown to start overtime. Arizona scored and instead of going for the win (more on that in the next column), they tied the game with an extra point. Alex Zendejas kicked a short field goal to put the Wildcats up 41-38 in double OT but the defense was gassed and allowed the Ducks to score a short TD to win the game. The eerie quiet of leaving the stadium paled in comparison to the craziness of 45 minutes prior. Arizona went on to win at ASU and USC to notch a berth in the Holiday Bowl (see above). Had the Wildcats beaten the Ducks and won their last two, they would’ve made the trip to Pasadena and appeared in their first ever Rose Bowl. Unfortunately the elusive New Year’s Day trip in Southern California continues to evade Arizona to this day. Great game, such a disappointing result.
6. West Regional Final: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT) (3/29/14)
The Honda Center in Anaheim has been the site of FOUR Arizona Elite Eight basketball losses (1998, 2003, 2011, 2014). While the Kansas outcome in 2003 was crushing because I was a student at the time, the Wildcats HAD this one. They were the better team. How did they lose? In 2015, Arizona also lost to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight but it’s safe to say the Badgers were the better team going into that game. Not in 2014. Had they beaten Wisconsin, Arizona would’ve won it all. You’ll never convince me otherwise to this day!