Welcome to the Crew Log, in which several different No Coast Bias writers share their thoughts on various topics and talking points.
This week, the NCB crew focused in on a very interesting and personal question:
On the show Preacher, you live your worst day ever over & over when in Hell. What's your worst sports day ever to live in sports fan hell?
— Mike'l Severe (@MikelSevere) August 1, 2016
That got us thinking as to what our own personal sports hell would be; like our own hellish Ground Hog Day with a greater emphasis in sports. Answers ranged from dystopian futures to reliving past horrors every day for an eternity, however they all share a common theme of being very personal, sad stories. These are our hearts on a platter, please be gentle with them. Now, step with us into a dimension of shattered dreams; a dimension of bitter despair. We’re moving into a land of both stolen elation and prolonged sadness. We’ve just stepped into…the Crew Log.
While December 19, 2010 will forever haunt me. The following day might very well be even worse. Thanks to social media, texts from friends and family members, and of course ESPN’s constant barrage of highlight videos depicting the Miracle at the New Meadowlands from just about every angle possible I was able to relive the trauma over and over again from the moment I woke up until I eventually cried myself to sleep.
I’ll take you back to that day in December…a young wide eye boy was reeling with excitement as there were eight minutes left and the New York Giants had one hell of a lead on those hooligans from Philly. My years of heartache, better known as Giants fandom, should have taught me to never trust a lead, no matter how big.
Unanswered Touchdown, followed by unanswered touchdown, the Eagles mounted their comeback. Still, there was an opportunity to take it to overtime and win (I used to be pretty optimistic). Alas, Matt Dodge (greatest punter in NFL history) had other plans for us. He decided that instead of kicking it out of bounds, a line drive straight to one of the most dangerous return men seemed like the better option. As Jackson muffed and the defense stumbled, the worlds aligned in such a way that Jackson was able to pull it together and score on what many might call the greatest regular season play and the first walk-off punt return touchdown in NFL history.
“The Punt” will forever be ingrained in my mind like “The Fumble” was ingrained in those before me and thanks to social media, ESPN, and just about every non Giants friend I have, the following Monday will be the known as the worst day in sports history for me.
Watch this play.
This was the moment when I learned that sports weren’t fair and the first part of my soul as a Bears fan died inside, but for the better (I think?).
Imagine this scenario: You’re a 12-year-old happy go lucky kid from Chicago who just discovered the great wonder and excitement of football and the NFL. The first year you happen to start following the league and sports in general, the Bears just happen to coincidentally go 13-3 and make it to the Super Bowl.
The beloved rookie Devin Hester then makes history and returns the opening kick of the game.
You think, “Wow, is it this much fun all the time?”
Unexpectedly (for the young me at least), Rex Grossman happens and you lose the Super Bowl to a guy (Peyton Manning) known as a perennial choke artist in the most monumental games. Yeah, reality can hit quickly.
In the nine years as a miserable fan since (Happy 10th anniversary!), I haven’t derived as much joy from watching football as I did the 2006 Bears. That season had it all.
There was the legendary comeback win vs. the Cardinals on Monday Night Football with a dominant defense that took matters into it’s own hands (Bless you forever Charles Tillman), to the epic back and forth playoff game with the defending NFC champion Seahawks (Bless you forever Lance Briggs), to an electric Devin Hester returning punts and kicks unlike the league had ever seen. The list went on and on.
And then, just like that, as much fun as the entire ride was, they didn’t finish the job, and in depressing fashion at that. I still remember bawling my eyes out when it was just the third quarter. I didn’t understand how to process sports emotions as a naïve foolish child.
I also remember going to my room, turning on Madden 07, setting all of the Bears to 99 ratings, and beating down the Colts over and over to try and soothe the pain. There are no appropriate words to describe how much this ate away at my core.
A respectable Bears fan might also pick losing to your bitter hated rival in a conference title game as their worst sports day, like they did to the Packers in 2010, but that game didn’t sign my soul to the devil. It just sent me deeper into the spiral.
The 2006 season made me love football and turned the Bears into my favorite sports team (still love you Blackhawks), for better or worse. And for not finishing the job in such a tantalizing fashion, they’ve sent me out on a mission to cravingly seek even just one Super Bowl win.
Of course, you can’t accomplish that with one playoff berth since.
This is a love-hate relationship more often than not. I’ve been strung out and it’s almost like it doesn’t even matter.
Some of you will undoubtedly pick terrible, Chicken Poop: Curbstomps for the Soul, single moments that swing heavily on a championship game or a missed opportunity to lay out the worst day of your sports life.
Mine was a collection of small, miserable losses. Let me explain.
You know how sometimes you’re opening your inevitably-delivered-by-Amazon package? You’re excited. You’re thrilled to finally get something delivered to your residence other than Capital One’s latest attempt to torpedo your already-bad credit. With tremulously crunk fingers you go to pop open the box and check out what kind of swag Jeff Bezos has sent your way. . .and then it happens: a paper-cut.
Not even a big one, really, but right underneath your fingernail and just big enough to make your recoil in three-part horror. The first part: it feels like all the nerve-endings in your finger are having a cocaine-binge panic attack and you find yourself instantly wondering if this is what amputation feels like. The second: you’re mortified at how big of a pansy you are for having these feelings. The third and final act in this absurd one-person show? That gift isn’t cool anymore. You were so close to having something so awesome, then you had it ripped away. It may not have been the biggest or most expensive gift, but – damn it – now your mood is ruined.
That happened to me three times in 24 hours on October 10th and 11th in 2015. Death by three ridiculous paper-cuts. I was left feeling fatalistically screwed.
Nebraska lost to Wisconsin in the final four seconds of their game against the Badgers, after an always-on-the-cusp-of-winning effort that predictably fell short. Their kicker, who clanked what appeared to be the game winner off the uprights a mere minute before, nailed his second opportunity and I had to leave the stadium wondering how they’d gotten so lucky and how the Huskers had made Joel Stave look like Joe Montana. Later that night, I witnessed Mexico rasgó mi corazón (*Author’s note: rip my heart out), scoring a goal in the 118th minute of their game against the USMNT. After falling into a fitful, miserable sleep, I awoke the next day to watch the 49ers lose to the beady-eyed Manning brother with 21 seconds remaining. It was the ultimate reverse Midas touch weekend: the Sadim touch.
This was my nightmare, these were my paper-cuts, and now I am going to turn on Adele and cry quietly until next week.
The year is 2046. It is August. Even in hell, the weather begins to change, going from incredibly hell-fire hot to a slightly less hot, balmier feel. Nebraska football fans are excited about the upcoming football season. Despite not having more than nine wins in almost 50 years, the fans are sure this is the year. They’ve had multiple recruiting classes in the top 30 in the country, and their new head coach that they hired three years ago finally seems to have everything coming together. This is, at least, what the athletic director is telling the fans. He’s an up-and-coming AD who seems to do and say the right things, but makes it unclear if he’s actually doing what’s best for the program, or if he’s trying to keep the ship afloat until he can head for greener pastures at a better school. This is nothing new.
Fans still argue about why Nebraska hasn’t regained national relevance yet. Roughly half of the fan base argues that the new coach that was brought in to replace the old coach wasn’t the right fit, can’t recruit well enough, and doesn’t have what it takes to win it all at Nebraska. Others blame the old coach, saying he fostered a culture that made winning impossible, didn’t have the right attitude to coach at Nebraska, and left the cupboard bare on his way out. When they aren’t doing that, fans watch old highlight films from the 90s while arguing on online message boards about why Nebraska still has the greatest fans in the country (This notion is a farce and is already dead, and therefore cannot be killed, even in hell). At this point it is merely accepted that the old fans will buy their tickets to sit in the stadium and look mad about the stadium music and complain about the performance on the field, and the young fans will buy tickets to get hammered, be loud during the game, and complain about the performance on the field. Nebraska will win eight games (a marked improvement) and then lose its bowl game. People will continue to argue about everything mentioned above. This is not new.
The Rams are looking to go 8-8 this season. It is remarkable that Jeff Fisher has managed to go 7-9 every year since 2014 (in which he went 6-10). However, it is consistent, and consistency of that caliber must be rewarded. The Rams look to have some young players on both sides of the ball that could be playmakers but not much veteran help. They will go on to dominate against competition that should walk all over them, but lose several games that they shouldn’t. They will finish 7-9 once again, prompting the consistency clause in Jeff Fisher’s contract to take effect, and be extended for five more years. This is not new.
The Cubs look to be one of the best teams in the MLB this year. The team is on the higher part of their 10-year bell curve in which they go from terrible, to one of the best teams that falls just short of winning a championship, to terrible again. Theo Epstein died at a surprisingly young age, however he transferred his brain onto computer banks much like Arnim Zola from that scene in Captain America 2. His virtual self continues to be lauded by fans and media alike for his ability to rebuild the Cubs, and he assures them all that a championship will come soon. This is not new.
The Capitals lost in the second round of the playoffs again, despite Alex Ovechkin converting himself into a real-life version of Cyborg from Justice League in order to continue to play hockey. He led the team in goals, shots, and hits last season, en route to having the best record to end the regular season. People are debating whether or not it’s time to give up on robo-Ovechkin (or RobOvechkin, if you will) and move on to something new, but they know deep down that he will return next year, dominate all season, and then watch his hopes of winning a Stanley Cup fade away once more. This is not new.
The Cleveland Cavaliers actually quit playing basketball after the 2015-2016 season, deciding to “end things on a high note”. With no one to challenge them from the other conference, the Warriors super team actually won every game for 15 years straight, averaging 278.2 points per game in the process. The NBA became unbearable, couldn’t recover from the financial hit of nobody wanting to watch the games anymore, and ultimately tanked. It’s rumored that basketball is still played quietly overseas in some places, however the Warriors’ four riders of the apocalypse have devoted the rest of their lives to seeking out anyone who wishes to play their game and challenge them to an official contest, which they accept, and then promptly lose by 600 million points. This is not new.
You cannot hurt me with events of sports past, but delivering a future in which everything remains the same for 40 years is a very terrifying, special hell. And as I’d lay on my deathbed, dying at the early age of 64 due to a weak heart from so much disappointment over the years, I’d fade away to the sound of Nebraska fans arguing on the radio that the 1994 Huskers were the best team of all time, only to wake up and relive that day every day for the rest of eternity.
As a lifelong fan of both the University of Notre Dame and the Minnesota Timberwolves, I’ve had a lot of letdowns in my life. The absence of championships in my lifetime has been sad, especially now that I live in the land of perpetual sports success that is New England. When asked about my own personal version of sports hell, it didn’t take long to visualize something truly terrifying.
Sit back and allow me to set the mood for you:
You’re in a room that looks exactly like the Red Room from ‘Twin Peaks’, but instead of hearing piano music and being unable to escape homicidal madness, you hear a re-broadcast of the 2009 NBA Draft and are unable to escape the horrible moves of former Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations, David Kahn. As the picks come in, you already know what is going to happen. Instead of picking up future MVP,NBA champion, and arguably the most marketable player since LeBron entered the league in Stephen Curry, you are instead stuck with Jonny Flynn. But it doesn’t stop there.
In the distance you begin to hear a faint noise. You dismiss it and go back to wallowing in sadness, but the noise gets louder and louder. Before long you can no longer hear the draft, for the worst song ever composed is drowning it out. That’s right, you guessed it, ‘Hail To The Victors’, the University of Michigan’s fight song, is playing on a loop. You may think the worst is over, but guess what: in walks a Patriots fan who only wants to discuss Deflategate and what *really* happened at Super Bowl XXXVI.
You have no choice but to sit there and listen to the thick northern New England accent go on and on and on about how amazing Tom Brady is and that everyone that doesn’t like the Patriots is not only jealous but un-American. As he continues to babble on, you have no choice but to just nod your head and wait for it to be over. And that my friends, is my personal sports hell.
Knowing what I know now, reliving December 5, 2009 would be my personal sports hell. That day the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Texas Longhorns played a game that ended in heartbreaking fashion.
Losing to my second most hated school (yo, Creighton) in a game we deserved to win was bad enough, but everything that happened after played gave this day the edge for me. You see, because of that close loss, Mr. 9-4 Bo PeLLLLini earned so much leeway with fans that he could’ve went 9-4 forever and he would have never been asked to win any sort of hardware. Because of the out-of-this-world play of Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the defense, Pelini thought so highly of his defensive acumen that he thought he could recruit any bum off the street and turn them into all-americans. We all know that didn’t happen, but in case you needed a reminder of what Bo’s defenses looked like at the end of his tenure, I present to you this…
On top of PeLLLLini boning my favorite team for a good number of years after this game, I also had to deal with a Husker hater at the bar that day and nearly went to blows. Knowing what I know now, maybe I would have been better off with him knocking out the memories of this game out of my brain.
Other days considered:
– The 24 hours starting from the 4th quarter of Super Bowl 50 – as a Panthers and Cam Newton fan, this time period was absolutely brutal. Plus, I was stuck in bed with a massive hangover until about 6:00 pm. that Monday.
– The day the Lakers and Kings played game six of the Western Conference Finals. OJ getting away with murder was bad, but what the Lakers and refs did to the Kings and the city of Sacramento was the most egregious crime anyone has ever gotten away with on TV.
– The Jeff Larish game. I was going door-to-door selling directory ads that day and had to watch Larish murderize my beloved Huskers in the CWS. Terrible day from start to finish.
– Any day I had to argue with Jayskers. Ugh.
21 years of life. Nine championships experienced from the major four leagues (New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Bruins). You could say I’m blessed.
But with the good have come the bad:
Aaron Boone’s walk-off.
David Tyree’s amazing (lucky) helmet catch.
Wes Welker’s drop.
The 2009 Orlando Magic.
Two goals in 17 seconds.
Pablo Sandoval’s contract.
All of these moments in time brought me down to places no person should go.
I still remember sitting on my couch late after Super Bowl 42, head in hands and brain scrambling just trying to figure out how Tyree came down with that ball. How? HOW? 18-0 man. Soooooo close but David Tyree had to show up for the first time ever in his NFL career. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about that play every now and then because I do.
The ’09 Magic hurt not just because they beat the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals but because they took away from a Kobe and LeBron NBA Finals match-up. The Black Mamba vs King James. 23 vs 24. Puppet LeBron vs Puppet Kobe. Having the two best players of this generation go at it on the biggest stage would have been must watch TV but of course Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Türkoğlu had to go mess that up for everyone. Hey Orlando Magic, don’t know if anyone has ever told you guys this, but thanks. Thanks for the ’09 Finals. Everyone really loved watching you guys lose to the Lakers in five games. I’m sure no one would have enjoyed watching Kobe and LeBron duel half as much as they enjoyed you guys losing by 25 in game 1.
Nothing hurts me more though than something very special that no one truly appreciates. This choice could be considered cheating for this crew-log because it carries over multiple days of the year but I don’t care. It’s something I’ve held in for too long that needs to be shared.
This is tough but… any day pitchers and catchers don’t report to spring training is a day I don’t want to be living. There I said it. It feels good to finally say it too. The pain I feel for 364 days out of the year, knowing pitchers and catchers won’t report to spring training is pain I can’t describe. Well actually I can describe it.
IT SUCKS. IT SUCKS. IT REALLY, REALLY SUCKS.
And that’s it. Kind of an abrupt ending, I know, but that’s all I got.
Sorry if you were expecting a sad story or something.
Just after midnight, the trade was finalized. This didn’t make it my worst day in itself. Dwight Howard was going to be traded, that much had been clear for a year or more. I was also supposed to be sleeping and now had to try while this was churning in my brain, but that wasn’t totally it, either.
No, it was when I woke up the next day, and the next day, and every next day up through this very day, realizing that August 10, 2012 was my own personal Groundhog Day. Every morning since, I wake up thinking “what exactly is Orlando’s plan?” and every night I go to bed without an answer. Repeat into (I can only assume) infinity.
The actual trade day sucked, because I thought the return on the trade was abysmal. Then the Magic started the 2012-13 season behind Arron Afflalo and double-double machine Nikola Vucevic with a 12-13 record. So I was wrong. Then they finished that season 8-49. So I was wrong again. And I haven’t been right since.
Orlando has also plowed through Jacque Vaughn, James Borrego in interim, Scott Skiles and now Frank Vogel as head coach in the four years since Howard’s exit. It hasn’t been fun, and the turnaround of players has been worse.
Lottery picks have been burned through like scratch tickets in hope of a superstar. Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon (yet), Elfrid Payton, and Mario Hezonja are not that.
Swap Afflalo out for Evan Fournier and Tobias Harris for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings and it’ll cancel itself out. Rotate people like Channing Frye, Ben Gordon, or Jason Smith through to move the needle precisely 0%, while watching young players behind them stagnate without playing time.
Then make the ultimate questionable move, this time for a questionable superstar. Oladipo, Ilyasova, and another not-a-superstar lottery pick Domantas Sabonis for Serge Ibaka, who might not be that great anymore and also might leave after a year. Then, with an already full backcourt, promptly sign (approximately) 13 other big men. Sigh…The cycle continues.
So for nearly four straight years, no matter how much the team changes, my emotions, and Orlando’s championship odds, stay the same. All I can do when asking myself daily “what exactly is Orlando’s plan?” is reset my brain to the wee hours of August 10, 2012 and…