The Sports Gods Hate Washington

Another night, another excruciating, last second, season-ending loss by a team from my state. Tonight it was the Washington Huskies. Last night, it was the Gonzaga Bulldogs. A couple of months ago, it was the Seattle Seahawks. This ever-growing history of late season chokery is making me think that Seattle is just getting what we deserve for being one of the most apathetic sports towns in America.

Yeah, I said it.

This town is not about sports. Most fans here are in it for the entertainment. We go to Mariner games to sit in the sun. We go to Sonic games to peoplewatch. And when our teams go through their inevitable bad years, we don’t even show up. This is not Green Bay. This is not Buffalo. This is a city that puts about as much into sports as we seem to get out of it. That is to say, not a ton.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this post but the Husky loss that occurred about an hour ago has me so pissed off that I just need to vent a little. As part of that venting, I want to put tonight’s loss in perspective with the other awful losses that have occurred here throughout the years. Here they are, in order of awfulness:

10. The UW Huskies losing to the Texas Longhorns in the 2001 Holiday Bowl. Dominating the game and up 36-17 near the end of the third quarter, the Huskies proceed to let Texas Quarterback Major Applewhite pass for 476 yards en route to a 47-43 victory snatched in the game’s final minute.

9. The Seattle Mariners losing to the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS. The Mariners were about to even the series at 3 games apiece when Mariner Killer and Halle Berry Non-Appreciater David Justice belted a three run homer off Arthur Rhodes to send the Yankees to the World Series against the Mets. The Mariners, though great that year, would retool for 2001 and make another appearance further down this list, unfortunately.

8. “The Kenny Wheaton Game”. I’d call this “The Damon Huard Game” but there were so many of those that this one must carry an original moniker. The 9th ranked UW Husky football team marched into Oregon in 1994 and were poised to take the lead against the hated Ducks in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. UW stood at Oregon’s 8 yard line and quarterback Damon Huard proceeded to throw a high-risk telegraphed pass to the sideline, which was then intercepted by Kenny Wheaton and returned 97 yards for the touchdown and the victory. This play is widely viewed as the greatest in Oregon football history and is still played at every single Oregon football game.

7. The Sonics losing to the Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. Chicago was the better team here, but after Seattle’s great victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals (the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever been to, by the way), it was a bit of a letdown.

6. *This spot saved for something I forgot which may come out in the comments*… UPDATE: Via Jamison Kelleher… the obvious one I forgot was the Sonics’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the 1994 NBA Playoffs. It was perhaps the best Sonic team ever, in a year that Michael Jordan wasn’t even playing and the Bulls were out of the picture. So what happens? The Sonics become the first #1 seed in history to lose to a #8 seed. The pattern is repeated the following year with a first round loss to the Lakers.

5. Tonight’s UW/UConn game goes here. UW forces #1 seed UConn into a season-high 25 turnovers, plays great physical ball the entire way, leads by 5 points with a minute to go, and then gets absolutely torched by a buzzer-beating, long-distance, off-balance three pointer as time expires in regulation. UW gets screwed by a goaltending non-call, has five players foul out, and proceeds to lose in overtime. Season over. The better team lost.

4. If I was a Gonzaga fan, this one might be even higher on my list, but that display of chokery last night against UCLA was almost too ridiculous to believe. Gonzaga dominates the entire game (and really the entire season as well, with only three losses… all to great teams), never loses the lead, and then in the final couple of minutes, everything falls completely apart. With ten seconds to go in the game, UCLA cuts the lead to one and then steals the ball from J.P. Bautista right after the inbound pass. One easy layup later and UCLA has their first lead of the game. Gonzaga then loses the ball again, fouls UCLA, and goes on to lose by two. Adam Morrison cries at midcourt as he realizes that he made the mistake of playing out his basketball career in a state that is reviled by the sports gods.

3. The Seattle Seahawks losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in this year’s Super Bowl. I almost didn’t even put this in here because Seattle played well enough to win and the overwhelming majority of the country agrees that the officials stole this game for the Steelers, but it’s in here because it goes to the concept of city karma. Pittsburgh is a great sports city. Steeler fans are passionate, hard-core, and deserving of a Super Bowl victory as much as any other fans in the country. My only solace in watching the thievery that occurred is that it couldn’t have happened to a better city.

2. The 116-win Seattle Mariners losing to the New York Yankees in the 2001 ALCS. The Mariners had just finished the winningest season in baseball history, ended the year on a hot streak, and then as soon as the playoffs hit, turned into a minor league team. Barely escaping Cleveland in the divisional series, it was on to New York where the wheels came completely off and Seattle’s season was ended by a far inferior Yankees squad. People around my city love to talk about how Seattle failed to make a move at the trade deadline that year, but please… I remember the trades that were available. The most heralded guy on the block was Juan Encarnacion… and he was only available if we gave up Joel Piniero. I’m sorry, but if you win 116 games, your squad should do just fine in the playoffs. But this is Seattle. Things are different here.

1. Anybody who watched this game knows why it’s in the #1 position. UW vs. UConn. 1998. Almost a carbon copy of tonight’s loss but even more dramatic and inexplicable. UW takes perhaps its best team ever to the Sweet 16 to play UConn, Donald Watts hits a three in UW’s final possession to go up by one. UConn’s Jake Voskuhl misses a shot with a few seconds remaining on the clock. Rip Hamilton gets the rebound, misses his first shot, gets his own rebound, and then shoots a near-vertical shot over a frozen 7-foot-2 Patrick Femerling for the victory as time expired. Most painful loss I’ve ever seen. One that actually desensitized me to basketball for a few years.

So there you have it. The most excruciating losses this state has seen in recent history and will continue to see as long as things stay the way they are. It’s pathetic that I didn’t even have to research any of this stuff either. Every item is still fresh in my head. And I know I’m forgetting some obvious losses as well.

So if you live in Washington State, just be glad we have other karma to replace what we lack in sports. We’re nice people and our crime rate is low. We’re tech-savvy and our economy is good. We’re environmentalists and our air is clean.

We’re just not a city of sports fans, and for that, we may be getting exactly what we deserve.

26 comments on “The Sports Gods Hate Washington”. Leave your own?
  1. So true. Being a life time Mariners fan really gives you an unhealthy optimism to life. Well put, I think Seattle’s sports teams are a pretty good representation of it’s citizens: we like it, but were just not quite committed enough…

  2. Bradley says:

    I live near Cleveland. Have since long before LeBron.

    I will probably never follow basketball, certainly not football. Haven’t followed baseball since Carlos Baerga wasn’t lazy and Albert Belle was pounding baseballs instead of reporters and his girfriend. ‘Nuff said.

    “Better luck next year” doesn’t seem to cut it when the team was perfect this year.

    I can’t say I fully emphathize right now, Mike. But I hear you. Let me tell you, I love sports (used to play most of them), but it’s really hard to be a sports fan when all your teams do is lose.

    Unfortunately, your teams were actually expected to win; I’m usually not very surprised to hear we lost. But you can’t say that, especially when you (used to) work for the company that does all the in-arena video and graphics for the Cleveland teams. Uye…

  3. Eric Meyer says:

    To follow up on Bradley’s post, I was wondering what Cleveland has done to deserve all its last-minute chokes when its sports fans are about as loyal and passionate as any you could name? I mean, sure, a lot of the time the teams are bad, but even when they’re good they seem to choke.

    I say this as a Clevelander with no particular interest in sports. I personally don’t give much of a damn what sports are being played or how the local teams are doing, but I have to respect the fans (though they annoy me from time to time). They stick with their teams, even though utterance of the phrase “Just wait ’til next year!” is pretty much an annual rite for any local fan.

  4. Jeff Hartman says:

    Being from Chicago and a fan of the Cubs ..well, there’s nothing more to say there.

    An option for #10: The Holiday Bowl loss to Kansas State (my Alma Mater)
    .. although KSU was ranked higher and going in and the favorite to win, it was a great game!

    Another tongue-in-cheek option: Rick Neuheisel.

    And Eric, what are you talking about? Haven’t you seen “Major League”? They won it all! Cleveland Rocks! :)

  5. Jason says:

    I live in CT. I got to UCONN. I personally think UCONN should have lost the game they played 1st round against Albany because of how poorly they played. The #1 team in the country losing first round in their regional tournament and then having a _lot_ of trouble in the first round of the NCAA tourney? Come on.

    Amazing game last night…I definitely feel for you WA fans. I’m not a hardcore fan of anything sports, I just am hoping UCONN wins again so I can see one of the craziest riots to hit college campus over a sports win first-hand.

  6. Ryan Stewart says:

    I was going to almost this exact post yesterday, but I’m glad you did it. After I got home from watching the huskie game I asked my wife “exactly what have you gotten me into.” I don’t know how you guys live with sports disappointment like this. I don’t know if I can take being a Seattle fan, it seems so depressing.

  7. Mark Centz says:

    Pittsburgh loves it’s Steelers, the Pirates not so much. The Pirates have a Series win in my lifetime. Los Angeles loves those fabulous Lakers, and the Dodgers and the Angels get popular when they win. And they have in twice in 20 years. Football, let’s see …NFL football in LA … Gone. Boston! Now there’s a real sports town. Rewarded with their1st series win since WWI last year, despite fan love beyond all understanding. Sounds like the Cubs and those Buffalo Bills, doesn’t it? Meanwhile, the Pats couldn’t get a crowd in Boston so they moved out of town, and now they’re getting all kinds of metal for their mantel lately, right? Florida Marlins, 2 Series wins in the last 10 years to reward that fanatic fanbase, and Phoenix rewards their legions of fans with one more. The Raiders haven’t won much in a generation, I guess that must be more lack of support in Oakland.
    You owe Seattle fans an apology. We’re no worse than most cities in our love of sports. Cities do not get the teams they deserve. It’s another random process which rewards the deserving and the undeserving alike. If Seattle fans are less involved with their teams than Buffalo or Green Bay, it might have something to do with the wider variety of cultural choices here. So when we are —lucky- enough to get a very good team here, we can emulate SF 49er fans and be ridiculously smug wherever we go. In the meantime: pain, suffering and pain.

  8. Mike D. says:

    Mark: I agree with most of that, especially this line – “it might have something to do with the wider variety of cultural choices here”. It’s *definitely* because of that, and I’m not saying Seattleites are “bad people” because we’re not as passionate about our sports as some other people are. I’m just saying we’re not — for whatever reason — and because of that, we probably do not have the right to be as pissed off as, say, Boston fans, when we go decades without a title. The thing about most of the cities you mentioned though is that they have had a lot more recent success than we have. We pretty much have the ’91 Huskies who *shared* a national championship (unfortunately) and that’s it. Boston has titles from the Celtics, the Patriots, the Red Sox, and a Final Four from UMass. Chicago has the Bulls dynasty, the White Sox World Series ring, and the Bears Super Bowl. Green Bay also has a ring. Etc, etc. I agree with you on L.A. though. L.A. fans are no more knowledgeable or passionate than Seattle fans when it comes to sports. They do have an owner who knows 1000 times more about basketball than our owner, however.

  9. Jamison Kelleher says:

    Candidates for #10

    Sonics/Suns 56 freethrows
    Seahwks/Jets Vinny’s helmet
    Sonics/Nuggets #1 vs #8

  10. adam says:

    Go Ducks!!

    Sorry, just had to represent my alma mater.

    I see the same thing happening in Portland. When the Blazers were good, the Rose Garden was full and the city was supportive. Now Paul Allen is taking about selling the team, and the city doesn’t seem to care about whether they stay or not.

    My #1 – 2000 Western Conference Finals – Portland vs. LA
    Portland had come back and forced a Game 7. They led LA by 15 in the 4th quarter. LA goes on a 15-0 run, and beats the blazers by 5. Ouch.

    I would write a top-ten myself, but over half of those would involve Robert Horry beating us in a playoff game with a buzzer-beating 3 pointer.

    But hey, at least you have a baseball and football team.

  11. Martin says:


    Watch that non-specific title; the sports gods are loving WASHINGTON (DC) — sorry to get off topic, but how about George Mason.

  12. Matt Bailey says:

    I’m going to have to second Eric on this one. Cleveland fans have it all over Seattle or any other city when it comes to sports and disapointments. I think ESPN did a top 10 list for both baseball and football for the cities with the longest disappointment streaks. Cleveland was #1 on both of them.

  13. bre says:

    Ya, but I’ve heard that Seattle are ultimate frisbee world champions. Is that true?

  14. Unfortunately our new motto in Seattle has become:

    “We’ll see you next year!”

  15. Keith says:

    I agree with you when it comes to most Seattle sports with one exception: The Seahawks. There are plenty of direhard Seahawks fans here in Seattle, and while they might not be Packer fans, they’re pretty solid.

    As well, you run in a bit of a different crowd than I do, but in general everyone I know is a pretty devout sports fan here. As well, I would guess that there aren’t many Green Bays or Buffalos out there.

    Explain to me this? If your theory has any merit, how and the hell can the Lakers have any history of winning? No, as far as fans go, I don’t think Seattle is the most apathetic.

    As far as this game goes, we got screwed on Friday. Plain and simple. Same goes for the Super Bowl. I totally agree that Seattle teams are up there when it comes to choking. Look no further than the Sonics and Mariners for some of the greatest chokes of all time.

    And that 1998 game was right up there — bad luck and poor execution.

    However, this year we’ve really been given the shaft. This weekend we would have won by about 10 were it not for truly horrible calls all game (Roy’s Technical? Come on!) long and you know how The Superbowl went down.

  16. Mike D. says:

    Keith: Here is how I explain the Lakers — Their owner is probably the smartest owner in the NBA. Not just IQ smart and business smart, but basketball smart as well. Jerry Buss has been around forever and his track record of winning, bringing in excellent coaches, and bringing in excellent players is unparalleled. When you have such a huge advantage in this area, it can make up for a lot of other things.

  17. Philip says:

    I was hoping you’d put in a Huskies vs. Ducks item. I’m not sure why we still play the Kenny Wheaton clip in the highlight reel year after year, but it definitely is an exciting moment, and frankly, I’m not sure you can beat Jerry Allen’s elated radio coverage of that moment. Sometimes it seems funny (in that uncomfortable way) that the Ducks (football), who have a their own hard times come bowl games, cling so hard to that.

    But I really can’t say anything but “Go Ducks!” and “Support a Huskie Free Northwest”

    (here’s hoping i don’t get banned)

    on a side note, I plan on cheering on the Mariners on the 4th of April (no, Oregon does not have their own team) with Cascadian pride. let’s hope they do well!

  18. Philip says:

    Wow, I reread that comment after posting it – talk about overusing the word “on” in that last sentence!

  19. Pat Collins says:


    It’s amazing how my sports teams (UConn, Bulls, Steelers) have caused you so much grief over the years. You can rest easy knowing that UConn is now out, but you may continue to cry in your latte about the Super Bowl.

    It’s bittersweet, isn’t it?

    PS: Feel free to continue to hate the Yankees. Red Sox all the way.

  20. Rob Toole says:


    I feel your pain, just not recently. I’m from Boston and after a lot of lean years back in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, I feel pretty spoiled with the Patriots and Red Sox lately. My only advice, hang in there…. it’s just a matter of time.

    Boston College (my alma mater) was knocked out in the same round in similair fashion to the zags. We had control of the game and lost it. Always next year.


  21. William Bay says:

    From the top to the bottom (of the coast that is).
    I grew up in San Diego. Need I say much more. Talk about choking at the big games. The Chargers got beat so bad that the 49ers decided to score exactly 49 points just to rub it in our face. And then the Padres… They decided to follow up their being swept in the World Series, with another mop visit.
    I don’t follow much college ball, but I do know that Marshall Faulk and Kyle Turley came from SDSU. Has anyone seen Faulk these days??? No one talks about him anymore… And Turley, everyone will remember him for ripping Kevin Faulk (not brothers) helmet, and almost his entire head, and throwing it into the stands like he was auditioning for some Ridley Scott movie.

    Yeah, we have die hard fans in San Diego too in reference to Keith #15, did you watch the masses of fans at Jack Murphy, ugghh I mean Qualcomm Stadium for the World Series?

    But having die hard fans isn’t indicative of having great championship caliber teams. I mean come on, the team in SD with the most number of titles is an IHL hockey team???

    Myself, well I’m not much of a baseball fan, and I’d classify myself as a “in the closet” Chargers fan.

    My teams: Packers, Seahawks (Holmgren), Jets (and yeah that Vinny helmet thing – Damn, I was conflicted).

    And now I live in Austin, and I ain’t hopping on no UT bandwagon!

  22. Mike, you are sooo right!

    I am a local Seattle-ite and I can’t help but wonder why the sports gods hate us. Is it our coffee-weilding pretentiousness? Maybe it’s our wonderful weather. Yeah! That’s it! We get such good weather here in Seattle, our punishement should most certainly be on the game field.

    Sense my sarcasm? How about my bitterness?

    Maybe 2006 is the year of the heartbreak for Seattle. Oh, and Adam: “Go (sniff) Huskies!”

  23. Todd says:

    Honorable mention:

    1984 UW football losing at home to Oregon State 21-20 on a blocked punt in the end zone when the Dawgs were favored by 37 points.

    Gotta have the 7th game of the ’96 NBA Western Conference Finals in there, too.

    Other than bumping SB XL to #1, I’d say your list is spot on.

  24. Tyler says:

    There is nothing like Cleveland. We have the shittiest luck in the world. Were the poorest city yet we continue to shell out big bucks for disappointments like the Browns, Indians, and Cavs. That’s why were so behind Ohio State. That name really says it all. Ohio State. The whole state is behind you. During Michigan week it’s so bad that some Wolverine fans skip work and school. The heckling is just horrendous. If it weren’t for the Bucks this city would just die. When we beat Miami in ’02, it was like heaven. Now we have a chance to have another National Championship. WOW!!!


  25. Joel says:

    How about the ’94 Sonics loss in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Denver Nuggets? Any true fan has the vision of Dikembe Mutombo on his back holding the ball above his head repeating over and over, every time the Sonics have tried to do something good in the past 30 years

  26. Mike D. says:

    Joel: Already in there.

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