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.