Last Saturday’s gut wrenching loss by the Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team made me feel, if I might speak frankly, like shit.
But as I was stewing in my emotions and wondering why the universe is such a cold, bitter place I realized that I wasn’t including the words “uncaring” and “meaningless”, and that was an improvement. Maybe I was starting to get used to this. I wondered, foolishly, why that might be the case.
And then the memories started pouring in… the horrible, horrible memories. Visions of heartbreaking games past flooded my mind. I couldn’t necessarily single one of them out, but I knew there were a lot of them. Some bullshit hail-mary, some bullshit three pointer, some bullshit home run, another bullshit hail mary. A real mountain of bullshit was piling up in my brain.
So, naturally, I did what any good Wisconsinite would do: I went out and got drunk. And as I plowed down a few shots, things became a little more clear. I began to remember the games a little more clearly and, perversely enough, I started to rank them in my mind.
It didn’t feel great. It took some time, and I thought that after I’d gotten over it and seen another team win and rationalized in my brain how we would’ve probably lost anyways I decided I could write about it and that would help to seal the gash. If you’re a fan of other teams, then at least you can feel good that I feel bad. And if you’re a Vikings fan, well, screw you.
Without further ado, let’s run down the top ten:
10) Colin Kaepernick goes nuts – Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers – 2013 NFC Divisional Game
A quick writers note here. I almost put the incredible 4th and 26 Eagles game from 2003 in this spot, but that happened so long ago that I felt like it was cheating. Let that be a reminder to you that I actually had to cut some games from this list because we have such a rich history of blowing it.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s continue. The Packers first appearance of many on this list was a special kind of terrible, because a lot of this state firmly believed 2012 was our year. We’d won the Super Bowl two years prior, we’d just beaten Minnesota at home in the playoffs, and we were going into San Francisco to play a guy who has zero playoff experience. And after an early pick six, that belief did not wane.
The waning, of course, began once Kaepernick scored what my memory tells me was a 130 yard rushing touchdown through the entire starting, backup, and third string Packers defense. Unlike most of the games to come on this list, it wasn’t a quick gut punch, but a slow and painful evisceration over the course of two hours.
9) Fuck you, Duke – Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball vs Duke – 2015 National Championship Game
After knocking off the previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats and getting revenge for a heartbreaking final four loss the previous year (more on that later), the Badgers had all of the momentum and were looking to put a bow on the 2015 Men’s Basketball Tournament with a national title. Only one team stood in their way (well, two if you count the officials): the Duke Blue Devils.
8) Heartbreak in the Desert – Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals 2016 NFC Divisional Game
First off, it’s crazy that there are two playoff games that fit this exact description and you had to make it to the third to last word of that sentence to know which one it is. Next, consider the fact that Jeff Janis had more receiving yards in one drive than there are in the length of a football field. He caught two hail marys, one them with no time left, to continue and eventually finish a drive that would lead the Packers to overtime. If you think that the Packers didn’t immediately lose on the following possession, I might question your comprehension ability because the title of this post is how I got my heart ripped out. Bonus points that I had way more money than I should riding on this game and had to watch that go down the drain with a trip to the NFC championship game.
7) Badgers string of Rose bowls – Wisconsin Badgers Football Every Year for like Five Years Straight or some shit
I don’t even remember which Rose Bowls we lost, but I remember it was somewhere between one and all of them. Russell Wilson spiking it into the ground, the most boring game ever against Stanford, and some game against TCU where I only remember a guy named Tank ruining a perfectly good game. Honestly, I sincerely don’t remember more than five minutes of these games combined because each subsequent loss both made the previous game less memorable and made the next game have less of a luster. These might have been great games for all I know, but all I can think now is that they were boring trash and that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed them had we won anyways.
At least we got to see Russell Wilson come through, that was nice. He’ll always be ours and will be the one true pure memory of those teams. Nothing bad come possibly come from loyal, sweet, Russell Wilson.
6) Fail Mary – Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks – Monday Night Football 2012
LOL JK of course Russell Wilson wouldn’t just become something bad, he’d do it almost immediately. This game gets pretty strongly downgraded because it happened in a regular season game and brought back the normally NFL officiating crews, but it does get bumped up a few notches because I was there and had to endure all of the insufferable Seattle fans who were just starting to climb on their filthy, disgusting bandwagon. If you’re a Seattle fan and you’re reading this, you should look up a Youtube video of this play because I know there’s a 90 percent chance you weren’t a fan of this team at the time. It’s really quite an extraordinary play.
5) Loss to Florida (Round of 16) – Literally I can still feel the physical sting of this one
Here we are, the loss that started the list. This one stings a little more than it should partly because of recency and partly to how tantalizing close we were to winning this game and becoming the tournaments team of destiny. It gets bonus points for our team losing the game in the exact same way it stayed alive, with a running three pointer as time expired. The irony of a team that couldn’t make free throws all year to save its life making two at the end of the game to give the other team a chance to inbound the ball adds a little extra taste of bitterness.
4) Loss to Kentucky (Final Four) – Badgers Basketball – 2014 NCAA Basketball Final Four
We’ve already established that losing to a buzzer beating three pointer sucks. We’ve established that losing in the tournament on a three point buzzer beater is really bad. But what if we could make it even worse? What if that buzzer beater came even later in the tournament, like, say, the game to qualify for the national championship game against eight seeded Connecticut? That would probably be bad, really bad… number four on the list bad.
This loss completely ripped the guts out of what was otherwise an incredible tournament run for a very special team, which propels it up the list. Bonus points for this being the start of a trend where the Badger basketball team really started to make us feel really bad after making us feel really good.
3) Brewers NLCS collapse – Brewers vs Cardinals (Best of 7) – 2011 NLCS
The first and only entry by the Milwaukee Brewers had all the elements of a horrible, heartbreaking loss:
- Brewers were the best team in the National League? Check
- Series is against the hated St. Louis Cardinals? Check
- The team had never been this good in my entire life? Check
- They were featured on my favorite Sports Illustrated cover of all time?
Obviously, they were ripe to lose the series at home and sit back while the Cardinals won the World Series.
2) Packers vs. Giants – Pretty much all of them but, specifically, here, the 2007 NFC Championship Game
The 2007 Green Bay Packer season had all the trimmings of a storybook season – a team two years removed from being one of the worst in the league was suddenly one of the best only two years later. Lead by legendary eventual Minnesota Viking Brett Favre, the team steamrolled their way to the second seed in the NFC and a bye into the divisional finals. After dispatching the Seahawks at Home and watching the number one seeded Cowboys fall at home, their coronation to the Super Bowl would certainly be on after they took care of the formality of winning at home that week.
Here’s the thing about a team with Brett Favre as it’s leader – nothing is ever a formality. After a back and forth game ended regulation in a tie, the game went into extra time and Green Bay winning the coin toss. Surely, now, the party would be on. Surely Brett Favre would lead his… you know what, I can’t do this anymore. Favre throws a fucking pick (I swear to God, right in front of me) and the Giants instantly kick a field goal and win the game.
Oh, lastly, it was negative two degrees outside. I feel like that’s relevant here. This game makes the list either way, but it’s not number two unless I also nearly die while I’m watching it.
1) Murphy’s Law – Packers vs. Seahawks – 2014 NFC Championship Game
Speaking of almost dying during a game, here we are at number one. The story here though is that it wasn’t the cold that killed me, it was myself after watching the Packers choke away another Super Bowl opportunity. If you aren’t aware of what happened in this game, just google it, I don’t have the strength to talk about, I’m too worn down by trudging through all of this disappointment.
But, you know what? That’s sort of the perverse beauty of sports, some of the time you’re feeling good, some of the time you hate it, but most of the time it’s very exciting. There’s something to root for, some story to craft, moments and memories to rise from the ether. I went over this list with a buddy of mine (Scott, with whom I recorded an unreleased Wrestlemania preview podcast that will NEVER see the light of day, not after all those shots of Fireball) and he was surprised at some of the games I couldn’t even include. You get a lifetime of memories and all it takes is a little bit of your precious time. Well, and your sanity.
Editors note: Please excuse any spelling errors, typos, or anything that doesn’t make sense as I did not have the fortitude to re-read through this a second time.