Every four years, the world celebrates the spirit of competition, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. From blow-outs to buzzer-beaters, or rallying from behind, there are numerous ways in which a competition can be won, or more importantly, lost.
While we watch in on athletes from across the globe climb podiums to accept their medals, very little attention is paid to those who came up short. However, today we will celebrate failure, and highlight some of the worst defeats in modern sports history.
Top 5 Worst Losses of All Time
5. Wide Right
Super Bowl XXV
Super Bowl XXV was the most closely contested championship game of the Super Bowl era. The high-powered offense of the Buffalo Bills was coming at full strength at the lockdown defense of the New York Giants, leading to a back and forth battle that lasted for the entire 60 minutes. After Giant kicker Matt Bahr's fourth quarter field goal, New York led 20-19 with just minutes remaining.
Both teams traded possessions in the final minutes, and Buffalo ended up with the ball with at their own 10-yard line with 2:16 remaining. Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas were able to lead the Bills down the field, making it to the Giants' 29-yard line with 8 seconds remaining. Head Coach Marv Levy opted to send in Scott Norwood and the kicking unit for a 47-yard field goal attempt that would potentially give Buffalo the lead and ultimate victory.
The snap was good, the hold was solid, and the kick had the distance... but Scott Norwood pushed the ball wide right, by a matter of inches. Buffalo would lose the game, as well as the next three Super Bowls.
4. Third Time's A Charm
1972 USA-USSR Olympic Basketball Final
September 9, 1972, amidst the contentious Cold War, The USA faced the Soviet Union in the Gold Medal match at the Munich Olympics. Much of the game was fairly uneventful, but a series of events in the final minute would cause the match to become regarded as the most controversial basketball game of all-time. With three seconds left in the game, Doug Collins made two clutch free throws(even though there was an arrant buzzer set off by the scorer's table during his second shot) to take the lead. So, with the USA now leading 50-49, the USSR had only three seconds to travel the length of the court and score. The ball was considered live at the completion of the second free throw, but the Soviets argued that they had attempted to call a timeout. Although the clock had now ticked down to one second, officials ordered a re-play, resetting the clock back to three.
On the second attempt, the USSR attempted a full court pass, which was deflected off the backboard, thus allowing time to expire, seemingly ending the game with a US victory. However, the officials cleared the court once again, claiming the clock had not been properly reset. There would now be a third inbound attempt, and a third chance for the USSR to win the Gold. On the third and final attempt, the Soviets threw a full court pass, which made it safely to Aleksander Belov, who was able to complete a layup as time expired.
The USSR was awarded the Gold Medal, the USA vehemently protested, and to this day have refused to accept their Silver Medals.
3. The Comeback
Houston at Buffalo: 1992 NFL Wild Card
Following a 10-6 regular season, the Houston Oilers traveled to Orchard Park, NY for a Wild Card Playoff matchup against the two-time defending AFC Champion, Buffalo Bills. Although Buffalo was favored in this matchup, the two teams had met in the previous week for the final game of the regular season, where Houston dominated the Bills, 27-3.
The playoff matchup picked up where the previous week had left off, as the Oilers jumped out to a 28-3 lead by halftime. Jim Kelly left the game with a leg injury, so this mess of a game was now in the hands of backup, Frank Reich. Buffalo's woes continued into the second half, as Reich proceeded to throw a pick-six on the Bills' first possession of the 3rd Quarter.
With a score of 35-3, the game, and the Bills season seemed to be lost. Even worse, pro-Bowl running back Thurman Thomas was out of the game with an injury. The Buffalo sideline was void of enthusiasm or hope, but there was still plenty of football to play.
However, with 8:52 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the bills found the end zone for the first time, making the score 35-10. They proceeded to recover the ensuing onside kick, then quickly scored on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Don Beebe, cutting the lead to 18. Houston had now lost their momentum, and was forced to punt for the first time, which led to another score. The Oilers' following possession ended when Warren moon's pass was tipped and intercepted, leading to yet another score.
Leading by only 4 points, Houston finally reached the red zone again in the 4th Quarter, but a botched field goal attempt gave Buffalo possession again. Reich led the team downfield to another touchdown, making the score 38-35, and giving them the lead for the first time. Houston then added a field goal, tying the game, sending the teams into overtime. Houston won the OT coin toss, but Warren Moon threw another untimely pick, which was returned to the Oiler 35. A 15-yard facemask penalty put the ball on the 20, inviting kicker Steve Christie to come out and knock in the game winning field goal. The victory was the biggest comeback in NFL history, and allowed Buffalo to move on toward their 3rd consecutive Super Bowl.
Houston (as the Tennessee Titans) was able to return the favor to some extent, by defeating the bills in a 2000 Playoff game via the "Music City Miracle."
2. Mookie Wilson's Chopper
1986 World Series: Game 6
Heading into the 10th inning of the sixth game in the 1986 World Series, the score was tied at 3-3. In the top half of the extra frame, Dave Henderson hit a solo home run, followed by an RBI single by Marty Barrett, giving the Sox a 5-3 lead entering the bottom of the 10th. The Red Sox needed just three outs in order to clinch their first World Series title since 1918, but fate seemed to have other plans.
The bottom of the 10th inning would feature a chain of events that most Sox fans would soon rather forget. The first such event was a questionable call by manager John McNamara. Normally, in late-innings, aging first baseman Bill Buckner would be pulled in favor of the younger, more defensively apt Dave Stapleton. However, Buckner was sent out to the field for this crucial inning. Next, after retiring the first two Met hitters, Sox' pitcher Calvin Schiraldi gave up 3 consecutive singles, allowing one run in, making the score 5-4. McNamara made a pitching change, bringing in Bob Stanley to finish the game. With the tying run on third, and the winning run on second base, Stanley had two strikes against Mookie Wilson, needing just one more in order to earn a World Series victory for Boston. However, Stanley let loose a wild pitch into the dirt, which skipped to the backstop, allowing the tying run to score.
After fouling off two pitches, Mookie Wilson took the tenth pitch of the at bat, and slapped it down the first base line. The chopper made its way to Buckner, who charged to his left, bent down to scoop it up to end the inning, but the ball scooted under his glove and into right field. Ray Knight scored from third, and the Mets took the game 6-5. They would also go on to win 8-5 in Game 7, giving New York the Series, and extending the "Curse of the Bambino" for another 18 years.
1. Three Down, One To Go
In 2003, the Sox watched a promising postseason fall to pieces after Aaron Boone took a Wakefield knuckleball down the 3rd base line, into the bleachers just inside the foul pole. This Game 7 loss turned Red Sox Nation upside-down, and pushed Grady Little out of town.
In 2004, Boston earned the AL Wild Card spot, swept Anaheim in 3 games, and headed back to face off against the New York Yankees once again. However, unlike 2003, this was not a back and forth series. The Yankees looked sharp, taking the first two games at Yankee Stadium, 10-7 and 3-1 respectively. Sox hoped to even things up when the series moved to Boston, but things went from bad to worse... The Sox dropped Game 3 horrifically in a 19-8 blowout.
Down three games to none, the series result seemed to be an inevitability. Once again, the Red Sox looked to be on the verge of the type of disappointment that had occurred far too often in the previous 86 years. At this point, the only hope amongst Sox fans was to prevent a sweep from the dreaded Yankees. However, by the way things started in Game 4, a sweep seemed to be unavoidable. Entering the 9th inning, the Sox trailed 4-3, and Mariano Rivera was throwing heat on the mound. Following a lead-off walk to Kevin Millar, speedy veteran Dave Roberts was sent in to pinch run. Following three straight pickoff attempts from Rivera, Roberts took off on the fourth pitch, narrowly beating the throw and arriving safely at second on a head-first slide. This stolen base would prove to be vitally important, as Bill Mueller proceeded to knock him in on a bloop single, sending the game into extra innings, where David Ortiz blasted a 2-run walk-off home run to win the game.
Using these late game heroics as momentum, the Sox proceeded to take Game 5 on another walk-off hit from David Ortiz in the 14th inning. Boston also took Games 6 & 7 completing the improbable comeback and utter collapse from the Yankees.
The Boston Red Sox continued their win streak, proceeding to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games on way to their first World Series Championship since 1918.
Honorable Mention: Valeriy Borchin Olympic Race Walker (Photo Below), 2003 Chicago Cubs, 2011 Boston Red Sox, 2007 New York Mets, 1978 Boston Red Sox, 2007 Dallas Mavericks
- Kevin Aherne
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