Let’s not waste any time here, let’s jump right into it: what is your most heartbreaking moment as a sports fan? What is that one moment, that one injury, that one play you simply never recovered from? This can be anything from your team’s loss in the finals to missing out on a crazy comeback because you wanted to beat traffic on the way home. It’s pretty wide open, obviously. Everyone’s definition of heartbreak differs when it comes to fandom.
Tell us your stories and let’s hug it out in the comments section.
I grew up a diehard Detroit sports fan, so it’s hard to single out any one moment. There are too many to count really. But there’s one in particular that ruined Christmas for me. Yes, a sporting event ruined the happiness of gifts and food and family and Santa Claus. Not surprisingly it was the Detroit Lions.
You see, on December 24th, 2000 the Lions needed to beat the lowly Bears (4-11) in the last game of the season to make the playoffs. They were favored by 10 points home and the Bears had NOTHING to play for. Nothing. But a late game fumble by Lions QB Stoney Case (WHO?) gave the Bears a chance at a 54-yard field goal for the win. Paul Edinger didn’t have a strong leg so most thought the kick would be short or blocked.
I was sitting behind the goal post. I saw the ball just clear the crossbar as time expired. My heart sunk. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Lions fans were so angry, so pissed at the outcome they began fighting each other. Then as the players left the field, fans pegged them with toilet paper and other foreign objects. It was a riot, literally. I barely got out of the stadium.
I woke up the next morning completely fed up with the Lions, completely fed up with sports as a whole. That loss ultimately ushered the Matt Millen era and arguably the worst decade in the history of professional football.
Heartbreak doesn’t begin to describe my feelings.
I was 11 or 12 when I traveled from South Florida to Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis with my friend and his dad for a summer baseball trip, and it was so amazing to me, because it was the first time I got to visit Busch Stadium. We got there early and stood by the dugout to get autographs and beg for balls, and Ozzie Smith, my childhood hero, looked right at me, flipped a ball to me and ran into the dugout. The ball floated 5 feet over my head, landed next to some fat old guy, and he kept it. I was devastated. Still am.
The most heartbreaking moment for me as a sports fan was probably the 2004 Super Bowl. After many, many failures in the NFC Championship game, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles had finally made it. I had, to this point, never seen one of my teams win a title. I was also in college at the time, so it became, like a thing. A full-on, weekend-long party. That Sunday was basically 12 straight hours of pizza, beer, and dangerously geeked-out anticipation.
CUT TO: Immediately after the game. Moments after Donovan McNabb may or may not have thrown up while trying to lead a game-winning drive. In a room filled with filled with 20-25 drunken people. Nothing. Not a peep, not a reaction, nothing. It felt like it lasted for hours, too. We all went home like zombies. I realized later that it hadn’t even dawned on me that the team could lose that game. Just total, total shock. Sports are bad.
In 1993, I was a 14 year old White Sox fan. Looking back, I can’t think of anything that meant more to me at that time than baseball, and luckily for me, my favorite team was good. They won the American League West and were facing the Blue Jays in the ALCS. Back then you had to call in for playoff tickets, and somehow my older brother scored some for Game 7. Toronto had a 3 games to 2 lead heading into Game 6, but if the White Sox could pull out a win, I’d be going to a Game 7 where my team would have a chance to go to the World Series for the first time since 1959. My parents told me I could take off of school the next day if they won. Of course they lost and I don’t remember the game being all that close. It’s been 21 years, but I still hate Scott Radinsky. Oh and I had to go to school the next day.
My most heartbreaking sports moment (if it even counts as sports, which it doesn’t) is the death of Chris Benoit. Imagine seeing a man who was literally everything you loved and supported about a sport. Imagine watching him for struggle and fight and claw for 15 years only to break through against all odds and accomplish his wildest dreams. Then wake up one day and see that he brutally murdered his wife and a 7-year old. Breaking a heart doesn’t even begin to describe it.
My two favorite teams, and the only two teams I root for in any professional sport (unless rooting against every Boston team counts as rooting for?), are the Carolina Panthers and New York Mets. In my lifetime, they’ve each been to a single championship: 2004 for Carolina, 2000 for New York. They both lost. Yet neither defeat is my most soul-crushing sports fan moment — that would be goddamn Adam Wainwright’s goddamn perfect goddamn curveball against Carlos Beltran in game seven of the goddamn 2006 NLCS. It was a perfect pitch, and I can’t blame Beltran for looking at it the way I do complex math equations, but I can be mad that since that game, the Mets have blown two first-place leads and haven’t won more than 80 games since 2008. LOLmets, indeed.
I hit a nadir as a sports fan watching the 2006 national championship game between Ohio State, my hometown university, and Florida. It wasn’t just that the Gators, lead by current Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer, waxed Ohio State so thoroughly, but their victory gave every mouth-breathing SEC fan (and Southerners will tell you they’re “SEC fans”) the vindication they’d been seeking since Sherman torched Atlanta. It’s something I’ve had to relive every season since when force-fed Finebaum and top-ten rankings dominated by SEC schools. F*ck that.