Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wisconsin Sports Despair

I can across a Sports Illustrated Article the other day about the disappointment of sports fans in Philadelphia. Apparently they have gone 100 seasons (professional sports only) without a championship. Check it out - Philly Futility
Their last championship was 1983. But that got me thinking about Milwaukee sports heartbreaks. The Brewers haven't made the playoffs since I've been alive. The last professional championship was 1971, but of course, we do not have 4 teams like Philly. I then expanded my sports heartbreaks the whole State of Wisconsin and started to get pretty depressed. I am one of those people who remembers the loses much more vividly than the wins. So I've put together my own list of Wisconsin Sports Heartbreaks. I'll concentrate mostly on the last dozen years, you know the things I actually remember. Enjoy.

21. Just Short- This is definitely a Milwaukee special here. George Webb is a popular area 24-hour diner. They have had an on-going promotion where they predict the Brewers will win 12 straight. Nobody knew what would happen until the Brewers won 13 straight in 1987 and everyone got free burgers! Wow. So in 2003, in the midst of another horrible season, the Brewers put together 10 straight wins. The city was abuzz anticipating free burgers. But, the streak was ended by the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Damn.
Heart broken. Stomach Empty.

20. Ray Allen Trade- Ray Allen, Milwaukee fan favorite gets traded for Gary Payton in 2003. This was the last ditch effort to take advantage of a good team. Gary Payton ended up playing about 20 games and led the Bucks to a first round playoff lose. The team has never recovered from the lose of Ray.

19. Robert "Tractor" Traylor- This one is mostly hindsight, but even at the time, you had to know Tractor Traylor wasn't going to be a great NBA player. I mean, he's fat. But who knew Dirk Nowitski was going to be so great? Just imagine the team with Dirk, Big Dawg, Sam Cassell, and Ray. Wow. Big Four.

18. 1981 Brewers - This is one I mostly heard about from my Mom. It has to do with the strike split season in 1981. Apparently the Brewers had by far the best record in the second half of the season and the better overall record, but had to play the Yankees in a playoff because the won the first half of the season. The Brewers lost of course and didn't make the playoffs until the next year. Sounds about right.

17. The Last Piece of the Puzzle- The year is 2001. The Bucks are coming off a heartbreaking conference Championship loss to the Sixers, but also a super promising year. Their solution to overcome the hump - Anthony Mason. I admit it, I was pretty stoked at the time, thought he would be the inside presence we needed. Boy, was I wrong. He came in fat, and stayed fat, slow, and lazy all season. He totally disrupted the flow of our game.
So how did Mason help out the Bucks? 2002, didn't even make the playoffs.

16. Packers home playoff loss- I've always hated the Vikings more than any team. They have been the Packers' biggest rival since I've been a fan, mostly due to the even match-ups between the two. But I guess I wasn't really into the Packer's this season. It was a tough loss, but I barely remember the game. Mostly I remember the Randy Moss Moon. Man. 15. Best Team Never to Make it to a Final? - Apparently, the Milwaukee Bucks were a force to be reckoned with in the 80's. They went to the playoffs every year of the 1980's winning 7 straight division titles, but never made it to the finals. They lost to Seattle in 7 games in '80, Philly in 7 games in '81, Philly in 6 in '82, Philly in 5 in the '83 conference finals, Boston in the '84 conference finals, Philly again in 85, Boston again in the '86 conference finals, and then Boston in 7 games in 87.
Man, always the brides maid, but I would definitely take Conference final Appearance for the Bucks in the next few years.

14. The Lambeau Mystique? - The Green Bay Packers had NEVER lost a home playoff game. 8-0 at home on the year. Brett Favre had never lost under 30 degrees. It was January and snowing against the dome-team Atlanta Falcons. Things were looking good. But looks were far from the truth. At nights end, the Packer's streaks were done. A 27-7 loss. Wow, there goes the Lambeau mystique. And Green Bay has never really captured it back.
But Atlanta's amazing quarterback is currently sitting in jail after running dog-fighting rings, so I guess I'll take the loss.

13. Brewers Management - Let's face it, the 1990's were a rough decade for the Brewers, and that may be an understatement. Much if it was due to horrible personal moves. Bud Selig baby. Wow, he was bad. I'm sure every team can look back on the bad moves they made, but for the Brewers, it just seems astonishing. Here's just a few of them.
Break out years after leaving the Brewers - John Jaha, Dante Bichette, B.J. Surhoff, Paul Moliter, Gary Sheffield, even Troy O'Leary.
Horrible pick-ups - Jeffery Hammonds, Chuckie Carr, Marquis Grissom, Glendon Rusch, Henry Blanco, Gerald Williams.
And I am sure many, many more.

12. Pacers Series Losses - 1999 and 2000. This was a fun time for the Bucks. There was really the sense of improvement and the feeling that something big would soon happen. I remember George Karl getting standing ovations. Unfortunately, both of these years we ran into the top seeded Indiana Pacers. Both series were good fights, especially the second one, with Indiana winning the deciding game 5 with a late 3 pointer from Travis Best. Man, Travis Best. But the play of the Bucks even made Reggie Miller cordial, saying "The better team lost the series."

11. Badgers Start 9-0. - This was a big one for me, but might not be remembered as well by most people. It was my junior of college, my first year living off campus. We lived right on Dayton Street. Lots of great pre-game parties (beer bongs, quarters, Beirut, a great pre-game CD). Look at our support below. (That's a nice looking B) Just an awesome time/place. Plus, the Badgers, who weren't supposed to be great that year, started out an incredible 9-0. They were ranked 4th in the country. There was talk about a national championship. We squeaked out a win at Arizona. Beat Ohio State convincingly at the Horse Shoe and Scott Starks amazing sack/fumble recovery TD over Kyle Orton and Purdue. But it all came viciously crashing down in the 10th game. At Michigan State we got crushed 49-14. A particular Michigan St, goal stance at the end of the first half sticks out in my brain. And a week later, we still had a chance to get to the Rose Bowl, but again were crushed, this time 30-7 against Iowa. The great season ended with an Outback Bowl loss to Georgia.
What could have been.

10. TO catch- I can still see TO's crying ass face after his last second TD catch from Steve Young in the Packer's 1998 wild-card loss to the 49ers. He wasn't well known back then, but I've hated him ever since. Many have joined the hate-wagon since. Jerry Rice's fumble helped bring back instant reply. Mike Holgren's last game. All and all a tough day.

9. Losses to the Cowboys - Green Bay Packer losses to the Dallas Cowboys were just a given part of my childhood. 3 times in the playoffs including one Conference Championship. Three regular season loses including the damn Jason Garrett Thanksgiving game. I hate the Cowboys still.

8. Brewers losing seasons- Another given in my childhood/high school years - the Brewers would suck. Yes, no doubt about it. Losing season 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. Wow, that's a lot. I went to countless games at County Stadium and then Miller Park and listened to Bob Uecker pretty much every night. Many loses. Many, many loses. Trivia, what Brewer is pictured below?

7. '07 Collapse - That being said, I also remember that pretty much every year since 2002 was going to be "the year" for the Brewers. '06 was a bust, but '07 had to be it. I even made it to opening day. The excitement in Brew City was palpable, 24-10 best record in the league. But this is still fresh in the memory of you all I'm sure. Ben Sheets injury, horrible streak by Capuano, JJ Hardy drop in production, pretty much a bad 2nd half of the season. Taken over by the dreaded Chicago Cubs. So close, yet....

6. Badger Basketball -
I'm confident in saying the The Wisconsin Badger Basketball program is among the elite in the country. There is no doubt about it. Look at this decade. Awesome. But they are just not good enough to compete in March. This makes me very sad and angry. Just look at the last two years. Ever since my senior year 2006 I was talking up 2007 as the Year for the Badgers- Tucker, Taylor, Butch - pretty much telling everyone I know about them. I was feeling a Championship. We even got the #1 ranking. But a falter down the stretch we ended with a 2 seed and lost to UNLV in the second round. Such a disappointment. Then this past year was the opposite, no expectations. But a great season including a Big Ten outright championship and a Big Ten Tournament Championship, got hopes high again. I was feeling Final Four. It was looking good after dominating Beasley and Kansas St., but again we were brought up only to be let down hard, getting killed by Davidson. This one still hurts. Also, it made me realize that Bo Ryan and Wisconsin will never win a Championship or even go to the Final Four. We just don't have the athletes.
I still bleed Wisconsin Red, though!

5. Braves Leave Milwaukee - This should probably be number one, but it was so long ago. My parents still talk about it to this day. The Braves left Milwaukee in 1965 and the city did not have a professional sports team for a while. Yes, a big lose for the city. Hank Aaron breaks the record in an "A" hat instead of an "M". I can't image a team living. Sorry Seattle.

4. Big Dog Miss- 2001 conference finals, it's all knotted up 2 games apiece. Game 5 in Philadelphia is a back and forth affair. Eric Snow played with a fractured ankle. Bucks were down 1 Derrick Mckie misses two free throw. Glenn Robinson has a 12-foot jumper from the baseline with a second left. It's his shot.... looks good... Buck will control the series...rims out...damn.
Yes, this was the chance for the Bucks to go to the Championship. Will it happen again in my life time?

3. 2008 NFC Championship - This one still upsets me. At home against the Giants. We play pretty badly, still have a chance to win, blow it all. You know the story. I drank a lot that night, good thing I didn't have to work the next day.

2. 4th and 26- This one really makes me want to use the Lords name in vain. I'm serious. Look at that picture.
I can't talk about it. 4th and 26 has it's own wikipedia entry check that

1. Superbowl XXXII Loss - Man this one still hurts ten years later. Good thing I couldn't drink at the time. Haha. It's still a punch in the stomach. Man. I hate seeing Elway's horse-ass-face and his "incredible" first down run. It was so unbelievable at the time. Even when Holmgren let them score, even when it was fourth down, even after the pass to Chumura hit the ground, I still thought the Pack was going to win. Man. I still can't believe it.

There you go sports fans. It's great to be a Wisconsin sports fan, I'm not gonna lie. We talk about Super Bowl XXXI, 1982, 1977, Ron Dayne in the Rose Bowl, 1971, even 1957. I love it. It's a hard love to have, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. All these tragedies make the triumphs even sweeter. It's not just sports. It's life.


Thorzul said...

"All these tragedies make the triumphs even sweeter."
You said it all, man.

4th and 26 and later the 2008 NFC Championship: Both of those games ended with a shower of broken beer bottle glass in my respective apartments. For the TO touchdown, I managed to take out my frustrations on an unsuspecting newspaper.

I would also include the 2003 Marquette Final Four loss to Kansas and Kirk "The Elven Fairy" Heinrich, as well as a more localized disappointment, Rufus King High School's 1994 state basketball finals loss to Stevens Point. Diante Flenorl!

Jessie Orosco said...

The Bucks trading Ray Allen should be ranked a bit higher ... this was a b.s. move & everyone knew it right away. NO WAY the Glove was willing to stay in Milwaukee after his contract ended. Absolutely ridiculous.

Also, just a small side note ... that Packer playoff game versus Atlanta was a tale of two halves. From what I recall, the Falcons had a field day in the first half because the weather was OK & the field was relatively fast. But then a ton of snow fell at halftime & through the second half, which pretty much evened things out.

I agree with Thorzul about that Marquette-Kansas game ... I remember it felt like getting grazed in the nuts by some passing object.

Another one that can be tacked on with all the other Brewer stuff ... they were 2 games behind Toronto with two left in 1992, but Milwaukee lost the pair at Oakland & Toronto won their two. And then only a few years later the MLB starts up the wild card format. Crap.

Anonymous said...

Good List. I wasn't a big Bucks or Brewers fan back in the day so no real insight into those. I do clearly remember that TO catch and the ridiculous Rice fumble ruling. The 4th and 26 was equally devastating, my number one exhibit as to why "Prevent" defense is bull. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that Brewer is Brooks Kieshnick, the double threat pitcher/hitter. A fan favorite, including one of mine. Also, E is my favorite letter of the Badger alphabet.


Anonymous said...

Good List. I wasn't a big Bucks or Brewers fan back in the day so no real insight into those. I do clearly remember that TO catch and the ridiculous Rice fumble ruling. The 4th and 26 was equally devastating, my number one exhibit as to why "Prevent" defense is bull. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that Brewer is Brooks Kieshnick, the double threat pitcher/hitter. A fan favorite, including one of mine. Also, E is my favorite letter of the Badger alphabet.


Anonymous said...

Good List. I wasn't a big Bucks or Brewers fan back in the day so no real insight into those. I do clearly remember that TO catch and the ridiculous Rice fumble ruling. The 4th and 26 was equally devastating, my number one exhibit as to why "Prevent" defense is bull. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that Brewer is Brooks Kieshnick, the double threat pitcher/hitter. A fan favorite, including one of mine. Also, E is my favorite letter of the Badger alphabet.


Anonymous said...

You can probably erase two of those comments.


Tony Brown said...

Nice work Stone on the Brooks Kieshnick call. Maybe next time, though, don't write it three times.