First of all, let me apologize for making you relive this stuff, I know some of these memories might not be very pleasant. It's just that I've had a pretty disappointing couple of years as a sports fan. I won't call them bad years, because really that word should be reserved for Cleveland fans, but disappointing nonetheless as some painful defeats have taken some joy away from some otherwise great seasons. Being at the time of the year when there's pretty much nothing to watch for a sports fan, I have spent a couple of months over-thinking about some of those painful defeats, torturing myself with those memories as I wait for September to come and the Steelers to help me erase some of them. Meanwhile, I thought maybe sharing with you some of that pain might help me get through this football-less summer.
With that in mind, I'll now share with you the most painful, loses I have experienced as a sports fan. Thankfully, I do not have enough Steelers loses to fill a top ten, at least not without including some irrelevant ones, so I'll include others from the other sports/teams I follow on a regular basis. Please feel free to share your stories as well.
10.-Raiders lose Super Bowl XXXVII to Tampa Bay
Ok, let me explain this one first. The reason I'm a football fan in the first place, is my dad, he was the one who started me in both watching and playing football. He, as far as I can remember, rooted for both the Steelers and the Raiders. He became a fan in the 80's so he never experienced the 70's rivalry, and he had no hate for either team. Also, being football fans in Mexico, in TV we mostly get games from the most popular teams, regardless of how good or bad they're doing at the time, so Steelers and Raiders games are frequent in Mexican TV coverage. As for me, I grew up with my dad as my idol, so I took on rooting for both as well. I loved those early 2000's when both teams were good, I wanted nothing more than a playoff match-up; to clarify, the Steelers have always come first, for both of us, so we would've rooted for the Steelers in that scenario. Anyway, the point is, it was the Raiders in the SB, so we were both excited; for me, it would be the first time I would watch a team I rooted for in the SB. I was only 4 years old in SB XXX, so I had no memories of watching that game. I had very high expectations of a SB party with my uncle and cousins who are also huge football fans, but in the end we watched the game at home, and it was horrible. Not being at home, just the actual game, the Raiders got their butt kicked. It was the last game I can remember when I actually cried that my team lost, I was 12. Ever since then, my Raiders following has dropped considerably. I still root for them if I catch a game, as long as it's not the Steelers on the other side, but such a long irrelevance streak has taken its toll. And yes, I did hate the Raiders for beating the Steelers in 2009 and costing them a playoff spot.
9.- Steelers lose to Tebow-led Broncos in 2011 Wild Card Round
This one is a wound that's still open. To explain how much this one hurt, I first have to tell you about my living situation. I lived the first 19 years of my life with my parents in Mexico City; growing up, watching football was a huge tradition for me and my dad. Then, in the summer of 2010, I moved to Monterrey to begin college, I go back home every July and December, during my school breaks. Because of the limited time, I really treasure the games I get to watch with my dad, it's just special. This game was the last one I would get to watch at home before going back to Monterrey for school; in fact, my plane was scheduled to leave about an hour and a half after the game was expected to end. The other big factor for this game is, it was Tebow. All season I had nothing but mocking for the Tebow drama, I just couldn't believe the Broncos were in the playoffs with such a bad QB. With the Steelers having the #1 Defense, it was a no-brainer. But then Tebow decided he was going to play like a damn All-Pro, while the Steelers defense simply had a bad day. Of course we still had a chance at the end, if not for that ill-timed sack that prevented a game-winning drive, we go to overtime. By this time, my mom is yelling at us to turn off the TV and head for the airport, but we can't miss the end of the game! We just put a deadline to leave at a certain time regardless of the game, to make sure I didn't miss the flight. It was mute though, as Demaryius Thomas stiff-armed Ike Taylor on the way to the end zone, I began to put on my jacket and grab my bag. I did catch my plane, so in the end, the Steelers lost a playoff game and I had to say good-bye to my family in the span of 2 hours, that hurts.
8.-San Antonio Spurs lose 2008 WCF to LA Lakers
Since it's not football related, I'll keep this one short. I became a Spurs fan back in 2004 (I'll tell this story in #4), I had watched them as they won 2 NBA Championships, and I was really excited for the 2008 playoffs, I hoped they would finally win back-to-back titles. In Mexico, we don't get a very extensive coverage of the NBA, we do get the playoffs, but most of the time ESPN Latin America decides to show only 1 CF match-up, in that year, the ECF. I didn't get to watch the first 2, but I managed to watch games 3 & 4 on another channel. The Lakers won the first 2 as the Spurs squandered a 20+ points 2nd half lead in game 1. The Spurs got back in the series by winning game 3 behind Manu Ginobili's heroics (my favorite player) but then lost game 4 on a controversial no-call in the final seconds. The Lakers then closed it out in game 5. It was painful for 2 reasons, first I really thought the Spurs could be champions that year, and #2, I am a Laker hater.
7.- Cruz Azul loses Mexican soccer League final to Toluca
Growing up in Mexico, you have to follow soccer, it's everywhere. By now, I don't follow Mexican soccer, in part because of the disappointments my favorite team (Cruz Azul) gave me, but mostly because I just don't like the sport that much, particularly in Mexico, with what I consider very poor level of play and crazy, out of control fan following in the country. This one was the last big disappointment they gave me. The team has not won a championship since 1997, and this one was the 2nd consecutive final appearance. They lost the previous one but it looked like this one was meant to be. The first game, they lost at home, which in my opinion was the one thing they absolutely had to do, as winning on the road against Toluca is very hard. My hopes were already low after the home loss, but as I watched the 2nd game, I was amazed by the heart they showed. At the time, it was considered as next to impossible to win in Toluca, but Cruz Azul had tied the aggregate score, even playing with 10 men as an injury sidelined a player after all 3 substitutions had been made. In the end, they lost in the penalty shootout. It took about 2 more seasons for me to completely stop watching Mexican soccer, but even before this game it had been about a year since I had really followed the team. By now I usually just search the scores at the end of the weekend.
6.- FC Barcelona loses La Liga title to arch rival Real Madrid at home stadium
Again, not a big soccer fan, but I do usually watch FC Barcelona games. I just like they way THEY play soccer. My affiliation for FC Barcelona is also due to my dad's own affiliation to that team, so by reflex, I do not like Real Madrid. This one is from the most recent La Liga championship, as the 2nd Barca-Madrid game was approaching, Barcelona was cutting into Real Madrid's once-thought-as-impossible-to-overcome 10 points lead, if they won the 2nd head-to-head match-up, they would be just 1 point behind. I actually didn't get to watch the game, I was in San Antonio for a college event, but when I found out they lost and watched the highlights, I felt the disappointment.
5.- Cruz Azul loses Mexican soccer League semifinals to arch rival America
The last soccer one. About 3 years before #7 happened, I was much more enthusiastic about soccer. Mostly because I was still in school, so the interaction with my classmates was what kept me interested in soccer. Anyway, Cruz Azul had one of its best seasons, they were an offensive machine and steamrolled everyone on their way to securing a playoff spot VERY early. They also had a huge lead, one that seemed to guarantee the #2 team would not catch them, so they'd very likely get the #1 seed. Then, and injury to my then favorite player (Argentine striker Cesar Delgado) the week before clinching the playoff spot motivated the coach to sit the star players the rest of the way. The problem was, they was about 6 weeks left to play! Delgado made it back for the playoffs, but the team was badly in decline by the time the playoffs came. They had shockingly lost the #1 seed, and the chemistry and cohesiveness they had showed in building that commanding lead was nowhere to be seen. They somehow managed to advance the 1st round, then going to the semifinals against arch rival America. Since some family members are America fans, while some others join me in the Cruz Azul side, we decided to go to the stadium for the 1st game, to take place in the 110,000 capacity Aztec Stadium, home of America. It was horrible, America destroyed Cruz Azul and I had to see their fans celebrate the win. Then for the 2nd game, Cruz Azul scored first and quickly, so it seemed they were getting back in the fight, but America again destroyed them the rest of the way, a very frustrating defeat.
4.- Derek Fisher's 0.4 shot
This was the series that made me a Spurs fan. My dad was a Bulls fan thanks to MJ, but I didn't remember those days so I never became a Bulls fan (the only sport where we root for different teams). I did agree with him on being a Lakers hater, so I rooted for anyone who played the Lakers. That's how I came to this series, I rooted for the Spurs in this one because I wanted them to beat LA, but while doing that I started to like they way San Antonio played, as well as some of their players (Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili), of course, a big factor there was that they were beating them in the beginning. With the series tied at 2-2, game 5 came down to the final seconds, when Timmy D made an insane shot that seemingly put the game away. But no, Derek Fisher had to come in and ruin everything. The Spurs lost the series and my following of the team began with the left foot, but I've been a fan ever since.
3.- San Antonio Spurs lose 2012 WCF to the OKC Thunder
The most recent overall, so probably the one that needs less explanation. While I've been a fan since 2004, the low TV coverage of the NBA mostly prevents me from watching the games regularly. Ironically, the solution was not having a TV. Watching the games in my computer I managed to see all 20 games of the epic Spurs winning streak this past season. Then, the Thunder came in and beat the Spurs 4 times in a row to knock them out. It was particularly painful that the game that broke my streak of games watched was game 3, the one that also broke the Spurs streak, I was on a plane as this game was happening. Of course, the other big factor why this one hurt so much was the anticipation and hype that the 20-game streak created, I was certain this year was for the Spurs, at the end of game 6, I was in shock that the Spurs were actually being eliminated.
2.- Steelers lose the 2004 AFC Championship to the Patriots
Now for the 2 big ones. This is another case of being right at the start of the road. I can remember being a Steelers fan as far back as 1997. I can remember sitting through games as far as 2001, but really understanding what it is to be a die-hard, week-after-week, 24/7 Steelers fan, since 2004. The years before that I really got excited over the season and the games, but being a young boy, I also could get bored when watching the games and switch activities, or forget there was a game, things like that. It was until 2004 at age 13 that I began to follow and study the game weekly and really be a die-hard fan. A big factor in that, was the excitement of Rookie of the Year Ben Roethlisberger, who quickly became my favorite player. Being the first season as a die-hard fan makes this loss that much more painful. The Steelers had beaten the Pats earlier in 2004 (a glorious moment that is unfortunately tainted as I can't enjoy the memory of that game due to my memory of this one), looking as dominant as ever, so I was pumped for this one, expecting the Steelers to kick butt, avenge the prior loss to the Pats and go the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995/96. Then the first half from hell happened, and a second half comeback was way short. Honestly, this loss hurt so bad I wasn't sure I wanted to follow the team after that; I felt they always did this, have great seasons then lose in the end (while I had no memory of watching those games, I was aware of the AFC Championship history of the 90s and 2000s). It was just a young boy's frustration, it didn't really last long, and I never stopped following the team, but the bad memories from that loss are still with me.
1.- Steelers lose Super Bowl XLV to the Packers
This one is a combination of #2, #9 and of course, being a SB loss. It was the 1st season I followed the team on my own. It was a magical season, filled with spectacular plays, awesome moments and memorable games. I can still remember my reactions to the last 2 Baltimore games. I had to contain myself from screaming as I watched Troy force a Flacco fumble to give the team a chance to win in Baltimore, or Antonio Brown catching that beautiful Big Ben rainbow at the end of the playoff game. The 2010 AFC Championship was also the first game I ever watched at a bar, a really exciting game also. But for SB XLV, I had to make it back home, like I said, it's tradition for me and my dad to watch the games together, and a Steelers SB ranks #1 in importance. I did make it back home for that weekend, and really had a great time watching the game. Steeler-bias aside, it was a great game, big plays, momentum going back and forth, a great performance from Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben came close of completing the biggest comeback in SB history (not referring to the final drive, but rather the long bomb when he overthrew Wallace, it would have been the lead and I don't think the Packers recover if they had lost that lead). Still, losing the SB has to hurt. Making it worse of course, was having to say good-bye to my family the next morning. It would have been the most glorious of the SB wins I've watched, because of everything that happened that season and my personal situation, but coming up just short still hurts. I still cannot watch even highlights from that game, or avoid day-dreaming about that final drive ending in a Steelers TD.
So that's it, those are my most painful experiences. I cannot really complain because as you see, mostly the teams I root for do well and are generally in contention for championships, still, sometimes a loss can hurt quite bad. What do you guys think?