This is a thread for your top worst losses of all time. We all have'em. I call it the "Sting List". Losses that still burn years later when you think of'em. Not confined to just Louisville athletics. It can be any sport, any team. Not sure if it's ever been done here before, but, should be interesting nonetheless.
Doesn't have to be any certain number.
Here are my top 5, in no particular order of hurt. What are your's?
1. Louisville loses to Illinois - 2005 Final Four
The Illini were a damn good team that year. But, so were we. Every so often I'll pop in the VHS tape I made of the Cards run to the Final Four, starting with the C-USA Championship game against Memphis. Quickly I am reminded of just how damn good of a shooting team we were then, and how far every UofL team has been from matching them ever since. It's not even close. Those guys were red hot, almost all the time. However, the team's two crucial flaws were the short bench, and lack of a true big man in the post. Ellis Myles, love him, was only 6'7", and coming back from a year and a half off rehabbing a torn ACL. He was a great rebounder, but just didn't give us a sure go-to option when we needed points in the paint along with his constant struggles at the free throw line. A lot of this was compensated by our lights-out shooters and made up for extremely well, however. The starting five of Ellis, Palacios, Cisco, Dean, and O'Bannon gelled like super glue and were a nightmare for every team they faced, save for one bad night against Memphis (which was later avenged twice). But, as it was, when our starters needed a breather there wasn't many options on the pine. We had Brandon Jenkins and Otis George, who both provided some relief. Then, there was Brad Gianiny and Lorenzo Wade who never saw many minutes along with some walk-ons. Our starters had to play long stretches where fatigue, foul trouble, and injury were frequent issues. There is no doubt in my mind that if we would've had a deeper bench we would've brought home National Title #3. Yes, I believe we would've sent North Carolina's four first-round draft picks home in tears if we would've had a better rotation. The team was that good.
After seeing our boys win the both the outright and tournament titles of C-USA (back when the league was actually competitive) and blaze a blood and guts path to the Final Four, I was one of few who felt we had what it took to beat the mighty Illini. Despite playing what Coach P described as "our tempo the whole way" and keeping the score close for two-thirds of the game, the Cards ultimately succumbed to the talent and solid play of Illinois as we fans watched and felt our hearts melt away like ice cream in the sun. Ugh, thinking back on it still sucks. While many fans agreed we were the underdogs and didn't have a great chance of winning, I was actually confident we'd pull it off. And to this day, I still believe if we had taken it to the Illini with the "we know we can beat you and we're going to" mentality we used to blast Georgia Tech, #1 seeded Washington, and defy all conventional wisdom against West Virginia -- we would've been hosting UNC in the Title game. Instead, we went into that game with a line of thinking that "one or two mistakes and we're done against these guys." You could see it from the outset -- our guys just didn't believe they could beat this team and not only did it show, it proved to be our downfall. We didn't shoot nearly as well, our star frontman Francisco Garcia was no where to be found, and even our coach had previously said "we have to pitch a perfect game to win." So frustrating. We gave that team way too much respect and didn't throw our best punches. When they threw theirs', we didn't counter back with fireworks of our own. We just kept playing that same safe style where we were afraid to take chances because it had been planted in their minds that if they got careless and screwed up it would be game over. Blah! We should've went out there and threw everything in our arsenal at those guys, balls out, taken chances, and put ourselves in position to win that game. Instead, we did just enough to justify being there. It made me sick as I watched the whole thing unfold.
The disappointment of that loss stuck with me for days. I was so disgusted with it I destroyed the VHS tape I had started for the Final Four because I knew I would never want to live through that game again. A move I actually now regret. I'm proud of our boys for making it that far and representing this city. But, this game etched itself into the Sting List and always rears it's ugly head in my mind when this type of discussion takes place.
2. Louisville loses to Butler - 2003 NCAA 2nd Round
I can still see their shaved heads and gremlin faces...
Watching Darnell Archey sink 3 after 3 after 3 and seeing their bench react, all looking like demonic Darth Vader dungeon rats, I actually said it out loud: "We just can't lose to a team this damn ugly!"
It was Rick Pitino's second season at Louisville. And mid-season he had taken us from a 19-13 NIT team, to a #2 ranked Reece Gaines-led sensation who had smacked around eventual top seeded Kentucky, blazed an 18-game win streak, and was looking like an almost certain lock for the Final Four. However, after an upset loss to St. Louis, UofL finished the regular season winning just three out of the last seven. Rebounding by winning the C-USA Tournament, the Cards seemed refocused and primed for at least in my estimation a run to the Sweet 16. Would've been a satisfying end to a season filled with promise and a rebuilding program looking ahead to the future.
Then, there was the Butler game. I didn't know much about them at the time, so I didn't think the chances of an upset were a problem. Then, as the game unfolded, I watched as our boys struggled to stay in it. It was like "here we go again", which I had began to say to myself in those late-season losses where it just seemed like we were falling apart. Although we stayed competitive, it became more and more clear as the game went on -- we were going home. And honestly, I don't think this game would've stuck in my mind had it not been for those retarded faces on the opposing team. Butler shaved their heads before this game in an attempt to rally themselves to score the upset over Louisville. It worked. And I swear, every time Archey sank another 3, it was if CBS knew they were sticking it to Louisville fans watching at home by immediately filming Butler's bench and focusing on those mongoloid monkeys with their twisted expressions and grotesque-painted grills as they vehemently celebrated what we knew was coming.
Congrats to Butler on the upset but goddamn, I hope you all grew your hair back.
3. Minnesota Vikings lose to New Orleans Saints - 2009 NFC Championship
Honestly, this one may be the worst one ever.
What is actually funny here is I've never considered myself to be an avid fan of the NFL. Growing up in the 80's, I remember watching the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Mark Rypien, Art Monk, Warren Moon, Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Boomer Esiason, Ickey Woods, John Elway, Dan Marino (the list goes on). Just being the kid in the room when my parents were watching football, I can name these guys today without looking up anything. Still though, never was a big NFL fan.
All this mysteriously changed in 2008 amidst the Brett Favre/Green Bay saga that saw Favre traded to the Jets. I was like WTF??? I had followed the story briefly and I guess somewhere in my mind I didn't approve of the way Green Bay had treated Brett given all he had done for their franchise. Sure, Brett couldn't make up his mind whether he wanted to retire or not, but IMO, he had earned that privilege. When they basically carted him off to the side and refused to give him his release, him ending up in New York was like a slap in the face to a living legend. I watched that season as Brett led the Jets to an 8-3 start, which included a thorough schooling of previously undefeated Tennessee on their home turf. Then, of course, the Madden Curse took over. Brett injured the shoulder of his throwing arm during the 11th game of the season, and the Jets floundered the rest of the way and missed the playoffs. Had Brett actually retired and stayed retired after that year, the story would've ended there. But, in August of 2009, word broke that Favre was coming back again and had signed with Green Bay's arch rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Suddenly, things got very interesting.
With Brett's shoulder repaired, the 2009 season got underway and I found myself more and more intrigued with Favre every game. I guess I viewed him as a giant underdog in a world seemingly turned against him. He was 40 years old and coming off a disappointing end to the season at the Jets. Green Bay had done everything in their power to try to stop him from signing with Minnesota. Against all odds and despite many experts and fans predicting he'd fail, Brett posted the best numbers of his entire career and led the Vikings to a 12-4 record that included two sound Green Bay ass whippings, which I loudly applauded. He was still every bit in his prime and playing at an elite level at age 40. Incredible. The Vikings destroyed the Giants, avenging the L from Brett's final game at Green Bay. Then, they dismantled Dallas in the playoffs to secure their spot in the NFC Championship game. The stage was set.
I knew the Saints were gonna be tough. They had home field advantage and had been the team to beat all season. However, the Vikes outplayed them on both sides of the ball. They looked to be the better team just about the entire game. Then, Adrian Peterson's inability to hold onto the ball cost the Vikings several chances to take a commanding lead. And my god, the officiating in this game was beyond horrible. Only during games involving Louisville have I ever seen it this bad. The Saints' D were playing dirty. They were hitting Favre low and there were several instances of roughing the passer that were never called. Total B.S. I know the sexy story in the media that year was New Orleans' mission to a championship, restoring a town decimated by Hurricane Katrina. But, my goodness. How freakin biased can officials be without fear of consequences? Lord knows Card fans know the feeling all too well. Despite the hits, Brett rose like a freakin warrior every time. Even after being helped off the field at one point, he returned. In my mind this was gonna be the ultimate underdog victory. I could feel the W approaching as the clock winded down. All the Vikings needed to do was run the clock, get in FG range, and let Ryan Longwell send one through the uprights. Boom, done, over. I couldn't wait for a showdown between Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. And maybe, just maybe -- Favre would win it all and ride off in the sunset, leaving all his doubters with their d*cks in their hands. My heart was so into this game. I hadn't felt this kind of emotion in a sporting event since Louisville/West Virginia 2005, which thankfully, we won. Otherwise, that game would be on the Sting List instead of the Illinois loss I'm sure. Anyhow, as we all know, Brett threw an INT at a crucial moment which sent the game into OT. Saints won the toss, kicked a FG, and won the game just like that.
I gotta tell you -- I was literally sick. I wanted to puke. I almost did. My whole night was completely ruined. That loss stung for at least an entire week. Every day I woke up I could feel it and it absolutely sucked. This has gotta be the worst loss I've ever endured and again, I've never even been an avid NFL fan. It would probably take Louisville getting to the National Title game and losing to equal it (hope that never happens).
4. Kentucky loses to Duke - 1992 Elite Eight
Sorry Guys, but this one makes my list. I was an 11 year old Kentucky fan in those days, and this was actually the game that cemented my fanship of Rick Pitino.
I had been raised in a household under a father who was a big Kentucky fan, so obviously the influence was already in place. That and the fact that Kentucky were "the blue guys", matching my favorite color as a child, I was sold. Rex Chapman had been my favorite player and I knew Kentucky had gotten into some trouble, but I never really understood what all had gone on at that age. All I knew is that suddenly, Eddie Sutton was gone, Rex Chapman was gone, and this guy I had never heard of named Rick Pitino was the new coach. My interest waned over the next couple years due to this. But, I remember the tournament in 1992 and remember hearing the match was set for Kentucky vs Duke, winner goes to the Final Four. I've always been a sucker for a good story, even at the age, so I was intrigued to see what would happen.
I remember watching the game that night and being so into it emotionally. This was probably the first time my heart had ever connected to any sporting event. Rick's team, now known as The Unforgettables, put on a helluva show against the baddest team in the land. Back and fourth it went. Kentucky took a lead, Duke erased it. Duke went up big, Kentucky fought back. The two sides matched each other move for move. By the time the game winded down to the final moments I had already seen the most exciting, most competitive game of my young life. For Pitino's team to be in a position to win that game against a team as good as Duke was, was a victory in itself. But, that wasn't good enough. I wanted them to win this. I remember seeing Laettner stomp Timberlake and wonder why he didn't get thrown out. But, no matter. He was the guy we needed to stop to go to the Final Four. After Sean Woods hit one of the craziest shots I had seen to put Kentucky up by one with only a couple seconds left, yep, I knew we had it. At that young age, I had not seen the kind of crazy things that can happen in the final seconds of a college hoops game. Otherwise, I would've known not to underestimate the power of fate and disappointment. I watched in disbelief as Duke inbounded the ball with a cross-court pass which was not only caught, but caught by Laettner, the last guy you wanted to see catch it. And, he even had time to take a dribble, turn, rise and fire........and still no horn. Even still, as the ball was in the air, I knew it didn't have a chance of going in. Too many defenders around him, too much hussle to get it off in time. No way. BOOM!!!! Commentator: "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!"
Holy shit. What just happened?
I learned a lot that night.
The next day in school I was so depressed. The first real sting of defeat, and it sucked, big time.
5. Louisville loses to Rutgers - 2006 Regular Season
Not much to say here. We all remember this night and what it cost Louisville football.
I was at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse that night sinking my teeth into a juicy t-bone. I overheard one of the waiters mention the game to someone and I asked him if he knew the score. He simply replied: "Ah, we're killin'em." I was like "nice", thought "huh, well that's that", continued my meal, and continued discussion of some non-sport conversation with the girl I was dating at the time. I quietly rejoiced and rested thinking we were good.
We get home and I turn on the game and it's right toward the end of the 3rd qtr. Immediately I begin wondering what I missed. Rutgers was coming back and we hadn't scored a point since the 1st half. I watched the game unfold and I couldn't believe what was happening. We were slowly letting it slip away. Not just the game. The whole season. The National Championship. This was the game where Michael Bush was missed the most. If we just would've had him that one night. Ah, what could've been.........
Honorable (or Dishonorable) Mentions
Louisville loses to Michigan St. - 2009 Elite Eight
Most of us expected a Final Four that year. We had won both the outright and tournament championships of the Big East, in what was arguably the toughest conference in college basketball history. But, I think by then my cynical tendencies had a feeling something would go wrong. Little did I know it wasn't just an upset loss, but a sex scandal controversy that would effect our basketball program for the next couple years.
Louisville loses to Kentucky - 2004-05 Regular Season
Louisville was on track to beat UK for three straight years in basketball, something the program has never once done. The 1st half saw the Cards take the Cats to the woodshed and back. We were on the verge of sending them home with a black eye and a bloody nose. Then, the infamous Sparks out-of-bounds/travel/charge no-call shuffle which set them up to steal the game, and they happily did. This is one rivalry game I can completely say was decided by the refs. And surprisingly enough, not one Kentucky fan I know (even the smart ones) will concede that call was bullshit and it gift wrapped the Cats a W in a nice Christmas box with a big blue bow. Ridiculous.
Mike Tyson loses to Lennox Lewis - 2002 Heavyweight Championship
Almost forgot this one! I had listened to the fraud Lennox Lewis run his mouth for years that he's the best heavyweight in history, all the while not beating one superstar along the way. Holyfield was washed up by the time they fought. And Tyson, even in his deteriorated state, I figured would be the guy to shatter the Lewis "legacy" and reclaim his spot at the top. Boy, was I on crack! Tyson couldn't have cared less about actually winning that fight. He only wanted the money. I watched as he got battered for 8 rounds before finally going to sleep. A piece of my childhood died that night.
Those are my worst losses. What are your's?