Football Fashion 101

Football season is almost upon us.  I’ve always been more of a college guy than a pro football fan, and since the NFL has spent most of this summer trying to decide if they want to play or not, I’m going to talk about college.

I have a confession to make.  When it comes to football uniforms I’m as bad of a fashionista as any gay man you’ll ever meet.  I obsess over styles and new looks, I troll message boards looking for a sneak peek of a team’s new alternate uniform.  It’s strange, when it comes to my personal wardrobe I don’t care about much more than my T-shirt not smelling or having food stains.  But when it comes to football fashion I’m obsessed like a girl shopping for shoes.

So, in that spirit, this post will be devoted to the best and worst uniforms in college football.  Obviously this is all my personal opinion, and we all know my opinions tend to infuriate a great many people.  Oh well, deal with it.  You will all have the opportunity for rebuttal in the comments section.

I must note here that my rankings are based on a team’s uniforms as a whole.  Not just their helmets (unless that helmet ruins the whole package), not just their “special” uniforms they broke out for that one game back in 2005.  I will add a few tidbits about spectacularly good or bad special uniforms –like Nike’s Pro-Combat series— but in general these rankings will represent the basic look schools go with most of the time.

Alright, let’s get started with the worst of the worst.

#5–Iowa State

The Cyclones just have a knack for making bad uniforms.  I honestly can’t ever remember them having a cool look.  It’s not like red and gold are that hard to make look decent (see USC or Arizona State).  But Iowa State always seems to manage to look as brutal as possible.  Which is too bad, because given my pure unadulterated hatred for their archrival Iowa I could easily jump on the Cyclones’ bandwagon if they’d just throw me some kind of bone.

#4–Michigan

I know I’m gonna take heat on this one.  I can hear it now.  “Oh, Michigan’s uniforms are so iconic.  And the winged helmets are so classic!”  Oh yeah?  So classic what?  What exactly is that fucking stupid helmet?  Do Wolverines have wings??  Did I miss that episode of National Geographic???  Those wings have nothing to do with anything related to the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan, or the Wolverines mascot.  It’s just a fucking design!  I’ve got an idea, how about every school get one of their gay art students to make up a new helmet.  We can have post-modernist designs on all our helmets that have absolutely nothing to do with anything.

I will admit, the dark blue and the bright yellow look pretty good together.  But I don’t care what any of you say, that helmet is fucking ridiculous.  And if you think it’s cool then you are fucking ridiculous too!

#3–Tennessee

I grew up an Illinois fan, so I have an affinity for the color orange.  But the Vols have the worst shade of orange ever.  It’s brutal.  Somewhere between a hunting jacket and something real orange that was left out to fade in the sun too long.  Add to that the fact that they don’t have a second color to offset it.  Then, on top of that, check out the ridiculously wide stripe on top of their helmets.  There’s nothing good about Tennessee’s uni’s, especially when they go with their all whites on the road.  Just dreadful.

As an aside, in researching this post I came across the following picture.  I have no idea when the Vols wore these outfits (looks like late 70’s, early 80’s to me), but this might just be the worst ensemble ever worn on a football field ever.  Look at the orange and gray checkerboard pattern in the numbers.  Horrific!

#2–Wyoming

Poor Wyoming just doesn’t have a chance.  When your colors are piss and shit there’s just not much you can do.  Do you emphasize the brown?

Or the yellow?

Either way you’re screwed.  I’ve always been mildly offended by those teams that just adopt black as an alternate color even though it’s not an official color of theirs, but if ever there was a school that should embrace black and go with it as much as possible it’s the Pokes.

**Update: Nike has taken over Wyoming’s branding and has tried (and failed) to make them look better this year.  See for yourself.  Brown helmets, really?**

#1–Virginia Tech

Like Wyoming, Va Tech has the deck stacked against it just based on their colors.  Maroon isn’t a terrible color, neither is orange, but the two just don’t go together.  But it takes more than just bad colors to make take top spot in the dreadful uniforms category; there’s plenty of schools out there that have fine colors and manage to fuck it up with idiotic designs (that’s right, Michigan, I’m calling you out again).

But the Hokies have a real gift for choosing awful uniforms.  Whenever you think they’ve topped themselves they always find a way to do something just a little bit worse.  Don’t believe me?  You’ve seen exhibit A, check out exhibits B:

And C:

The worst, plain and simple.  It’s really not even close.

And now that you’ve seen the worst of the worst, here’s the absolute best of the best.

#5–Washington

The Huskies have a bad habit of messing with a good thing.  In recent memory they’ve scrapped their beautiful gold helmets for purple, they’ve gone with an all-black uniform, and they’ve tried all kinds of odd stripes and piping over the years.  But when they stick with their basic, simple look they’re pretty tough to beat.  The gold helmet and purple jersey is a classic and by far the best look on the West Coast.

#4–Georgia

Another classic look.  The Bulldogs not only have the coolest mascot in all of sports (name another school where alums place flowers at the grave of the mascot who reigned during their enrollment; UGA is the coolest, bar none), but they have a simple yet distinctive look that is iconic.  I’m not usually a huge fan of the same color jersey and helmet, but it just fits here.  And the grey pants make a great touch that sets them apart.  In the past couple years they’ve tried using a black jersey for big games and it’s not nearly as good as the original.

#3–South Florida

USF breaks nearly every single one of my rules for football uniforms and yet they still look pretty damn tight.  I hate monochromatic uniforms, and yet the Bulls pull off the all-green look quite well (although I still prefer the green tops and gold pants).  I also prefer their gold helmets to the whites, but clearly they don’t care what I think because they’ve been using the whites a lot more recently, which might knock them off the list by next season.  But still, for a school that’s only had football since 1996 they have a surprisingly clean and classic look.

#2–Ohio State

No wonder half the Buckeyes team is in trouble for selling their jerseys, tOSU’s uni’s are spectacular.  Bold and strong with giant numbers, and there’s nobody else in college football with a plain silver helmet (unlike plain gold, which is worn by no less than five schools at this moment).  The cheaters’ uniforms are plain and simple yet they will never be confused with any other school.  If the NCAA really wanted to punish the Buckeyes for their latest bout of cheating they’d make them change to the godawful Nike Pro Combat uni’s they rolled out for one game in 2009:

#1–Florida State

By far the best helmet in all of football.  And not just because I am biased in favor of all Indian mascots, especially those that have survived the NCAA’s genocide.  (Hey Illinois, see how bad you shit the bed on this one?  How’s that super-cool block I logo working out for you?)

That spear is just badass.  And the uniforms are stellar too.  The garnet jersey with the Indian-style design on the collar and cuffs, the gold pants, it all looks great.  And the ‘Noles also have a unique gift in that, seemingly no matter what they do to mix things up, it still always looks good.  Check out their “Unconquered” all black uniforms they rolled out in 2009 to honor Chief Osceola of the Seminole nation:

Or, when they broke out the garnet pants in the mid-90’s (bought for the team by one of their most famous alums, Burt Reynolds):

Yep, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Seminoles have the best look in all the land.

A few other random tidbits:

–Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms have caused quite a stir the past couple years.  I alluded to some of the worst looks they brought us with Ohio State and Virginia Tech, but they scored a few hits too.  TCU’s “bloodlines” helmet, with red stripes symbolizing the blood a horned frog can shoot from its eyes (don’t ask me, I’ve never seen a real horned frog, but supposedly that’s what they do), and the silver frog skin pants are an outstanding look.  TCU would do well to make this their permanent look.

–Another great Pro Combat hit was last year’s Miami Hurricanes.  It’s loud, it’s bright, it’s obnoxious.  In short, it’s the perfect look for the dirtiest program in college football history.  The green metallic helmets are particularly cool.

–Sometimes traditional and classic is good.  But sometimes it’s just plain boring. Penn State’s entire look is pretty boring, but nobody has a more boring helmet than Nebraska.  C’mon, Huskers, you’re in the Big Ten now, it’s time to get a decent helmet.  Surely there’s a computer somewhere in all of Nebraska that has some different fonts you could play with and find something that’s not so thoroughly dull.

–That being said, I’m a big fan of numbers on the helmets. Alabama’s uniforms overall are pretty average, but the numbers on the helmets are a nice, distinctive touch. Check out this amazing pic of a Bama player who somehow got one of his numbers knocked off of his helmet:

–Big props to Navy for their uniforms.  While they’re not the coolest or the flashiest, I love the fact that they put the Navy logo on one shoulder and Marine Corps on the other.  Very classy.

I stole a whole bunch of pictures to make this post.  Let’s hope no one sues me.  Like an angry Michigan fan.

Let’s play some football!

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Short Stories (aka Mini-Trainwrecks)

Are You a Terrorist?

It was shortly after 9/11, maybe two weeks, and I was trying to get back to a sense of normalcy by getting hammered on a Saturday night.  After the bars closed we all cabbed back to my friend Nicole’s place to continue the festivities.  Tripod and I were starving so we darted across the street to a 7-11 for snacks.  (Well, I darted across the street; Tripod just kinda strolled across, giving the finger to any cars that dared to honk at him.)

We grabbed some nachos and other snacks and went to the register.  The guy behind the counter was the perfect stereotype of a 7-11 cashier.  Now, I must emphasize again that I was utterly wasted and it was not long at all after the most deadly terror attack in our nation’s history.  That’s not to excuse my actions, merely to explain them.  Being a happy drunk, I wasn’t nasty or threatening, I merely asked the cashier as he was handing me my change, “You’re not a terrorist are you?”

I am fully aware that I was out of line.  In fact, if the guy had beaten my drunk ass to a pulp it would have been fully deserved.  But, fortunately, he just laughed and said in that stereotypical high pitched voice, “Oh, no, I am Indian, we hate the Muslims even more than you do!”

Division I Softball

No, this isn’t a rant about fat lesbians bunting and waddling around a two-thirds size diamond.  Nope, this is a story about how we survived having to work long weekends of fat lesbians bunting and waddling around a two-thirds size diamond.

Basically, we got drunk a lot.  Tripod and I would routinely get fucked up the night before we had to report at 6 or 7 in the morning.  Usually, after a couple hours of prep and set-up, once the game was on its way I’d send Tripod out beyond the homerun fence to sleep off his hangover in the grass.  Sometimes I’d have him guard a back gate, where he could sleep in a lawn chair.  The only problem with this plan was that my boss, who was cool as hell, knew we were a bunch of lushes, so he would occasionally show up on a Saturday or Sunday morning just to fuck with us.  One time, with Tripod passed out in the outfield, he spent a good 15 minutes throwing fench fries at him, seeing how many he could land on Tripod’s stomach before waking him up.

One morning Tripod and I were walking up the alley towards the softball field before dawn when we saw a shape sitting on the curb by the main entrance.  It was my girl Country, utterly wrecked but still dedicated enough to show up to work.  She was all decked out in her clubbing clothes from the night before; her great tits were just bubbling out of her top, and her tight black sparkly pants made her ass look amazing.  Trying to suppress my erection, I put her to work until we had the game underway, then I sent her off beyond the homerun fence to sleep it off.  For all I know she was spooning with Tripod out there.  Who says I’m not a great boss?

Down For the Count

I love boxing.  I’m a purist, don’t follow MMA or UFC or any of that crap, it’s the sweet science all the way for me.  And back when I lived in San Diego my roommate Sandpaper and I used to throw some epic fight parties for all the big pay-per-view fights.  I always had to record the fight though, since I would drink so much I never remembered the main event and I’d have to re-watch it the next day.

For one of Roy Jones’ fights I made the mistake of starting my drinking during the early afternoon while I was cleaning up the apartment.  By the time people started showing up I was a mess.  It was so bad I dropped an entire pizza on the kitchen floor.  It was so bad Tripod bet me during the undercard that I would get counted out before either fighter in the main event.

I swear to God, the last thing I remember that night was laying flat on my back on the floor, laughing and struggling like a turtle on its back to get up, while Tripod stood over me like a referee, counting me out.  “Six… Seven… Eight…”

Pitch black after that.  Sometimes I hate that little fucker.

The Big 3-0

My 30th birthday was the only time in my life I’ve ever thrown up in a bar.  And in my defense, it wasn’t so much that I full-on puked as I just had so many shots in such a short period of time (roughly ten shots in half an hour) that my gag reflex kicked in and refused to cooperate.  With a mouthful of puke/liquor I tried to run for the bathroom but a bouncer spotted me and grabbed me by the arm, sending me out the side exit, where I puked/spit into the garbage can.

The bouncer looked at me and said not unsympathetically “You don’t look too bad, you can probably get into another bar tonight.  I just can’t let you back in here.  Liability and all, y’know.”

That Barstool is a Bitch

Tripod has a little trouble with barstools because of his stature.  Basically, he has to use two barstools to climb up onto one.  I put my foot on my barstool to secure it, then he climbs up the barstool like a spider monkey, eventually sliding his ass across from my barstool to his own.  As he gets more drunk, he becomes more fearless and this process goes a lot quicker.  When we first get to a bar it’s usually a two minute process, but after a few cocktails he can scamper up like nobody’s business.

One night we decided to give a new bar a try.  Tripod knew this girl (we’ll call her Tits McGee) who was just outrageously hot, a typical Southern California blonde with a stellar body, great tan, and a fresh pair of boobs bought and paid for by her loving father.  She was working as a waitress at this bar and so we stopped in to ogle her fake breasts and score a couple free drinks.

We started drinking Long Islands, and Tripod must have been trying to impress Tits McGee because he kept complaining that the bartender was making them too weak.  So, nice girl that she was, she kept telling the bartender to make the next round stronger and never charged us for a double or anything.

After about four of those we were drinking straight alcohol, no mix whatsoever.  I was shitcanned, and Tripod was in even worse shape.  After a trip to the bathroom he came back and tapped me on the side to let me know to get off my stool so he could climb back up on his own.  Well, something went wrong and he knocked his barstool over and went down right with it, landing his stomach and ribs right on the legs.

Everyone in the bar started laughing and I got irate, ready to fight them all.  (Seriously, who makes fun of a midget?  I mean, I’m an insensitive politically incorrect asshole, but that’s just fucked up.)

I helped him up and confirmed that we didn’t think he had broken any ribs.  And then Tits McGee was there, smiling at us.  “I guess the last round was strong enough?”

Needless to say, Tripod never got to fuck that one.

Cheating at Hooters

Tripod and I had a friend who worked at Hooters.  I’ll call her Batshit because she was batshit fucking crazy, but she was fun to hang out with and she had huge double-D breasts that were just mesmerizing.  She was also in charge of MC’ing a trivia night at Hooters.  Because she knew nothing about sports, she asked us to write the sports questions for her.  This, of course, gave us quite an advantage.  So we would come every week to drink beer, eat wings, ogle boobies and play trivia.  More often than not we would win, which would win us free food on our next visit.  It was a great arrangement.

But the most fun of Hooters Trivia was coming up with obnoxious team names.  Our go-to name was “The Bald & The Beautiful;”  me being the bald and 4’4” Tripod being the beautiful of course.  Once we brought a Jewish girl with us to trivia and so we went with “A Hick, A Spick & A Jew,” which Batshit rejected as too offensive.

My favorite team name stemmed from a rivalry we had with another team.  This group of older folks from Mississippi would come every week and they were quite smart for people from Mississippi.  Unfortunately, they were also obnoxious.  The would bring a little Confederate flag to sit at their table, their team name was “Rebel Yell,” and they would hoot and holler whenever they got a question right.  I hated them.  So one day, without consulting Tripod, I changed our team name to “The North Won the War.”  Take that, Johnny Reb.

Skinheads Aren’t Cool

One night I accidentally wandered into a skinhead bar.  Now, normally this wouldn’t be a huge issue for me.  I’m bald, I have a goatee, even a couple tattoos, so I can at least kind of look the part.  It probably wouldn’t take too long for my big mouth to get me a thorough beatdown, jackbooted Nazi style, but my looks should be enough to at least buy me some time to sneak out the door.

However, on this night I was out with a couple girls I didn’t know very well.  And one of them happened to be Indian.  And, of course, she was the one right next to me when we walked in the door.  Half the bar turned to glare at me, and in that moment I realized that I could be in some serious trouble.  Because I was officially a traitor to the race in their eyes.

In defensive mode, my eyes roamed the bar looking for potential threats.  And that’s when I saw her.  Sitting at the end of the bar was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.  No joke, no exaggeration, this girl was the most incredible creature I’ve ever seen on this planet.  Lean and athletic, with a mop of glowing blonde hair.  She had gorgeous blue eyes and a healthy rack despite her petite frame.  She had on a tanktop that showed off her great tan.  And it also showed off the black tattoos she had up and down both arms; not full sleeves, just individual jet-black tats from her wrists to her shoulders.

I was so mesmerized I totally forgot about our lives being in danger.  I turned to the three girls I was with and said, “It doesn’t look that bad.  Let’s have a beer!”

The girls looked skeptical but went along with me.  I went to the bar to order a round and took the opportunity to get a better look at my dream girl.  From closer up she was even more amazing.  I was in love, right there on the spot.  Taking the beers back to the girls, my mind churned as I tried to figure out how to approach her.  The bathroom was at the end of the bar and would give me a good excuse to walk by and get a closer look, and maybe even find an opening to strike up a conversation.

But as I came closer I started to get a better look at those black tattoos.  Right on her upper arm was a large “Duestchland.”  A Nazi eagle wasn’t too far away.  Devastated, I walked by without saying a word.  We finished our beers and got the fuck out of there as quick as possible.

My standards may be low, but I will NOT fuck a Nazi.

It’s Tournament Time!

Every year when the NCAA announces its basketball tournament bracket, the first thought that goes through my head is: And these are the idiots you want determining a college football playoff???

I won’t go into too much analysis here (if you really want to know about college football, check out http://frankthetank.wordpress.com/; he is the absolute man when it comes to conference expansion/realignment and the BCS), but I will say this: Utah State University had an RPI of 16, was ranked 17th in the Pomeroy computer rankings and 21st in Sagarin, and they wound up with a 12 seed.  That means after reviewing all the objective data that said USU was roughly 20th in the nation, they ranked them about 48.  And you think that wouldn’t happen with a football playoff?  You think some top 4 or 8 team wouldn’t get screwed senseless by the braintrust in Indianapolis?  I’m not saying the BCS is perfect, but there’s no way you can argue it’s worse than a selection committee of empty suits from the NCAA.

But despite all that, NCAA Tournament time is one of my favorite times of the year.  Here’s a few other random thoughts on this year’s bracket:

  –I’ve already ranted about Utah State getting hosed, but how about Kansas State?  The Wildcats earned themselves a 5 seed, which means they’re supposed to get to face a 12 seed that isn’t very good.  Instead, they get a very pissed off Utah State team that is ranked higher than them in both the major computer ratings.  Congrats on a great season, K-State, your reward is a first round game in which you will most likely be an underdog.

  –Every time people talk about expanding the tournament someone always acts like more teams will cause less controversy over who got left out.  Well guess what?  We expanded from 65 to 68 teams this year and there’s more bitching about bubble teams getting shafted than ever!  Someday soon they will expand to 96 teams and I guarantee somebody will still be crying about getting left out.  If we’d only gotten that 22 seed we deserved we could have gone all the way to the Final Four!

  —I’m an Illinois alum, and though I no longer cheer for the mascot-less Illini (or the Fightin Block I’s, if you prefer) I have so many friends and family that are still loyal that I pay attention by default.  I’ve never been a fan of Coach Bruce Weber, but I actually feel pretty bad for him this year.  He could potentially face two of his predecessors in the opening weekend.  This is a total no-win for him.  He’s already on the hot seat, and a first round loss to Lon Kruger and the UNLV Rebels will not make his seat any less hot.  Illini fans will remember how much they liked Kruger and how good a coach he was (and how he didn’t whine like a little girl all the time).  If Weber manages to get past UNLV, he will most likely get trounced by the man he replaced, Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks.  Most Illini fans despise Self for leaving Illinois, and a humiliating loss to him will again make the calls for Weber’s head even louder.  I guess the silver lining is, if Illinois can somehow steal two wins and make the Sweet 16, Weber might just get a lifetime contract extension!

  –I’m tired of Gonzaga.  They had a great run from 1999 to 2001 (two Sweet 16s and an Elite 8).  But since then they’ve gone 8-9 in the tournament.  And yet people always talk like they’re right up there with the big boys.  You want a real mid-major that’s making waves today, not a decade ago?  Xavier.  The Musketeers are 10-6 since 2006, with two Elite 8’s and two more Sweet 16’s.  This isn’t their best team by any stretch, so I’m not predicting a Final Four or anything, but I honestly can’t remember when they’ve laid an egg in the tourney either.

  –Wisconsin should have been left out of the tournament.  I don’t care about “body of work,” I don’t care about their 23 wins.  They scored 33 fucking points in their last game!  I propose a new rule: if at any point in the season you fail to score 40 points, you are placed on probation until you score 100 points in a game.  Who’s with me?

  –Look for BYU to go out early.  Since losing Brandon Davies for banging his girlfriend, the Cougars are only 3-2, with two 18-point losses.  All world superstar Jimmer Fredette is the best player in America, but he did not sit for single minute in three games at the Mountain West tournament.  He’s shot over 50% just once in the past 13 games.  He’s running on fumes and the tank is going to go dry very soon.  They shouldn’t have much trouble with lowly Wofford, but picking them to go much further than that is risky.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts before this week is over, but right now my mind is still mush from my Vegas trip.

Devastating Losses, Part II- The Patriotic Edition

My buddy Gotham and I were debating my post on the most devastating losses of our lives, and we decided that since not everyone who reads this is a Fighting Illini fan (and count yourself lucky if you’re not!), we should try to come up with a list of excruciating losses that most any sports fan could relate to.  Maybe we’ll even make a series of posts, with guest entries from all my readers.  But for Part II, I’ll limit myself to the worst losses for Team USA in the Olympics.  If these don’t get your blood boiling then get the &%^$ out of my country!

So with a big assist from Gotham (who, BTW, hosts the definitive site for everything Illinois sports, www.illinoisloyalty.com) here’s a few of the worst days ever in the life of American sports fans.

#4- 1988 Olympics, USA basketball vs USSR.

I’m a child of the Cold War, so my hatred for the Soviets will never leave me.  In my book they’re even worse than the Nazis.  So when you combine my passion for sports with my pathological hatred for a country that murdered uncounted millions of people (40-60 million of their own people, God only knows how many hundreds of millions more worldwide), it’s no longer just a game.

1988 was supposed to be payback for the ’72 Olympics (more on that later).  After losing our first Olympic basketball game ever in 1972, and a US boycott in 1980 followed by a Soviet boycott in ’84, this would be the first chance at redemption.  Unfortunately, the US had the misfortune of having possibly the most overrated coach of all time, John Thompson.  Besides only putting one true shooter on the roster (Hersey Hawkins), Thompson’s ego also compelled him to constantly berate and belittle a young center you might have heard of, David Robinson.  When Hawkins went down with an injury early in the semifinal matchup with the Sovs, they were toast.  The commies packed in the paint, daring the US to shoot, while using 7’4″ monster Arvydas Sabonis to rough up the younger, slighter (and now short on confidence) Robinson.  The result was a demoralizing defeat to the Evil Empire.

In retrospect, there is small consolation in the fact that this was about the last thing the Soviets would ever win in anything, sports or geopolitics, and by the next Olympics most of the Soviet players the free world despised so much would be wearing the uniform of their newly freed republics and disavowing everything the Evil Empire stood for.

#3- 1988 Olympics, Roy Jones vs. Park Si-Hun

The most blatant case of bribery in Olympic history.  Jones outpunched Hun 86 to 32 in three rounds and dominated every second of the fight.  The referee admitted he was “dumbstruck” by the judges’ decision.  Legend has it Hun even apologized to Roy for his undeserved victory.  This fight led to massive reform in international boxing; reviews of how judges are selected, a new scoring system, and investigations into bribery of judges.

The silver lining to this travesty was it no doubt helped contribute to the fire in Jones’ belly that made him the most dominant fighter in the world for a good 14 years.  For my money he’s the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever, and watching him claim titles from middleweight all the way through heavyweight was a true joy.

#2- 2010 Olympics, USA Hockey vs. Canada

At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City nobody really thought the US had a chance.  But playing in their home country, they pulled together and made a great run to the gold medal game against the Birthplace of Hockey, Canada.  Unfortunately, the amazing run came to a screeching halt against one of the greatest teams ever assembled.  (Even non-hockey fans will recognize names like Lemieux, Yzerman, Brodeur, Iginla and Sakic.)

After Team Canada celebrated Olympic Gold on our home ice, 2010 loomed large as a chance for payback.  This time it would be on Canadian ice, and although Canada would again be the most talented team in the world (most people didn’t think the US even had a shot at a medal), GM Brian Burke assembled a group of gritty, gutsy youngsters that would capture the hearts of all American hockey fans.  When they beat Canada 5-3 in the preliminary round, you could just sense it was going to be a magical ride.

The Gold Medal game was a rematch with the Canadians, and it was everything it was hyped up to be and more.  USA goalie Ryan Miller stood on his head, making 36 saves and keeping it close until Zach Parise could tie it up with just 24 seconds remaining in regulation.  Parise’s goal, and Doc Emrick’s call, to me is still one of the greatest moments in sports history:

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.  After the emotionally draining comeback, the US came out flat in overtime, and although Miller made several big saves, he couldn’t stop Sidney Crosby from putting the clincher in the back of the net.

A sad day to be sure, but I’m already counting down the days to 2014!

#1- 1972 Olympics, USA Basketball vs. USSR

Without a doubt the greatest travesty in the history of sports.  Kind of like the United Nations, the Olympics are rife with politics, and this game was a shining example of anti-American zealots banding together to steal our victory.

It would take pages and pages to adequately describe everything that happened in this game.  The short version is the Soviets, down 1 with three seconds left, were given three tries until they finally managed to score the winning basket.  The officials bent, broke and made up rules to hand the game to the commies.

Here’s a fairly good video of all the BS that transpired in order for the Soviets to steal our Gold:

But even that doesn’t do justice to the full extent of the conspiracy involved to steal our Gold.  In 1972, the US was undefeated all time in Olympic Basketball, 63-0 and 7-for-7 in Gold Medals.  The biased officiating, the corrupt scoretable crew, the 3-to-2 jury of appeals (three commies vs. two free-world), it was a perfect storm of corruption and indecency.

I don’t often have much nice to say about President Richard Nixon, but I’ll give him credit for his restraint on this one.  If I had been President there would have been a nuclear war that night.

*If you would like to make a contibution to future “devastating losses” posts, share your pain with the world, contact me and we’ll see what we can do to “put you on the therapy couch.”*

Devastating Losses

Going into yesterday’s game, I thought the prospect of my beloved Bears losing to the dreaded Packers in the NFC Championship game would be the most demoralizing of all possible scenarios in my entire life.  I mean, the evil Packers, hoisting Papa Bear Halas’ own trophy in our own stadium?  Unthinkable.  Suicide-inducing.

And I’m not gonna lie, the loss hit me like a heavyweight’s body blows.  Every big 3rd down conversion by Aaron Rodgers; every blown opportunity by not one, not two, but three different Bears quarterbacks, they were all like daggers.  Every shitty, second-rate high school play call by the so-called genius Mike Martz; every punt by the Pack downed inside the 10 yard line. (Who the hell is that punter anyway?  I’ve never seen a punter dominate a game so thoroughly.)

But after sitting in my darkened apartment for a couple hours, iPod blaring the angriest music I could find, I realized that this loss really wasn’t as bad as some I’ve experienced in my life.  Not nearly as gut wrenching as some, not by a long shot.

So now, for your reading pleasure, I present the five most devastating losses in my life:

#5- February 14, 1998.  West Lafayette, IN.  College Basketball.  #8 Purdue 75, Illinois 72

 Although the Illini would later back their way into a share of the Big Ten title, at the time this loss seemingly cost them their first conference crown in 14 years.  Worst of all, the loss was caused almost entirely by bad officiating.  Purdue outshot the Illini 37-7 at the foul line (37-9 actually, but I’m not counting the two foul shots on Gene Keady’s technical foul, which he intentionally drew to fire up the home crowd).  And yet the gritty Illini still clawed back from a double digit deficit to tie the game at 70 before finally falling.

And I have a more personal reason for the game causing me such pain.  This was back before I was the veteran alcoholic you see before you.  At that point in my life I might have been drunk twice.  Ever.  And a friend of mine took advantage of my moment of weakness and got me the drunkest I have ever been in my life.  In all honesty, I’m pretty sure I had alcohol poisoning.  Threw up for an entire day and I think I was still drunk 16 hours later.  I had a hangover for about two and half days.  I probably should have died.

#4- June 19, 1999.  NHL Hockey.  Buffalo, NY.  Dallas Stars 2, Buffalo Sabres 1 (3OT)

Yes, I’m a hockey fan.  I won’t apologize.  And a Buffalo Sabres fan.  I know most of you don’t care, but this was one of the greatest robberies in sports history.  With the Stanley Cup on the line, Dallas leading the series 3-2, game 6 was an absolute classic.  It was well into the 3rd overtime, almost six hours of edge-of-your-seat drama, when Brett Hull finally put the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in the back of the net.

But here’s the problem: the goal shouldn’t have counted.  I’ll try to keep this simple for you non-hockey fans, but basically in 1999 it was ILLEGAL for a player to be in the crease (that’s the blue ice around the goal) unless the puck was also already in the blue paint.   As you can see in the picture above, the puck was clearly not in the blue paint.  And Hull’s skate clearly was in the crease.

The NHL reviewed literally every single goal in the 1999 season.  Roughly 1300 games throughout the entire regular season and playoffs.  And yet, with the Stanley Cup on the line, the most important goal of the season was not reviewed and the Dallas Stars were awarded a Stanley Cup they didn’t earn.

#3- September 23, 2000.  Champaign, IL. #10 Michigan 35, #19 Illinois 31

Another game stolen by the officials.  (I think that’s a trend.  Losing fair and square hurts, but you can live with it.  Getting screwed just leaves a sickening feeling inside you that never goes away.)  This was the game that brought instant replay to college football.  The officials blew three fumble calls (all in Michigan’s favor) in the final 6 minutes to hand the game to the Wolverines.  The next year the Big Ten instituted the first instant replay.  Within another year or two it had become the rule all across Division I-A.  Too bad it took the Big Ten blatantly stealing a game from Illinois for it to come to fruition.

#2- April 4, 2005.  St. Louis, MO.  College Basketball.  #2 North Carolina 75, #1 Illinois 70

The National Championship.  The culmination of the greatest season in Illinois sports history.  A team of unbelievable will and character.  Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, James Augustine, Roger Powell, Jack Ingram.  Even today just their names make me smile.

I could blame this one on the refs too.  James Augustine, who didn’t foul out of a game all year, played just 9 minutes and drew 5 fouls.  But although the officiating was pretty shitty, the reality is the Illini played probably their worst game of the year at the wrong time.  Just 12 of 40 from the 3-point line (and it was a lot worse than that before they made a furious run in the last couple minutes).

I’ll go to my grave believing that if this had been a best-of-7 series like the NBA, Carolina would have been lucky to get to game 6.  The Illini would have run them out of the building on almost any other night.  But unfortunately all that matters is that one night in April.

The worst moment of all came right after the game.  Walking out of the dome in St. Louis, I walked by a warehouse that had, no shit, at least 30,000 “Illinois National Champs” T-shirts ready to sell.  I almost started crying right there.

#1- February 21, 2007.  Champaign, IL.  College Basketball.  Illinois 54, Michigan 42

What, an Illinois victory is the most devastating loss ever?  Well, yes.  Because 2/21/07 will always go down as the last time Chief Illiniwek ever represented the University of Illinois as its honored symbol.

It would take me days to finish my rant on the political correct bullshit that led to the death of the most honored and revered mascot in all of sports.  So I’ll just say this: I cried like a baby during that last dance.  And after the game, I walked out of the Assembly Hall and haven’t been to a university event since.  I didn’t lose a ballgame that day, I lost my alma mater, the school I had cheered for since before I could walk.

I’m fairly fortunate in that I haven’t had a great deal of tragedy in my life, I haven’t had any truly close family or friends die yet.  But I can still say without a doubt that Feb 21st, 2007 was the worst day of my life.

RIP, Chief.

Da Bears!

I am a Chicago Bears fan.  I wish I wasn’t but I am.  It’s how I was raised.

Being a Bears fan is like being in an abusive relationship.  They keep hurting me and hurting me, and yet I can’t bring myself to leave them.  Yes, I suffer from Battered Wife Syndrome.

By any reasonable measure, the Bears should have a cakewalk this weekend.  Facing the only team to ever make the playoffs with a losing record?  But I’ve had a sick feeling in my stomach since about Wednesday.  I’m absolutely terrified, because I’ve seen them shit the bed before.  ’05 against the Panthers and ’01 against the Eagles come to mind just as recent examples.

So tomorrow I’ll be locked in my apartment, phone off, sweating through another big game.  Waiting for my beloved Bears to break my heart and my spirit yet again.

Here’s hoping this is the year it all changes…