By: Alex Patt
I can still see and hear it…the football hitting off the goal post with a loud thud, deflecting off the crossbar, and twirling to the Soldier Field turf. A sports memory that I wish I could forget, but never will.
For all the great moments I have witnessed in my 26 years of sports fandom, I have seen almost as many incredibly heartbreaking moments as well. Being a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls has had its share of ups and downs to say the least. While I have been a sports fan for most of my life, it was really when I was in middle school when I became emotionally invested to the point where I lived and died with my teams. Not that I did not care or watch before, I just did not have as big of a connection emotionally to sports.
So without further ado, here are the worst sports moments of my life.
Super Bowl XLI loss
This was the first time I got to see my team play in a final game/round, seeing as I was too young to remember the final three Bulls titles. The defense was terrific with the likes of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Peanut Tillman, Mike Brown and Nathan Vasher. I was at a family friend’s house with my folks and was watching with some of my friends who I invited to come. Seemed like destiny when Devin Hester ran back the opening kick…but alas. Rex Grossman played poorly and the Colts were able to read the Bears like a book. It ended up not being particularly close. Wish they would have used Thomas Jones more, who was a hero in the NFC playoffs. If this were any old game, whatever. It is not like they had the lead with a few minutes and blew it. But, it was the Super Bowl and it was not fun to lose. I can remember going home and laying in my bed awake for hours very sad.
Cubs 2008 NLDS loss
I was so ready for the Cubs to end the 100-year drought in 2008. That team in the regular season was so good, and it looked like they finally had the talent to win it all. They won 97 games with a potent offense and dominant pitching staff. They scored 855 runs vs. 671 given up. Then October came and it was a nightmare. Instead of a trip to the World Series they got swept out of the first round by the 84-win Dodgers. They were outscored 20-6 and got blown out in both games at home. I was at my buddy’s house when James Loney hit the grand slam off Ryan Dempster in game one, and our hearts collectively sunk. We were chanting “One more out” to “give Dempster some good vibes”, but it clearly did not work. For game two I watched at home and turned it off in rage after every Cub infielder made an error in one inning. I was broken but still somewhat hopeful when they went to Los Angeles. For game three I was at my freshman year homecoming dance and instead of asking the pretty girl in the corner to dance, I had my eyes glued to a TV in the commons area that had the game on. After a while I had to turn away as the Cubs were down 3-1 and clearly toast. It was that night I thought there really was a curse. This was my first true Cubs heartbreak. In 2003 I was in 4th grade and while I remember the collapse it just did not have as much of an emotional impact on me at the time.
2010 NFC Championship loss
Caleb Hanie’s magic was just not enough. This loss hurt more than the Super Bowl in 2006 because of who it was against. Losing at home vs. your most hated rival and watching them celebrate a trip to the Super Bowl was so tough to swallow. Jay Cutler going down and watching a very good defensive effort against Aaron Rodgers go to waste left a sour taste in my mouth for a while. It hurt even more watching the Packers win it all, because it feels like that could have been us. The Steelers were not THAT great and very beatable. It feels like that loss set the Bears back for a long time as they never rebounded under Lovie Smith. This was a game I gave up on about a quarter and a half in but I did turn it back on for the very end. I spent the middle of it watching funny YouTube videos because I just did not feel the Bears were going to win. Sadly I was right.
2011 Eastern Conference Finals game two
This was the game the series turned for the worst for the Bulls. They absolutely dominated game one 103-82 and got off to a strong start in game two. After Luol Deng sunk a half-court shot to make it 26-19 at the end of the first quarter it felt like everything was coming up Chicago. I truly believed the Bulls were going to win this series as they dominated the first five quarters. Everything from there just went down hill. Miami would win this game 85-75 and then won the next three to win the series 4-1. While the loss in game five was a really tough loss, the series was probably over regardless at that point. Game two is where it all turned. I was very hopeful for a title in 2012, but we all remember what happened then…
2013 Week 17 vs. the Packers
Yet another moment the Bears could not overcome the magic of Aaron Rodgers. The Bears had the division lead for most of the season but could not put it away due their unusually terrible defense leading to bad losses. Ironically the offense was one of the best in football under first-year coach Marc Trestman (shudders). Rodgers broke his collar bone early in the season against the Bears when Shea McClellin sacked him, but he was back for a winner-take-all NFC North showdown at Soldier Field. It was back and forth throughout most of the game but the Bears had a 28-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. They had a chance to seal the game several times including a dropped third down pass by Alshon Jeffery which kept the Packers in the game. Even so the Bears were up 28-27 with less than a minute to go and had the Packers at 4th and 8 at the 48 yard line. On the game-deciding play Rodgers scooted away from a charging Julius Peppers and hit a bomb to wide open Randall Cobb for the lead. Chris Conte did not pick up Cobb which helped get him so open. The Bears lost 33-28 and the playoffs were gone. Of all the regular season losses against the Packers, this one bothers me the most. I was with my cousin and friends from church at our youth group leader’s house that night and heard the whole thing unfold when we were eating pizza and listening to it on the radio.
2014 Western Conference loss to the Los Angeles Kings
If we want to talk about the most shocking loss the past decade or so, this was it. Blackhawks vs. Kings in game seven of the Western Conference Finals. This game was literally for the Stanley Cup, whoever was winning was going to beat the New York Rangers. The Blackhawks were down 3-1 in the series before forcing a seventh game with two thrilling wins. After doing the same thing in 2013 against the Red Wings, a win for the Blackhawks felt inevitable. I was SO confident the Hawks were winning this game and I had some buddies over to watch it in my basement in anticipation of celebrating another trip to the finals. When the Hawks made it 2-0 early I laughed and said, “This is so over!” Not so fast, the Kings battled back. No…I will not go into detail about a missed offsides call or a very close no-call on a high stick goal. Regardless the Hawks had a 4-3 lead with just under nine minutes to play before the Kings tied it again. Going into overtime I was still 100% confident we would win. “Just feed Patty Kane,” I told my friends. Next thing I knew a shot from Alec Martinez deflected off Nick Leddy and fluttered over Corey Crawford into the net. I sat there completely still and silent gazing at the TV as the Kings celebrated in front of a stunned United Center crowd. I kept denying that their magical run could end the way it did. I was bitter all summer about that loss and was not over it until they won the cup in 2015.
LeBron sinks the Bulls at the buzzer in 2015
The last legit shot for Rose, Noah, and Thibs to make a run to the NBA finals was all but dashed in game four of the 2015 second round of the playoffs. Going into that game the Bulls were up 2-1, coming off a victory which saw the hometown Rose hit a game-winner at the buzzer. A game four win at home would give the Bulls a 3-1 lead over LeBron and the Cavs. Going into the fourth quarter the Bulls were up 68-61. Instead of putting it away, the Bulls missed a number of layups and easy shots to let the Cavs climb back. After the Cavs took the lead, Rose tied it at 84 with nine seconds left. Then with 1.5 seconds left the Cavs inbounded to LeBron who hit the winner, series tied at two. I sat alone in my living room and after a few seconds of silence I screamed “FUCK!” at the top of my lungs. This was the swing game and the beginning of the end of an era. The Cavs won the next two to take the series. I cannot talk about this game without mentioning the infamous David Blatt “Phantom Timeout”, but the Bulls had nobody to blame but themselves for letting that game slip away.
Bears loss to the Eagles in the 2018 playoffs
Ugh…just ugh. I was SO excited to watch a good Bears team again. When Ryan Pace acquired Khalil Mack from the Raiders and Matt Nagy took over as head coach, I was ready to see them make a deep run in 2018. 12-4 record with a division title and having the satisfaction of clinching the playoffs by beating the Packers at Soldier Field. The defense was unreal and there was reason at the time to believe Mitch Trubisky could be something. I thought the Bears would have no problem in the Wild Card round beating the Eagles at home. My buddy and I went to our local watering hole to watch the game. It was not a particularly pretty game but the Bears still had a chance to win despite not playing or coaching that great. Everyone in the bar and I stood up with hands on heads watching Cody Parkey line up to make a potential game-winning kick. Then the doinks happened. For a very split second I actually thought the ball bounced in, but then I quickly realized it was no good. I sank down into my seat as my friend stood by me and let out a defeated groan. The next five minutes were a blur to me as I just sat there like a statue and looked down at the remaining Miller Lite and fully loaded nachos I ordered. I was so upset I had trouble counting the money I owed for our tab. We eventually left the bar and I slowly walked home with my head down. When I entered my house I took off my Jordan Howard jersey, slammed it on the floor, brushed my teeth and went to bed. It still hurts to this day.
Bryce Harper walkoff slam in 2019
I will not go into too much detail about this one. But I remember the night I fully gave up hope on the 2019 Cubs being the one when Bryce Harper hit a walkoff grand slam off Derek Holland. It was a game that went from looking like an easy win to arguably the most gut-wrenching defeat of the Joe Maddon era. While it did not obviously directly eliminate them from postseason contention, the Cubs had blown so many games that year and this was the icing on the cake. Pretty sure that ball has not landed yet.
There are plenty of other moments that hurt badly, but these stand out the most. Hopefully more good memories will come than bad ones in the near future.