The Most Heartbreaking Ways to Lose in Sports

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

The Most Heartbreaking Ways to Lose in Sports

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    As if you didn't already know, sports are extremely unforgiving.

    Just when someone thinks that everything is going well and he's jumping up and down in exuberance, something happens that leaves him absolutely speechless, tugging down his eyeballs in shock.

    While getting blown out or seeing a miracle play happen as time expires sucks, plenty of other outcomes are even more heartbreaking, leaving fans to wonder why some losses have to be so gutless—and these are a few of them.

After Making a Comeback Attempt

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    USA TODAY Sports

    This one might be the most recent on this list, but the Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer didn't lack any of the drama that these other ones boast.

    While Djokovic ended up winning his second Wimbledon title—beating the man who has the most in history—blowing his big lead nearly got him on this list.

    Instead, it's Federer who gets the mention, because it can't feel good when you come from behind, nearly win a championship and then let it slip away. It's no wonder Federer shed tears afterward.

Being Beaten by the Underdog

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    DUSAN VRANIC/Associated Press

    Most of us anticipate any U.S. men's hoops team to annihilate its competition, as it often compiles the best players in the world to play against B-level guys.

    That wasn't the case during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, though.

    Unlike the dominating Dream Team from 1992, the 2004 version that featured superstars like LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony stumbled in their first game, losing to Puerto Rico by 19 points.

    The team eventually ended up saving some face by capturing a bronze medal but not before losing three times during the Games.

Because of a Couple of Inches

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    It's difficult enough being on the losing end of a gold-medal match no matter how it plays out, but the fact that the U.S. women's hockey team lost this way in the 2014 Winter Olympics is just awful.

    With America leading Canada 2-0 with just five minutes to play, the red, white and blue were sure to end up with gold around their necks—than the unheard-of happened.

    After cutting the lead in half with 3:26 to play, Canada had luck on its side, as the U.S. shot a puck on an open net that hit the post, keeping it at 2-1. The Canadians scored the tying goal a few seconds later and eventually won in overtime.

Because of a Couple of Feet

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    After routing the Los Angeles Raiders by the score of 51-3 in the AFC Championship Game—the most lopsided championship-game victory ever—the Buffalo Bills came into Super Bowl XXV as favorites by a touchdown.

    Losing is tough enough, but doing it when you're expected to win makes it harder—and let's not forget the fashion that it happened.

    That would be thanks to a wide-right field-goal attempt by Bills kicker Scott Norwood as time expired, leaving the Bills short on their first of four tries at capturing a Lombardi Trophy.

Underperforming When Hope Is High

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    ELISE AMENDOLA/Associated Press

    With six Stanley Cup titles in their history, the Boston Bruins have had plenty of successful seasons since becoming a franchise in 1924—but 2002 wasn't one of those years.

    After earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the up-and-coming team with players like Joe Thornton and Bill Guerin was believed to have a serious shot at adding another Cup to its trophy case.

    But the Bruins dropped the puck, getting humiliated in the opening round by the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in six games.

    I know it has happened a few times in sports history, but no No. 1 seed should ever lose to a No. 8 seed in a best-of-seven series.

When Winning Is Inevitable—But Never Happens

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    AMY SANCETTA/Associated Press

    Since this article is supposed to be about heartbreaking ways to lose a game, I had to single out Game 7 of the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and the rival New York Yankees in 2004.

    The fact that the Sox took a quick 4-0 lead before opening it up with a Johnny Damon grand slam that eventually led to an 10-3 win—in Yankee Stadium nonetheless—hurts.

    But, let's face it, this one is here because of the way Boston came back from the jaws of embarrassment in the entire series. The Sox surged back from a 3-0 series deficit to reach the World Series and break the 86-year "Curse of the Bambino."

When a Gift Opportunity Goes Unwrapped

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    It may be just about one week old, but the USA loss to Belgium in this year's World Cup has to go down as heartbreaking.

    While the red, white and blue were outplayed the entire match, with goalie Tim Howard keeping them in the game with tremendous saves seemingly every few minutes, it was American forward Chris Wondolowski who had the game's best chance, missing an easy shot from inside the six-yard box, which led to extra time.

    That's where the American spirits were crushed, as Belgium raced to a 2-0 lead before the U.S. scored a goal of their own.

    After missing a few other, solid opportunities to score and send it to penalty kicks, the Americans were left defeated and crying on the pitch.

When Failing to Make a Simple Basketball Play

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    A botched inbounds play by Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas is what sent the Boston Celtics to a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals back in 1987.

    One would think that such a simple play wouldn't be difficult for Thomas, yet there he was, tossing a ball to Bill Laimbeer that got picked off by Larry Bird, who dished it to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.

    Detroit did win Game 6 to force a seventh game but ultimately lost that too.

    One can't help but imagine if the Pistons' fate would have swung the other way had Thomas been able to complete that pass.

A Walk-off Hit

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    It wasn't just that the New York Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series in seven games.

    It was how it happened.

    That would be by way of a Luis Gonzalez floater over the entire Yankees infield off the greatest reliever in MLB history—Mariano Rivera.

    Seeing how this came just a few months following the 9/11 attacks, it made it that much harder to swallow for New Yorkers, who were convinced that the Bronx Bombers were a team of destiny.

A Historic Blowout

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    Yes, it just happened on Tuesday, but the way that Germany absolutely dismantled Brazil in the World Cup semifinals has to be one of the worst ways for a team to lose a match.

    With the Brazilian squad being the host country, the team had increased pressure already, but when star Neymar went down with an injured vertebra, that anxiety probably went up a notch.

    And did they ever show it, allowing five first-half goals on their way to being humiliated on the world stage—and on home soil—in the biggest match of their lives, losing 7-1.

A Last-Second Shot

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    They were blocking off the front row and rolling out the Larry O'Brien Trophy. That's how close the San Antonio Spurs came to winning the 2013 NBA championship against the Miami Heat.

    That is, of course, until Ray Allen knocked in a game-tying three-pointer that sent the game to overtime, completing a comeback that began when LeBron James had his headband knocked off midway through the fourth quarter.

    The Heat wouldn't just go on to win Game 6 but kept the momentum going by capturing their second straight title a few days later in Game 7.

    Of course, that loss probably helped motivate the Spurs for redemption in this year's rematch, as they drubbed the Heat in five games.

An Extremely Costly Bad Hop

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    As simple as the aforementioned inbounds pass that Isiah Thomas had against the Boston Celtics in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals was, one would think that a slow chopper to Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner would be even simpler.

    But one would be wrong.

    With the Red Sox tied with the New York Mets in Game 6 of the '86 World Series—after blowing a two-run, 10th inning lead—Buckner became the goat, letting a grounder from Mookie Wilson trickle off his glove and through his legs, which led to Ray Knight scoring the winning run on the play.

    Three outs and one ground ball to win a world championship proved to be much more difficult than it needed to be and eventually led to the Mets winning Game 7.

A Lucky Catch

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Just when you thought things couldn't get wackier in sports, a quarterback scrambles out of the pocket after getting his jersey tugged, heaves a prayer toward a receiver in the middle of the field and the guy comes down with it by pinning it against his helmet.

    While the Eli Manning-David Tyree play is arguably the greatest in Super Bowl history, it was also completely heartbreaking for supporters of the New England Patriots, who came in undefeated and had hoped to go down in history as the best team the league had ever witnessed.

    The catch kept the New York Giants drive alive, leading to a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress a few plays later.

    Let's not forget that all of this could have been avoided if not for a dropped interception by Asante Samuel a few plays prior to the Tyree catch, making Pats fans ask, "What if?"

Because Time Just Won't Expire

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    Thorsten Wagner/Getty Images

    I remember watching this in a bar following a half-marathon with friends. We went from euphoric to bummed out quite quickly.

    With the U.S. women's team making a historic run to the Women's World Cup Final by coming back to defeat Brazil in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals and then handling France in the semis, the Americans were looked at as a team of destiny.

    But in the final, Japan tied the scoreline at two with just 11 minutes left in extra time, ultimately taking the match to penalty kicks.

    It was there that the U.S. lost it, failing to take their kicks with confidence and leading to a second-place finish in the tourney. 

Everything Goes Against You

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    No one, and I mean no one, thought they'd ever see what happened in last year's Iron Bowl between the Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide.

    With Alabama coach Nick Saban arguing for a second to be put back on the clock in hopes of a last-second, 57-yard field-goal try from his backup kicker—after his first one, Cade Foster, was pulled for his poor outing—the refs declared there should be a tick left.

    That's when things got even crazier.

    As Auburn had a guy standing in its own end zone just in case, the kick sailed through the air and, wouldn't you believe it, fell short and into the hands of the Tigers' Chris Davis.

    Swiftly avoiding Crimson Tide tacklers who were positioned on the opposite side of the field from the kick, Davis ran 109 yards to knock off their in-state rivals 35-28, keeping their national title hopes alive—though the team lost in the championship game to Florida State.