As sports fans, we have all gone through our share of painful moments. But these painful moments make the great ones that much more meaningful. This is why Yankees and Celtics fans will never appreciate titles as much as Royals or Mets fans; they just haven't suffered as much. Here are the five games that have made me appreciate the good times in sports.
5. Germany vs. United State, 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals
The 2002 World Cup was the coming out party for the US Men's Soccer Team. They beat Portugal and drew with South Korea to advance to the knockout rounds, where they met their major rival Mexico. After a 2-0 victory over the Mexicans, the US was riding a huge wave of momentum into their quarterfinal matchup with Germany.
It was on pretty early in the morning, so most of you might not have seen it. The US dominated play for most of the game, and was denied a goal by a blatant handball on the goaline (at the 3:10 mark in this video.) Bonus pain points for Jens Jeremies' atrocious dive, which drew a yellow card on Claudio Reyna.
4. Michigan at Michigan State, 2005
MSU came into this game very confident, fresh off a win over Notre Dame and ranked #11 in the country. This game was the beginning of the end of the 2005 football season for MSU. Including this contest, the Spartans lost six of their last seven.
We can pinpoint the reason for this collapse on one man. Placekicker John Goss. He shanked an easy field goal (23 yards) in the fourth quarter that would have given State the lead, and missed one in overtime (from 37 yards) that would have won it. He was something like five for sixteen on field goals that season, and even bricked a few extra points. It was so bad that I seriously consider trying to walk on in 2006.
The one highlight from that game that I still enjoy is this, a 74-yard fumble return by the big Samoan Domata Peko. He winded himself for nothing, Mr. Goss. Shame on you.
3. Kentucky vs. Michigan State, 2005 NCAA Elite Eight
This game was tough for the reasons outlined in this article. I won't say a whole lot, except for no matter who won, part of me was going to be happy and part was going to be sad. But I had not-so-secretly hoped that the Kentucky part of me was going to bed happy that night. Patrick Sparks was behind the line, and probably fouled.
2. Notre Dame at Michigan State, 2006
This was the fortieth anniversary of 'The Game of the Century'. The buildup surrounding the game was incredible. Each team was wearing throwback uniforms, stories were all over the papers, and fans who filed in early saw the scoreboard reading 'Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10'.
The game did not live up to the billing early on. MSU was up 17 going into halftime behind Jehuu Caulcrick's eight carry, 130 yard first half performance. MSU was up 16 going into the fourth quarter. All they had to do was score, even a field goal, and the Irish probably would not have had enough time to come back.
So what happened? Jehuu Caulcrick did not touch the ball in the second half, which probably cemented John L. Smith's status as a lame duck coach (an unexpected benefit of this loss.) MSU actually began a drive in the 4th quarter in field goal range, around the Irish 20. A few dumb penalties later, it was 3rd down and forty five, and the Spartans naturally rushed Javon Ringer up the middle for no yards.
I lined up at noon for this game, wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt. I sat for several hours in frigid temperatures and rain, not caring because MSU was going to pull off a huge upset. Then one of the worst coaches in college football history blows it, and I was relegated to drinking margaritas straight out of the pitcher when I got home that night.
1. Duke vs. Kentucky, 1992 NCAA Elite Eight
Most of my friends will tell you that I do not like to discuss this game. I'd much rather have a root canal.
I was only six at the time, so I didn't appreciate the full magnitude of this contest. Since then, it has been hammered home. I would guess that I've seen Laettner's shot close to a thousand times, and I've even brought myself to watch the game once or twice.
What really gets me is that Laettner was even in the game to take that last shot. Laettner stepped, no, stomped on freshman Aminu Timberlake's chest earlier in the game and was not thrown out. You can review video evidence here.
Kentucky got their revenge en route to the 1998 title. In the Final Four, Duke was up by as many as 18 in the first half. UK ended up winning 86-84.
Honorable mention: Any Game In Which Jason Grilli Pitched For The Tigers
Words can not explain how this guy made me feel every time he took the mound. It was like watching knee surgery; really grotesque but you can't look away. I know this is true because my dad has a tape of his second knee replacement. It's gross, yet enthralling.