Toughest Breaks of 2008
To the victors go the spoils.
Champions get their names etched on a trophy, and they get their seasons immortalized on countless promotional DVDs.
But we're very quick to forget about those who come up short when titles are on the line. Those who finish in second place are swept aside and quickly forgotten.
They become the butt of jokes, the loss becomes fodder for opposing fans, and the losing team often spends an entire offseason trying to figure out what went wrong when they had the chance to shine.
Enough rubbing it in.
This slideshow is a tribute, of sorts, to those that came up short in 2008, and not exclusively in championship games. Consider this a highlight reel filled with failure and disappointment, the "Bottom 10", if you will.
Did I enjoy writing parts of it? You bet! Are some of my favorite teams a part of this? Oh yeah.
But it's important to remember the losses. They make the victories that much sweeter.
1972 Dolphins Sleep Easy
Patriots fans everywhere are getting violently ill at the sight of the above photo.
New England marched through the 2007 NFL season with ease. The Patriots finished with the first ever 16-0 regular season in NFL history. But, the players were quick to caution that without a title, 16-0 meant nothing.
The Pats rode their home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl, where they'd face the upstart New York Giants. Advantage: New England, right?
New York's defensive front spent more time cuddling with Tom Brady than Gisele, and media whipping boy Eli Manning led a dramatic late drive that included the infamous Helmet Catch (above) and a game-winning TD to Plaxico Burress.
Suddenly, New England had one blemish on their record, in the most important game of the season. Suddenly, crates of "19-0" t-shirts were bound for charities on the other side of the ocean.
Free Throws Sink Memphis
Throughout the 2007-2008 NCAA basketball season, the Memphis Tigers rampaged their way through the regular season and the NCAA tournament en route to a title game match with Kansas.
But all season long, the Tigers had one glaring weakness.
Free throw shooting hadn't been an issue through most of the season because hey, if you're scoring that much, you don't have to worry about performing at the line.
The poor foul shooting finally caught up to Memphis at the end of the title game, though. The Tigers missed four out of five shots right at the end, paving the way for Mario Chalmers to hit the shot of his lifetime to force overtime.
You know the rest. Kansas pulls away, Memphis is left wishing they'd spent more time practicing their freebies.
A Rainy Night in Moscow
The 2008 UEFA Champions League Final pitted two bitter English Premier League rivals against each other. It was to be Chelsea vs. Manchester United in the final in Moscow.
The two clubs had been involved in a heated battle for the league title, and this intensity was expected to spill over to the European final.
Neither club could gain a decided advantage during regulation or extra time, so the match went to penalty kicks to find a winner.
Chelsea had a chance to clinch the title as their captain, John Terry, stepped up to the spot for their fifth kick. Terry slipped and shanked his shot. Nicolas Anelka would then miss again for the Blues, handing Manchester United the title.
There's a joke that's popular in the state of Michigan right now.
What can you get out of a dollar that you can't get out of the Detroit Lions?
That basically sums up the Lions' pathetic march towards history. They're a shoo-in for the first 0-16 season in NFL history. Even a win in their final regular season game, at Lambeau Field, won't do anything to mask the disappointment of a season that stood out in a franchise known for failure.
But the Lions weren't the only disappointment out of Detroit in 2008.
The Tigers, with a huge payroll and some big name new additions, were supposed to waltz into the World Series.
Instead, they couldn't find consistent pitching for any significant length of time and ended up finishing in the basement of the AL Central, below the perpetually-woeful Kansas City Royals.
$200 Million Can't Buy A Title
You'd expect baseball's highest payroll to buy a postseason appearance, right?
The New York Yankees fell short of the postseason for the first time since 1837. Their legendary ballpark wouldn't be witnessing one final, magical postseason run.
To be fair to the Yankees, much of this can be chalked up to the rapid improvement of their division rivals, but Yankees fans have grown accustomed to better results. Their fans demand victories and postseason success, and this team was unable to deliver.
Rocky Top Hits Rock Bottom
Three of college football's great programs didn't meet expectations this season.
Tennesse, in what would be Phil Fulmer's final season, finished 5-7 and missed a bowl. The Volunteers just never got things going and one of football's most successful coaches was unceremoniously shoved out.
Michigan went through their worst season ever, finishing 3-9 and losing to a school from the MAC for the first time in their history. The Wolverines have also had to deal with several transfers and recruits decommitting since Rich Rodriguez arrived.
Last but definitely not least is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. One season removed from an awful season in which they missed a bowl, expectations were high in South Bend. Lou Holtz even pegged the Irish to win 11 games.
Then Notre Dame was outplayed by lowly San Diego State for three quarters in their opener and struggled to a 6-6 finish, with their best victory coming over Navy. Notre Dame somehow lucked out and got a trip to Hawaii for their efforts, meaning they can either finish with a winning record or lose their 10th consecutive bowl game.
Bedlam in Bloomington
Kelvin Sampson single-handedly set the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program back a couple of years during the 2007-2008 season.
He lost his job thanks to some shady recruiting practices, and the Hoosiers promptly quit on interim coach Dan Dakich, falling well short of preseason expectations in the NCAA Tournament.
Just when it looked like Tom Crean was doing the right things and pushing the Sampson Scandal out of the media, former Hoosier Eric Gordon came out and said that the Hoosiers' problems stemmed from a locker room divided by illicit drug use.
Crean is a classy guy, but Gordon's allegations are a definite black eye on a program that had already suffered quite a bit in 2008.