10 Most Disappointing Moments in Minnesota Professional Sports History

Mikael Wiitala@@MikaelWiitalaContributor IIIJune 7, 2012

10 Most Disappointing Moments in Minnesota Professional Sports History

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    Minnesota Vikings 2011 record: 3-13, last in the NFC North.

    Minnesota Wild 2011-2012 record: 35-36-11, 4th in the Northwest Division.

    Minnesota Timberwolves 2011-2012 record: 26-40, last in the Northwest Division.

    Minnesota Twins 2012 record: 22-34, last in the AL Central Division.

    It is a tough time to be a fan of any of Minnesota's professional sports franchises at this point and time.

    Fans cling to the hope of a brighter future and the promise of young players who may one day turn these respective teams around, but the present needs more than a little lipstick to make any of these teams look pretty.

    Talk of trades, hirings, firings and signings dominate Internet chatter about our four pro sports teams: no one is irreplaceable, well except for that darling Spanish point guard and his friend Kevin (give it time, we will turn on them too!).

    At this point and time the Minnesota Lynx is the most successful team in town and looks to be for the foreseeable future, whether anyone really cares or not.

    Even though it seems like the Minnesota sports scene has hit rock bottom, I am here to tell each and every one of you to to cheer up because things could be one hell of a lot worse.

    Sure the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves and Vikings are all in the cellar, but the cellar seems like a great place to be compared to the heartache and agony that have previously befallen our teams.

    While there are moments we all will treasure from all four of our favorite clubs, there is an equally long list of tragedies and misfortune that no true fan will ever forget.

    So the next time you are sitting down to tune in to another Twins blowout loss or Timberwolves blown lead, just be thankful that at this point we all kind of expect those things to happen and these losses won't leave you in a funk for the next few weeks.

    I have compiled a list of what I think are the ten most disappointing moments in Minnesota professional sports history.

    This list covers pro sports from the Lakers to the present day disasters. While I am not old enough to have lived through the grief of all of these calamities, it almost feels like I was there when I listen to my dad tell me every excruciating detail of past failures.

    Everyone take a deep breath, get your tissues handy and curl yourself into the fetal position—it's time to relive the ten most disappointing moments in Minnesota professional sports history.

Honorable Mention

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    Most of the time you don't want to be grouped into the honorable mention category, but this time I think it's a better place to be.

    Truthfully, most of these moments did not make the list because there is just no good video footage available so we can all relive these unforgettable moments.

    First up, the video I actually used above chronicles Elgin Baylor and the Lakers' move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

    While this could have easily made the top ten, I have a hard time believing that Shaq and Kobe would have loved ice fishing or the Showtime Lakers of the 80's would have stayed together or formed in the first place during our winters. 

    Next on the list is the Twins loss in game seven of the 1965 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but being shut out by Sandy Koufax in a Game 7 is nothing to be ashamed of—even if he was pitching on two-days rest.

    On the other side of the coin was the 2001 Minnesota Vikings squad's 41-0 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game.

    While this loss was devastating in nature (Kerry Collins threw for five touchdowns, five!), I think we all know there are some more disastrous losses upcoming in the countdown.

    The final honorable mention spot goes to a somber event: the death of North Stars center Bill Masterton after a hit he took on the ice against the Oakland Seals on January 13, 1968.

    Masterton hit his head on the ice and suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that took his life two days later.

    Masterton's death is one of two such incidents to ever take place on-ice and led to the mandatory use of helmets in the 1979 season.

10. KG Is Traded to the Celtics

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    On July 31, 2007 the Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Boston's 2009 1st round draft pick, Minnesota's 2009 1st round draft pick back and cash considerations.

    Of course the 2007-08 season ended with the Celtics winning the NBA Title in six games over the Lakers and the Timberwolves finished 22-60.

    Whether trading The Big Ticket was inevitable or not, the lopsided deal that was made is enough to make anyone cringe.

    Listen to Danny Ainge at the 3:00 mark of the video. He has to be holding back his laughter because no one believed at the time this was a fair trade and it is even more ridiculous looking back at it today.

    Sure Al Jefferson has become a solid NBA player, but he never became the star many believed he could be and the rest of the guys are backups at best.

    The most disappointing part of this is that the current T-Wolves have none of these players on their roster and KG is still playing high-level basketball in the Eastern Conference Finals for the Celtics.

    It is always hard to part with the face of your franchise, especially when that player is the one true superstar your team has ever known. But if you make the decision to trade him, make sure you get pieces that will help rebuild your team, not just another terrible team's spare parts.

9. Vikings Lose Super Bowl IV to the Chiefs

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    Looking back at any of the Vikings' four Super Bowl defeats surely leaves a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who lived through it, but the Super Bowl IV in New Orleans ultimately is the most disappointing of the bunch.

    The Vikes entered the game as 12-point favorites over the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs.

    Led by Joe Kapp and "The Purple People Eaters," the Vikings finished the regular season with a 12-2 record and destroyed the Cleveland Browns 27-7 in the NFL Championship Game.

    All of these factors were for naught, however, as the Vikings turned the ball over five times on offense and the defense was neutralized by Chiefs coach Hank Stram's quick strike offense, which never allowed the fierce pass rush to reach Len Dawson.

8. Twins Lose Game 163 to the White Sox 1-0

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    The 2008 season ended with the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox tied atop the American League Central Division with records of 88-74.

    By rule the two teams faced off in a one-game tiebreaker to determine who would move on to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS.

    Even though the Twins won the regular season series against the White Sox, MLB rules decided the location of the game with a coin-flip because, well, playing 19 games against your division rival wasn't a fair enough way to decide the location of the game.

    The White Sox decided to pitch John Danks on three days rest and the Twins started Nick Blackburn, who was up to the task other than the home run he served up to Jim Thome to start the 7th inning.

    The Twins only had two hits on this September night and probably would have lost to the Rays in the ALDS, but a flip of a coin will always be remembered as sealing the Twins' postseason fate this season.

7. Malik Sealy Is Killed by a Drunk Driver

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    Malik Sealy was killed by a drunk driver on May 20, 2000 after attending a birthday party for his friend and teammate Kevin Garnett.

    After attending college at St. John's University, Sealy was drafted 14th overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, but did not fully blossom as a player until joining forces with Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves in the 1999 season.

    Malik left the birthday party in his SUV and was hit head-on by Souksangouane Phengsene, who was driving the wrong way on the highway. Phengsene survived the crash because of air bags, but Sealy's SUV did not have air bags.

    The Timberwolves retired Malik's number two in his memory and it is currently the only number retired by the team.

6. Vikings Lose NFC Championship Game to the Saints

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    There is a pretty good argument to be made that the 2009-10 NFC Championship game had more total disappointments than anything else on the list.

    The Vikings gained 475 yards in the game compared to the Saints 257.

    Despite five turnovers, the Vikings had the ball at the end of regulation and a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal.

    Then a penalty for 12 men in the huddle, and well, the video shows how the 4th quarter ended up turning into overtime and a Garrett Hartley field goal that sent the Saints to the Super Bowl and the Vikings to the offseason.

    Pretty disappointing, huh?

    Well as disappointing as this was, the Vikings will prove later that they have misery down to a science.

5. Timberwolves Lose in Western Conference Finals to the Lakers

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    It took 15 years for the Timberwolves to make it out of the first round of the NBA playoffs, but in the 2003-04 season the Wolves were the team to beat.

    The team finished the regular season with a 58-24 record and Kevin Garnett was named the NBA MVP.

    As the Western Conference's top seed, the Wolves cruised past the Denver Nuggets, needing only five games to get through the first round.

    Next, the Timberwolves rode KG through a grueling seven game series against the Sacramento Kings, which saw Sam Cassell finally succumb to back problems.

    With the Los Angeles Lakers the only team left in the Wolves path to the NBA Finals, "The Big Ticket" and company were on the brink of breaking through.

    Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of KG, Latrell Sprewell and Wally Szczerbiak, the team was unable to overcome the loss of Cassell and lost to the Lakers in six games.

    If that wasn't bad enough, the Wolves were never the same after that point and soon unloaded Szczerbiak, Cassell and Sprewell.

    The end result has been devastating, with the Wolves still looking for answers eight years later.

4. Kirby Puckett Retires

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    Just imagine how crazy the Internet would go if before this season Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter had to retire unexpectedly.

    In 1996, the equivalent of that happened when Kirby Puckett woke up without vision in his right eye because of glaucoma.

    As a youngster, I could not understand how something like this could take my favorite player away from me.

    I thought for sure it was because of the dastardly Dennis Martinez fastball that broke Puck's jaw in September of 1995, but that was just part of the grieving process.

    The truth was that his vision loss was something that couldn't have been avoided—nature's cruelest trick to play on a baseball player.

    So in July of 1996, Twins' fans got to say an emotional goodbye to the man who brought Minnesota two World Series titles and a lifetime worth of enjoyment.

    Thanks for the memories Kirby.

3. Vikings Lose to Cowboys on a "Hail Mary"

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    "I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary." -Roger Staubach

    Trailing 14-10 with 1:50 left in the game, the Dallas Cowboys needed a miracle to beat the Vikings.

    The miracle they received was came in two parts: a) Drew Pearson caught a 50-yard touchdown pass and b) no pass interference was called on Pearson when he pushed Nate Wright down to get to the ball.

    I wasn't alive at the time, but I have a real good source (my dad) who tell me this was the best Vikings' team of all time and would have won the Super Bowl if not for the "Hail Mary" play.

#2: Vikings Lose NFC Championship Game to the Falcons

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    So was this more of a punch in the gut or was it directly to the groin?

    The level of devastation this game still brings out in Vikings fans is almost comical to be truthful.

    Just mention the name Gary Anderson to anyone you see wearing purple and you will be treated to at least a 15-minute diatribe on how he has affected their personal life.

    Yes, it was heartbreaking.

    Yes, it was devastating.

    Someday I will tell my kids about the Super Bowl title the 1998 Vikings should have won, just like my dad tells me about the Vikes team that was robbed by the Cowboys.

    Yet, still we pin our hopes that one day they will make it back to the same point the franchise was at in 1998—knowing the outcome may once again leave everyone disappointed.

#1: North Stars Move to Dallas

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    Norm Green.

    Did you hear the boos after you read his name?

    Even after compiling this list, I would have a hard time picking Norm Green out of a two-man lineup and yet I know instinctively to hate that name.

    So how exactly could the North Stars be moved from the most hockey-crazed state in the union to deep in the heart of Texas?

    If you guessed the usual suspects of claims of losing money and the need for a new stadium you would be correct.

    Add in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Green, leading to his wife's demand to move the team and we have all the ingredients needed for the most disappointing moment in Minnesota professional sports history.

    While I have no way of proving this, I suspect Minnesota census data would confirm a baby boom starting the fall of 1994 and a remarkable decrease in the state's fish population as a result of not having professional hockey to watch in the winter of 1993.

    To make matters worse, the Stars eventually won the Stanley Cup Title in 1999 and Minnesota was awarded an expansion franchise starting in the 2000-2001 season named the Wild that has been incredibly unsuccessful to this point in time.

    So let's hear it for Norm Green, the only man that can make Gary Anderson seem like a sympathetic figure in the state of Minnesota!