I would nominate several categories - personally, I think the most painful is the “We came so close” type of defeat, but YMMV:
1. Getting simply obliterated and embarrassed. ** Examples: Brazil losing 7-1 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals. The Raiders losing 51-0 to the Bills in the 1990 AFC Championship. The Dolphins losing 62-7 to the Jaguars in the 1999 AFC playoffs.
2. Blowing a huge lead and losing. Examples: Oilers blowing a 35-3 lead and losing to the Bills in the playoffs. Yankees blowing a 3-0 series lead over the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS.
3. One critical error or poor decision being the undoing of it all. Example: Seattle not running the ball against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX’s critical goal-line play. Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Nebraska unnecessarily going for the 2-point conversion against Miami in 1984. Favre’s interception against the Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
4. Coming so close to pulling off a massive underdog upset, but failing to do so. **Examples: Bengals-Steelers in the 2015 AFC playoffs. Team USA coming back from 0-2 deficit in gold medal game against Canada in the 2010 Olympics to tie the game 2-2 but losing in overtime.
5. The “If only one play had gone the other way” defeat. ** Examples: Bills, Scott Norwood’s Wide Right miss in Super Bowl XXV. Asomoah Gyan’s penalty that hit the crossbar in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal against Ghana. Any of three different plays during the final thirty seconds of regulation in Game 6 of the 2013 Spurs-Heat Finals. The Rangers being twice only one strike away from the championship in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
6. Getting jobbed by the refs. ** Examples: Seahawks losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL. Kings losing to the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
**7. The “A win would have meant so much” defeat. ** Examples: Cubs losing to the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS, thus failing to make it to the World Series. Any team that was in the Super Bowl for the first and only time (i.e., 1994 Chargers, 2008 Cardinals, etc.)
What do you consider to be the most galling type of sports loss?
Can I add category 5(a)–defeat on a fluke or miracle play. Kick 6
So much context goes into these. I’ve been in the stands rooting for a team on the losing end of both #1 and #2. And as a Royals fan, I’m not sure where the 2014 World Series falls - maybe a cross between #4 and #7? Boiling things down, it’s #2. It was clear early that Notre Dame wasn’t in the same class as Alabama. It’s painful to sit there, but there’s little hope of pulling it out. The Royals got so close in 2014, defeated nearly single-handedly by that unworldly mutant from Hickory, NC (which was clearly made up for by 2015) - but it was an amazing run, and I loved every minute of it. *Nothing *about 2014 was excruciating. (And it doesn’t qualify for #3, because Gordon wouldn’t have made it.)
But to be up by so much against the Colts, and doing so well even as injury after injury depleted the team, there was still so little chance of letting it get away. Add in the Chefs’ playoff win drought (not since 1993), and watching that game slip away on improbable play after improbable play - that was clearly the most excruciating.
In football and cricket and other sports with a four-year World Cup (and also the Olympics), losing the final is the absolute worst. I have heard players say that they perfered losing in the Semis rather than finals.
You get to the Semi-finals of a World Cup (or the medal rounds of the Olympics) you had a great tournament. Be the runner up and you have lost a World Cup final/gold medal game.
I tend to think that the “last-second loss in a close game” and the “got blown out horribly” are the easiest ones to take, because in the first case, it was a damned near run thing, and could have easily gone your way and there’s no doubt as to the teams’ competence or heart. In the second case, it’s more because you realize you probably shouldn’t have been on the field with them in the first place.
The ones that get me are the ones where the teams seem evenly matched, but inept coaching, or careless player mistakes lose the game for one side. This is made doubly painful when the losing side loses heart and either gives up or starts desperately flailing around trying to score, and doesn’t manage to accomplish anything but digging themselves a deeper hole.
You’re asking this question of a Cubs fan? Shame on your Schadenfreude!
If you are going to include the fingernail-width loss in SB XLIX, how about the way the Seahawks got there in the first place? There was a lot of tears in beers in Wisconsin over that massive choke.
From the world of combat sports (MMA mostly)
The Freak Catastrophic Injury - Anderson Silva shattering his leg on Chris Weidman <-- not for the weak-of-stomach
Incompetent Reffing - See almost any fight reffed by Steve Mazagatti or Kim Winslow. Allowing rules violations with no warnings or repercussions. Stopping fights criminally early or, which is worse, criminally late. Such things can cost a fighter not only the fight but their health and career.
Incompetent Judging - In MMA judges decisions are famous for inconsistency and incomprehensible scoring. Far too many fighters have a loss on their record for a fight that they won because of this.
Performance Enhancing Drugs - I know this one is entirely on the fighter and his camp but to fight 25 minutes, come away with a win and then have it flipped to a no-contest (presumably resulting in the repayment of a goodly portion of the purse) has truly got to hurt.
I’m going to go with #6, unfair officiating. #3 is a close second, but at leas there you can admit that the player legitimately screwed up, and it’s his own fault. But #6 is just wrong.
Probably #3. The worst case is when you have it all but won, and you have no one but yourself to blame for blowing it.
The Titans were trailing by 7. A touchdown would have sent the game to OT but they could still have lost.
Had the Titans been trailing by, say, 4 points, and Dyson stopped inches short of the goal line, that would have probably been ten times more agonizing.
Definitely #6. Causes all kinds of strife between fans, insults get thrown. Names called…then later maybe if new info comes out it all comes back up again.
See the South Korean World Cup. I think one of the refs went on to get banned for life.
Then there’s baseball with umps getting back at players for showing them up.
#2 sucks the worst, with the 1996 World Series being my #1 go-to example.
As a Spurs fan, the only thing enjoyable about 2013 is that it gave us one of the all-time great redemption stories in 2014… and murdered the LeBron era in Miami to boot.
Getting knocked out of the Provincials for running most of the length of the field for a try – against one’s own team. (He never lived that one down.)
The recent FA cup game was pretty sad for Crystal Palace, losing in Extra Time to a team down a player. Still, when team loses a player, often it seems like they become more focused and aggressive.
For me the most painful defeat was probably Reading FC in the 1995 play-off final. It was painful because after a storybook end to the season we’d got ourselves into the play-off final against Bolton , for the chance for a totally unexpected promotion to the Premiership. In the first half we went 2-0 up and near the stoke of half-time we were awarded a penallty, however we missed the penalty and Bolton came back and went onto win the game in extra time. That was very painful.
Reading FC also managed to lose a League Cup tie against Arsenal after being 4-0 up, one of the few times in higher level pro-soccer that this has happened. However that was more comical than painful.
Apart from that everytime England lose on penalties in a major tournament (which happens often) is painful to me.
Huh, I never realized you were English, AF. I think I pictured you in California somewhere, probably CalTech.
Blown save in a World Series game 7. Ask Cleveland.
I think one other the OP missed was the ‘slow death’, often seen in football and the best example is what is still known in Cleveland as “The Drive”. It was 1987, the Browns were winning 20-13 with 5:32 to play and the Broncos were on their own two yard line. They then drove 98 yards to score the tying touchdown with 0:39 seconds left and went on to win in overtime. Sitting and watching them do that was like a death by a thousand cuts.