Canada: Top 5 All Time Sports Collapses

Last Updated: May 29 2018
Article by Mark J. Freiman

For Raptors fans still smarting after the team was swept 4-0 in the second playoff round after a record-breaking 59 win regular season, here are my top 5 all time sports collapses following seeming sure-fire harbingers for success, that will keep your (and my) misery company:

1. New York Yankees 2004 American League Championship Series

No Major League baseball team had previously come back to win a seven game post-season series after falling behind 3 games to none. The Yankees were up by that margin over their hated foe the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 AL Championship Series and leading by a run in the eighth inning. To seal the deal, they brought in the greatest reliever in baseball, Mariano Rivera, and asked him to give them a two-inning save. He made it through the eighth, but in the ninth, a walk, a stolen base and a single tied the game. The teams played extra innings into the twelfth, where the Red Sox won it with a home run. The next game went into extra innings as well. The Red Sox won that one in 14 innings, with David Ortiz, who hit the home run in the previous game, winning this game as well, one minute short of six hours after its commencement. Curt Schilling pitched the next game for the Red Sox, winning it despite the "bloody sock" into which his injured leg was seeping. The Red Sox won game 7 in a rout and went on to win the World Series. The Yankees' collapse made history.

2. Golden State Warriors 2016 NBA Finals

Golden State won a record breaking 73 games in the 2015-16 regular season in the NBA. The Warriors had a close call in the Western Conference finals before beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 7 games and then seemed poised to make short work of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Championship Finals, by a margin of 3-1. No team had ever lost a finals series after leading 3-1.

In their game 4 victory the Warriors' energy player Draymond Green picked up his fourth technical foul of the series and was consequently suspended for game 5. The Warriors lost game 5 by 25 points and in the process lost their centre, Andrew Bogut, to injury. They lost game 6 as well. In game 7, the Warriors held the lead through 43 minutes, but then went 0 for 9 down the stretch to lose the game 87-83 and become the first team to blow a 3 games to 1 championship series lead, losing to a Cleveland team decimated by injury but essentially willed to victory by Lebron James (sound familiar?).

3. Houston Oilers 1992 AFC Wild Card Game

The Houston Oilers finished out the 1992 regular NFL series with a resounding 27-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills. As luck would have it, the same teams met one week later in the AFC Wild Card Game. The first half of the Wild Card Game looked like a repeat of the last game of the regular season with Houston taking a 28-3 lead at the half. In the third quarter, Houston piled it on, turning an interception into a touchdown to make the score 35-3. To make things worse, Buffalo's best player, Thurman Thomas, was injured in the third quarter and unavailable for the rest of the game. But then, everything turned and Houston collapsed. A flubbed kick-off gave Buffalo great field position. A missed easy interception turned into a completed pass that led to a touchdown. A successful onside kick led to another score. Houston's punter shanked a fourth down punt, leading to seven more points. An interception led to another score and the lead was down to 4. The game eventually went to overtime, with Buffalo winning to complete the biggest comeback in NFL history.

4. New York Knicks 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals Game 1

Yes, Northern Iowa blew a 12 point lead with 35 seconds to play in the 2016 NCAA March Madness second round against Texas A & M, but they were lovable college players and huge underdogs – so I'm going with the hated New York Knicks, arrogant professional basketball players, who led the Indiana Pacers 105-99 with just 18.7 seconds to go in Game 1 of their 1995 Eastern Conference semifinal series, before collapsing in the face of one of the most amazing one-man performances in the history of professional basketball. This was the famous "eight points in nine seconds" by Reggie Miller. Miller began his outburst with a three point shot from the corner. He then stole the ensuing inbounds pass, dribbled to the three point line and hit a second three pointer to tie the game. The Knicks still had the ball and plenty of time to win the game. John Starks missed two free throws. The Knicks recovered the rebound but Patrick Ewing missed a 10 footer. Miller was fouled going for the rebound and calmly made both free throws to seal the victory. Indiana went on to win the series in seven games.

5. Chicago Cubs 2003 National League Championship Series

There is no baseball team more snake bitten than the Chicago Cubs. Whatever bad things can happen on the way to the World Series, will happen to the Cubs. In 2003, the Cubs were poised to break an almost six decade long drought and finally make it back to the World Series. They led the Florida Marlins 3 games to 2 and were leading 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6 with one out. A Marlins batter hit a high fly ball into foul territory along the left field line of Wrigley Field in Chicago. A Cubs fan, Steve Bartman, was sitting in the front row of the stands. He reached over and deflected the ball, such that the Cubs outfielder, Moises Alou, had no chance at making the catch and recording the out. Five base hits and one crucial error later, the Marlins had scored eight runs in that inning and won the game. They went on to win the seventh game and the series the next day and beat the Yankees in the World Series thereafter. Bartman went on to live in infamy, to be forced to move and by all accounts to have his life ruined by one instinctive twitch that paved the way for the Cubs to collapse like a cheap suitcase.

Now, don't you feel a bit better?

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