Mailbag: Worst Year Ever? Seriously, Is It? Comment Count

Brian December 17th, 2013 at 11:35 AM





Is this the most heartbreaking year in the history of Michigan sports?

Along with other painful experiences, we have lost by one play, one shot or one call the following four things of real consequence:

The Big Ten regular season hoops championship

The hoops national championship

Defeating undefeated Ohio State

Defeating #1 Arizona

And hell, let's just throw in the Tigers losing on a grand slam in the 9th inning to let the ALCS slip away.

I'm not sure I can watch this bowl game. I fully expect it to go to five overtimes, whereupon Gibbons shanks a kick, decapitates Hoke and Borges is made head coach.


Oh man. It is bad when I see this list and immediately think not "wow, that's pretty grim" but "don't forget losing the Outback Bowl on the last play of the game." Oh and also "don't forget losing to Notre Dame in the CCHA championship game to break a 22-year tournament streak in hockey." Oh and "Wisconsin." Jesus. If I was a Lions fan…

But I'm not, so let's self high-five on that one. /self high five

My one quibble with your list is that Michigan was probably two or three plays away from beating Louisville. But with your things and my things we can create an Arbitrary Heartbreak Point Amalgam (AHPA) and compare it to previous years. I'm including hockey because I like hockey and you can eat your own face if you don't.

Outback Bowl outcome. 1 point. It's never too much of a heartbreak to lose the Outback Bowl. The way it went down was very frustrating, as Floyd's suspension came back to bite Michigan at the worst time. Did want Denard and Kovacs to go out with wins.

THAT GODDAMNED WISCONSIN GAME. 6 points. Championship not as obviously on the line (and even if they win that game they would still finish one game adrift of Indiana) but seriously, Wisconsin is the vanguard of the bug people.

Losing Big Ten hoops championship on missed Morgan putback. 15 points. This is a lot of points, because Michigan flat-out blew that game and then had it back in the palm of their hand not once but twice with Burke flying down court and then the putback. Winning that game means Michigan gets a banner from the best year of Big Ten basketball in decades. That one still hurts.

Losing tourney streak in hockey. 4 points. That game was always tilted towards Notre Dame and you just wanted them to get in for the streak's sake, but that streak was pretty great. Frustration factor high. Heartbreak factor not so much.

Outcome of national title game. 8 points. Conflicted. Michigan was on borrowed time after the Kansas game, played great, everything was terrific and fun, and just lost. Probably my favorite loss ever. But… so close.

Penn State outcome. 5 points. I was super mad about this, and the game did feature missed 40 and 33 yard field goals to win plus that game-tying drive. Though it meant little in retrospect, at the time it felt like Michigan had just given up a lot of ground in the division title race. Which lol, of course.

Ohio State outcome. 15 points. 11 of 13 feels bad; would be more points but by that point Michigan had outplayed expectations significantly.

Arizona outcome. 1 point. Probably a seed difference in March.

Professional baseball. 0 points, but I feel for anyone who is a fan of both Michigan and Detroit pro sports teams, as on top of all the crap listed above they've had to deal with Joe Dumars passing on Trey Burke for a guy who was so good at basketball that he led Georgia to a .500 SEC record and first round conference tourney exit, baseball happenings described above, and the continued existence of the Detroit Lions. This year the flavor is hilariously heartbreaking instead of hilariously incompetent.

I don't even know what I would do if I truly cared about those teams and Michigan. "Psychotic break" is a prime contender.

I have 55 points. This is offset by things like Michigan's tourney run and the Northwestern game, but I've built a lot of the offset into points given for the Louisville loss and seriously nobody cares about beating Northwestern as part of their overall happiness level, especially in that game.

I am all but certain that this total cannot be matched, as it requires investiture in all three sports and major things on the line. If anything is going to give it a run, though it's…



This is all based on your opinion of how much Football Armageddon was worth. The worst thing in the last 20 years of Michigan football is without question the Crable helmet-to-helmet call, and while there was still a lot of work to do even if that flag is not thrown, losing that game gets ever more heartbreaking in retrospect as it set the stage for Ohio State's dominion of the series and represents the last moment that Michigan could claim its place amongst the college football firmament. Some things fade as time goes on… next year the Arizona outcome probably wouldn't register in a post like this. Football Armageddon just looms ever larger. How many points is that worth? 40? I don't know, entirely, but it's in that ballpark.

As a bonus, that year's basketball team was 16-3 with a win against MSU on February 1st only to lose 7 of their last 9 games, including a 14(!) point loss to a miserable Purdue outfit that would finish 3-13 in the league and a 2-point home loss on the final day of the regular season against Indiana. Even then Michigan probably makes the tournament except for an opening-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota, which finished 5-11 in the Big Ten.

The hockey team was pretty bad that year and got a three-seed in Denver against North Dakota; North Dakota ran them out of the building. Frustration there, but not heartbreak.

Is that worse? I don't think so. Any other candidates are before my time, but if you want to make a case, uh, go ahead. 2005 was called the Year of Infinite Pain around here, but that was pure naiveté.


Mr. Yost

December 17th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

...and it's not even close.

App St., Kordell, '06 Ohio can't compare to this year in its entirety.

The outcomes of this year make me sick to my stomach. They make me feel like I've cheated in life and punched a baby. They make me feel like there really is some evil karma over my beloved Wolverines.

This year, this year can burn forever.

Go Blue!

snarling wolverine

December 17th, 2013 at 1:58 PM ^

I can't agree.  Football, yes, it was a year full of heartbreakers (though we also avoided a few others) - but we've had a few other years like that, notably 2005.  We still at least made a bowl, which we didn't do recently.

But last basketball season was a huge, huge success in my book.  I don't care about the conference title - no one remembers that anyway.  Prior to the season we hadn't gone to the Sweet 16 since 1994, and then we went all the way to the national championship game!  Yeah, the title game ended on a sour note, but it was still an amazing ride.  Having followed the program through the abyss, it was a really fun, satisfying year, even if it wasn't 100% perfect - few seasons are.

What's happened so far this year in basketball doesn't really matter, and certainly doesn't override what happened last March.



December 17th, 2013 at 2:26 PM ^

The Blackhawks bandwagon thing is the most over used and over exagerated stereotype in sports. It is perpetuated only by upset Wings fans who feel so entitled about their hockey franchise they simply can't accept that a city where hockey was so bad for so long could possibly be in the midst of a several year stretch in which they are better than the wings. I remember seeing Toews jerseys in Chicago since he was named captain in '08, and no one pronounced it Toes. And yes, there was an increase in blackhawks tee-shirts after the stanley cup. This only happens in 100% of cities after their team wins a championship, it is not unique to Chicago.


Ok, that rant is over. Sorry, I just have a lot of friends who are wings fans and have been holding that in a while.   

Bando Calrissian

December 17th, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

I live in Chicago. Honestly, in the months before the playoff run, Blackhawks gear was pretty much nowhere to be seen. Then, all of the sudden, they get to the series with the Wings, and as the series went on, you could see the amount of Hawks gear increase day by day. By the finals, every woman had a Kane or Toews shirsey, every guy had a hat or a jersey, and they all wanted to talk about the Hawks. And it all looked fresh off the rack.

I'm not even particularly a Wings fan. I'm just a guy who notices a bandwagon materializing before my eyes. And this was definitely a bandwagon phenomenon if I've ever seen one. 


December 17th, 2013 at 3:22 PM ^

Actually, what you're experiencing is classic confirmation bias. I lived in Michigan for the Tigers ALCS, and the wings Stanley Cup runs, and part of the Pistons string of conference finals appearances. I could easily argue I saw the same thing with an uptick in wings gear as the playoffs rolled on, especially when they got to the finals. I even worked in a clothing store at the time, and we set an entire section of wings clothing during the playoffs. Like I said, what you saw would happen in literally 100% of cities where a sports team starts to make a playoff run, there will always be bandwagon fans. For some reason many Detroiters have this fixation that it only happens in Chicago. I think it has something to do with the fact that so many Detroit people move to Chicago so its allowed it to manifest itself through a sort of group mentality.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:46 PM ^

I was inseperable from my Roenick jersey at a young age, and saw plenty of games at the Chicago Stadium, despite it being demolished when I was 8 years old.

And can Red Wings fans really claim anyone else is a bandwagon fan? You guys don't have any NON bandwagon fans because you've been so damn successful!

(EDIT: see your clarification. I have lots of respect for the Wings, who have been probably the most successful Big 4 franchise of the last 20 years. and what else have Chicago fans had to be happy about in the last decade?)


December 17th, 2013 at 5:33 PM ^

Pretty much my circle of hockey fan friends are all guys who I played with growing up, the majority of which are Hawks fans (duh). Seeing a former linemate or goalie talking about beating Detroit is one thing, they were there when Roenick was there and when Chelios wore the C and when Bill Writz died; they wore the shirts and bought the gear all through the 1990's-aughts. I don't begrudge them that one bit. OTOH seeing girls I went to high school with that had never seen the inside of a rink before 2008 who invariably want a baby with either Kane or Toews, wearing "Detroit sucks" shirts, talking about their lifetime fandom and how it must suck to root for the Wings is incredibly annoying. 

I'm sure it happens everywhere, and had I grown up in Michigan I'm sure I would know more shitty bandwagon Detroit fans, but there definitely is a large and exasperating bandwagon in Chicago right now.


December 17th, 2013 at 2:26 PM ^

I will preface this by saying that I'm not a big NHL (or pro sports) fan, but aren't Wings fans kind of spoiled at this point?  I mean, four Stanley Cups in 16 years, in a sport known for very random playoff outcomes - how many more can you expect?  I feel like you shouldn't get that down about not winnig Cup #5 in the past two decades.


December 17th, 2013 at 5:41 PM ^

Right now the Wings are on arguably the best run in the Big Four, but I think a lot of fans are starting to feel the luster fading a bit. Lidstrom retiring, Datsyuk being on his last contract in this hemisphere, seeing other franchises rising up (like Chicago and Pittsburgh), missing out on the free agents that were climbing over each other to come just a few short years ago all take a bit of a toll. At some point they're going to need to actually rebuild and it'd be great to win one before that time comes.

Zone Left

December 17th, 2013 at 11:42 AM ^

The Crable hit was not the worst thing to happen to Michigan football in the last 20 years. Losing a tight game to an excellent OSU team in Columbus, while in heartbreaking fashion, isn't that bad. In fact, I can think of three games during the next football season that were more depressing.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

Losing to Appalachian state was the worst, IMO. The Crable hurt and ultimately dug Michigan into a deeper hole, but being that highly ranked in the preseason and then losing your BCS title hopes to a D-II team (before it was cool) was just embarrassing. That was the beginning of a four year span of PAIN that the team is STILL recovering from.

Mr. Yost

December 17th, 2013 at 11:47 AM ^

Is a MUCH better question than the one that asked "would you rather have beaten Ohio (this year) or won the NCG"

I'll still take the NCG because it's a championship, even though beating OSU would've led to the the national championship game. In the end, I like rings. Give me the chip every time.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:48 PM ^

I'm convinced that crable hit set events in motion that eventually landed hoke in ann arbor. if michigan wins that game, do they get pryor? (yeek!) i dont even wanna go down that frightful wormhole.

the thing that got my goat more than anything this year was that trey block-foul in the championship game. in-game miraculous plays against um, though tough to accept, are part of what makes sports great. ref blunders, particularly when they stifle a truly great 'sport play' are insufferable.

speaking of back to the future space-time logic (i dont think this is actually back to the future space-time logic) what if they call the play true and burke gets the block. that has to be trey's 1b signature play (if they went on to win, and that play was at the crux of winning or losing if i remember correctly). i mean, its very nearly as incredible as 'the shot' given the somewhat heightened gravity of the play. it nearly looked as cool.

Bando Calrissian

December 17th, 2013 at 12:00 PM ^

Because the entertainment factor alleviates the pain of a million dong punches?

If only I had told myself that when I was watching the Gingell kick against ASU from the third row, directly lined up with the holder. Or when I sat in the Horseshoe watching the Crable hit in real time and the earth literally started moving in slow motion as the flag hit the sky. Or when Trey Burke gets all ball on the greatest block not made by Tayshaun Prince against the Pacers, and Louisville goes to the line to ice the championship.

Right. The entertainment of competing at the highest level. That's it. I feel better already.


December 17th, 2013 at 1:01 PM ^

he is just trying to say that it is better to at least be competitive and have made it to the NCG vs. not having a snowballs chance in hell to make it to the NCAA tourney...I see both points, but im still kinda in shock the Michigan made it to NCG so im still happy about the fact we were there and almost won it

snarling wolverine

December 17th, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

Are you saying that you'd have rather had us not be 11-0 in 2006 going into the Ohio game, and not have us in the NCG in 2013, just because we happened to lose those games?

In basketball, especially, winning the whole thing is really hard.  There's a reason why everyone raises banners for making the Final Four.  It's a huge accomplishment no matter what happens the following weekend.

Bando Calrissian

December 17th, 2013 at 11:56 AM ^

That 2007 NCAA regional game in Denver... 2 goals in the first minute of two periods, and we still lost. Not to mention TJ Hensick's potty-mouth major penalty from the Sun Belt-level official desperate to assert his authoritah...

The only thing worse was Red taking Billy Sauer to the presser in the same arena the next year, only to have the reporters bombard him with questions about his atrocious performance there against NoDak, at which point Billy became a headcase and proceeded to lay an egg against Notre Dame. Red all but admitted it was pretty much his fault for putting Billy in that position.

Never mind the fact Sauer was an Avalanche draft pick, and it was their home arena. 



December 17th, 2013 at 11:59 AM ^

This year has had it's very unpleasant moments, but I can't count it as the worst due to Michigan making the Final Four.  That makes up for a lot, in my book, though I did have several minor heart incidents reading Brian's post.

FWIW, my experience was that there was nothing quite so low as losing to App. State and then being toyed with by Oregon the next week, all while knowing that the basketball team was likely to be a dud.  So I say 2007 was worse than this year...If I was to give a special award for badness for this year, I would give 2013 the award for "Year When Mediocre Football Started to Seem Par for the Course."


December 17th, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

I think we have to separate worst and most heartbreaking. 2008 was obviously a horrible year, but I wouldn't call it heartbreaking. This year included a trip to the national title in basketball! Sure, it was heartbreaking to lose, but getting there was awesome!


December 17th, 2013 at 12:18 PM ^

Come on now. Spike Albrecht's 17 points in the first half was not only the most out-of-nowhere, incredible performance in a big game - maybe in the history of sports - it more than adequately replaced the production that Burke would have contributed had he not gone into foul trouble. 

Dilla Dude

December 17th, 2013 at 12:09 PM ^

I love me some Trey Burke, but c'mon. What's done is done. I'm a big fan of KCP, I think he'll be a good one for us going forward. Trey is coming into his own in Utah, and I think he will thrive there. 


December 17th, 2013 at 12:48 PM ^

do we beat the indiana pacers--best team in basketball--without kcp locking down paul george to the tune 4-14 from the field? possible, but improbable.

does trey burke put up 18 points, 8 assists, and 1 TO? possible, but improbable.

i think the pistons are solid with the kcp/jennings pick-ups this year. but it's impossible to compare to just adding trey burke, cuz who knows who we would have gone after if we didn't need a new pg.


December 17th, 2013 at 2:11 PM ^

Yeah, I have to agree.  Brian loves Burke for his time in college, and I get that, but as an NBA player he would have been a mediocre fit in Detroit and, honestly, the jury is still out on both KCP and Burke with their professional careers.  

And I know Brian took a shot at KCP for his struggles getting Georgia to the tourney, but let's not forget Burke (in theory) had 3-4 NBA-level players on that roster to work with.  Call me next time anyone from Georgia gets drafted.


December 17th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

Yeah, I'll admit that KCP isn't in the same league talent-wise as KD, but ignoring the talent differences between those two squads to prove a point seems unnecessary.  This year has had enough heartbreak without crapping on draft picks by the Pistons.


December 17th, 2013 at 4:08 PM ^

Maybe.  Honestly, they drafted Mateen and that didn't work out, and while it would be fun for a bit to watch Burke play for the Pistons, picking the "hometown" guy inevitably wears out people's love for him unless he is transcendant.  I mean, Burke is going to have a rough patch where he shoots poorly and doesn't defend well, and if you are watching him every night you'll start seeing his flaws and it will probably alter your view of him.  To me, he's still a great player at UM who went off and played in the middle of the mountains for a non-ironically named basketball team.  That makes me a heck of a lot happier.

Also, watching a guy play well on a crappy team isn't that much fun to me, and without KCP I don't think they pull of the Jennings trade and this team struggles even more with a smallish PG and no wing defenders.

Come On Down

December 17th, 2013 at 12:12 PM ^

I don't think we can call a year in which Michigan made the Final Four the worst year ever. Yes I wish we would have won but January - April was a great time to be a Michigan fan. Also, while this football season was disappointing I believe it was better than both 2008 and 2009.