Mailbag: Worst Year Ever? Seriously, Is It?

Submitted by Brian on 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.


I Like Burgers

December 17th, 2013 at 12:20 PM ^

The App State loss made all of 2007 the worst year ever, and its not even close.  Five years from now, is anyone going to remember much from this shitty season?  They probably remember almost beating OSU on the last play, but that wasn't that soul crushing since nearly everyone had no expectation of winning that game.  But 20+ years from now, everyone is still going to remember #5 Michigan lost to App State which kicked off a six years and counting tailspin of depressing Michigan football.

2013 was finding out the Tooth Fairy wasn't real.  2007 was finding out Santa wasn't real.

I Like Burgers

December 17th, 2013 at 1:04 PM ^

The perpetual embarrassment from that App State tips the scales for me.  Did the 2006 loss to OSU suck?  Sure.  But it was a 1 v 2 game, someone had to lose, and Michigan lost a close one.

But in every CFB season since that 2007 loss to App. State, we have to see the same damn embarrassing highlight over and over again. And we'll continue to see that loss shoved in our face for a while.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on which hurt more, but for me, the program hasn't been the same since that App. State loss.  That was the one that sent us from national prominence to national punch line.  The OSU loss that preceded it was simply a bad beat in a long-standing rivalry. 



December 17th, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

Although Hockey was good, football was historically awful and basketball was regular awful.  2013 was tough in relation to our expectations, but miles ahead of 2008 in raw performance.



December 17th, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

You wrote:

2013 was tough in relation to our expectations, but miles ahead of 2008 in raw performance.

Exactly ... the pain is in the unmet expectations ... in sports, in love, in life.

I learned a lesson this year (at age 54) -- don't over-invest my hope in sports outcomes.  It's just not healthy.

Age is a funny thing: it provides greater insights, and it takes away the ability to pee freely.



December 17th, 2013 at 3:36 PM ^

Yes, unmet expectations suck.  But I would rather fall short of a high standard than be so terrible as to not merit consideration to that standard.

And, Itoo have learned with age to invest far less emotional currency in the outcomes of sporting events - especially when I have risked no real currency on them. 


December 17th, 2013 at 5:13 PM ^

The two don't have to be exclusive.  It's quite good to have high expectations.  Certainly it's proper for Hoke and the players to strive after high expectations.  The issue is how we as fans react when things don't go the way we wish.

I like your phrase "especially when I have risked no real currency on them."  That's the difference between our reaction to unmet expectations and, say, the players. 


December 17th, 2013 at 12:26 PM ^

but it's not even in the same universe as watching Michigan go 39-3-1 over four seasons —'70, '72, '73, and '74—yet sit home over the bowl season.



December 17th, 2013 at 1:34 PM ^

It was like being repeatedly lured into the sack by a lubriciously eager Kate Upton, and then when you're at the very verge of really getting down to business, she jumps out of bed, laughingly points to your dong, and leaves with a smirking Hugh Jackman in a red Ferrari.


December 17th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

I was wondering if someone would reference those years.  I was at the '73 10-10 tie as a kid and not ending up going to the Rose Bowl that year may have been the most disappointing event ever.  All of their 1973 wins were by 14 points or more.  The most points Michigan gave up in any game was 13 and gave up less than 7 points in 7 of their games. 

As Don mentions there was no booby prize in those years.

For football 1984 was a bad year.  Started as a top 10 team and lost to MSU, OSU etc and finished 6-6.  Jim Harbaugh got hurt and the season swirled down the toilet.




December 18th, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

Anyone that could even briefly consider 2013 as the most diasppointing year has to be under 40.

In '74 football was two points from an undefeated season and basketball was two points from a final four. BTN has immortalized '73. I probably don't need to mention the '72 Rose Bowl.

Nothing that happened this year comes close to any of that. The expectations haven't built up to anywhere near where they were in those early years of Bo; until they do there can't be any comparable disappointment.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:51 PM ^

I think the very fact that anyone is even discussing the idea that this is the worst year ever in part because the basketball team lost the national championship game is a perfect example of the worship of negativity and self pity that has a grip on a segement of the fanbase.

That basketball season was one of the best in my lifetime. If you can't see that then I feel bad for you because you will likely always be an unhappy fan and I will probably avoid discussing sports with you. But things are looking up, I'm sure 2014 and on will be much much worse.

Having said that, I think it is clear that 2013 was just another year. There were some pretty terrific highs and some totally normal lows. Nothing terrible happened.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

I agree that the 2012-2013 basketball season was awesome, so I think it's more accurate to say that this Fall really sucked. In terms of expectations for the football season vs. what actually happened, I'd say it's worse than '12, '10, and '09 by a longshot. I'd even say it trumps '08 since I fully expected they would not make a bowl that season. And on top of that, we missed out on the greatest upset in the history of Michigan sports by a single play. That game would have been talked about for 100 years.


December 17th, 2013 at 1:28 PM ^

You misread. This is a post about heartbreaking outcomes and if it was one of the most heartbreaking years for UM. It has nothing to do with if this was literally the worst year. I'd like to hear a counter argument for another year more heartbreaking, instead of the usual dreck aimed at making people who post here feel like shit for doing so.


December 17th, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

I see the word worst repeated over and over.

But regardless, I still don't agree.

In 1991, Michigan got their asses handed to them by Duke in the basketball championship and didn't win the Big Ten. FSU humiliated Michigan on national TV in Michigan Stadium. Steven Emtman ate Michigans OL in the Rose Bowl. And I'm sure the loss in the Frozen Four was terrible also. Personally, I thought it was a pretty good year but I'm not crying about this year either.

So, in this weird view where doing well breeds heartbreak that one takes the cake because all the teams did really but lost.

I'd go with 2007 more though. Because the football team started at #3 and then the whole season sucked except the bowl what with Hart and Henne being hurt and the back to back loses to Appy State and Oregon and then the worst OSU Mchigan game on record. The basketball team was 10-22 and unwatchable. And in hockey MSU won the national championship.

2007 is my real pick but I can't answer for anyone else because my perspective is not like most on here. It feels silly discussing an arbitrary system of quantitation made up by the party that I seem to disagreeing with but if this year's OSU game is worth 15 points then Appy State, Oregon and OSU along with Henne and Hart's injuries are certainly worth a lot of points. At least in my book.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

Yeah the tourney run was the most fun I've ever had as a sports fan so I can't call this the worst year ever. I got to go to Turner Field (where they played the Victors every time Jeff Samardjzia batted which was awesome) and the Georgia Dome for the first time.  2009 was by far worst if you ask me. Basketball sucked, Football sucked, and IIRC hockey got off to a horrid start.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:32 PM ^

You have to add in the fact that apart from Notre Dame and tOSU, this just wasn't a fun football team to watch this season. It's one thing to talk about margins of victory or defeat, but even some of the wins should count for Arbitrary Heartbreak Points -- I walked away from watching Michigan beat Akron and UConn more depressed than I have after many of their losses over the years.

As for the Lions...whatever. I look forward to the 57th season of their rebuilding process.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:31 PM ^

There is no way M would have lost that 2006 if they didn't call that bull shit personal foul. Why? Well, both defenses were doing almost nothing the entire game, so there is no doubt in my mind that M would have scored when they got the ball back. Without that call, it would have been a fourth down and long, which means, of course, a punt from OSU. Oh well.

Bando Calrissian

December 17th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

Uh... It wasn't a bullshit penalty. Crable made a completely boneheaded decision to go high on Troy Smith when he could have just as easily either laid off and let him throw the ball away (which he was doing), or made a less dramatic, yet legal hit instead.

As far as helmet-to-helmet calls go, it was a complete no-brainer. It's on Crable, not the official.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:32 PM ^

But I guess I enjoyed this year a lot more than others.  That national championship run, especially the Kansas and Florida games were pure bliss for me.  The first half of the Louisville game and Spike's WTF half.  To lose at the end stung, but didn't offset the great run.  Michigan had an amazing basketball season that we'll probably never be able to repeat.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Trey dominate, THJ develop into an excellent all-around college player, and the 4 freshman do their respective things.  What a year.

Football was a bigger disappointment, but coming at it from expecting an 8-4 season I think really mitigates the grumpiness.  The Nebraska-Iowa-Penn State-MSU stretch was pretty rough.  But ND was fun, we had several exciting endings, and the OSU game was thrilling too.  Other than the offense grinding to a total halt in the middle of the season there was some dramatic football to watch.

Detroit Sports (for those that care):

Pistons have made debatable moves but lets not get lost in details.  Andre Drummond is a potential franchise center and his continuing development is far more important than anything else going on.  As a Michigan fan, I'd rather have Burke than KCP but c'mon - that's not making or breaking the Pistons.  We have one of the 5 best under 25 players in the league and that's a great position to be in.  Doubts about Dumars don't erase that.

Lions - disheartening season, but Mayhew knocked the 2013 draft out of the park and that should yield huge dividends over the next few seasons.

Tigers - they made the playoffs and had one of the best pitching staffs of all time and Miguel Cabrera had another amazing season.  Enjoyable team to follow.

Even with the heartbreaks, it's more fun to watch winning/contending teams that lose than middling teams with no title shot.  It would be nice to win a damn title though.


Dallas Walmart…

December 17th, 2013 at 12:36 PM ^

that my life would be significantly different if we had beaten Ohio in 06.  Ok, not really.  But that one hurt as much as any I can remember.  That was one of the few times in the last 15 years that I honestly felt like we were as good, if not better, than Ohio.  And with everything that was on the line ...


December 17th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

Am I the only one that gives the Penn State loss a LOT more points than that? I was miserable that game. MISERABLE. I spent the next 3-4 days with a rain cloud above my head. I read every miserable article about every miserable play and playcall and couldn't bring myelf out of the tailspin. True Misery. It was my first time ever having to sit down and tell myself that I had gotten too close to sports and needed to take a step back.

Go Blue in MN

December 17th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

Every year when we have a decent team (or think we do) the first loss is miserable, whether a heartbreaker like 2013 PSU or a blowout.  2013 PSU comes to our minds sooner than other notable losses because it was so recent.  I was at least as miserable after the 2011 MSU loss than the 2013 PSU loss.


December 17th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

Exactly. This game doesn't stick out to me because it was our first loss (I had forgotten that it was until he said that). I had already come to terms with the fact that we simply weren't very good and we'd ultimately get exposed. To lose the way we did, and to have that misery dragged out over the course of the overtimes was what did it. It's like being sentenced to death, but instead of being hung, they bury you alive. Slow, lonely, and miserable.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:49 PM ^

Pile on Sparty actually winning the B1G Championship game and ending their Rose Bowl and BCS bowl drought and it's tough to come up with a crappier season than this one.  Sigh.


December 17th, 2013 at 12:56 PM ^

I feel there is a difference between "WORST YEAR EVER" and "Most Heartbreaking Year Ever". 

2013 could easily be the most heartbreaking year ever due to all the close losses during the football season (seriously, we were 4 plays away from 11-1) and the close losses costing us a Big Ten title and the National title in basketball. Add losing The Streak in the CCHA finals to Notre Dame...yeah I think we have a winner.

Worst year ever? Probably 2008. We lost the bowl streak and it wasn't even close as we ended the year 3-9 with losses to MSU, OSU and Notre Dame. We finished 10-22 in basketball (5-13 in the Big Ten). The hockey team had a great season but ultimately underperformed by losing to a Notre Dame team they had beaten twice earlier in the year in the Frozen Four. 


December 17th, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

What's interesting to me about this blogpost is that it seems that old timers might be better at coping with this laundry list of "almost" victories (failures).  This is the water that Michigan fans have always swimmed in.

What I means is, for every  intrepid 1981 Rose Bowl win or 1989 national title or 1997 national title, Michigan fans seemed obligated, even destined to experience things like the 1973 Burt Smith Rose Bowl vote, the 1974 Mike Lantry miss, the 1979 Rose Bowl bullshit Charlie White butterfingers call, the now illegal blocking of a Bryan Virgil FG (Bob Crable), or the Bryan Virgil punt block by Todd Bell for the game winning TD, or Rob Houghtlin ripping out your aorta with a last second FG loss.  And that's just off the top of my head.

So I'm dating myself big time with such references. But I'm sure fans much older than me could rattle off several more instances of hellish fandom.   But you see, it's just part of the water we all must swim in as Michigan football fans. It seems pointless to complain about it.  Since the 1979 season, I'm convinced it's fate.  I'm not saying Michigan won't ever win a national title again. I'm just saying that these episodes of chronic "almost" are nothing new to Michigan football and Michigan sports in general. 

Part of this is born out of unrealstic expectation-setting. There was a time when Michigan entered the football season ranked in the top 10 and absolutely crushed about 10+ opponents by decisive margins only to get their asses handed to them in a high hat on New Years day by an opponent that was coached how to pass-block.  And those are still considered today the "glory years".  I'll always be huge fan of Michigan football, but I've recalibrated my brain to a setting that expects "almost" as an "all systems normal" signal.  The loss to #1 ranked Arizona? Painful as hell, but all we've been in this film before, haven't we?

In short,  yes 2013 sucked. For me, this year's game at Penn State really did me in.  And Mgoblog captured it perfectly for me. But honestly, isn't "almost" kind of the norm for Michigan sports?


December 17th, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

Did Michigan really get their asses handed to them in bowl games in the 70s and 80s? I wasn't around back then, but looking at the results and hearing all the stories, it seems they were more unlucky than shown up. 

1970: 10-3 loss to #4 USC in Rose Bowl 

1972: 13-12 loss to #16 Stanford in Rose Bowl 

1976: 14-6 loss to #3 Oklahoma in Orange Bowl

1977: 14-6 loss to #3 USC in Rose Bowl

1978: 27-20 loss to #13 Washington in Rose Bowl

1979: 17-10 loss to #3 USC in Rose Bowl

1980 17-15 loss to North Carolina in Gator Bowl

1981: 21-6 WIN against #16 Washington in Rose Bowl 

1982: 33-14 WIN against #16 UCLA in Bluebonnet Bowl

1983: 24-14 loss to #5 UCLA in Rose Bowl

1984: 9-7 loss to #3 Auburn in Sugar Bowl 

1985: 24-17 loss to #1 BYU in Holiday Bowl

1986: 27-23 WIN against #6 Nebraska in Fiesta Bowl

1987: 22-15 loss to #7 Arizona State in Rose Bowl

1988: 28-24 WIN against Alabama in Hall of Fame Bowl

1989: 22-14 WIN against #5 USC in Rose Bowl

1990: 17-10 loss to #12 USC in Rose Bowl

Record in one score games: 3-11. That's crazy. And if you look at 1970 to 1987, its 1-10. He only lost one bowl game during that stretch by more than a touchdown. Might have been the unluckiest bowl coach of all time. Or perhaps it was a lack of offensive innovation to run along side a dominating defense...


December 17th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

Most of our bowl losses in that period involved games where we were far from home and our opponent had essentially a home game (particularly true of most Rose Bowl games).  It was a novelty for our players to get to California and go to Disneyland, while our opponent got in the bus and came to the stadium.  I always heard that our coaches (including Bo) wanted those trips to be fun and a reward for a successful season.  I am not saying Bo didn't want to win, but the rumor (maybe just an excuse) was that the trip was supposed to be fun.  And our teams were in all of those games.  It is worth noting that the 1970 game was probably impacted by Bo's heart attack a few days before the game.


December 17th, 2013 at 2:58 PM ^

Plenty of bad luck in plenty of bowl games under Bo.

*Bo had a heart attack before the 1970 Rose Bowl. Dan Dierdorf said the team basically went to the stadium in tears.

*Losing our quarterbacks. John Wangler knocked out of the 79 Gator Bowl against North Carolina after putting up great numbers. Steve Smith knocked out of the 83 Rose Bowl against UCLA. No Jim Harbaugh for the Holiday Bowl because if his broken arm.

*Refs f*cking up. USC gets a touchdown when Charles White goes into the end zone without a football in 78. Ten years later, USC benefits again when Bo hater Jim Kemberling called the phantom holding call on Chris Stapleton's fake punt that would have provided us with the game winning points.

*Close call. There was no injuries or bad calls in the 78 Rose Bowl against Washington but we were inches away from tying the game at the end when a Rick Leach pass was tipped in the end zone and landed right in the hands of a Washington player. And against Auburn in the 84 Sugar Bowl, Triando Markray caught a 38 yard pass that would have easily set up a game winning field goal from the 25 but the clock had run out.

Yeah, the bowl GODS really hated Bo.