No Twitterverse this week. Instead, we shall plumb the depths of our collective sadness.
We live in some the headiest of times of modern Michigan fandom. The basketball team is coming off a NCAA runner-up season and it is bringing in another bumper crop of highly-ranked recruits. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison are in the early stages of assembling some sort of Megazord. Michigan’s facilities are new and shiny and fantastic. But to move to the future, it is important to understand the pain of the past.
So, with a few weeks before anything actually happens in the sports world, this seems like a good time to try to answer a simple, cathartic question: what was the worst moment to be a Michigan fan?
Like the Highlander, there can be only one. So I guess this is our search for the Lowlander. Use whatever criteria you wish, but bear in mind what we’re trying to determine. We’re limiting the competition to the 1990’s and on. Obviously crappy things happened before that, but many of us can’t remember too much farther back. The events in question have been divided into four regions:
- The Daggers Region: It was there. It was so close. WE COULDA HAD HIM, MAN. And then... lightning bolt blue screen of death.
- The What-Could-Have-Been Region: The quantum mechanical gateway to an alternate universe in which we were showered with glory and the heavens rained Pop-Tarts and pleasing music played throughout the land.
- The Well-That-Was-Thoroughly-Unenjoyable Region: These were the games or events that hurt your soul from start to finish. Nothing about them was pleasant. Hope was crushed consistently and repeatedly, and then The Fates really went to work on you.
- The General FML Region: Generic embarrassments. A catch-all for the stuff over the years that still has you saying, "ugh, don't even get me started on ______"
We’ll cover the first two regions this week, and the other two soon enough.
I’ve included some concise arguments for and against the thing in question being the worst thing ever. As a palate cleanser, for each entry I’ve also included a comparable event that went Michigan’s way. The wonderful Yang to the craptastic Yin, if you will. When you’re done reading, Vote HERE: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/99RQK2Y.
Again: read. THEN VOTE. Then cry a little.
Are you ready for this? I mean, we’re gonna pick at some serious wounds here. Okay. Let’s do this. (after the jump)
#1 Miracle in Michigan (Colorado '94) vs. #8 Kalin Lucas/Peedi Sims (MSU '10)
Abombination in Michigan - Michigan led by 12 points with just over 2 minutes left, and by 5 points with 0:06 on the clock and Colorado on its own 37 yard line. And, well...
- FOR: This was a clash of top-ten teams that Michigan had in the bag. This wasn't "They were in a good position to win." This was 'they're too far out for Kordell Stewart to even get the ball to the endzone!" This stuff just doesn't happen. Make one play in the last three minutes, and the game ends. Don't allow a -3 StDev play at the end, and you win. And yet, Westbrook.
- AGAINST: We got an epic Keith Jackson call out of it, which is nice. It was a non-conference game, so it wasn't THAT big a deal, I guess. It could have been karma for Michigan's last second Remy Hamilton win over Notre Dame the week before. I know, even two decades later they don't make me feel much better either. KNOCK IT DOWN.
- YANG: Wide open is Gallon. They left him alone. Needs a block.
Kalin Lucas - Michigan hadn't beaten State in basketball in thousands of years, but they had played the fifth-ranked Spartans close all night, and held a one point lead in the last ten seconds. Kalin Lucas then buried a long jumper, and DeShawn Sims missed a lob leaner at the horn. Sad Peedi.
- FOR: STAEE
- AGAINST: We weren't supposed to win that game anyway, and subsequent wins over State eased the pain of this one. Two years after this, Michigan was B1G champ. A year after that, they made an NCAA title game. Time heals all wounds, but winning heals them faster
- YANG: MSU '12, in which Draymond Green had another 17 footer to beat Michigan at Crisler, and it clanged away.
#2 Spartan Bob (MSU '01) vs. #7 Ben Brust (UW '13)
Spartan Bob - Michigan led their 2001 game at Spartan Stadium by four points, but Michigan State had driven inside the Michigan five yard line with 17 seconds left (not cool, Jeremy Lesueur). Smoker scrambled to the 2, but was tackled in the field of play. The clock ticked down, and then it just kinda stopped. A TJ Duckett touchdown later, we had us some controversy and much lamentation.
- FOR: There's no way to sugarcoat this one; this was an utter and complete screw-fleecing. They changed the damn NCAA timekeeping procedure because of this game. To add insult to officiating injury, Larry Stevens was massively held on the scoring play. Plus, STAEE
- AGAINST: Everyone kind of agrees that Michigan got screwed, so State fans don't try to rub this one in. As such, the outrage is limited. Plus we won the next six games after this, so scoreboard.
- YANG: Penn State fans will tell you this was Lloyd Carr getting two extra seconds in '05 for Touchdown Manningham. They are wrong. That was legit. If anything, this was Penn State not getting credit for the Bryant Johnson catch in '04. Honorable mention goes to the Brandon Minor Pylon Touchdown of '08, but that one ended up not mattering.
Ben Brust - Michigan held a three point lead over the Wisconsin Fightin' Handcheckin’ Shooter-Undercuttin’ Gingers on a Tim Hardaway 3-pointer. All that remained was to avoid THIS:
- FOR: Michigan fans were new to this "being the basketball juggernaut" thing, and we were genuinely concerned that Brust had broken Michigan permanently, because what did we know? Plus Bo Ryan is the devil. Plus Michigan had a foul to give, and didn't (or didn't get a chance to) use it.
- AGAINST: Wisconsin lost to Ole Miss in their first game in the NCAA tournament. Michigan was national runner-up. The universe unfolded correctly.
- YANG: The jump ball to Roy Roundtree against Northwestern this year, which sent that game to overtime. Yes, Yang Events can cross sport boundaries.
#3 Evan Turner (OSU '10) vs. #6 Josh Gasser (UW '11)
Evan Turner - An upstart Michigan team was making a late-season bid to make the NCAA tournament, and held a two point lead in a crucial game. Their opponent had an inbound play with a couple of seconds left, and a ridiculous three-point prayer broke Michigan hearts.
- FOR: Unlike the Gasser shot, this one actually ended Michigan's season. Bonus shame for it being Ohio State.
- AGAINST: OSU was the top seed, and Michigan really wasn't expected to win this game. It was also kind of a fitting end to a disappointing year.
- YANG: The Trey.
Death to Backboards - An upstart Michigan team was making a late-season bid to make the NCAA tournament, and held a two point lead in a crucial game. Their opponent had an inbound play with a couple of seconds left, and a ridiculous three-point prayer broke Michigan hearts.
- FOR: Death to backboards
- AGAINST: Michigan made the tournament anyway, and they won their first-round game and almost knocked out Duke.
- YANG: The Trey. I know. Just shut up and watch it again.
#4 The Fall of Tiny Jesus (UMD, '11) vs. #5 Gong Show (Miami (NTM) '10)
Fall of Tiny Jesus - After standing on his head against North Dakota, diminutive/fun-sized/mighty mite/scrappy/Eckstein goaltender Shawn Hunwick had Michigan an overtime goal away from a national title. Unfortunately, it also left them an overtime goal away from sadness.
- FOR: Michigan had beaten 'better' teams to get there. They probably should have won this game in regulation, and they were still *this* close to a title. Exit Shawn Hunwick.
- AGAINST: A runner-up finish was a pretty nice consolation prize, and UMD pretty much owned the overtime. It wasn't a cheap goal or a ref screw job. He beat me. Straight up. /best Teddy KGB
- YANG: Josh Langfeld's overtime winner against Boston College in 1998
Gong Show - Ref screw job. In a season somewhat like this year, Michigan made a spirited run through the CCHA tournament to keep The Streak alive, and reached the Regional Final against Rico Blasi's bro-tastic Miami (NTM) squad. Michigan put the puck in the net off a brief (brieeeeefffffffff) scramble in front of the net in the first overtime, but the goal was waived off because the CCHA was a Gong Show of epic proportions. Referee John Gravallese claimed he lost sight of the puck (presumably because he relies on echolocation like a bat, or because he was terrible at his job), and intended to blow the whistle. Miami went on to score in double-OT.
Ariel Bond/Michigan Daily
- FOR: In addition to the obvious, one of the Miami goals was the result of Miami poking a CLEARLY covered puck out from under Hunwick's pad and into the net. Gravallese could apparently still see the puck through a leg, but not through six feet of air. Even in writing this, I'm tempted to move this up the list, because EFF YOU, CCHA.
- AGAINST: The team overachieved anyway, so it could have been worse. But still, EFF YOU, CCHA.
- YANG: Brendan Morrison overtime game-winner over Colorado College. No ref screw job, but an OT winner nonetheless.
#1 Webber's Timeout (UNC, '92) vs. #8 Pitch it to Breaston (Neb. '05)
Webber's Timeout - You all know the story. Down by two points in the 1992 NCAA Championship game, Chris Webber grabbed a rebound with about 20 seconds left, traveled, dribbled down court, and called a timeout that did not exist. UNC got two free throws, the ball, and the National Title.
- FOR: Biggest stage, biggest moment, possibly the biggest mental error ever. This was also the last moment, and the lasting memory, of the Fab 5.
- AGAINST: Uh...
- YANG: Rumeal Robinson hitting two free throws after a less-than-obvious foul call in the 1989 Title Game.
Pitch it to Breaston – Here’s a scenario for you. You're Tyler Ecker. You're at the 2005 Alamo Bowl at the end of the Year of Infinite Pain (boy, how that label looks now). It's the last play of the game, and you're down by four. You're in the open field. Steve Breaston is next to you in the open field. He is Steve Breaston. You are, I remind you, Tyler Ecker. You have the ball. Steve Breaston does not have the ball. What should you do?
- FOR: PITCH THE BALL TO BREASTON. YOU ARE TYLER ECKER AND HE IS STEVE BREASTON.
- AGAINST: It was the Alamo Bowl. No one really cares who won that game anymore. Plus it was the worst officiated bowl game ever played.
- YANG: I dunno, we'll say Alabama's missed extra point at the end of the 2000 Orange Bowl.
#2 Crable NOOOOO (OSU, '06) vs. #7 Roundtree at the One (Illinois '09)
Crable NOOOOOO - Football Armageddon featured #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan. Midway through the 4th quarter of a well-fought game, Michigan was down 4, and OSU faced a 3rd down just across midfield. Troy Smith threw an incomplete pass, and Michigan was about to get the ball back with a chance to regain the lead. Except...
The 15-yard penalty kept the drive alive, and OSU scored to effectively put the game out of reach. Saddest of Pandas.
- FOR: Playing your arch-enemy on his turf for a National Championship berth two days after the architect of your entire football universe passes away. This doesn't require a diagram.
- AGAINST: Michigan can't beat Urban Meyer, so it wasn't worth trying* 
- YANG: Brian Griese's scramble in the Rose Bowl (at 7:58) to keep a Michigan drive alive when he probably should have been sacked. The drive that basically ran out the clock and secured a National Title.
Roundtree at the One - In 2009, Michigan was 5-3, and held a 13-7 lead on a very beatable Illinois team when Tate Forcier hit Roy Roundtree for what appeared to be a 77-yard touchdown. After a review, it was (correctly) determined that Roundtree was down at the one yard line. Four straight stuffed running plays later, Illinois had the ball and some sort of magical momentum-juju. They drove 99 yards for a touchdown, and then tacked on another 24 straight points for good measure. Michigan lost the game 38-13. At one point the scoreboard read 19-7 Michigan. That’s… something
- FOR: Score on that play, and Michigan probably wins that game. Win that game, and they probably beat Purdue and finish 7-5 instead of 5-7. That yard was bowl eligibility. Decent odds that yard earns RichRod a 4th year at least.
- AGAINST: /Everyone serenades Brady Hoke with a chorus of Bless the Broken Road.
- YANG: Michigan’s goal line stand against Penn State in 1993.
#3 2003 Frozen Four (Minn.) vs. #6 Goodnight Sweet Ulnar Nerve (Neb. '12)
2003 Frozen Four - There’s nothing fancy about Michigan’s loss to Minnesota in the 2003 National Semifinal. It was just… blerg. MIchigan held a 2-0 lead late in the 2nd period, but lost the lead within a few minutes. Michigan dominated the overtime, but a soft-looking goal ended things.
- FOR: The winner played the University of No Hardware, so this was basically for a NCAA Championship. Michigan had lost to Minnesota in the previous year’s Frozen Four. This would be Michigan’s last and best shot at a title for a long time.
- AGAINST: When you’ve had two titles within the previous seven years, it’s hard to feel TOO sorry for yourself. Besides, there was always a chance that New Hampshire could have beaten… sorry, couldn’t type that with a straight face.
- YANG: Michigan’s 2-0 win over North Dakota in the 2011 Frozen Four.
Goodnight Sweet Ulnar Nerve – Not sure I’m ready to talk about this one yet. Denard was a quarterback, then he scrambled for like 6 yards, then he wasn’t a quarterback anymore. Russell Bellomy stepped in, and was… well, not Denard. The resulting loss also may have cost Michigan a Bo Division title.
- FOR: Division titles. Denards. These are things one would like to have.
- AGAINST: Devin Gardner got to step in, which will help for this year. And… aw, hamburgers. We love you, Denard.
- YANG: Michigan breaking Drew Stanton in the second half of Braylonfest
#4 An Inch from a B1G Title (IU '13) vs. #5 High and Tight, Train (NU '00)
You remember this one. I wrote about it. Michigan was up 5 with under a minute left in a game that would have given them a share of the Big Ten regular season title, as well as a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Poor free throw shooting saw them down 1 with a few seconds left, and Jordan Morgan’s putback somehow didn’t fall.
- FOR: C’mon, it’s an inch from a Big Ten title. Make a free throw. Make a stop. ANYTHING.
- AGAINST: Again, National Runner-up. Indiana bowed out in the Sweet 16. Scoreboard.
- YANG: The same stuff above, but remembering that Michigan’s loss cost Michigan State AND Ohio State shares of the Big Ten title.
High and Tight, Train – This was the birth of Michigan’s decade-long struggle with spread teams, but Michigan had this one in hand. With a five point lead with under a minute left, Anthony Thomas took a handoff, busted through the right side of the offensive line, and headed to daylight. Without the ball.
The loss basically gave Northwestern a Big Ten title that would have been Michigan’s. We still love you, A-Train.
FOR: Not to be a broken record, but Big Ten titles are good.
Making Gary Barnett sad is good.[ED: as someone pointed out, this was Randy Walker's 2nd year, so all animus-related motivation is forgotten].
- AGAINST: Let the smart kids have their moment, or something.