“Whatever happened to all the season’s losers of the year?”
– Cheap Trick, Surrender
We’re glad you asked, Cheap Trick, even if it was in 1978 that you posed the question. But thanks to the pride of Rockford, it did occur to us that someone needs to compile an official list of the losers of the year. So as 2011 gets underway, let’s take a look back at the major losers in the past year, whether they be teams, fans or individual athletes.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
By the end of January, Favre had thrown another ill-advised pick to cost his team another NFC Championship. Furthermore, he was battered and bruised by a Saints defense that simply kicked his ass.
Once training camp came around, we had the traditional Brett dithering that everyone has grown tired of, this time requiring a full squadron of Vikes to convince him to rejoin the team.
Once he did, Minnesota failed to live up to expectations as it sputtered out of the gates and eventually got coach Brad Childress fired. Things didn’t get much better after Chilly was canned, as Favre missed a start for the first time in his career — 297 straight games — after getting injured by Buffalo’s Arthur Moats.
Favre returned a couple weeks later to face the Bears, but this time Cory Wooton knocked him out to bring an apparent end to his career.
Between all of that, there was the matter of Brett’s wang, which was apparently sent via phone to former Jets employee Jen Sterger when the two were in New York. The matter was finally settled in the year’s final week, when commish Roger Goddell fined Favre $50K for not cooperating with the investigation but not penalized him further since there was no way to forensically prove that it was in fact Favre’s penis in the photo. And from what our research department tells us, the thing isn’t even that big in the first place. (I’ve kept the research department away from me as long as possible).
And that’s how you end up a bigger loser than the Carolina Panthers.
MLB Loser of the Year – Kevin Millwood
How bad were the Baltimore Orioles this season? So bad that they kept giving the ball to Kevin Millwood every five days. So maybe I can’t blame Millwood for his 4-16 record with a 5.10 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, because most other teams would have buried him in the bullpen or invented an injury to get him out of the lineup. For a guy who has had some success in his career, Millwood was just dreadful.
Millwood did end the year on a high note, throwing seven innings of shutout ball against the Rays. But before that, things weren’t very good, as he did not earn his first win of the season until beating the Padres on June 19. (Bet they’d like to have that one back). Millwood’s ERA topped out at 6.05 on Aug. 1, and despite pitching well enough down the stretch to take nearly a full run off that average, he was still among the worst in the big leagues in losses, ERA and WHIP.
NHL Loser of the Year – New Jersey Devils
Last season the Devils were their usual selves, winning the Eastern Conference’s top seed and cruising into the playoffs. Five games later, they were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Flyers.
In the offseason, the team attempted to take a step forward by signing free agent Ilya Kovalchuk to the most ridiculous contract in sports history. So ridiculous, in fact, that it was voided, forcing both sides to go back to the drawing board. The Devils finally did sign Kovalchuk, but it isn’t exactly working out for either side — New Jersey is somehow the worst team in hockey with a measly 22 points, and ranks 30th in the league in scoring.
College Football Loser of the Year – Kyle Brotzman
I’m not trying to pile on the poor bastard, but let’s face it — no one in college football is more associated with losing than Boise State’s kicker.
As everyone knows, Brotzman shanked a chip-shot, would-be game-winning field goal after a miracle pass by the Broncos, and then missed another in overtime to set the stage for Nevada’s win that cost Boise a BCS berth and the Western Athletic Conference $8 million. On the positive side, it’s not like the Broncos would have been allowed to play for a championship had he made it.
College Basketball Loser of the Year – Fans of Awesomeness
We were mere inches away from the greatest ending in sports history — a halfcourt shot by the ultimate underdog team to win the national championship in its hometown against the largely despised college basketball machine from Duke.
Instead, Gordon Hayward’s shot was just a tad too hard, and we were stuck watching Coach K and the Dukies celebrate another national championship. The best upset since the Miracle on Ice was not meant to be. And it still pisses me off.
World Cup Loser of the Year – France
I suppose we could have voted for North Korea since everyone got shipped off to prison camps when they got back home, but who the hell didn’t see that one coming?
The collapse of the French, on the other hand, was even more stunning than it was hilarious. You had a star player kicked off the team, the entire team refusing to take the field for a practice, and then going winless in the group stage when many expected the team to contend for the Cup. Serves ‘em right for that handball against Ireland in qualifiers.
Winter Olympics Loser of the Year – Vancouver
Things went wrong for these games from the start with the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashivili in a practice run before the opening ceremonies even happened.
Weather conditions played havoc with many events, as there were several days where it was too warm to run things on schedule. I would have liked to pick something besides Vancouver as the loser here, especially since the Games produced the best hockey tournament in a generation, but no athletes pulled a Bode Miller this year. Not even Bode Miller.
Johnson seemed poised to earn his first major title when he entered the fourth round of this year’s U.S. Open with a three-stroke lead. So much for that. By the fourth hole, Johnson was already down by three strokes after deciding to borrow several elements from my game. He ended up shooting an 82 and finishing five strokes behind winner Graeme McDowell.
Johnson bounced back quickly from the disappointment, finding himself in contention on the final hole of the PGA Championship. But he was called for a two-stroke penalty after grounding his club in what he mistakenly thought was not a bunker at Whistling Straits, which ultimately cost him a spot in the playoff that determined the championship.
Maybe next year, right?
Things seemed bad enough when Cleveland bowed out in the playoffs against the Celtics as no one actually tried in the final minute of their elimination game. But hey, playoff disappointment is nothing new in Cleveland. As long as LeBron comes back there’s always next year.
After a lifetime of indignity that includes a river on fire, Dennis Kucinich as mayor and the Browns leaving town only to return in a totally crappy form, Clevelanders finally reached their all-time low when LeBron James announced to the whole world he was taking his talents to South Beach.
Those fans at least gave LeBron a chance to see how they really felt when he returned to Cleveland on Dec. 2 — and he proceeded to hand them a 118-90 loss. The Cavs have only one once since that time and are mired in last place in the Central Division. It may be years before they get out.