Point/Counterpoint: Whose loss is worse?

This week, Daily Campus Sports is celebrating both the highs and the lows of invested fandom with a series of personal articles telling the stories of our sports memories. This is Fandom Week.

Perhaps the worst part of being a sports fan is suffering tough, heartbreaking losses. For Fandom Week, this week’s Point/Counterpoint pits Boston fans against New York fans in a debate about their worst losses. Staff writers Bryan Lambert (Patriots/Red Sox fan) and Josh Buser (Giants/Yankees fan) argue which was the more embarrassing loss: The Yankees blowing a 3-0 lead in the 2004 ALCS or the Patriots falling in Super Bowl XLII to ruin their undefeated season?

Bryan: The Yankees’ blown lead in the 2004 ALCS should be looked as the worst loss here. The Giants and Patriots play a meaningful game together once every three years. The Red Sox and Yankees see each other what seems like every other week in the summer and every time an announcer recounts their storied rivalry they have to bring up the greatest comeback in baseball history. In fact, if New York didn’t blow that lead, we probably wouldn’t see the Sox and Yankees on national TV a dozen times a year.

That ALCS broke the curse of Bambino, turning the Red Sox from lovable losers to perennial contenders. Since that ALCS, the Sox have won three World Series to the Yankees lone title in 2009. The Patriots were the premier franchise in the NFL both before and after The Helmet Catch. The Yankees changed the scope of their greatest rivalry with their loss in the ‘04 ALCS. They created their own worst enemy. Yes, 18-0 hurts. But it can’t be worse than watching your greatest rival become a more successful team than your own.

Josh: What’s the biggest upset in the history of American sports? You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody that answers that question with the Yankees’ loss to the Red Sox in 2004. The Red Sox finished just three games behind the Yankees in the regular season that year. While losing four games in a row is undoubtedly embarrassing, there’s nothing more embarrassing than losing in what is commonly referred to as the biggest upset since the Miracle on Ice, Super Bowl XLII.

“Miracle” is the perfect term for the Giants’ Super Bowl victory over the 18-0 Patriots. The Patriots’ offense set several records that season, including touchdown passes (Tom Brady, 50), touchdown receptions (Randy Moss, 23) and total team points (589). Before the Super Bowl, Plaxico Burress notoriously predicted a 21-17 Giants’ victory, prompting a chuckle from Tommy Boy. “We’re only going to score 17 points? Okay,” Brady said with a smug laugh. No, Tom, you and your historically dominant offense are only going to score 14 points against the Wild Card-winning New York Giants. Embarrassing.

Bryan: Yeah, Tom didn't have the best game that day but he did his job by giving the Patriots a lead late in that game. It was the defense and a real life Madden glitch that caused the Patriots’ dreams of a perfect season to come to an end.

If we’re talking about tarnished legacies let’s talk about Mariano Rivera. He’s the greatest closer of all time. When he came to the mound during Game Four it should have been over. The Sox should have been swept and the Yankees should have advanced to the World Series. Instead, Rivera walked Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts stole second, Bill Mueller sent it to extra innings and the rest is history.

Besides, the 2007 Patriots still have a place in the NFL history books. They are still routinely brought up as one of the greatest teams to ever play and rightfully so. They were one the most dominant teams of all time. They were by far and away the best team in league that year despite one loss. When was the last time anyone thought of the 2004 Yankees in a positive way?

That Yankees team won over 100 games. They added Alex Rodriguez to an already stacked core. That could have and should have been a team for the ages. All they had to do was win one more game and they’re on to face St Louis and probably bring home their 27th championship.

Yes, the Patriots blew up on the greatest stage. At least they made it there.

Josh: The Yankees’ blown lead to their little brothers helped the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. When people look back on the 2004 season, they think of it as the year the Red Sox FINALLY won. Of course people remember the blown lead, but it’s nowhere near the level of infamy of the 2007-2008 Patriots’ blown perfect season.

Sure, some of the records still stand today. But whenever the 2007 Patriots are mentioned, everyone thinks about David Tyree’s “Helmet Catch” rather than any of Moss’ touchdowns. They think about Eli Manning’s easy toss to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left rather than Brady’s 50 regular season touchdown passses.

The Giants were TWELVE-point underdogs in Super Bowl XLII, the largest underdog to win on the game’s biggest stage. The 1972 Dolphins still own the only perfect season, solely because of Eli Manning and the Giants’ defense. Congratulations to the Red Sox for ending an 86-year curse, but losing a perfect season to a huge underdog is a whole different level of hurt.


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.

Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.