The worst losses, and where the Miami fiasco ranks among them
We’re on to Pittsburgh . . .
Actually, no. This is New England in 2018, and we don’t let go of a horrible loss. Not overnight. Not in a couple of days. Sometimes never.
“It’s the National Football League,’’ Bill Belichick reminded us on WEEI Monday. “No one died.’’
That’s easy for you to say, Bill. Here in New England, we never let these things go (anyone seen Malcolm Butler?). We dissect and analyze. We perform an autopsy. We spit out pieces of our broken luck and wallow in a quagmire of agony. We seek counseling.
And we rate the pain.
In the stunning seconds after Kenyan Drake ran into the end zone Sunday, I suggested that the shocking defeat in Miami might be the worst non-playoff loss in Boston sports history. I challenged fans to come up with “anything more hideous and ghoulish than what happened to the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium.’’
And the Globe’s passionate readership hopped into the Wayback Machine and submitted dozens of suggestions.
Let’s start with the framework of the assignment: Playoff games are not included here. No regular-season loss can have the consequences and cause the harm of a playoff defeat.
This eliminates both of the Patriots’ Super Bowl losses to the Giants, roughing-the-passer on Sugar Bear Hamilton, Too Many Men On The Ice in Montreal Forum, the Bill Buckner Game, the Grady Little Game, and yes, the Bucky Dent Game.
Technically speaking, the Bucky Dent Game was part of the 1978 regular season, but we all know it as a one-game playoff. So it does not count here. That would be too easy. It would end the debate.
A hideous loss needs two ingredients to qualify for immortality: 1. It needs a stunning upset finish. And 2. It must have consequences.
Sunday’s debacle had both. That’s why it’s a contender. Unfortunately, it’s impossible at this hour to measure the damage. Watching the Steelers lose just a few hours after the Patriots lost instantly negated some of the harm from the double-lateral fiasco.
If the 2018 Patriots proceed to run the table and advance to the Super Bowl, we aren’t going to dwell forever on the nightmare finish in Miami. But if the Patriots somehow lose the No. 2 seed, are forced to play on wild-card weekend, or wind up losing a road game in the AFC tournament, the hook-and-double-lateral becomes part of New England sports folklore.
In the meantime, with help from many of you readers, I have decided that for now at least, the worst regular-season loss in Boston sports history is the night the lights went out on the Red Sox season at Camden Yards on Sept. 28, 2011.
That one was a ghoulish loss and had eternal consequences. The 2011 Red Sox, you might remember, were being called by some the “Greatest Team Ever” in spring training. But they staggered in September, losing 19 of 26 coming into the final night against the moribund Orioles.
The Sox had a 3-2 lead and a playoff bid in hand when they took the field for the bottom of the ninth. In that moment, the 2011 Red Sox were 77-0 when leading after eight innings. But with two outs and nobody on, Jonathan Papelbon gave up back-to-back doubles, which made it 3-3. Then Robert Andino hit a sinking liner to (who else?) Carl Crawford and naturally Crawford couldn’t make the catch. Or the throw.
The Orioles won in a dogpile at home plate, and the Sox were eliminated from all contention a few seconds later when Evan Longoria homered to beat the Yankees in Tampa.
Then Adrian Gonzalez said it was all God’s will.
Like I said, that one had everything.
That Baltimore loss turned out to be the final night in the Red Sox careers of Terry Francona, Theo Epstein, Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, J.D. Drew, and Heidi Watney. It led to the discovery of chicken and beer, the hiring of Bobby Valentine, and the monster trade with the Dodgers in the summer of 2012.
So there. Until we see what happens with the 2018-19 Patriots season, I’m anointing the 2011 Red Sox finale as worst non-playoff loss in Boston sports history.
Some other contenders, with help from passionate Globe readers:
■ Oct. 17, 2017: Cleveland defeats the Celtics, 102-99, on opening night after new acquisition Gordon Hayward suffers a gruesome injury to his ankle/leg in his sixth minute as a Celtic.
■ Sept. 28, 2016: Just minutes before the end of a game against the Yankees in New York, the Red Sox learn they have clinched the AL East title because the Orioles defeated the Blue Jays. The Red Sox are leading, 3-0, and are poised to celebrate. But Mark Teixeira takes the air out of the onfield party when he belts a walkoff grand slam, leaving the Red Sox to hold the festivities until they reach their clubhouse.
■ April 9, 2016: The Bruins skate themselves out of the playoffs by losing the last game of the regular season, at home, by a score of 6-1 to the Ottawa Senators.
■ Nov. 15, 2009: Just say “fourth and 2” in New England and many football fans will know exactly what you are talking about. Belichick famously decides to go for it late in a game vs. Peyton Manning and the Colts rather than punt the ball back to Manning at a time when he is at the height of his powers. The bid fails, Manning gets the ball on the Patriots’ 29, and the Colts promptly score to win, 35-34.
■ June 4, 1989: The Red Sox lose to Toronto, 13-11, after leading, 10-0, in the seventh.
■ June 26, 1987: The Red Sox lose to the Yankees, 12-11, in 10 innings after Roger Clemens takes a 9-0 lead into the third inning.
■ Dec. 25, 1985: The Celtics blow a 25-point third-quarter lead and lose to the Knicks, 113-104, in double overtime in a nationally televised Christmas Day game.
■ Sept. 10, 1978: Boston manager Don Zimmer turns to rookie Bobby Sprowl (“the kid has ice water in his veins”) to stop the bleeding after the Yankees crush the Red Sox three straight at Fenway. Sprowl doesn’t get out of the first inning and the Sox lose, 7-4, to complete the Boston Massacre (42-9 over four days). Sprowl never wins a game in the big leagues.
■ Oct. 2, 1972: The Sox lose the first game of a crucial three-game set in Detroit, 4-1. Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio kills a Sox rally when he falls down twice attempting to round third base. The Sox are eliminated from the AL East race the next night.
■ Oct. 1, 1949: The Sox go to New York for the final two games of the season, needing only one victory to win the pennant. The Sox lose both. The first one is more painful. The Sox lose, 5-4, on a home run by Johnny Lindell (a pitcher who’d been converted to an outfielder!) in the bottom of the eighth.
The list includes some hideous defeats and some games with big consequences. But they’re all fighting for the bronze medal.
In my mind, the worst regular-season loss in Boston sports history is either the final night in Baltimore in 2011 or last weekend in Miami.
Let’s wait and see what happens to the Patriots the rest of this season.
Let’s move on to Pittsburgh.