Some fan’s misery and pain is others glee and joy, here are the seven biggest chokers of recent memory.
7. Cleveland Indians, 2016 World Series
Its hard to label this one a choke, as the Indians were not even supposed to be in the World Series. With only two true starting pitchers being healthy heading into the World Series after Trevor Bauer inexplicably cut his hand open trying to repair a drone, the Indians somehow shot out to a 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Cubs, The Cubs were without a doubt the best team in baseball that season, and the Indians were one game away from pulling off one of the biggest surprises in baseball playoff history. But leaving three men stranded on third base in Game 5, Tyler Naquin dropping a routine fly ball in the first inning of Game 6, and Corey Kluber allowing a leadoff homerun to Dexter Fowler, the Indians were in serious trouble of blowing a 3-1 lead. Rajai Davis came up with a miracle home run off of Aroldis Chapman, and the Cleveland miracle seemed to be back on. A foul ball off the bat of Jason Kipnis in the bottom of the 9th inning made it seem like the Indians had won the World Series on a walk off, but it wasn’t meant to be. A controversial rain delay after the ninth inning allowed for the Cubs to collect themselves, and Ben Zobrist knocked in the run that put the Cubs in the lead for good. Rajai Davis batted in another in the bottom of the 10th, but it proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome this time and the Cubs finally ended their 108 year drought, to the misery of many Cleveland fans (including myself.)
6. Texas Rangers, 2011 World Series
The Rangers held a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, and found themselves one strike away from winning the World Series in Game 6. In the bottom of the 9th, with a man on first and second, David Freese found himself down to his final strike, down 7-5 with the title on the line. Freese belted a triple off the right field wall and tied the game at 7 for the Cards, giving them life once again. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese found himself at the plate facing a 3-2 count once more, and Freese delivered once more, hitting a walk off out of the park to force a Game 7. In Game 7, the Cards took a 3-2 lead in the third inning, and never looked back. The Cards won their first World Series title since 2006, and for the Rangers, it was the closest they have ever come to winning a World Series.
5. Paris Saint-Germain, UCL Round of 16 2017
Since PSG hit the scene in 2012 after the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Parisians have struggled to reach the lofty heights in Europe that their billionaire owner has set for them. In 2017, the Parisians demolished Barcelona at the Parc Des Princes 4-0, in a game that could have seen them put 7 or 8 past Barcelona. Barca only mustered a single shot on target, while the Parisians put ten on target from 16 shots, with a 25% conversion rate, not too shabby at all. Heading in to the second leg, many of the PSG players simply looked like they were going through the motions of the game, only needing not to lose by more than three goals to advance. With a Luis Suarez goal in the third minute, a Kurzawa own goal in the 40th, a Messi penalty in the 50th, the comeback looked like it was going to happen. And then Edinson Cavani ended those chances with a brilliant finish in the 62nd minute to assure the away goal for the Parisians, Barcelona needed three goals to advance and it seemed more than unlikely to happen. In the 88th minute, Neymar scored a beautiful free kick which Kevin Trapp, the goalkeeper for PSG, looked like he couldn”t have been assed to move and should have saved, probably should have saved. Luis Suarez dove to win a penalty in the 91st minute for Barca, which Neymar converted. And in the 95th minute, Sergi Roberto got on the end of a Neymar cross from way downtown and completed the most incredible comeback in Champions League history, sending PSG home early once again.
4. Jean van de Velde, 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie
Our only individual on this list, van de Velde held a three shot lead heading into the 18th hole of the final round of the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Van de Velde decided to hit a driver off of the tee on the 18th despite being three shots up, and hit his tee shot into the thick rough at Carnoustie. Instead of playing it safe and laying up into the fairway on his second shot, van de Velde went for the green on his second shot, which hooked horrificly right and smacked the grandstands and ricocheted roughly fifty yards backwards into rough that was up to his ankles. On his third shot, van de Velde’s club got stuck in the high rough in his swing and his shot crashed straight into a water hazard. Van de Velde then proceeded to take off his socks and shoes, roll his pants up and get into the water and debate whether he should hit it out of the water or not. He ultimately decided to take a drop, and ended up with a triple bogey on 18 to force a three way playoff between Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. Lawrie went on to win the playoff and the Open Championship, capping off one of the most monumental collapses the sport of golf has ever seen. To this day, it remains one of the only times where I could relate to a professional golfer.
3. Memphis Tigers, 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship
This one often seems to be forgotten by a lot of sports fans, but it is one that should live on in infamy. Despite having a nine point lead with 2:12 remaining in regulation, the Memphis Tigers, who somehow made the title game despite being not being able to hit a free throw to save their fucking lives, missed four of their last five free throws in regulation, and allowed Kansas to get back into the game. With only seconds remaining, Memphis for some reason decided not to foul Kansas which would have all but sealed the victory for the Tigers, Mario Chalmers found the ball in his hands, and drained a deep three pointer with 2.1 seconds to go to send the game into overtime. Kansas started the overtime on 6-0 run, and they did not look back, eventually winning the game 75-68. It doesn’t get talked about much, but how a John Calipari coached Tigers team blew a nine point lead with a little over two minutes to go, and somehow not deciding to foul with seconds to go to all but assure the title would be heading to Memphis, to this day still puzzles many.
2. Atlanta Falcons, Superbowl 51
When deciding who would be number one on this list, there were only two choices that I knew could be number one, and the Atlanta Falcons were one of the two. With 2:12 to go in the third quarter, the Falcons found themselves up TWENTY FIVE points over the Patriots. TWENTY FIVE FUCKING POINTS. You could put in the backups of the backups and coast home from there. Somehow, some way, the Falcons squandered a nineteen point lead in fourth quarter on the back of maybe the greatest performance of Tom Brady’s career, and the Superbowl went into overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss in overtime, and the Falcons never saw the ball again. Starting on their own twenty five yard line, Brady completed passes to White, Amendola, Hogan and Edelman took the Patriots to the Falcons’ twenty five yard line. Brady’s next pass to Bennett in the end zone was incomplete, but the Falcons were flagged for pass interference, putting the Patriots on the two yard line and first and goal. And we all know the rest from there. Brady pitched to White, and the Patriots become the only team in Superbowl history to win a Superbowl having never held the lead during the game until the final possession. Without a doubt, a choke job of master proportions.
1. Golden State Warriors, 2016 NBA Finals
There is only one winner here, its the 2016 Golden State Warriors. During the regular season, the Warriors broke the NBA’s all time wins record set by the 95-96 Chicago Bulls, winning 73 games during the regular season. Having beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors were heavy favorites heading into the Finals to repeat as champions. Jumping out to a 3-1 lead, the Warriors only needed one win on their home court to be crowned champions. Klay Thomson decided to wind up LeBron James before game 5, saying “maybe his feelings got hurt” in reference to Draymond Green kicking out at him during game 4. LeBron and Kyrie Irving put the Cavaliers on their back in game 5, both dropping 41 points to force a game 6 back in Cleveland. The Cavs in game 6 jumped out to an early lead and did not look back. With roughly four minutes to go in Game 6, Steph Curry fouled out and proceeded to get ejected after throwing his mouth piece in anger which hit a fan. Heading into Game 7, it was a game of monumental consequences. If the Warriors won, they would cap off the greatest season in NBA history, winning the title having won a record 73 regular season games. If the Cavs won, it would end the city’s fifty two year title drought across all sports, and would crown LeBron James as the Lord and Savior of Northeast Ohio. With 1:50 to go in the game with the score tied at 89, LeBron came up with arguably the greatest defensive play in sports history, stuffing Andre Igoudala on a layup attempt that was all but certain to put the Warriors ahead. Kyrie Irving then hit a three pointer with 53 seconds to go which put the Cavs up 3. Kevin Love put on his dancing shoes when a screen saw him defending Steph Curry, and forced a terrible shot out of the unanimous MVP, LeBron gathered in the rebound and went down the other end of the court. LeBron then almost slammed home a dunk which would have ended the NBA as we know it, but was fouled and knocked in one of two free throws, pushing the Cavs lead to four with ten seconds to go. The Cavaliers went onto close down the Warriors the last ten seconds, winning Cleveland’s first title since 1964, and sending the entire city of Cleveland nuts.
Did I get it right? Let me know in the comments below!