Nobody likes to lose. Whatever competition the loss occurs in, it irritates the loser. No matter how competitive of a person you are, how much you care, or how much effort you put in- it doesn't matter. You would rather win than lose.
In professional sports, sore losers are everywhere. There are emotional players like Terrell Owens (and I'm not a fan of his, but you gotta admire that kind of emotion), emotional coaches like Dennis Green (at the end of that, the reporter who asked the question goes "...thanks coach", seriously listen, haha), and of course, there is everyone's favorite emotion-showing QB. But emotion runs deep for fans, as well, and when our favorite teams lose, we like to have excuses.
Or, if you root for teams that play in Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania or Ohio, you have a curse. I'm talking about, of course, the cities of Buffalo, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Of these five cities, which one stands out as the most-suffering? You might be surprised. Would you like a run-down?
Chicago- Yes, the Cubs haven't won a World Series in over 100 years, but the White Sox, Bulls, Bears and Blackhawks have all won titles since then.
Buffalo- The Bills and Sabres haven't been the luckiest of teams, but they don't have losing baseball or basketball teams, either.
Philadelphia- They still might be cursed, but the Phillies won a title last year, and might be on their way to another one this year.
That leaves two major markets left.
Cleveland- The Indians, Cavaliers and Browns are notorious for coming up short and are right up there with MSP/STP, but the Indians have won as many titles as FIVE of Minnesota's franchises have combined. They also don't have a fourth major-sport team, and while it might not seem like much, The State of Hockey has had not one but two franchises struggle mightily when it really counts.
Is Minnesota the new sports failure place of America? Yes! You don't believe me, you say? Keep reading, and let the case be presented...
First off, some fun facts!
- Minnesota is the only state (that's all 50 states, people) who have every one of their major sports teams named for the state. There's no suffering of cities, it's the state as a whole.
- Boston/New England fans love to watch the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins win, and they have arguably become the winningest sports city in America. What do Randy Moss, David Ortiz, Kevin Garnett, J.D. Drew, Phil Kessel, Manny Fernandez, Laurence Maroney, Wally Szczerbiak, Bobby Kielty (this guy hit the World Series-winning HR), Doug Mientkiewicz (this guy caught the ball that broke the curse), Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury, Sam Cassell, Blake Wheeler, and more all have in common? They went from Minnesota to Massachusetts and all played key roles on those stellar teams.
- Go over that list again, how crazy is that? Check out the Facebook group if you don't believe me. Yeah, I know all of those guys didn't win titles, but still.
- Kevin McHale was a Minnesota star in high school. He starred for the University of Minnesota in college. He is a Hall of Famer, and he came back to the Timberwolves to run them into the ground. Seriously, what other hometown hero has returned to ruin a franchise this bad?!
- Since the turn of the century, the NFL draft has become huge. How do the first round picks look for the Vikes? Dimitrius Underwood, Chris Hovan, Michael Bennett, Bryant McKinnie, Kevin Williams, Kenechi Udeze, Troy Williamson, Erasmus James, and then Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson. That's two good picks, one above-average player, an overrated guy who has never lived up to his potential, four huge busts, a decent player who retired early and then Udeze. In an unrelated note, best of luck to him in the future.
- Who's our savior? Brett Favre! This is the same QB who played 16 seasons in our rival state, won a Super Bowl for our rival team, and killed the beloved Vikings for years and years. Cleveland got 18 year-old LeBron James, we got 39 year-old Brett Favre. Awesome.
Who's ready to get started? Let's take a ride on the failure train! Remember that season when your favorite team had it all going? What if I told you that every pro team has had that season in the last 11 years- and they ALL blew it?
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, THE CURSE OF DREW COBLE.
Let's start with the successful team of the state. The Minnesota Twins! The Twins have won two World Series titles, which is easily the most success of any of the four major sports teams. But they haven't won since 1991- 18 years ago. Since that time, they were one of the worst teams in baseball, but also have been to the playoffs four times. How have they done?
A five-game ALDS win against the division-champion Athletics, only to blow home-field advantage and lose in five games to the Angels. The clincher? Adam Kennedy hit 3 home runs- the last coming after he bunted foul and had to swing with two strikes. Kennedy has 67 homers in his career.
Two ALDS losses to the Yankees. Including when Shannon Stewart robbed a home run to save the game at Yankee Stadium- only to see the team blow it at home. Once, a game was lost in extra innings after Torii Hunter hit a go-ahead home run in extra innings to break a tie- only to see Derek Jeter score the winning run on a throw that was cut-off by Matthew LeCroy. Yes, that would be Matthew Lecroy. In another game, Ruben Sierra (guess who was signed by the Twins the next year but was too hurt to contribute?) hit a three-run HR to tie the game at 5-5 for the Yankees; it turned out to be the turning point of the series as the Twins went down that day, as did their season.
2006 was the year for the Twins. They led the division one day all year, the last day of the season. They played Oakland again in the first round, and lost both games at home. Game one was lost when Frank Thomas (who the Twins wanted to sign, but felt his injury wouldn't hold up, he hit 39 HR that year) hit not one, but two home runs. The Twins lost by one run. Game two? That one changed when Mark Kotsay hit a sinking line drive that Torii Hunter went to make a play on. Remember, Torri Hunter is currently on a streak of eight straight Gold Gloves. What happened? He dove. He missed. Inside the parker. Twins lose game two. Twins lose the series.
Or how about last year? The Twins had the better head-to-head record, but a coin flip sent the game to Chiago to play the White Sox, led by Twin-killer Jim Thome. Which of the Twins' four top starters was unable to pitch? Francisco Liriano. Who was the most effective lefty? Liriano. Who came up in the bottom of the eighth inning in a tie game? Game to the Sox. Division to the Sox. Playoffs for the Sox. Long ride home for the Twins.
What do Phil Nevin, Rondell White, Delmon Young, Sierra, Craig Monroe, and Bret Boone all have in common? The one power hitter the Twins needed! Guess how many of them had an impact greater than minimal? Zero!
Who is the player pictured above? Kirby Puckett, the biggest athlete ever to play in Minnesota. He got hit in the eye, which led to the end of his career far too early. Then it came out that he essentially led a double-life. After that, he went on trial for assault and sexual misconduct. Kirby died in 2006, at age 45.
The Timberwolves recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. What have they won in those 20 years? One division title. They did, however, lose in the first round of the playoffs seven years in a row. Not everyone can say that. Among every NBA team who has won a playoff game, they have the third-worst winning percentage of all-time in the playoffs.
The Wolves are known for their terrible drafting, led by 1992. Minnesota was supposed to have the first pick, but instead, they fell to third. No big deal, right? First pick? Hall of Famer Shaquille O' Neal. Second pick? Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning. Third pick? Christian Laettner.
How far back do the disappointing first round picks go? To the beginning of the franchise, of course! Starting in 1989, here we go: Pooh Richardson, Felton Spencer, Gerald Glass, Luc Longley, Laettner, Isaiah Rider, Donyell Marshall, Garnett, Allen (traded for Marbury), Paul Grant, Rasho Nesterovic, Szczerbiak, William Avery, Ndubi Ebi, Rashad McCants, Brandon Roy (traded for Randy Foye), Corey Brewer, O.J. Mayo (traded for Kevin Love), and then this year.
That's 16 picks and KG. Wally was a good pick, though, right? Taken after him, in order: Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko and Manu Ginobili (although he doesn't really count). Not so incredible anymore.
2004 was the year for the Timberwolves. They had the number one seed, the MVP, and an All-Star PG in Sam Cassell. They beat Denver in the first round, and took out Sacramento in the second round. In the 2004 Western Conference Finals, Cassell got hurt, and the PG spot was forced to be manned by Darrick Martin. Yes, Darrick Martin, on a 10-day contract, no less. And they still took the Laker dynasty to six games. How did game six go? Kobe Bryant was held under his season average. KG outplayed Shaq. The deciding factor? Kareem Rush (!!!!), who averaged 6.4 points a game and .7 three pointers made a game hit SIX THREE POINTERS and went for 18 as Los Angeles rallied in the fourth quarter. Yeah, that was who beat the Wolves in their last playoff game. Not Kobe. Not Shaq. Not Gary Payton. Not Karl Malone. Kareem Rush.
"We're very fortunate" Kobe said after the game.
KG stayed in Minnesota for 12 years. He led them to the playoffs eight years in a row. He went to Boston in the offseason of 2007. In his first year playing for the Celtics, he won a title.
The sport that separates Minnesota from the other states: hockey. I'm sure none of you know the history of Minnesota hockey, nor do most of you care, so I'll try and keep this brief.
The Minnesota North Stars held their home in Bloomington, Minnesota (a suburb outside of Minneapolis) from 1967 until 1993. They went to the playoffs 17 times. They won two division titles. They went to the conference finals six times. They won zero Stanley Cups.
In conclusion, the North Stars played in Minnesota for a while, had a lot of success, but never could seal the deal.
In 1993, they moved to Dallas and became the Dallas Stars. Since their re-location, they have won seven division titles, although that isn't what's important here. In the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, the Stars beat the Buffalo Sabres.
I'll do the math for you. In 25 seasons, the North Stars made the playoffs 17 times. That's 68%. But they also went 0-for-17. In Dallas, the Stars have been to the playoffs 12 of the last 15 years. That's 80%. After 25 years in Minnesota, in just 5 years (20% of the time), they won the Cup.
2003 was the year for the Wild. They went to the playoffs as the six seed. After being down 3-1 to their rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, they won three games in a row to take the series. After being down 3-1 to their other rivals, the Colordao Avalanche, they again won three games in a row to take the series. In the Western Conference Finals, they had home-ice advantage for the first time all playoffs.
They were swept. Since those two magical series' during the 2004 playoffs, their playoff record has been...wait for it...3-12! That's a winning percentage of 20%! In that time, the Stars have won 21 playoff games.
And then there is this one, football. Where to start? The Vikings are 0-4 in Super Bowls. That's tied for the worst ever. In 1999, they went 15-1 and lost that one game by three points. The playoffs rolled around, and a big part of the success was kicker Gary Anderson, who still has the only perfect season kicking-wise in NFL history- he went 40 for 40. Needing a field goal to seal and essentially send them to the Super Bowl, Anderson missed for the first time all season. One of the most dominant teams in NFL history went down without even getting to the Super Bowl.
Just two years later, the Vikings made another trip to the NFC Championship game. They lost 41-0; far-and-away the biggest margin of victory in an NFC title game. Since that 4th Super Bowl loss, the Vikings are 0-4 in those games. But could they have won some recently?
In 2003, the Vikings started out at 6-0, and were the only team ever to start out with a record of that magnitude and miss the playoffs. Playing the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals in the last game of the season, and up by two scores with near two minutes left, well, that's when the Vikings remembered who they were. First, they gave up a touchdown on fourth and goal. Then, they allowed Arizona to recover an onside kick. Next, they sacked Josh McCown on third-and-17, forcing a fumble, and the Cardinals had to hurry up as they had zero timeouts left. On fourth-and-24, they snapped the ball with just four seconds left. McCown threw an off-balance pass to Nate Poole, who caught it in the end zone. He did not get two feet in bounds, but it was ruled that he was pushed-out. The Packers won the division.
But the question begs, could they have? Absolutely. If not for a coach named Brad Childress, the Vikings would be a far better team. But that's beside the point; after all, he has taken them to the playoffs. And he's a nice guy...he just doesn't know how to coach a football team. He had one great hire: a young defensive coordinator from Tampa Bay. The coach's name? Mike Tomlin.
Just a year later, Tomlin was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers, after presumably only being interviewed because he wasn't white. Considered by some as one of the biggest reaches in NFL head coach-hiring in many years, Tomlin won a division title in his first year. The next year? He won a Super Bowl. How did the Vikings do? They got bounced in the first round.
Including the playoffs, Tomlin is 25-11 (3-1 in the playoffs) as a head coach. In that time, Childress is 18-15 and is winless in the playoffs, including losing at home to the sixth-seeded Eagles.
The Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2009; they had three (Matt Spaeth, Gary Russell and Tyrone Carter) players who went to Minnesota. Carter played for the Vikings. The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008; Fred Robbins started at DT on the defensive line that caused so much havoc on Tom Brady, it helped win the game. The Colts won the Super Bowl in 2007, and had two players (Ben Utecht and Darrell Reid) who went to Minnesota, and two coaches with ties to the Vikings: Head Coach Tony Dungy and OC Tom Moore. The Steelers also won in 2006 and had Carter. The Patriots won in 2004 and 2005; they had Cedric James. Who? The 167th pick in the 2004 draft. He played for the Vikings, left, and won a Super Bowl in New England. The Buccaneers won in 2003; their starting QB? Brad Johnson. He only played seven years with the Vikings.
You can't even make that kind of stuff up. You think it's only evident in football? Take a look at baseball...
The Phillies won in 2008, ending the years of losses; who was their key reliever? J.C. Romero, the former Twin who won not one, but two games in the World Series. The Red Sox won in 2007; they had Ortiz and Kielty. The Cardinals won in 2006; almost symbolically, they had zero Twins, as this was the year for the Twins. The White Sox won in 2005; a key player for them was starting C A.J. Pierzynski, former All-Star for the Twins. The Red Sox broke the curse in 2004; in large part due to Big Papi. You just can't make this stuff up.
Of course, we haven't even talked about college football or college basketball yet. Let's start with football, shall we?
2005 was the year. The Gophers hadn't beaten Michigan and won The Little Brown Jug in 17 years. They hadn't won in Ann Arbor since 1986. With their starting QB injured, the crowd going crazy, and All-Big Ten RB Maroney on the sideline, they gave Gary Russell (the RB not named Barber or Maroney) a handoff, and he took it 61 yards on third-and-long. Jason Giannini kicked a field goal with a second left, and the Gophers won the incredible game, mainly due to the special teams when it mattered.
Remember that last sentence...
The Gophers were sitting on a 5-1 (2-1 Big Ten) record, had just beaten the twice-defending champions of the Big Ten on the road, and were ranked 22nd in the country. Next up? Wisconsin at home.
Another TD run by Russell gave the Gopers a ten point lead with just 3:27 left. The crowd at the Metrodome was going crazy, as back-to-back wins in rivalry games against Michigan and Wisconsin seemed like an actual possibility. What happened next? The lead held up until there was 2:10 left, as a Wisconsin TD made it a three point game. The Gophers got the ball back and were punting near their own end zone with just over 30 seconds left in the game.
Punter Justin Kucek dropped the snap. He didn't throw run into the end zone for a safety. He didn't kick it out of the end zone for a safety. What do those scenarios have in common? A 34-33 lead for the Gophers. What did Kucek do? He picked it up and tried to punt again. Wisconsin blocked it, ran it down, and recovered it in the end zone. The Gophers then proceeded to fumble the kickoff. Wisconsin 38. Minnesota 34. The season went downhill and they finished at 7-5 after blowing a 14-point lead in their bowl game. Could anything make matters worse? Kucek developed into one of the best punters in the country.
Or how about last year? Started off 7-1, beat Illinois on the road. Were at 7-1, playing Northwestern at home. A tipped pass resulted in an interception...which was brought back for a touchdown...with 12 seconds left. The Gophers finished 7-6, ending the season and games at the Dome by losing 55-0 to Iowa. Do I even have to explain anything?
What about college basketball?
Under Clem Haskins, the Gophers had three NCAA Tournament appearances, two NIT appearances, an NIT title, a Final Four berth, a Bit Ten title, and a Big Ten MOP in Bobby Jackson. What do all of those accomplishments have in common?
They were stripped. They have been erased. Gone.
Last year, our hero Tubby Smith brought the Gophers back to the NCAA Tournament. Throughout the season, there was a weakness that persisted: the inability to stop outside shooting. Who did they get in the first round? Texas, only led by A.J. Abrams- arguably the best shooter from distance in the country. In case you hadn't guessed yet, Abrams hit eight threes, and led all scorers with 26 points. Guess who won?
Well, there it is! The recent history of sports teams in Minnesota! What is The Curse of Drew Coble, you ask?
In the 1991 World Series- the last championship won, the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in seven games. In game two, Ron Gant was on first base when Twins 1B Kent Hrbek pushed him off of the bag. Umpire Drew Coble called Gant out, and Atlanta ended up losing the game by one run. They lost the series by one game. It was one of the worst calls in sports history. And it lives on.
Don't believe me? Who did Anderson miss the kick against to foil Minnesota's best chance at a title? The Atlanta Falcons. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Curse? It's a possibility.