The 10 most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching losses in Cincinnati sports history
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The majority of sports fans in Cincinnati have come to expect it - the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching loss - and why shouldn't they? It seems to happen with alarming regularity.
But two such demoralizing defeats in the span of less than three hours?
Sunday's back-to-back losses by the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University in the NCAA Tournament will certainly go down as the worst college basketball day in the city's history, but where do they rank in a list of top 10 most devastating defeats suffered by the city's teams?
Here is my list (and here is a list of top five toughest NCAA Tournament losses for both UC and Xavier I did in 2016 after the Bearcats and Musketeers both suffered agonizing losses that season):
10. Aug. 15, 2017: FC Cincinnati lets 2-0 lead slip away in U.S. Open Cup semifinal
The Skinny: The city's newest professional sports team didn't take long to join the bad beat club when it allowed a 2-0 lead over the Major League Soccer New York Red Bulls to slip away in the final 15 minutes of regulation time and then lost on a goal in extra time. It had been a magical run for the United Soccer League's FC Cincinnati. It beat some MLS teams along the way and just missed becoming the third "lower-tier" team in the 21-year history of the U.S. Open Cub to advance to the final.
9. Oct. 4, 1999: Reds lose one-game "playoff" against New York Mets
The Skinny: After going 77-85 in 1998, the Reds were on the cusp of clinching a playoff spot in 1999 when they carried a one-game lead over the Houston Astros in the Central Division race and a two-game lead over the New York Mets for the lone Wild Card spot (there was only one back then) with four games remaining. They proceeded to lose three of their final four games. Meanwhile, Houston won three of its final four to win the Central Division and New York won its final three to force a 163rd game between the Reds and Mets to decide which would be the Wild Card team. Mets left-hander Al Leiter tossed a complete-game, two-hitter to best the Reds 5-0.
8. Jan. 24, 1982: Bengals come up just short in Super Bowl XVI
The Skinny: Both the Bengals and San Francisco 49ers were surprise teams reaching Super Bowl XVI. Cincinnati was coming off three straight losing seasons, while San Francisco was coming off four straight losing seasons. The Bengals were made a one-point underdog and fell behind at halftime 20-0 before staging a furious second-half comeback. They trailed 20-7 in the waning moments of the third quarter when they had the ball first-and-goal on the San Francisco 3-yard line. A two-yard run by Pete Johnson moved the ball to the 49ers 1, but the Bengals came up empty on three chances from there. They did pull within 20-14 with 10:35 remaining, but the 49ers added two more field goals to offset a Bengals touchdown in the final minute.
7. March 5, 2000: UC's Kenyon Martin suffers broken leg
The Skinny: The Bearcats stormed through the regular season with a 28-2 record and were ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press entering the Conference-USA Tournament. Senior center Kenyon Martin was a big reason for UC's success by averaging 18.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots per game. Martin, however, suffered a broken leg in the opening minutes of the Bearcats' opening-round game of the C-USA Tournament against St. Louis. The Bearcats wound up losing that game and, coupled with Martin's season-ending injury, the NCAA Selection Committee made them a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament rather than a No. 1 seed. They wound up losing in the second round to Tulsa, 69-61. UC was a legitimate candidate to win the national championship with Martin.
6. Oct. 9-11, 2012: Reds lose NL Division Series after being up 2-0
The Skinny: The Reds were on the verge of winning their first playoff series since the 1995 season after winning the first two games of their best-of-five National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. But they proceeded to lose the final three games - all at home - and the series. The Reds led Game 3, 1-0, with a run in the first, but the Giants tied the score at 1-1 with a run in the fifth and scored the game-winning run in the top of the 10th thanks to an error by third baseman Scott Rolen, who was a seven-time Gold Glove winner. The Giants then rolled to an 8-3 win in Game 4 to set up a winner-take-all Game 5. The game was scoreless through four innings, but the Giants scored six runs off Reds starter Mat Latos in the top of the fifth, the final four on Buster Posey's grand slam. The Reds scored twice in the fifth and once in the sixth to pull within 6-3 and got within 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth and had two runners on with one out. Jay Bruce then flew out and Rolen struck out to end the game.
4a. and 4b. March 18, 2018: UC and Xavier blow big second-half leads and fall in NCAA Tournament
The Skinny: "Black Sunday," the "The Nashville Massacre," whatever you want to call it, it was almost surreal to watch. No. 2 -seed UC blew a 22-point lead with 11 minutes left and lost to No. 7-seed Nevada, 75-73, followed just a couple of hours later on the same floor by No. 1-seed Xavier blowing a 12-point lead with just under 11 minutes left to lose to No. 9-seed Florida State, 75-70. For one city's college basketball teams to lose within hours of each other in the same arena in a similar fashion as favorites is almost unfathomable to consider.
3. March 23, 1963: UC has big lead slip away and loses to Loyola (Chi.) in NCAA title game
The Skinny: The Bearcats were seeking their third straight NCAA title (no team had won three in a row up to that point) and led 45-30 with 14 minutes left before George Wilson and Tom Thacker got into foul trouble, and head coach Ed Jucker got ultra-patient on offense to try and run out the clock (there was no shot clock then). UC made just one field goal the rest of the way, but led 53-52 with 12 seconds left and Ken Shingleton going to the free throw line. He made the first, missed the second and Jerry Harkness made a layup to tie the score at 54-54 and force overtime. Loyola won in the overtime when Vic Rouse scored on a rebound with one second left for a 60-58 victory.
2. Jan. 9, 2016: Bengals blow playoff game against Steelers
The Skinny: After rallying from a 15-0 deficit entering the fourth quarter to take a 16-15 lead it appeared that the Bengals were going to win their first playoff game since the 1990 season when linebacker Vontaze Burfict intercepted a Landry Jones pass with 1:43 remaining. On the Bengals' first play from scrimmage after that, running back Jeremy Hill lost a fumble to give the Steelers the ball back at their own 9 with 1:23 left. Ben Roethlisberger came back into the game and could only march the Steelers to the Bengals 47 with 22 seconds left. Roethlisberger then threw incomplete to wide receiver Antonio Brown, but Burfict was called for a personal foul for hitting Brown in the head, and then cornerback Adam Jones was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for bumping an official in the aftermath. That moved the ball to the Bengals 17 and Chris Boswell made the game-winning field goal with 18 seconds remaining.
1. Jan. 22, 1989: Bengals lose Super Bowl XXIII in final minute
The Skinny: The Bengals were coming off a 4-11 record in the strike-marred 1987 season, but rolled through the 1988 regular season behind the NFL's most potent offense in points scored and yards gained. The 49ers were in the midst of a dynasty-like run and were seeking their third Super Bowl title of the decade. The Bengals were seven-point underdogs, but took a 16-13 lead with 3:44 left to play on a 40-yard field by Jim Breech. They then pinned the 49ers back on their own 8 following the kickoff. Joe Montana proceeded to drive the 49ers 92 yards in 12 plays and hit John Taylor with a 10-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds remaining to win it. Earlier in the fourth quarter with the Bengals on top 13-6, cornerback Lewis Billups dropped an interception in the end zone, and on the next play Montana fired a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice to tie the score at 13-13. The Bengals also lost standout nose tackle Tim Krumrie to a broken leg earlier int he game.