Power Rankings: Where Does The Nationals Choke Rank In Recent DC/Baltimore Sports Losses? (You Know It’s Bad When It’s Not Even Close to No. 1)

October 13, 2012 1:44 pm 2 comments

Friday’s Game Five letdown by the Washington Nationals was, as Tim Kurkjian said, “possibly the most depressing loss” in baseball history… But only No. 4 on this list. 

Matt Ford

(Ed’s note: This is for Nationals fans:)

It’s a popular lament among sports fans: “My City Is Cursed.”

I see you, Cleveland. Yes, the Browns are the worst professional football franchise known to man. LeBron. Elway’s “The Drive.” Jordan’s “The Shot.”

(Millennials, have you actually ever watched this? It is BRUTAL.)

I see you, Seattle. A perfectly good sports town losing the Sonics and Kevin Durant in one fell swoop.

I see you, Philadelphia. But knowing you are the worst fans in all of sports, karma is a bitch.

But, DC/Maryland/Virginia, the sports wasteland known as “The DMV,” has perhaps the most unique circumstances of any sports metropolis. Washington is one of the few cities with pro teams in every sport, plus three big-time college programs (Maryland, Georgetown, Virginia) in the metro area. Forty miles away, Baltimore hosts two pro sports teams.

But aside from Maryland’s 2002 National Championship and the Ravens 2001 Super Bowl (which for DC fans was like seeing your little brother get a job with Goldman Sachs while you still live in your parents’ basement), the area has won nothing since the Redskins won their third Super Bowl in 1992.

But how do those losses stack up against each other? How can you quantify the worst losses in DC/Maryland recent history when there are just SO MANY to choose from!

So, with one being a blowout regular season loss and 10 being a “Franchise-breaking, you can’t mention it without someone hurling a chair at you, go on a run two weeks later at midnight because you accidentally thought about it” kind of loss that renders you literally indistinguishable from this guy:

Power Rankings of the Worst Losses in DMV History.


10) Redskins vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2000 Divisional Round.

What happened: Leading 13-0 in the third quarter, the Redskins finally remembered they were the Redskins. Putting up only 32 yards of second-half offense, the Bucs rallied, leading 14-13 in the fourth quarter.

With a chance to win the game, Dan Turk botched a field goal snap to his brother, holder Matt Turk, and the Redskins lost by one.

Repercussions: After missing the playoffs for the previous seven years, they missed the playoffs again for the next seven years. Johnson, replaced in DC by Jeff George, went to win the 2003 Super Bowl for the same Bucs. I know it sounds crazy, but since 2000, RGIII is the only QB who has come close to playing as well as Johnson did for the Redskins. Scale of one-to-ten: 6. 

9) Wizards gun scandal, 2010.

What happened: The weirdest all-around team sports scandal since the Love Boat, centering around gambling and guns.

Repercussions: Gilbert Arenas’ $111-million deal still haunts the Wizards. All-stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were shipped out. A team that tried so hard to change the stereotype of DC as a violent city — they changed their name from the Bullets to the laughably innocuous Wizards — was crushed by, of all things, a gun scandal. Abe Pollin, RIP. Scale of one-to-10: 6.5

8. Ravens-Steelers, AFC Championship 2009.

What happened: Ravens fans will surely say this is too low, that losing to their most hated rivals one game away from the Super Bowl outweighs any other Ravens loss but one (which is also on this list). And the Steelers did end up winning the Super Bowl against the Kurt Warner-led Arizona Cardinals, who the Ravens would have likely stomped.

Repercussions: Not a franchise-crippling loss (the Ravens are 4-3 against Pittsburgh since the championship game). Scale of one-to-10: 7

7) Game Five, Washington Capitals-NY Rangers, 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

What happened: Up by a goal and a game with eight seconds left, the Capitals gave up a power-play goal in regulation and overtime, losing to the Rangers and going down in the series, 3-2.

The worst part? The Caps somehow tied the series afterwards, but then lost Game Seven.

Repercussions: Despite being the best regular-season hockey team in the NHL for several years, the Capitals cannot shake the label of post-season choke artists. Let’s hope the Nationals don’t follow their path. Scale of one-to-10: 8.

6) Maryland-Michigan State, Second Round of NCAA Tournament, 2010.

What happened: Greivis Vasquez and Maryland won the regular-season ACC title in 2010, beating Duke at home and going 13-3 in the ACC. They were down double-digits late in the second half of this game, but Vasquez led an improbable comeback. With 6.6 seconds left, Vasquez hit a contested jump shot. Seconds later…

Repercussions: Vasquez never got the credit he deserved as one of the best in ACC history. Maryland spiraled, and Gary Williams retired in 2011 after missing the postseason for the first time since 1994. And Duke won the national title. Scale of one-to-10: 8.5.

5) Game One, ALCS, 1996 — the Jeffrey Maier game. One of the worst calls in baseball history.

Remember, Bartman interfered on a foul ball, not a home run. The only reason this isn’t higher is because it was Game One.

Repercussions: Orioles lose to the Yankees in Game One and in the series, 4-1. Yankees win the World Series. Orioles sign Albert Belle, don’t have another winning season until 2012. Scale of one-to-10: 9.5.

4) Nationals-Cardinals, NLDS Game Five, 2012.

What happened: Tim Kurkjian said it might have been the most depressing loss in baseball history.

And it’s No. 4 on this list.

The Nationals went down 2-1 in the series, then dramatically tied the series after a Game Four walk-off home run by Jayson Werth. At home in Game Five, they blew a 6-0 lead, then a 7-5 lead in the 9th.

Repercussions: The curse of Stephen Strasburg is born. Has potential to permanently scar the franchise (or not; see below). (Bonus pain: The Orioles had the exact same path in the ALDS, tying the series 2-2, then losing. What are the odds of both teams losing back-to-back?)

The only reason this loss doesn’t sting worse is because of the trajectory the Nationals are on. A young team getting its ace back next season should have plenty of future motivation. Right? Scale of one-to-10: 9.9.

3) Ravens-Patriots: 2012 AFC Championship.

What happened: The Ravens were trailing by three in New England late in the fourth quarter. Joe Flacco led a masterful comeback drive, throwing what should have been a game-winning touchdown to Lee Evans, who dropped an easy one in the end zone. Instead, with 15 seconds left, Baltimore sent in Billy Cundiff, the 2010 Pro Bowl kicker, who had an easy chance to send the game to overtime.

Repercussions: In moments of tragedy, you bond with people you didn’t think you’d bond with. After that miss, we were all Ravens fans. At least the Ravens are back in full force this year. Scale of one-to-10: 10.

(PS: Why didn’t Harbaugh call a time out?)

2) Maryland-Duke, 2001 Final Four.

What happened: Maryland was contending for its first-ever national championship under Gary Williams. They had already lost to Duke twice in three tries in 2001, including maybe the worst-ever regular season loss in college basketball history. (Maryland was up by 10 with a minute left in College Park, but still lost.)

Maryland was up by 22 points at one point in this game, and 11 at halftime, but still managed to lose to Williams, Battier, Boozer, Dunleavy, Duhon, Coach K and Co. The comeback was the biggest in Final Four history.

Repercussions: Mercifully minimal. Maryland would go on to win the National Championship in 2002, and Williams missed two free throws against Indiana in the Elite Eight. Still, arguably the worst loss in college basketball history. Scale of one-to-10: 12. 

1) Sean Taylor. 

What happened: Something that has never happened in American sports: A team’s best player murdered mid-season.

The Redskins fanbase was deprived of its best player, who died at 24 in his own house. Yet even in death, Taylor was vilified by the national media.

If you never got to watch Taylor, here is my objective-as-possible opinion of him:

  • A once-in-a-lifetime physical specimen, who could cover, run, tackle and create turnovers
  • A scary hitter who opponents clearly had to game-plan against
  • Clearly on his way to a memorable career

Repercussions: Redskins fans wonder what could have been with LaRon Landry and Sean Taylor in the same defensive backfield. Coach Joe Gibbs flagged for calling back-to-back timeouts the week after Taylor’s murder; 15-yard-penalty puts Bills in field goal range, Redskins lose at home by two.

Scale of one-to-10 does not apply: A tragic and unprecedented loss.

But Taylor’s death is a reminder to all sports fans who have lost: In sports, there’s always next year. Remember that.

Tweeted by embattled Nationals' closer Drew Storen's mom.

Matt Ford is the founder of Hire Me Grantland. Contact him at matt@hiremegrantland.com.


  • you forgot the caps loss to the habs in round one, game 7… 2009-10 season i think.

  • No Steelers-Ravens 2011 Divisional round? Blew a 21-7 halftime lead. Ray Rice loses first fumble of the season. Entire second half feels one bad dream. That for me ranks up there with the Patriots-Ravens loss. Gilbert Arenas, and the Wizards in general, no one cares about.

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