The Washington Capitals just finished being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning four games to zero in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs. And no one around here is surprised. Because defeats like the one suffered by the Caps are par for the course in the Baltimore/Washington area. Though the two cities are totally different they are linked as one market by many. And between the two of them, they have accounted for some of the most famous defeats (not victories) in postseason championship sports.
Don’t get me wrong. The area has had many champions. In the last 50 years the Baltimore Orioles have won three World Series championships. The Baltimore Colts, Ravens and Washington Redskins have accounted for five Super Bowl victories. The Washington Wizards won an National Basketball Association championship as the Bullets in 1978. And the Georgetown Hoyas and Maryland Terrapin men’s basketball teams won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship in 1984 and 2002 respectively. That’s all well and good.
But when the area sports teams lose in a playoff series or championship final they do it spectacularly. They do it famously. The history of sports can not be written without including the most famous post season defeats suffered by Baltimore/Washington area teams. I ask you:
Which team has suffered the worst defeat in the history of the National Football League?
The 1940 Washington Redskins lost the NFL championship game to the Chicago Bears 73-0! At their own home field, Griffith Stadium. Seventy years later, the record still stands.
Who was the losing team in what many consider the greatest upset in NFL history?
The 1968 Baltimore Colts. They were the losers to quarterback Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. The first Super Bowl victory for an American Football League team over an NFL team. The Colts were 15-1 coming into the game. They were 18 point favorites. And lost. The loss occured in January 1969. It was a prelude to another upset which occured later in the year.
Who was the loser in what many consider the greatest upset in World Series history?
None other than the Colts baseball counterparts, the Baltimore Orioles. After watching their football team dominate for an entire season before losing to the Jets, Baltimore fans suffered the same fate in the fall of 1969. After watching their Orioles dominate the American League Baltimore fans watched in horror as their O’s went down to defeat in the World Series. What made the loss even worse was that it came at the hands of the Jets New York counterparts the Mets. The Amazin’ Mets defeated the Orioles four games to one and made baseball history at Baltimore’s expense.
These two losses still haunt Baltimore fans to this day. You can talk about a lot of things in Baltimore. The year 1969 is not one of them.
Which NBA team lost the first eight championship finals games they played in and became the first to be swept twice?
The Bullets (now Washington Wizards). And they are unique in that they were swept representing Baltimore AND Washington. In 1971 the Baltimore Bullets were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks four games to zero. Four years later, they returned to the finals representing Washington. And were swept by the Golden State Warriors. How many teams in pro sports can claim such lopsided defeats representing two different cities? I would bet only one.
Who is the only top seed in NHL history to lose in the playoffs to an eighth seed after leading a series three games to one?
The Washington Capitals, of course. They did it in 2010. After posting the best regular sesaon record in the NHL.
Who was the loser in what many consider the greatest upset in NCAA men’s basketball championship game history?
The 1985 Georgetown Hoyas. They were defeated by the Villanova Wildcats 66-64. The Hoyas were the defending national champions and ranked number one in the country coming into the NCAA tournament. They had beaten Villanova twice in the regular season. In the championship game the Wildcats shot a finals record 80% from the field. And Georgetown joined the list of famous Baltimore/Washington area losers.
These are just the most famous (or infamous) losses by Baltimore/Washington area sports teams. Here are a few which rank just a notch below.
The Baltimore Colts of 1967 are the only NFL team to suffer one loss and not make the playoffs. Baltimore won 11 lost one and tied two. They were undefeated until the last game of the season where they suffered their only defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. The victory gave Los Angeles an identical 11-1-2 record. Because the two teams tied in their first meeting, Los Angeles won the division with a better head to head record against the Colts.
The Colts of 1967 and ’68 lost only three games and failed to win a championship. How?
The 1971 Baltimore Orioles lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates four games to three after being up three games to one. The defending champion Baltimore Orioles. And they lost the last wo games at home.
The 1972 Washington Redskins have the infamous distinction of being Super Bowl losers to the only undefeated team in NFL history. The 17-0 Miami Dolphins. Miami defeated Washington in Super Bowl VII 14-7.
The 1974 Maryland Terrapin men’s basketball team were the losers in what some consider the greatest college basketball game of all-time, certainly the best in Atlantic Coast Conference history. The Terps lost 103-100 in overtime to the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the conference tournament final. Since at that time only the conference tournament winner could advance to the NCAA tournament Maryland, despite a 23-5 record had to go to the National Invitational. Thus the “Maryland Rule” was born as the next season the NCAA added more at large teams to it’s post season field.
In 1979 the Orioles did it again. Just as in 1979, they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Pirates and lost. Just as in 1971, they lost the last two games at home.
In 1982, Georgetown made it to the NCAA finals where they lost to North Carolina 63-62. The Hoyas had a chance to win the game when point guard Fred Brown threw a pass right to North Carolina’s James Worthy to seal the defeat. Another great game where Baltimore/Washington ended up on the short end.
In 1983 the Washington Redskins returned to defend their Super Bowl championship against the Los Angeles Raiders. The Redskins not only didn’t defend they suffered the worst loss by any defending champion in a Super Bowl game 38-9.
In 2001 Maryland finally made it to the Final Four only to blow a 22 point lead to Duke and lose in the semifinals. And give Baltimore/Washington fans another historic defeat.
I haven’t even mentioned losing two baseball teams in Washington and one football team in Baltimore.
There are those who say that the city of Cleveland has the most long suffering fans in sport, because they’ve gone almost fifty years without a championship.
But I’d be willing to put Baltimore/Washington up against anyone when it comes to suffering more infamous defeats in big games or series than anyone.