The most miserable way to watch your favorite team lose a big game is unquestionably through a miraculous comeback like Falcons fans endured last year. But what about the two other extreme options, a close game that comes down to the wire or a game that was never competitive to begin with? This year’s NFL playoffs have featured both of those in the Saints’ loss to the Vikings in the divisional round and the Vikings’ loss to the Eagles for the NFC Championship.
We took a staff poll to try and figure out which outcome is more painful to experience as a fan of the losing team. On one hand, it’s nice to watch a competitive game and at least feel like your faith and optimism in your team was at least reasonably valid, as opposed to feeling like a big dumb idiot watching your team get absolutely smoked on the field. But, a close game also offers the unique frustration of feeling like victory was right there, only to have it whisked away at the last minute.
Eleven staffers voted for heartbreak; six voted for the blowout loss. Certainly we were all informed by our personal experiences and sports-related traumas. For me, the loss that most vividly comes to mind is the 2014 NFC Championship, which ordained Richard Sherman and stopped the 49ers from having a chance to avenge their previous Super Bowl death.
Here are some takes:
Tom Ley: Blowout.
I think a blowout loss is worse if only because it can make you feel incredibly stupid for ever having believed in your team in the first place. This is particularly true in the case of this year’s Vikings, who were coming off a true sports miracle and got everyone in Minnesota caught up in the magic and charm, only to get crushed one week later. I personally experienced this while rooting for the 2007 Rockies, who went on an insane winning streak to get into the playoffs, basically swept their way to the World Series, and then were revealed to be massive frauds. I felt like a dumbass!
Barry Petchesky: Heartbeaker.
The worst thing in sports is being able to spend your life obsessing about how one single play could’ve gone another way and everything would have been different.
Dave McKenna: Heartbreaker.
Coming close blows. All those Caps Game 7s, Wiz Game 7 vs. Celtics and Nats Game 5 in NLDS last year, Orioles Game 7s in ‘71 and ’79 World Series. No time wasted on shoulda-coulda-woulda after getting stomped.
David Roth: Heartbreaker.
Pretty much every Mets loss in the 2015 World Series was the result of one specific fuck-up or chain of fuck-ups that, had they gone differently, would’ve led to a different outcome. That, as much as the losing itself, is what sucked/hurt about it.
Hannah Keyser: Blowout.
If they’re going to lose in the end, why would you prefer to spend the duration of the game unhappy and gradually disinvesting as you contemplate the time you’re wasting being made unhappy by what is ultimately just entertainment when instead you could be watching what is presumably a good game that also happens to involve your favorite team playing pretty damn well (or at least, almost well enough to win).
Dan McQuade: Blowout.
The Eagles lost a close Super Bowl once, but that pales in comparison to the three times in my life that they’ve been blown out in the playoffs by the Cowboys.
Patrick Redford: Heartbreaker.
2002 Western Conference Finals. Fuck you guys.
Emma Baccellieri: Heartbreaker.
A blowout will hurt while I’m watching it, and I will still hold onto this dumb impossible hope that maaaybe it can somehow turn around until it’s officially too late, but then it’s over. A close game where I really believe until I’m brutally cut and have to spend the weeks months YEARS to come wondering “what if????” alskdfghal!
Nick Martin: Blowout.
Dom Cosentino: Heartbreaker.
Close losses eat at me forever. 1992 NLCS Game 7 and too many Pitt basketball losses to count, but especially the 1988 NCAA second round (why didn’t they foul Barry Goheen?!?) and the 2009 NCAA East Regional final (can still see Jermaine Dixon dribbling into a trap with a four-point lead, losing the ball, and fouling Dwayne Anderson oh God why why why).
Jon Eiseman: Blowout.
Sometimes things don’t go your way and that’s fine! but knowing that you suck and it’s your fault and not the universe’s is always worse.
Albert Burneko: Blowout.
Agonizing over the little mistakes or bad decisions that seem to result in a heartbreaking last-second loss is, essentially, adopting the belief that the loss really is explained by those things. But at a really fundamental level, I don’t believe that and I think it is weirdly Calvinist. A close loss is way more likely to be because of random happenstance than because of a few discrete things you can identify. Imposing that kind of sense on a close loss is like saying you can look at two people’s relative stations in life and know, for sure, that they are where they are because they deserve to be, and not because shit happens. But a blowout is stark and undeniable—it happens because one team is better than the other, period. Essentially, what I am saying here is that if you are more troubled by close losses than by blowouts, it is because you have not come to grips with the degree to which everything that happens is just entropic nonsense.
The lesson here is that losing, in any fashion, is bad and it makes everyone feel bad.