Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Trending that caught Doug's eye... lovable losers
Another (insert bad word here) week, another (insert extremely bad word here) loss.
That's just the kind of nightmare season it's been for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, our beloved Canadian Football League squad that hasn't sipped from the Grey Cup since 1990.
In last Sunday's 51st Labour Day Classic, the Bombers were blitzed 48-25 by the hated Saskatchewan Roughriders, dropping their seventh straight game and falling to a miserable 1-8 on the season.
It's been a brutal year for the players, but their pain is nothing compared to the agony of the fans, who, when we last checked, were still being forced to pay to watch this horror show.
Even before last Sunday's debacle -- Winnipeg's ninth consecutive loss in a Labour Day Classic -- disgruntled fans were wondering (a) whether the Blue & Gold will ever win a game at Investors Group Field; and (b) whether they should consider wearing paper-bag masks over their heads to conceal their identities.
So, yes, the 2013 Bombers are bad, but are they all-star bad? As the clich© goes, only time will tell. For the moment, however, here are five of our favourite lovable losers from the crowded annals of pro-sports infamy:
5) The losers: The 2003 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The legacy: 1-17
The lesson: It seems only appropriate to begin this list with the woes of another CFL team. In 2003, the toothless Tabbies managed only one victory -- a 27-24 overtime nail-biter against Saskatchewan on Sept. 12 -- and set a CFL record for most regular season losses. It was the worst record since the league expanded to an 18-game regular season in 1986. Even with future Hall of Famer and ex-Bomber Danny McManus at QB, the Cats averaged a pathetic 16.3 points per game, dead last. How bad were they? According to jsportsblogger: "The defence was toothless and mangy to say the least. The Ticats surrendered more yards than the French Army in World War II."
4) The losers: The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers
The legacy: 9-73
The lesson: OK, technically, the 2011 Charlotte Bobcats hold the record for lowest winning percentage in NBA history, winning only seven of 66 games. But that was in a lockout-shortened season. For sheer futility, it is hard to match the 1972-73 76ers, rated second worst pro team of all time by ESPN.com. Because of their record, the squad was nicknamed the "9 and 73ers." Their star player, guard Fred Carter, was heralded as "the best player on the worst team in NBA history." Named team MVP, Carter later quipped: "I didn't know if it was for leading the team to nine wins or for leading the team to 73 losses. I still haven't figured it out."
3) The losers: The 1974-75 Washington Capitals
The legacy: 8-67-5
The lesson: In their very first year, the Caps had the worst record in NHL history. Even by expansion standards, they were terrible, winning only one game on the road, a record for futility they share with the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators. Out of journalistic fairness, we will point out the Caps were only marginally more awful than the 1980-81 edition of Winnipeg Jets 1.0, a team that finished 9-57-14. That Jets squad set an NHL and modern pro sports record by going winless in 30 straight games. Those Jets beat the Blackhawks 6-2 for their first win on Oct. 17; they didn't win again until Dec. 23. "The Jets always played just well enough to lose," a Sports Illustrated writer noted at the time. "It wasn't that they'd quit; they just weren't very comfortable with the lead."
2) The losers: The 1962 New York Mets
The legacy: 40-120
The lesson: It was the first regular season for the Mets as the National League returned to New York for the first time since 1957. ESPN.com picked them as the seventh-worst pro team ever. They were so unfathomably bad their blunders were chronicled in Jimmy Breslin's side-splitting best-seller Can't Anybody Here Play this Game?, the title of which was inspired by manager Casey Stengel, who famously advised his error-prone outfielders: "When one of them hits a single to you, throw the ball to third. That way we can hold them to a double play." The Mets' 120 losses were the most by any team since 1899. The 2003 Detroit Tigers came within one game of tying the '62 Mets for most losses in modern MLB history.
1) The losers: The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The legacy: 0-14
The lesson: You can make a solid case that, in their first year in the NFL, the Bucs birthed the worst team in pro sports history. They didn't put any points on the scoreboard until their third game and didn't score a touchdown until their fourth. "Our sidelines looked like a Civil War infirmary," ex-defensive end Pat Toomay recently recalled of his oft-injured squad. In their fluorescent "Florida Orange" uniforms -- dubbed "Creamsicle" by team haters and fashion lovers -- they were the first NFL team not to win or tie a single game. In 1977, they lost 12 more games before finally registering their first win. The ineptitude of those two seasons makes them badder to the bone than the 0-16 2008 Detroit Lions, who also had the "anti-perfect season," becoming the first non-expansion team to lose every game in a season since the Second World War.
The tombstone says: The Bombers may yet turn things around, so they should remember that, no matter how bad things get, there's always someone who loves you. Which is why, when the TV cameras zoom in, even losing players chirp: "Hi, Mom!"
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2013 D2
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