Oh, yes, we’re getting that choking feeling
This absolutely cannot be happening.
Well, of course, it can. The San Jose Sharks are from the San Francisco Bay Area. As much as fans from Boston can talk about the Bambino and Chicago partisans can babble about a billy goat, the Bay Area is where dreams go to die. This is where six teams – well, five teams, the Golden State Warriors are too bad to choke – can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Only two teams in the history of the NHL have blown a 3-0 playoff lead -the 1942 Detroit Red Wings and the 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2004 San Jose Sharks are about to join the club. Sure, they’re still up, 3-2, over the Colorado Avalanche, but the Sharks are getting that eerie, gagging feeling that their Bay Area counterparts have felt so many times before.
The Sharks can hear the names of the Bay Area athletes who have gone before them and worn the goat horns – Atlee Hammaker, Candy Maldonado, Roger Craig, Preston Riley, Sandis Ozolinsh, Dennis Eckersley and Joe Barry Carroll. Joe Sakic is fast joining the list of Bay Area tormentors such as Jose Oquendo, Scott Spiezio, Roger Staubach and Kirk Gibson.
This gag job has all the earmarks of Bay Area chokes past. So, from the home office in San Jose, we give you “The Top 10 Bay Area Sports Collapses.”
10) San Jose is/was trying to become the first Sharks team to qualify for the conference finals, but, Dorothy, we’ve been in this situation before – 10 years ago, to be exact. The Sharks led the Maple Leafs, 3-2, in the second round. Sandis Ozolinsh has an open net, and for some reason doesn’t shoot. Ulf Dahlen hits the crossbar in OT. The Leafs go onto win Game 6 and the series.
9) Well, I don’t know if it’s a choke … but it just epitomizes why the Golden State Warriors have been dreadful for all those years. In the 1980 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics hold the No. 1 pick. Coveting Joe Barry Carroll, the Warriors make a deal to acquire the pick and Carroll. The cost? It was just Robert Parish and the pick which became Kevin McHale. Oops.
8) The Barret Robbins Binder. Robbins, the Oakland Raiders center, decides to sample the sights, er, spirits of Tijuana, Mexico, before Super Bowl XXXVII. He’s dismissed from the team and the Raiders completely implode. Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21.
7) Ah, the Oakland A’s. They did build a dynasty in the early 70s and they really should have had one in the late 80s. How they lost to the 1988 Dodgers and the 1990 Reds, two of the weakest NL champs in ages, in the Series is beyond comprehension. We all remember Kirk Gibson’s dramatics in 1988, but why did Dave Eckersley walk Mike “I can’t hit my weight” Davis before Gibson got to the plate? In 1990, The Reds had Jose Rijo and the Nasty Boys, but it was Joe Oliver of all people who got a game-winning double off Eck. Of course, the A’s did win in 1989. They swept the San Francisco Giants. Natch.
6) Speaking of my G’s – 2000 and 2003. These two editions of the Giants were magnificent, better than the 2002 team that made the Series – more on that later. The 2000 team blew it against the Mets, 3-1, thanks to the ghastly pitching and baserunning from Shawn Estes and a rare Dusty Baker managerial breakdown. In 2003, the second worst acquisition in recent memory, Sydney Ponson, with the Giants leading the Marlins, 1-0, in the series and, 5-1, in Game 2, can’t hold a 5-1 lead. The series ends with J.T. Snow being thrown out at the plate. Gag.
5) The 1987 NL Championship series. The Giants lead the Cards, 3-2, going back for Games 6 and 7. Not only do they drop both games, but the Giants don’t even bother to score a run. Candy Maldonado makes his infamous slide in Game 6. And, in Game 7? Atlee Hammaker give up a three-run homer to freaking Jose Oquendo. (Note to self: No more lefties in the postseason.)
4) Sure, the Niners have brought us five rings, but even the Bay Area’s premiere franchise has had some horrible gags. We present to you the 1957 Western Division Playoff Game. In search of their first NFL title game, the Niners lead Detroit, 27-7, at the half at Kezar Stadium. The Niners blow it. The Lions go on to win the NFL title and haven’t won one since.
3) Getting back to those rings. The Niners could well have at least seven had it not been for 1987 and 1990. The ’87 Niners, perhaps, were better than some of the franchise’s Super Bowl teams. They steamrolled everything and anything down the stretch and then promptly chucked it away with a 36-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. In 1990, San Francisco was just minutes away from its third straight Super Bowl. All Roger Craig had to do was run for a first down or two. He fumbled. The Giants, the New York ones, 15, Niners, 13.
2) Two words which will always give Niners fans the willies – Preston Riley. The Niners lead the Cowboys, 28-16, in the waning minutes of the 1972 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Roger Staubach rallies the Cowboys for a touchdown. On the ensuing onside kick, Riley fumbles. Cowboys 30, Niners 28. It’s the third straight year the ‘Boys have knocked the Niners out of the playoffs.
1) Game 6 – The wait was finally over in 2002 for the San Francisco Giants. Leading the Series, 3-2, they were up, 5-0, with eight outs to go in Game 6. In the ultimate choke of chokes, Anaheim’s Scott Spiezio whacks a three-run ding-dong and the Giants crumble, losing, 6-5. Series over. For the trivia buffs in the audience, that is the biggest blown lead against a team facing elimination in the history of baseball.
Not even the Red Sox or the Cubs have ever done that. That’s select company.
The sort of company that the 2004 Sharks seem intended on joining.