It didn’t take much. It never does, honestly. We’ll sporadically hit each other up to shoot the breeze, and the next thing you know, a collaboration post is in the works. See, this is a process that isn’t unique to TSFJ. We have a stable of writers who respect each others' work, love to write with each other, support each other, push creative limits and challenge each other.
So when Ed and I chopped it up on Gchat on Saturday night, the signs of collaboration were brewing, even if neither of us saw it coming initially. He was watching Super Bowl XXXIX, which startled me, but he soon turned it off, because it was making him so angry. At that point, the light bulb went off, and it was time to get to writing.
What are the games you will absolutely, undeniably, unequivocally never watch again?
People are enamored by memories, and for good reason. Memories last a lifetime, and when people reminisce about certain games, they tend to remember the good times, the ones that make them feel like they were on top of the world.
But what about the games that make you feel like crap? You know, the ones that can spoil even the most perfect day you can be having at that particular time? Seriously, I can be with my nephews on one hand, or getting ready to get it on with a lady with some Marvin Gaye, R. Kelly or Teddy P. in the background on the other. For some God-forsaken reason, though, let a reminder of Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals come across the Hoshitoshi and it will be time for the babies to go back home to their mama and for 'ol girl to go home. That game, just one of the five that will be highlighted between Ed and me, is one that infuriates me to no return.
As you read this post, think back to where you were, what you were doing, the people who were around and all that good stuff when the games that literally make you sick were played. Were there young children around? Did your old lady have to put you out of the house, because you broke everything in sight? Did your neighbors call the police on you? Were there people out there literally concerned for your well-being? After that, let’s converse. This could be the start of some healing …
… but probably not.
Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Game Six of the 2011 World Series
Thursday, October 27, 2011 was the worst night of my life as a fan of professional sports. This, my friends, is no exaggeration. It was a night spent in Marshall, Texas, and as Game Six of the 2011 World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals approached, I was a ball of excitement. See, we had just won the previous game to go up three games to two, and with one more win, my Rangers would be champions of the baseball world.
Between innings, I was on Twitter where Rangers fans from Michael Taddessee, to B. Jones, to Jeremy Biggers, were getting more and more excited. My boy, Chris Navarre, was on pins and needles back home in Dallas, so down the stretch, when Nellie Cruz drove a ball to the bleachers to give us a four-run lead, the Dallas-inspired rap music began to permeate from the walls of my tiny east Texas apartment. Sure, there was still a lot of baseball to be played, but I had seen enough Texas Rangers baseball to know that when my team smells blood, it’s a wrap.
Then, everything slowly began to go to hell.
In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and two strikes, Neffie Feliz was on the mound, got the first two outs and had one freaking strike left to get, just one. Now, I want you all to understand something, and this is purely selfish and the fan in me.
When the ninth was about to start, I made my mind up, right then, that if the Rangers could get three more outs, not only would I hop in the car, right then and there, and drive back to Dallas, but I would call out of work the next day, despite the fact that I had only been working at my job for three months. Oh well, I didn’t care. My team was on the verge of winning the World Series. Fuck work!
Anyway, after one out, I put on my shoes. After two outs, I picked up my keys and placed my wallet in the pocket of my sweats. My homegirl, Dawana, shot me a text asking what size tee I wanted from Academy since she, along with countless other Rangers fans, was already in line for shirts and listening to the game while standing in line outside of the store. I told her that it was too soon to be asking such things; the Rangers still needed to get one more out …
… but that an XL would do just fine.
So back to the final strike. Well, we all saw what happened. David Freese lined a shot to right field, and my heart literally buckled, my knees got weak, my breath stopped and time froze as Nellie went back to attempt to make the catch. As the ball was on its way down, I got a bad feeling. Sure, the play still hadn’t completed itself, but the way he was tracking the ball, along with the emotion of the moment, I just had a feeling that this was going to be very bad. It was.
The Cardinals tied the fucking game, and it went into extras. Fantastic. I put my keys back down, cursed out everybody for celebrating early on Twitter, cursed out my homegirl for asking me what size tee I wanted, and while this occurred, my dad, who knows nothing about baseball, was eerily quiet as he watched my tirade. He was remarkably respectful. He didn’t mess with me at all, because he probably thought I would turn on him, too.
Anyway, a chance for redemption emerged. Josh Hamilton blasted a two-run homer to give us a two-run lead in the tenth. Rangers fans were crunk again, and once again, we went into the bottom of extras with a two-run lead. Let’s just finish the damn job, right?
One out, I pick up my keys. Two outs, I stand up and prepare to head out the door, but my feet were chained to the floor. See, I had just saw what happened the inning before, so even though there was an indescribable rush to storm down the stairs and hit 20 West, I had to see everything, had to see the very last strike …
… except we couldn’t get it. Again.
At this point, I knew it was over. Literally, I had never seen anything like that in my 29 years of being a sports fan. It was sickening, infuriating, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching stuff. St. Louis went on to win Game Six in 11 innings, tied the World Series at three games apiece and set up a Game Seven for all the marbles. While there was a Game Seven left to be played, I knew we had no chance in hell - none at all.
The next night, I met up with B. Jones, Jeremy, Brandon and Sam, and we watched Game Seven together at a local spot back home. It was the saddest collection of sports fans I had ever been around, and to this day, nothing comes close to the scene that Friday night in that bar. All of us were sad. We just sat there in a daze, barely touched our food, barely said a word to each other, let alone anyone else. The bar was packed, and even with the initial enthusiasm before the game started, deep down, we knew we blew it the night before. We all knew it was over. The night before was too much. It was over.
A brief depression immediately followed. I didn't go outside all weekend, and the only sign of being on the internet was to post an article on the ETSF website the following Tuesday. After that, I went right back to grieving. I didn't tweet for over a week and didn't update anything on Facebook for just as long. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until I went to the barbershop one week later that I was somewhat back to normal. It was there where other Rangers fans were struggling to get over what happened as well. We ended up becoming each others' support group, right there on the spot. It didn't completely take away the pain, but it was definitely a start. —Kenny
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots: Super Bowl XXXIX
Kenny and I are what you might call Donovan McNabb apologists. In 2012, our ability to apologize for any and everything that McNabb does and has done has faded to oblivion. Kenny's focus is on his own quarterback right now, Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. Me? My new favorite quarterback and person I apologize for is Cam Newton, and he's awesome.
However, the reason why I bring up the fact that we were both once "apologists" is because it shaped our entire lens in how we saw Super Bowl XXXIX take place in front of us. You see, I truly believe Ken and I wouldn't be the brothers we are today if we didn't have a strong mutual appreciation for Mac-5. It went beyond irrational.
For every two passes that were spot-on and beautiful, a third would be an egregious overthrow or a slider in the dirt. Ken and I saw that as Superman proving to you ingrates that he was, in fact, human.
For every regular-season performance of dominance that McNabb executed under the watchful gaze of head coach Andy Reid, there would be a big NFC Championship game where McNabb would put up a dud of a performance. Ken and I saw it was his teammates weren't worth a damn, his coach was picking boogers and the fans were ungrateful.
For every press conference and interview, where McNabb would effortlessly navigate the media's pestering questions with charisma and courtesy, there would be an interview where McNabb got picked and prodded. Sometimes, by his own players. Ken and I saw it as McNabb being the bigger man, not needing to make a statement to the people. He was a made man.
Yet, that was the problem. He wasn't a made man. He needed that Super Bowl to quiet the critics, the haters and the doubters. *LeBron James nods approvingly*
The Patriots defeated the Eagles on that day 24-21, and all I can remember are all the players that I'd built up in my mind. The players that I believed in and what a title would've meant to their careers.
The fact that Brian Dawkins might go down as the most underappreciated safety of all time, and that as the heart and soul of the Eagles defense, a Super Bowl victory would've meant the world to him. It hurt my heart.
The fact that Terrell Owens put his football livelihood on the line, with two screws in his ankle, to put on one of the greatest Super Bowl performances I'd ever seen. That a title would've made incontestable that he was one of the three best wide receivers of all-time, instead of someone who's mental capacity is always up for questioning.
The fact that I truly believed that Brian Westbrook was the best running back in football, that his productivity was comparable to no one in the game at that time. A title would've made the little man the prototype of what a running back could and should be.
The fact that Donovan McNabb was supposed to be the prototype of what a real quarterback was supposed to be. A dual-threat in every sense, but still unequivocally a quarterback. A title would've quieted those boos on draft day, made the fat man coach look like a genius and prove that
those wide receivers really weren't that bad McNabb had the heart to win a title.
Unfortunately, the Patriots were the better team, and the Eagles ultimately beat themselves. That's why it's the hardest game for me to watch, because I'd invested so much in a team that ultimately couldn't figure out a way to overcome its own demons. —Ed
Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Game Six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals
“Kinfolk, can you watch Amalia for me? I wanna go out and kick it.”
“Sure, it’s nothin’. Kings and Lakers are playing tonight, and I’m gonna stay here to watch it anyway. It’s cool, man. I’ll watch her.”
“Alllllllllready. I’ll bring her over before the game starts.”
The conversation above was between my best friend, Anthony, and me on May 31, 2002. Poor Amalia - the baby was less than a year old at the time, and she had no idea what she was in for that night. At the same time, I should thank her for being there. If it wasn’t for her, I probably would have killed somebody.
It was literally because of her that I didn’t completely lose my mind while I watched the game. Still though, it is a game I can never watch again, because it was the first time I felt as a fan of the NBA that my intelligence was being insulted. People can rationalize the Kings losing that game and the Lakers winning it all they want, but when you have Lakers fans even admit that that night in Staples Center wasn’t on the up-and-up, then that tells you something. Lakers fans are known for being (arguably) the most sensitive fans in sports, but they’re not totally unreasonable. Game Six of the Western Conference Finals was so insulting, so ridiculous and so foolish that, 10 years later, people still talk about it like it happened yesterday.
I had never seen a player commit a foul with his nose until I saw Kobe Bryant give Mike Bibby a forearm shiver from hell (keep in mind that Bibby was firmly planted in front of him; he wasn’t moving at all). Yet, the foul was called on Bibby! Up until then, I had never seen a parade of free-throw shooting in a fourth quarter like I did when the Lakers went to the line 27 times (however, I did see something similar happen eight years later, but that story is coming later). There were other instances of tomfoolery in that game that were cringe-worthy as well.
Simply put, that game is one that, while I have on tape somewhere at home, I will never watch again. It isn’t because of some sense of heartbreak or even that the Kings were my team. Hell, Chris Webber is one of my five favorite players of all time, and as much as I wanted him to win a ring, even that isn’t why the game is so unwatchable.
Instead, it was because it was the first time that I felt like my love of the game was being compromised by forces that were much bigger than anything I had ever seen before. —Kenny
Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls: Game Seven of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals
I present the box scores of the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers in the series-deciding Game Seven in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Let's peruse three quick points that will infuriate the shit out of me.
- Chicago out-rebounded Indiana 50-34: What's more infuriating about that egregious rebounding differential is that the greatest rebounder of our generation, Dennis Rodman, only had six of them. Rik Smits, what in the hell were you doing besides teetering on fouling out? Anybody ever heard of boxing out? Indiana only had 56 shot attempts versus Chicago's 76? *Reaching DEFCON-1*
- MJ and Pipp shot a combined 15-of-45: Oh, and if you didn't know, that's a field-goal shooting percentage of 33.3%. Yep. In a deciding Game Seven that would ultimately be the last season of his career as a member of the Chicago Bulls, Jordan put up a major dud. Yeah, he got to the free-throw line, rebounded and dished the rock, BUT THAT'S BESIDES THE POINT!!?!! *Reaching Angry Corner mode*
- Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr couldn't miss from three: Okay, technically they only made six threes, but damn, I thought I was going to die at my Grandmama's house every time one of them went in. Larry Brown was convinced that Derrick McKey could guard Kukoc, you know, since McKey was supposed to be a defensive stopper. But NOOOOOOOOOOOO ... Derrick McKey went "Salute Your Shorts" mode and got roasted, toasted and burnt to a crisp by Kukoc for seven games. What was worse was that Steve Kerr seemed more open that a wide receiver running routes against the Dallas Cowboys secondary. It was sickening. *Reaching Trey throwing haymakers at Brandi's house while crying after getting ambushed by the cops*
However, the real reason why this game is extremely hard to watch is because I was the one guy who wasn't a Michael Jordan fan. Nope, I loved Reginald Wayne Miller. I loved him. I wore my replica Pacers #31 Miller jersey with pride at Eisenhower Sr. High School. While everyone else wore their Air Jordan XIV's and Bulls jerseys flooding the hallways, I'd get chided and ridiculed like I'd crossed over to the dark side. My only retort was to talk back, defend my squad, defend my honor and hone my verbal shit-talking skills in a manor that Reggie Miller would even be proud.
It's funny that the man is hated more now because he's annoying as shit doing color commentary. It's funny, because we loved his color commentary on the court, especially when going up against Jordan. Reggie was so ignorant that he didn't know any better in being afraid of Jordan. The man got MJ to engage in fisticuffs, talk back in ways we hadn't seen since Bulls vs. Knicks, and look uncomfortable at times on the court. We'd never seen it before. It was unprecedented. The change was finally gon' come, courtesy of Sam Cooke.
Unfortunately, Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr kept shooting. And shooting. And shooting. They shot down my ultimate dream, to wear my Indiana Pacers jersey as a champion, instead of an afterthought.
Boston Celtics vs. L.A. Lakers: Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals
Editor's Note: Two perspectives on this final game. First Ed, then Ken.
ED: It was the best basketball I'd seen Rasheed Abdul Wallace play in years.
There's a saying the old men say, and it's that if you're going to out, go out in a blaze of glory and don't leave anything in the chamber. Rasheed Wallace knew that this was the end of the line for him, that there wouldn't be a meaningful game left to play after Game Seven, and for the first half of the game, he balled like he was at Gratz High, Chapel Hill or in the Rose Garden.
I'd like to think that Kevin Garnett was motivated by the yeoman's work that Rasheed put in early during Game Seven. KG had started to become the big man that I loathe the most: a 6'10" shooting guard. Not that KG's jumper isn't effective, but there's something that's deliberate and authoritative about a big man going down in the post and giving the business to the opposing team. Garnett was a killer in this regard. At least he was at the peak of his super powers. By 2010, and coming off a knee injury, he'd began relying on that jumper way more than I was comfortable with.
Yet there was 'Sheed and KG, getting buckets for the Celtics. Nothing long range either. Everything was mostly at the rim, outside of a scant 10 or 15 footer just to keep the Lakers defense off-balance. What's memorable too is how well Big Baby Davis played, whose only purpose seemed to be to want to make the old men on the team proud of him. Even Big Baby balled out. Those three carried Boston to a 49-36 lead early in the third quarter. Everything I believed about this Celtics team was coming to fruition. That the Celtics were just a more grizzled, seasoned and savvier team than the dastardly Lakers. This was it, the dagger would be driven through the Lakers' heart.
Unfortunately, Doc Rivers inexplicably went away from his three bigs. He had Paul Pierce and Ray Allen over there, who were also leaders on this team, struggling. Doc continued to go to Pierce's well, Allen's well, to pull out one last bucket of greatness from his perimeter stars. It never materialized. Pierce and Allen shot 8-for-29.
To be fair, I don't think it was the stat line that sickened me. It was sickening to see Pierce and Allen continue to fire away, disregarding any logic and game plan that Rivers and the organization had laid down for the entire season. Share the ball, keep moving, play for others. Pierce and Allen were playing hero ball at the worst possible time, and Doc Rivers never did anything to stop it.
Maybe he shouldn't have. It isn't like they hadn't done it before to tons of success, but it's probably more to do with my investment in Rasheed. Knowing Kenny's investment in KG. Watching Big Baby go hard as the baby brother. Rivers still had shots in the chamber, and he didn't use them. I'll never forgive Rivers for it, and that's why I can't watch that game.
KEN: To this day, it is the most disgusting meltdown mine eyes have ever seen. However, it is one that I saw coming from a mile away. The Boston Celtics had a despicable habit of blowing fourth quarter leads throughout the 2009-10 season, and they picked the absolute worst time to have their worst trait (the inability to finish off foes regularly) come back to bite them. Sure, teams blow leads all the time, but for a team like Boston, a team with vets galore, to do such a thing, in Game Seven at that, it's absolutely unforgivable.
When 'Sheed started the game in the post and got back-to-back buckets, I jumped out of my seat and lost my mind. It wasn't that 'Sheed scored; it's that he made a concerted effort to play Grown Man Basketball. Even though I had a feeling that things could go wrong later, I knew that if Boston rode it out, Boston could not only win Game Seven, they could do it in convincing fashion.
But even with the lead extending through the half and into the third quarter, it seemed like the game was going at a snail's pace, which truly began to make me nervous. The Lakers never went away, they never folded the tent and Boston was unable to make them quit. The fact is that the Lakers chipped away at the lead for three quarters and as the game progressed, I began to accept the inevitable: the desired result on this end wasn't going to happen. Hell, I even begged Bill Russell to help the Cs win, to no avail.
I still call the fourth quarter of that game "The Worst Officiated Fourth Quarter of my Lifetime," because it truly is. With that said, Boston didn't make it any better by doing what they did all season: giving up the butt in the final 12 minutes. The whole adage of "The team who wanted it more won the game" is bullcrap because, to this day, I don't believe this game to be an indicator of that. I don't think sports is that simplistic. Moreover, it's a case of how bad habits, if not stamped out sooner rather than later, can surface and be fatal at the worst possible time.
To this day, this is the first time I've really discussed how this game makes me feel, because as soon as it ended that fateful Thursday night in June, I decided that I could never, and would never, watch it again. People will remember the 21st century Boston Celtics for a lot of good they brought to the game, but with one more ring, one they were on the cusp of earning, their legacy took a hit, an unnecessary one, and one I have no desire to relive again.
Kenny Masenda is a fan of the game, and an admirer of the culture. You can find more of what makes him tick at his Facebook profile located here.