Sports are crappy: Reviewing and illustrating the worst games of 2012

Sometimes, a game is so one-sided, terribly played, and/or downright unwatchable that it deserves special recognition. Let's take a look back at the last year, and make sure its crappiest games aren't forgotten.

We're bitter, y'all. You're bitter, I'm bitter. Which is just as well, because as sports fans, we see more in the way of crappy games than great ones. For every NLCS walk-off, we've seen a dozen 9-4 losses in June, and for every NBA buzzer-beater, we've seen a handful of 25-point, fourth-quarter deficits in which the home team walks upcourt in front of 1,500 murmuring people.

Crappy games are unlike all the crappy movies and albums and books out there, because we can deftly avoid most of those with enough practice. Too often we're signed on to the whole deal, both good and bad, committing ourselves to watch every one-sided win and ennui-inducing loss.

As long as we're at it, we may as well celebrate such games however we can. I just got done looking through box scores across every major league, and I've come up with what I feel to be eight of the ugliest, saddest, crappiest contests of 2012.

Some of these were bad because they were one-sided, and others because the all-around play was abysmal. And if you think there's a horrible game I overlooked, you're probably right. I would love/hate to hear about it in the comments.

Oh, and, uh ... I barely actually watched any of these games, and was able to digest them from the safe distance of box scores and play-by-play accounts. As such, I have decided to sketch my impressions of these games in the hope of imparting a greater understanding of just what happened here.

Here we go, everyone. Hope you enjoy reading about things that are horribly crappy.

NFL.
DECEMBER 2nd.
JETS 7, CARDINALS 6.

Context:

- The Jets continued to roll with Mark Sanchez as their starter, despite his continued regression into the worst quarterback in football.

- After starting 4-0 on the season, the Cardinals dropped nine straight, thanks in part to quarterback Kevin Kolb's season-ending injury. Reflecting on the Cardinals' 4-0 start to 2012 is like looking at Stonehenge, in that we know it happened either via aliens or an elaborate network of pulleys.

- The Cardinals' hopelessness at the quarterback position can be observed in Larry Fitzgerald, one of the very most able wideouts in the NFL. He is on pace to rack up roughly half as many receiving yards as he did last season, and it's been six weeks since the last time he had more than 31 receiving yards in a game.

What's sad about this game:

- This was the worst passing game of the year: both teams threw for a combined 168 yards.

- Sanchez, who had been granted an almost absurd number of chances to not be terrible, was finally yanked by head coach Rex Ryan. Out trotted backup Greg McElroy. Fans were now witnessing a quarterback duel between a rookie sixth-rounder and a second-year seventh-rounder.

Thoughts:

This is the only game on this entire list that I actually watched. It was really something, watching two quarterbacks that were so thoroughly incapable. Both had passer ratings somewhere in the 10s or 20s. Goodness gracious. Thanks for the show, you guys. I genuinely mean that.

Representative sketch of this game:

Cardinalsjets_medium

COLLEGE BASKETBALL.
JANUARY 5th.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC 58, LOUISIANA-MONROE 30.

Context:

- Louisiana-Monroe has spent the last few years tooling around in the cellar of the Sun Belt conference. In 2011-12, they finished 3-26 and lost to Harding, which is a college nobody has ever heard of.

- From looking at their roster, we are supposed to believe that there are people around the age of 20, in the year 2012, whose names are Fred, Hugh, and Reginald. This team is probably fictional.

What's sad about this game:

- Louisiana-Monroe scored seven points in the entire first half. It took them nearly 10 minutes to score any points at all.

- At one point, Louisiana-Monroe went two and a half minutes without attempting a single shot, which hardly seems possible.

Thoughts:

There are a lot of Division I programs with hyphenated names. Every single one of them is bad.

Representative sketch of this game:

Louisianamonroe_medium

NFL.
DECEMBER 9th.
SEAHAWKS 58, CARDINALS 0.

Context:

- This is the Cardinals' second appearance on this list!

- In this game, one of the NFL's weakest offenses matched up against what is arguably the NFL's strongest defense.

What's sad about this game:

- In terms of point differential, this was the third-worst loss since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970.

- The Seahawks scored 58 points. Including this game, the Cardinals had scored 62 points over the last six weeks combined.

- The Cardinals committed eight turnovers. It was only the second time an NFL team had done so since 2001.

Thoughts:

The contemporary NFL places so much emphasis on turnovers, and rightly so. If I were a head coach, I would just shriek DON'T DROP THE FOOTBALL into a bullhorn until I passed out, and my team would go 10-6. It was startling, then, to see the ball given up this many times. Generally, bad teams prefer to play ultra-conservatively specifically to avoid giving up possession.

Watching the team take care of the football like that is, in a sense, touching. It's like their football is a baby bird. They might rush up the gut for 1.5 yards three times in a row, but they would never, ever dream of putting it in danger.

On this day, though, the Cardinals were an unfit parent, and the football was a wayward orphan.

Representative sketch of this game:

Cardinalsseahawks_medium

COLLEGE BASKETBALL.
JANUARY 4th.
DREXEL 60, TOWSON 27.

Context:

- In 2011-12, Towson finished with a 1-31 record. Dating back to the previous season, they were mired in a losing streak that would ultimately last a Division I-record 42 games.

- Towson would average 51.5 points per game that season. That was either the 344th-best mark in Division I basketball, or the very worst, depending on how you'd prefer to look at it.

What's sad about this game:

- The 27 points scored by Towson are the lowest in CAA history.

- Only one Towson player, Robert Nwankwo, scored as many as two field goals.

- Marcus Damas led Towson in scoring. He was 1-for-9 from the field.

Thoughts:

This team averaged a bucket every five minutes. I wish I were there in that crummy 2,500-seat gymnasium to witness it. What does a player look like when his team is 0-15 on the season and chucking up brick after brick? Do his eyes glaze over, or does he actually frown? Does he walk up and down the court, or does he gingerly lie down, arms at his sides, face down, such that his nose presses straight against the hardwood? That's what I would do. It would be terribly uncomfortable, but that's what I would do.

Representative sketch of this game:

Bucketmart_medium

COLLEGE FOOTBALL.
AUGUST 30th.
CONNECTICUT 37, MASSACHUSETTS 0.

Context:

- God only knows what for, but UMass football has been around since 1879. In 2012, it became an FBS program.

- The Minutemen played their first FBS game in school history against Connecticut, a Big East school that has actually won football games and received bowl invitations in recent years.

What's sad about this game:

- UMass collected only 59 offensive yards. This is the lowest single-game total for any FBS team in 2012.

- Six different UMass players recorded rushing statistics. In total, the team rushed 24 times for a net gain of three yards.

Thoughts:

My guess is that everyone affiliated with the Massachusetts football program knew they were going to get obliterated. If that's the case, why waste the opportunity by trying to run a conventional game plan? Do something for the sake of scientific discovery. Fake punt on first down. Have your running back wedge the ball in his face mask and run with it, just to see if the officials object. Make sure you at least have some kind of story to tell.

Representative sketch of this game:

Mass_medium

NFL.
DECEMBER 16th.
RAIDERS 15, CHIEFS 0.

Context:

- The Chiefs-Raiders rivalry, one of the most storied in the NFL, has been reduced in recent years to a blood feud between two absolutely awful teams that do not matter.

- The four worst seasons in the Chiefs' 53-year history -- in terms of point differential -- have come in the last four years. The very worst has come in the 2012 season, which isn't even over yet.

- Entering this game, the Chiefs were 2-11, and the Raiders had lost six games in a row.

What's sad about this game:

- From the viewer's perspective, this game was abjectly terrible. All 15 points came from field goals.

- This was only the seventh 15-0 game in the post-merger era, and I would argue that 15-0 is one of the most miserable possible final scores. There are no touchdowns, it isn't a close game, and people generally dislike field goals.

- The Chiefs rushed 10 times for 10 total yards.

Thoughts:

A friend of mine at the SB Nation newsdesk, Pete Holby, is a lifelong Jets fan who does not find sorrow in his team's considerable failures. In fact, he celebrates them. As he's fond of saying, "I came for this party for the crying, not the cake."

Perhaps without fully realizing it, this is how I'm coming to appreciate my Kansas City Chiefs. I accept them for what they are: a Jesus-awful football team that plays in the city in which I was born but do not particularly care to visit, and wears Ronald McDonald-lookin' colors that cannot possibly be worn off the field with any degree of confidence, and is run by people who are inept or jerks or both.

This is an absolutely wretched sports franchise and I am yoked to it until the day I die. It's far easier, and more appropriate, to simply celebrate this team for who and what it is than to burden it with unreasonable expectations (not being horrible, being good ever, etc.).

Representative sketch of this game:

Arrowheadfinal_medium

NBA.
JANUARY 23rd.
CELTICS 87, MAGIC 56.

Context:

- Not only were these Orlando Magic paid to play professional basketball, they entered this game with an 11-5 record, and thereby ought to have been at least kind of good.

What's sad about this game:

- The Magic's 56 total points were the fifth-worst of the NBA's modern three-point era (since 1979-80).

- The Magic shot .246. No NBA team had shot that poorly in a game in over seven years.

- Center Dwight Howard, a career .577 shooter who takes the overwhelming majority of his shots from the inside, somehow shot only 4-for-15.

Thoughts:

I have come to actively dislike both of these teams, probably because of overexposure, and holy Hell would I hate having to watch this game.

In one episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry David speculates that someone would need to pay him $3,000 to watch Eat, Pray, Love in the theater. If you wanted me to sit down and watch this entire game, start to finish, I think I would have to ask you for $50. And I would still feel gross about it, because on my deathbed, I would not remember how I spent those fifty dollars, but I would remember exactly how I wasted those hours.

Considering this abomination occurred at the top echelon of competition, I consider it to be an absolute perversion of the sport. This is not what basketball was meant to be.

Representative sketch of this game:

Naismith_medium

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL.
AUGUST 31st.
REDS 9, ASTROS 3.

Context:

- At present, the Astros may be the worst franchise in professional American sports. They've lost at least 106 games in each of the last two seasons. The logos on their hats make them look like the guys who are coming to set up a new DVR in your living room. They actually might be those guys.

- Entering this game, the Astros were 40.5 games out of first place in their division. No team had been that far back on August 31st since 1998.

- Over their previous 55 games, the Astros were 8-47. That's a .146 winning percentage. For that percentage to hold, in the sport of baseball, for that long of a stretch, is absolutely phenomenal.

What's sad about this game:

I could have picked any number of games just as easily as I chose this one. See, since MLB plays far more games than any other sport, it naturally follows that there will be a lot more in the way of garbage time. The Astros had been in garbage-time mode for two-plus months entering this game. Nothing they did on the field really mattered.

It's not that they were soundly defeated by a 9-3 score. It's that this did not even matter. The Astros were like a word you strip of its meaning when you say it 100 times in a row: by the end, it was difficult to know what the team's purpose even was.

Astros_medium

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