Everyone who has played sports as a child or teenager has a soul-crushing defeat etched in their mind forever. Today, the SB Nation staff shares their tales of woe from fields and courts. Feel free to laugh at us. One day we might be able to do the same.
Graham MacAree: My dad was always the one who took me to my soccer games. One day, when I was 13 or 14, he couldn't make it, so my mother did instead. She'd never seen me play before. We were on one of those horrible artificial pitches, like they'd painted the parking lot green or something. Because there was no grass the game was absurdly fast and out of control, which is exactly the opposite of how I like to play. My team lost 2-0, I was at left back and got smoked for one of the goals. It was one of the worst games I've ever played.
When I was walking back to the car, my mother said, "I have no idea why your dad told me you were good." We drove half an hour home in silence.
Jessica Smetana: June, 2012. Benet Academy women’s soccer was on their deepest playoff run in eight years and about the play their bitter rivals in the State Super Sectional. I had just graduated high school at Benet. This last state run was the only thing separating me from summer, college, and the start of my adult life.
I came off the bench in the first half to score the only goal of regulation for Benet. A beautiful side-net pass, taken in stride. The second half came around. I sat on the bench and watched as the other team tied it up. Then I watched as we proceeded to play four overtimes. One hundred and fifty minutes of scoreless soccer. Scoreless. Both teams’ energy drained in the scorching June heat. But, alas, I was never put back in the game. Why? I will never know. The four overtimes ended. It was time for penalty kicks.
I was naturally one of the team’s best penalty takers. I went up to the line. I lined up my ball. Hundreds of fans began to chant at me to miss. I took my shot, aiming straight for side net. I held my breath. The ball nicked the right metal post ... it ricocheted to the left. The goalie whiffed. I watched as the ball skidded across the goal line behind her, in a straight line, to the left-side post. It bounced off the left post, and forward, away from the net. No goal.
It was the first PK I ever missed, at the highest stage I had ever played in. For a second, I was devastated. But then I realized, eh. fuck it. It’s summer.
Matt Brown: I once lost a church-ball basketball game by 70 points when I was 14. Our team only had five players, and one of them was sick. Maybe one of us could actually dribble a ball. The other team could platoon swap, had multiple really good high school basketball players, and was all older than us. By the end of the game, they were draining shots from midcourt, just because they could. I’m pretty sure they brought in some ringers.
I did not handle the result in a Christlike manner, leaving the gym while directing some decidedly un-Mormon language to my opponents.
James Dator: Before 1998 I was a three-time All-Star in my youth league. I dominated the paint for my beloved Sonics at forward, but my league hiked its rates three-fold before the season began. As a single mother, my mom couldn’t afford for me to keep playing — but there was a solution. I could change teams and become a “mentor.” This meant that I could play for free, but would be assigned to a team needing more leadership.
Normally there was a B-League for kids without basketball skills, but there weren’t enough players that year to make one. I was assigned to the Hornets, who had seven other players, the majority of which were refugees and had never played basketball before. Three of them had never touched a basketball before our first practice.
The first game of the season was against the Sonics, my former team. All my former teammates, the same coach — everything was the same except I wasn’t with them. Ahead of the game I told Daniel and Chris, their two best players, that our team would lose. I asked my former coach if they could go a little easy on us in the second half.
Forty minutes later we’d lost, 142-12. I scored all 12 points for my team. I was triple-teamed for most of the game, and ended up inbounding the ball to myself after most possessions. With three minutes left Chris ran up on me and said, “Wow ... you’re trash without us,” and I punched him in the dick and got ejected. It was worth it.
We didn’t win a single game all season and our closest game was a 55-point loss.
Brittany Cheng: I tackled a dude while playing tag at recess in second grade and they didn’t let me go to recess for a week. Does that count?
Adam Stites: I played water polo in high school for a team that was really, really bad. We went 0-10 in league play and 1-21 overall. That one win was against a team that traveled from another state for a tournament and I’m not sure they’d ever played the sport before.
The worst of our 21 losses was in a game to decide the team that finished 16th in a 16-team tournament. The school that won the whole thing actually fielded two teams in the tournament and the second team consisted entirely of freshmen.
Now, again, we were terrible, but the team we were playing were significantly smaller and slower than us. I’m not even a big guy myself, but I was tossing defenders out of the way like it was nothing. We should’ve won handily, but because we were water polo’s Bad News Bears, we blew it every chance we could and the game went to overtime. It took the tiny freshman team all of 20 or so seconds to score a goal in overtime and end it.
We lost a couple games by at least 15 goals that season, but losing to players half our size is the one that really felt like rock bottom.
Harry Lyles Jr.: In 2003ish when I played baseball, our team went 12-1 in the regular season and coasted throughout the tournament. Another team that coasted throughout the tournament that we met in the championship went 0-12 in the regular season. It was a double-elimination tournament — we were on the winners bracket, and they were in the losers bracket — so they had to beat us twice.
Instead of starting our best pitcher, our coach started his son in the first game, who was kinda trash. We were not happy that he was starting, and of course he got lit up. We also lost the second game, and the championship to the worst team in our league.
I never played baseball again.
Whitney McIntosh: I’ve played tennis basically my whole life, and for the most part am pretty average. But some years have been better than others based on priority, motivation, and of course luck from time to time. While on the tennis team in high school I played as a member of first and second doubles teams, and as third, second, and first singles. Our team was only OK — and we never made a state tournament — but we pulled out thrilling wins over the years and had some genuine talent that upset various league favorites. This is not one of those anecdotes.
By the time I got to senior year, I was playing first singles as more of a sacrificial lamb than an actual player. Even though in the hierarchy of our teams singles players I was the best one, I’ll fully admit that my skills couldn’t match up to most of our competitors’ entrants at the No. 1 slot. So it mostly turned into me losing, but second and third hanging on and then only one doubles needing to work some magic for a win. A strategy was there, but my wins were not. Even so, many of my losses were at least respectable — a 6-4 set one day, a crazy rally that ended in an impressive shot another.
But then there was the match, about midway through our season, against a future D1 player that was the absolute most brutal and ruthless loss I had (and still have) ever experienced on a court. During the entirety of the match (which yes, was a double-bagel extravaganza) I won a whopping two of total points. Yes. Two. The entire time. And most of the other points weren’t even close. It got so bad about midway through the first set that even when I got my racket on the ball while returning serve (nonetheless sending it back over the net) every parent on the sideline would cheer for me. They definitely meant well but ... ouch. Even though I never came close to turning pro or anything of the sort, for 42 minutes I was able to embody the spirit of a player who steps out onto a court ready to play some good tennis and gets summarily smoked like a pig in Texas.
Christian D’Andrea: I grew up in Rhode Island, which is known for one thing and one thing only: elite high school football. My father, who suffered a series of knee injuries playing the sport, had banned me from playing in pads until I got to high school, where a perpetually 2-8 Pilgrim High School team awaited. At a burly 130 pounds I was a drop-back quarterback who somehow split time with a future AA-ball pitcher who could throw the ball over them mountains over there. Combined, we threw approximately six passes per game and gave our parents a collective reason to drink on Friday afternoons.
An uneventful season led us to our first big home game against an in-city rival. Bishop Hendricken was the private school a few miles away that attracted the state’s best athletes. Current Washington safety Will Blackmon was the centerpiece of their freshman team that year. Conversely, two-fifths of our starting offensive line wore Airwalks to games.
The game was the slaughter it had every right to be. Our top linebacker was ejected two plays into the game for blindsiding Hendricken’s quarterback a good six seconds after a handoff. We trailed something like 43-0 in the third quarter. That’s when I got the call.
The play, as described to me by my coach, was just “f—- it, just throw the ball as far as you can.” I rolled right, found an open receiver sprinting downfield, planted my feet, and then time-traveled several hours into the future. Video evidence would later show I got blindsided so hard I pulled nearly a square foot of sod out of the turf with my helmet when I got up. I fumbled the hell out of the ball, leading to another Hendricken touchdown. We lost something like 120-0.
But hey, for one fleeting moment, I got to feel like Rex Grossman.
Kyle Robbins: Y’all wanna hear the story of my last-ever youth sporting event? The 2009 Indiana high school golf state finals? Fun! Here we go.
For a my relatively small-town, southern Indiana team, we’d had a pretty stacked roster for the past three seasons. We were highly ranked (Yes! Indiana high school golf rankings exist! Really) and all of us would basically go on to pay for pretty decent college programs, but we could never put it together in the regional round before state. Always blew it. The Sergio Garcia of high school golf teams, so to speak. I was a central reason for such failure. Extremely fun!
But, alas, that was set to change! We finally pulled through, made it to the state finals my senior year. Finally get there and it’s pouring rain, awful day. Scores are super high, including for most of my (extremely talented) teammates. For whatever reason, I’m playing one of by better rounds of the year in the monsoon. We’re set to miss the cut as a team, but I’ve got the opportunity to make the cut as an individual start the final round a couple shots off the individual lead myself. Most of the hometown crowd starts to follow me. I make birdie on the par-5 15th. I am about three shots off the lead at the state finals. This is Valhalla.
The ensuing 16th hole is one of those big, amphitheater type par-3s — and all of a sudden I’m playing in front of easily the biggest crowd of my life. Biggest moment of my life, state title on the line, kinda playing for my entire small little town. This is my moment! I’m finally gonna Do It!
I hit a cold, hard shank. Like, almost-kill-people-walking-on-the-road type stuff. I made double-bogey, sulked through the last two holes, the narrow cut line for individuals came down, and I missed it by a shot.
Never ever play a sport.
What's the worst sports loss you took growing up? Add it to the comments below.