December 4, 2022
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Where Mariners’ ALDS loss to Astros ranks among Seattle sports’ most heartbreaking games

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Yes, Tuesday hurt.

And, as Mariners fans learned — many for the first time — it hurt in a way only a postseason game can.

Therein, of course, lies the everlasting allure of sports — the celebration of Saturday turning into the tragedy of Tuesday, and who knows what happens next, but all of it serving as one incredible drama.

Robbie Ray walks off while the Astros celebrate their walkoff win over the Mariners in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

But the Mariners and their fans hope the collapse in Game 1 of the ALDS on Tuesday in Houston — an 8-7 loss to the Astros on a walkoff home run by Yordan Alvarez — will just be a bad moment on the road to a greater ending.

And in the meantime, maybe it’ll help to know that you’re not alone — sports fans of Seattle teams past and present have felt your same pain.

Or, at least, something close to it.

In the spirit of communal hardship, here’s one longtime observer’s list of the 10 most heartbreaking games in Seattle sports history.

1. 2015: Russell Wilson’s Super Bowl XLIX interception

Nothing figures to compare to that ill-fated pass and Malcolm Butler’s interception in Arizona in 2015. The finality of that play and all that disappeared with it — the Seahawks’ chance at NFL immortality as back-to-back Super Bowl champs, and who knows what might have come next — figures to always put the play at the top of a list like this. Let’s at least hope nothing happens to top it.

2. 1994: Top-seeded Sonics stunned in first round of playoffs

The indelible image of Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo lying on the floor and holding the ball in glee as time ran out on a first-round playoff series in 1994 not only gave the Sonics some infamy as the first No. 1 seed to lose to No. 8 seed, but it cost them maybe their best shot at an NBA title in the Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp era. And yes, there would be a greater heartbreak of different sort over a decade later when Clay Bennett bought the team and eventually moved it to Oklahoma City. For the purposes of this list, we’ll just keep it to on-field/court activities.

3. 2006: UW men’s basketball blows shot at Final Four

UW seemed destined for a spot in the men’s Elite Eight — and needing only to beat upstart George Mason to reach the Final Four for the second time in school history — when the Huskies grabbed a four-point lead against Connecticut with 21 seconds left in a 2006 Sweet 16 game. But an ill-timed foul and an incredible last-second shot forced overtime, and UW wilted from there. It what was the last game for maybe the best men’s player in school history, Brandon Roy.

4. 2022: Yordan goes yard to sink Mariners in ALDS opener

OK, so maybe the Mariners come back from this and win the series, and everyone can laugh a little about this game later. But if not, it could linger for a long time as an inexplicably lost opportunity. The good news? Some other games on this list feature teams that didn’t let a devastating loss define them forever.

5. 2022: Storm falter vs. Aces in Sue Bird’s final home game

Yep, it hasn’t been long since Seattle sports fans suffered a similar sting. It was just last month when the Las Vegas Aces scored as time ran out to force overtime in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals following Sue Bird’s three-pointer that had put the Storm up 92-90. The Storm, which had a four-point lead with 11.3 seconds remaining in regulation, went on to lose in overtime. The Aces won the series in the next game, not only ending the Storm’s season but Bird’s career — and sending the Storm into an offseason of unknown.

6. 1978: Sonics come up just short in NBA Finals

The Sonics’ miraculous run to the NBA Finals in 1978 ended in what The Seattle Times described the next day as a “heart-wrenching’’ loss as Washington won Game 7 at the Coliseum — where Seattle had won 22 in a row — 105-99. The Sonics cut an 11-point deficit with seven minutes left to two with 18 seconds left before Washington held on. In the good-omen department for the Mariners, though, pretty much the same group of players won it all the next year, and take away most of the sting from 1978. Still, in the moment, there were no guarantees. “It was so close and still so far,” Sonics forward John Johnson said.

7. 1990: UW football falls to UCLA, costing possible national title

Here’s another loss in which the memory has been dimmed by what happened the next year (and again, maybe some happy foreshadowing for the Mariners). The Huskies, ranked second in the AP Top 25 poll, might have won back-to-back national titles had they not lost 25-22 at home to 21-point underdog UCLA late in the 1990 season, with the winning points coming on a field goal with 10 seconds left. “I’m in disbelief,’’ linebacker Chico Fraley said. Many Huskies, though, point to the pain of that defeat for setting the stage for the dominant season that followed.

8. Timbers squelch Sounders rally in 2018 playoffs

What many described as maybe the greatest game in Sounders history to that point ended in anguish as the Timbers beat Seattle on penalty kicks, after the Sounders rallied three times to tie the series on aggregate scoring. “Having your archrivals celebrate like they did on your home field, that hurts,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. Like others on this list, though, the Sounders didn’t let the defeat linger forever, winning the MLS Cup final the next season.

9. Hamilton Rips UW’s heart out in 1998

The 1998 UW men’s basketball team’s surprising run to the Sweet 16 ended in devastating fashion, as Rip Hamilton grabbed a loose ball and hit a fallaway shot as time ran out, sending UConn to the Elite Eight — a play still often shown in montage of great March Madness moments. What was it about UConn, anyway?

10. WSU wilts UW’s Roses in 1982

Here’s a game in which the perspective is affected by your allegiance. For some WSU fans the 1982 Apple Cup is the greatest upset in school history, a 2-7-1 Cougar team beating a 9-1 UW squad 24-20 (and while the game is remembered for Chuck Nelson’s late field-goal miss, it’s worth remembering that came with 4:35 left and UW got two more possessions). A UW win would have given the Huskies three consecutive Rose Bowls. Instead, it would be seven seasons before UW would return.





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