by Bill Disbrow

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The Sharks have blown a three-game lead in the opening round of the NHL playoffs and are on the verge of a nearly unprecedented collapse should they lose game seven of their series with the Los Angeles Kings. Would it be the most demoralizing loss in the history of the NorCal-SoCal sports rivalry? Hardly. Here are our picks for the hardest-to-forget losses.

2002 World Series – Game 6
Let’s get this over with. The Giants had this game. It was over. You’re A’s fan friends were begrudgingly congratulating you on the first San Francisco Giants World Series title and you thought you’d seen the last of the stupid rally monkey, then freaking Scott Spiezio ruined everything with a three-run jack and the most overworked bullpen ever couldn’t hold the lead. The 6-5 loss was the closest the team would get to the ring until 2010, but hey, at least it didn’t come at the hands of the Dodgers. I’m far too kind to embed a video. You remember.

2013 Sharks Fall In Seven
If the Sharks complete their collapse in Game seven, last year’s win-or-go-home game gets dropped from this list. ESPN described the 2013 Conference semifinals against the Kings as one of the most closely-matched series in recent memory. As Sharks fans have come to expect, the team just couldn’t quite seem to get that breakthrough that sent them on to the next round, falling 2-1 when their game seven comeback attempt fizzled.

1988 Eck Serves Up Kirk Gibson’s Homer
We somehow almost forgot this one, perhaps suppressing the painful memory (actually one member of our staff was at the game but buying a hotdog at the time!?!). The greatest closer of all time gets taken deep by a guy who could barely suit up for the game, setting the tone for the series – the last the Dodgers won (not that Giants fans were keeping track). Unfortunately, everyone has been forced to watch the clip every single postseason since.

2002 NBA Western Conference Finals
At the peak of Sacramento’s NBA fever, the top-seeded Kings were absolutely rolling until they faced arch-rival Shaq and the Lakers. The Kings had won three of the first five games and were on the verge of closing out the eventual champs until a series of horrid calls turned the tide. As of 2011, people were still creating YouTube videos claiming the fix was in:

I’m not gonna argue.

1993 Game Number 162
Will the Thrill and Barry Bonds on the same Giants team at the same time? What could go wrong? Not much actually, the team had won 103 games heading into the finale, a tour de force by MLB standards. The only problem was that the Atlanta Braves won 104 games and the Giants were forced to start the relatively inexperienced Solomon Torres in the final game in L.A. He was hit hard by the rival Dodgers, leaving them one win short of the playoffs. The league would adopt a ‘wild card’ format the next season – just a bit too late for one of the best Giants lineups ever.

2004 – Finley Walk-Off Wins NL West
With the Giants again battling for a wild card spot and the Dodgers looking to lock up the division crown, someone was going home very disappointed after this one. Steve Finley made sure that team was the Giants. He ended the tense 5-5 game with a walkoff grand slam.

Houston would go on to claim the wildcard spot. Finley would eventually join the Giants, but similar heroics were never witnessed in orange and black.

1976 – 49er Growing Pains
After shutting out the NFC West powerhouse L.A. Rams 16-0 in Los Angeles earlier in the 1976 season, the Jim Plunkett-led 49ers were 6-1 as the Rams arrived for the Bay Area rematch. The pummeled the 49ers 23-3, sending them into a tailspin that left them with an 8-6 record and without a seat in the playoffs. Things turned around in this rivalry in a big way a few years later. We’re over it now – mostly.

1991 – The End Of “Run TMC”
With Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin lighting up scoreboards across the league, the Warriors were an NBA darling heading into the 1991 playoffs. The explosive trio – known by fans as “Run TMC” – had led the Warriors to their best record in nearly a decade, and they were looking for a 2nd playoff upset after knocking off the Spurs. Here’s a refresher from there three stars:

Despite a astonishing run of scoring by the Dubs and the Showtime Lakers (lowest output by either team in any of the games was 107 points!) the series didn’t end up being that close. The Warriors lost in five games, with the final heartbreak coming in a game-five overtime loss to the eventual conference champs. What we didn’t know at the time was that we’d seen the last of Run TMC. Richmond was traded in the off-season and the Warriors entered the NBA dark ages, only to emerge in the last few years.

2013 – USC Returns the Favor
A few years after Jim Harbaugh’s 2007 team upset USC and put the Stanford football program on the map, the Trojans returned the favor by knocking the Cardinal out of the national championship picture with 20-17 win on a last-second field goal. Apparently USC fans thought it was a pretty big deal:

Are you haunted by any other memories of SoCal celebrations? Please leave a comment below so we can add the games we missed. Then check out our list of Best #BeatLA moments.


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