On January 26, 1997, the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XXXI. That championship was the very first title, in my lifetime, for one of the local teams (Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Wisconsin Badgers) that I grew up rooting for. I had waited just over 19 years to witness my first championship, and it seemed, at the time, that the Packers were a dynasty in the making. And then, BALL KICK, something that has happened over and over and over in my “adult” life…instead of celebrating championships, I end up witnessing ball busting heartbreak. With that, I bring you…The 11 (10 wasn’t enough) Biggest Ball Kicks since Super Bowl XXXI:
1. Super Bowl XXXII. Packers (24) vs Broncos (31). Easily the number one moment on this list. After breezing through the regular season and playoffs, the Packers entered Super Bowl XXXII as double digit favorites to repeat as NFL champions…as the NFC had won 13 straight Super Bowls. Instead, Terrell Davis gashed the Packers defense for 157 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP. I still get sick seeing the above image of John Elway helicoptoring through the air.
2. 2015 NCAA Championship. Wisconsin (63) vs Duke (68). This is from an earlier post. I was actually at this game…and I wake up almost every single day thinking about being up nine points in the second half. I’m not sure Wisconsin will ever be in that position again during my lifetime…but if they are, you can guarantee I’ll be there to watch. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about these two calls…#DuckFuke
3. 2014 NFC Championship. Packers (22) vs Seahawks (28) OT. An all-time Puddy performance for former head coach Mike McCarthy…he should have been fired after this game! The Packers led 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 with under three minutes left in the game. The above play will forever stand out, but there were multiple mistakes made by the Packers in this debacle.
4. 2018 NLCS Game 7. Brewers (1) vs Dodgers (5). Again, I was at this game…tickets courtesy of manager Craig Counsell (which we had to pay face value for). The Crew took a 1-0 lead on a Christian Yelich home run in the first inning and we were dancing in the aisles. A two-run dinger by Cody Bellinger in the 2nd inning and a Yasiel Puig three-run shot in the 6th were more than enough runs for the Dodgers as the Brewers failed to score after the Yelich homer. It was a quiet ride home from Miller Park…no words were spoken.
5. 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. Bucks (2) vs Raptors (4). After the Bucks took a 2-0 lead in the series, I went ahead and purchased a flight to Oakland. At that time, it looked like the Bucks were well on their way to facing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals (the plan was to see Game 4 at Oracle and fly home for Game 5 in Milwaukee). After losing Game 3 of the series in double overtime on the road (a game Giannis fouled out), I was still convinced the Bucks would close this one out and head to the Finals, but it wasn’t meant to be and the final three games of the series were a slow death for this loyal Bucks fan. Note: I did attend the Bucks 108-100 Game 1 win at the Fiserv Forum.
6. 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. Bucks (3) vs 76ers (4). This was David Stern’s NBA…no one wanted the Bucks in the Finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA preferred an Allen Iverson led Philadelphia 76ers team. The Bucks won Game 6 at the Bradley Center behind Ray Allen’s 41 points to force Game 7 in Philly. In Game 6, Scott Williams was charged with a flagrant foul, but not thrown out of the game. The league later suspended Williams for Game 7, a game the Bucks lost 108-91. In the series, the Sixers finished with advantages of 186-120 in free throws, 12-3 in technicals, and 5-0 in flagrant fouls. Only time has, slightly, healed this wound.
7. 2007 NFC Championship. Packers (20) vs Giants (23) OT. A game I could have attended, but with a game time temperature of -1 degrees and a windchill of -23, plus the fact that I was coming off my 30th birthday surprise party, I chose to pass on this one. And what did I miss…nothing but Brett Favre’s last pass as a Green Bay Packer, which was intercepted on the second play of overtime and helped set up Lawrence Tynes game winning field goal. It was also the first NFL/NFC Championship game loss at home for the Packers.
8. 2011 NLCS Game 6. Brewers (6) vs Cardinals (12). I had tickets to Game 7 of this series so I was really hoping that the Brewers could pull out Game 6 at Miller Park. Well, Ron Roenicke decided to trot Shaun Marcum out for Game 6…and was that a mistake! Marcum was gassed heading into this game (as evidenced by his 8.18 ERA in his previous six starts) and series MVP David Freese made him pay by hitting a three-run blast in the first inning as the Cardinals jumped out to 4-0 lead. Marcum was pulled after the 1st, and the Crew tried to make a game of it, but ultimately three errors did not help their cause on this particular day.
9. 2019 NL Wild Card Game. Brewers (3) vs Nationals (4). The Brewers got out to a 3-0 lead as Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run home run in the 1st inning and Eric Thames added a solo shot in the 2nd and the Crew had Max Scherzer on the ropes early. Brandon Woodruff went a solid four innings as the initial out getter (allowing one run on a Trea Turner homer) and Brent Suter and Drew Pomeranz kept Washington off the board after that, sending the game to Josh Hader in the 8th for a two-inning save. Hader, who was 2nd in the NL with 37 saves, struggled with his command from the onset. After a very questionable hit by pitch (replay failed again as the ball clearly hit the knob of the bat), Hader allowed a broken bat single and a walk to load the bases. Juan Soto laced a two-run single to right field, but Trent Grisham (playing in place of the injured Christian Yelich) badly misplayed the ball to allow the eventual winning run to cross the plate. *The Nationals would go on to win the 2019 World Series, four games to three, over the Houston Astros.
Sidenote: Just two games earlier, in Game 161 of the season (a game that included possibly the catch of the year from Lorenzo Cain), Hader gave up a game tying home run with two outs in the 9th as the Brewers lost to Colorado 3-2 in 10 innings, preventing Milwaukee from catching St. Louis atop the Central Division. The game was not without controversy as Cain was injured sliding into home when Rockies catcher Tony Wolters blocked the plate in the top of the 9th (again, replay did not overturn the call). Game 162 of the season would not matter much as the Cardinals would go on to blast the Cubs 9-0 to claim the Central Division crown. The Crew would finish two games back of St. Louis and concluded the month of September with a 20-7 mark and a 13-5 record without the injured Yelich.
10. 2011 NFC Divisional Round. Packers (20) vs Giants (37). Just another game that I was at. I also had NFC Championship game tickets (see above) had the Packers been able to get past the Giants. I’ll forever remember watching Packers’ receivers drop eight passes from Aaron Rodgers and the Giants connecting on a Hail Mary to end the first half…it happened right in front of us (and Charles Woodson) in the north end zone. As New York took a 30-13 lead in the 4th quarter, I couldn’t believe how many Packers fans were heading for the exits. We stayed (till the end) and watched the New York fans take over the seats behind the Giants’ bench…embarrassing effort by Packers fans on this day.
11. 2011 Rose Bowl. Wisconsin (19) vs TCU (21). Guess what, I was at this game. As I look back at this contest, I’ll always remember the dropped passes, the six penalties on the nation’s least-penalized team, Phillip Welch missing a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter, and (usually aggressive) Bret Bielema’s decision to settle for a field goal late in the first half. The #unbielemable hashtag was coined later after this game when Big Game Bret decided to go with a shotgun formation on the game tying two-point attempt, after the Badgers had just run the ball down the Horned Frog’s throat on the previous drive. The rest is history…as Wisconsin would lose the next two Rose Bowl games (2012 – Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38 and 2013 – Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14), even Barry Alvarez couldn’t salvage a win in the last one, as #unbielemable left for Arkansas. Good riddance!
Update: Welcome to the next decade, Wisconsin drops the 2020 Rose Bowl to Oregon 28-27, and now becomes the Buffalo Bills by losing four straight in Pasadena. The Badgers had their chances in this game, but four turnovers, nine penalties, and a missed field goal proved costly. A controversial offensive pass interference call on Wisconsin will be remembered in this one, as the refs and replay continue to get in the way of themselves in these type of big games.
MORE ball kick moments that just missed out on making the top 11. (These events are in order by date).
- 1998 NFC Wild Card. Packers (27) vs 49ers (30). The game is often referred to as The Catch II, but I’ll always remember that Jerry Rice fumbled.
- Ray Rhodes hired as Packers Head Coach (1999). The “Dark Year” as some of my friends call it. At least Ron Wolf knew he made a mistake and canned Rhodes immediately after his one season as head coach.
- 2000 Final Four. Wisconsin (41) vs Michigan State (53). The Spartans led 19-17 at the half. Michigan State beat Wisconsin four times that season.
- 2003 NFC Divisional Round. Packers (17) vs Eagles (20) OT. 4th and 26…do I really need to say more? Years later, I got to see LeRoy Butler break down that play in an all-school assembly.
- Brett Favre retiring…and then unretiring (2008). Seeing Favre playing for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings still seems odd. It took me awhile to get over this.
- 2009 NFC Wild Card. Packers (45) vs Cardinals (51) OT. Joe Buck with the call, “Rodgers, gets a hand to the face…the ball is out.” Karlos Dansby would scoop up the fumble and run it in for the winning score. There was no flag on the play.
- September 24, 2012 (Week 3). Packers (12) vs Seahawks (14). Simply known as the Fail Mary game. Just another Roger Goodell mistake. The real referees were back the following week thanks to this travesty.
- 2014 Final Four. Wisconsin (73) vs Kentucky (74). Aaron Harrison drills a deep three-pointer over Josh Gasser to send Kentucky to the title game in the closing seconds of the game.
- 2015 NFC Divisional Round. Packers (20) vs Cardinals (26) OT. Aaron Rodgers completes TWO Hail Mary’s to Jeff Janis in this game…the final one forcing OT. Then the coin DOES NOT flip before overtime and the Packers offense would never see the ball as Larry Fitzgerald takes over.
- 2016 Sweet Sixteen. Wisconsin (56) vs Notre Dame (61). The Irish score the game’s final eight points as the Badgers cannot buy a bucket, or call, down the stretch.
- 2017 Sweet Sixteen. Wisconsin (83) vs Florida (84) OT. Zak Showalter hits a running three-pointer to force overtime (does the belt to a courtside Aaron Rodgers in the Garden). But, in overtime, Florida’s Chris Chiozza (I’ll never forget that name) drives the length of the court in four seconds and hits his own running three-pointer for the win.
- 2017 Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin (21) vs Ohio State (27). The 12-0 Badgers miss out on an opportunity to play in the College Football Playoff. The turf also literally fell apart in this game.
- 2020 (COVID-19).
- The Badgers, having dealt with the Howard Moore family car accident, Micah Potter’s eligibility, and Kobe King’s transfer, found a way to win a share of the Big Ten regular season championship, and looked poised to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments before their season was canceled due to the coronavirus (at least we will always have this).
- The Bucks had a league best 53-12 record when the NBA suspended the season on March 11th after Rudy Goebert tested positive for COVID-19. Milwaukee was never the same team when their season resumed on July 31st in the Bubble at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The Bucks went 3-5 in the seeding round of games, beat the Orlando Magic (4-1) in their first round series, but were eliminated by the 5th seeded Miami Heat in the conference semifinals after a controversial Game 2 ending and Giannis playing through an injured ankle in Games 3 and 4…ultimately having to sit out Game 5 due to that injury.
- More to come…I’m sure…