Oh hey you — yes you, the hardcore Wisconsin sports fan — I’d like to ruin your day.
Before Big Ten football gets announced later tonight, I think it's important to take a look back at how sports in Wisconsin so consistently tear our hearts out and stomp on them — to keep this Badger season in perspective for us.
Wisconsin sports, at least in the past decade, have never seen such success. Regular season records for each major sports team in the state are at the highest they’ve ever been. We have three MVPs in the state (Giannis, Rodgers, Yelich), and more playoff appearances between the three major sports than at any other point in Wisconsin sports history. But, it has almost always ended in heartbreak for us.
The craziest thing is that this article only focuses on end of season disappointments. I’d need about 3000 extra words to cover the heartbreak that happens for each team throughout their season.
Anyway, let's look at the last 10 years of pain.
The Packers won the Super Bowl as a 6-seed the year before, and only got better in the off-season. The team ended up going 15-1 in the regular season, putting up one of the most convincing start-to-finish years in team history. Aaron Rodgers won offensive MVP, and Matt Flynn put up the most passing yards in a game in NFL history in the last game against the Lions.
Then the Packers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in an ugly game for the Pack. The final score was 37-20, but it didn’t even feel that close.
I’ll preface this by saying I am not a Brewers fan, and do not have a super in-depth knowledge of their heartbreaks, so I’ll do my best here.
In 2011 the Crew had everything going for them. Ryan Braun just won MVP, Prince Fielder was killing it as a fat vegan and the pitching staff was about as solid as you could ask for. The Brewers made it to the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, and had the series tied at 2-2.
The Crew lost the final two games on a combined score of 19-7, and missed out on the World Series — not great!
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2011 was the Russell Wilson year for Wisconsin, and he still stands in my mind as the greatest quarterback to play for the school. After a relatively disappointing regular season, the Badgers found their way into the Rose Bowl, in a game against Oregon.
Wisconsin was driving down the field with under a minute left in the game, with a chance to tie on a touchdown. After a big pass to get near the 30 yard-line time was running low, and the offensive unit couldn’t quite get to the ball in time. By the time Wilson tried to spike it, the clock hit zero. Final score 45-38, Oregon.
The Pack managed an 11-5 year while dealing with replacement referees. After winning their first round game against the Vikings, thanks in part to a couple John Kuhn touchdowns, the Packers matched up with Colin Kaepernick's 49ers.
Kap put up damn near 450 total yards in the game, with 180 of them coming on the ground. The Packers lost 45-31, but again it didn’t feel that close.
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Wisconsin went through three quarterbacks (Danny O’Brian, Joel Stave, Curt Phillips) in the year, but still managed to make it into the Rose Bowl for the second straight year.
They played 12-2 Stanford, a team much better than them, but held their own in the game. The Badgers were only down three points at halftime, but laid a goose egg in the second, and ended up losing the game 20-14 in one of the more uninspiring Rose Bowls in recent memory.
Brandon Jennings, Bucks in Six!!! Promptly swept in four by the Lebron Heat.
This was the first year Rodgers got hurt for a significant amount of time after a Bears linebacker landed on his left shoulder. The Packers limped into the playoffs with a 8-6-1 record, and again played the Colin Kaepernick 49ers.
Shockingly, the game went much better than in 2012, as Rodgers made his triumphant return to play. Kap only had 350 yards this time too! But, because it’s Wisconsin, the Packers defense allowed a five minute drive to the 49ers that ate up the rest of the game clock — and Phil Dawson nailed a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the game to San Francisco, 23-20.
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This was Wisconsin basketball's first year as a juggernaut with Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and crew. The Badgers ran through the regular season, and made it to their first Final Four since 2000.
In the Final Four Wisconsin matched up against Kentucky, and the two teams played an extremely close game. With just 5.7 seconds left the Badgers led 73-71, but Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison was left a little too open, and he hit a last second three to send Kentucky to the National Championship game over Wisconsin. Final score 73-74.
Green Bay puts up a 12-4 season, Rodgers won his second MVP, everything was going great. The Pack beat Dallas on a controversial call on Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (that definitely WASN’T a catch), and then played Seattle in the NFC Championship Game.
After a solid first half, the Packers gave up a 16 point lead, and it led to this now infamous onside kick that Packers back-up tight end Brandon Bostick let slip through his hands. The game ended up going to overtime, where Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t even get a chance to touch the ball.
Seattle wins on an overtime touchdown, 28-22.
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The second year of Wisconsin basketball’s juggernaut team, but this time they had a year of experience under their belts. Wisconsin faced off against undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four for the second straight year, but this time they were able to sink that titanic team.
The Badgers then faced off against Duke in the National Championship, and too much happened in that game than I can fit here. In a nutshell, referees kinda-sorta screwed up a call that definitely hit Justise Winslow’s fingertips, and it led to Duke being able to pull away in the final seconds of the game. Final score 68-63 Duke, and Wisconsin continued their search for a first title since 1941.
Another crazy year for the Pack. We got the Miracle in Motown, a productive year from bowling ball Eddie Lacy and Rodgers was fresh off his MVP season. But the receivers production had been sorely lacking all season, which put the team in some bad positions.
Enter the NFC Divisional game against the Cardinals, where the Packers found themselves down a touchdown with 1:55 left in the game. Rodgers threw two consecutive hail marys — both to Jeff Janis — to send the game to overtime tied at 20.
But, again, Rodgers didn’t get to touch the ball in overtime. Arizona won the coin toss, promptly drove all the way down the field and scored a touchdown on the Packers defense. Final score 26-20 Cardinals.
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A year removed from Final Four teams, this Badger squad still held their own in March Madness. The team was a dangerous 7-seed in the tournament, and brought down 2-seed Xavier in the second round. Remember how sad Bill Murray was? That was awesome.
In the Sweet 16 the Badgers faced off against Notre Dame, and held the lead going into the last three minutes of the game. Unfortunately, Wisconsin let Notre Dame go on an 8-0 run to end the game, crushing the Badgers spirit in the final seconds. Final score 61-56
The Packers started the year 4-6, and everyone was in a panic. Aaron Rodgers told everyone to “R-E-L-A-X” and the team ended up rattling off six straight victories to end the season, sneaking into the playoffs.
Green Bay won their Wild Card and Divisional matchups, which gave Packer fans a glimmer of hope that we might once again see our team in the Superbowl.
Atlanta thrashed the Packers in the NFC Championship game 44-21. Bye-bye Green Bay.
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Wisconsin had significant struggles in the regular season in 2016, making the NCAA tournament as an 8-seed. However, the Badgers again made it to the Sweet 16, taking 1-seed Villinova with them.
In a close game against Florida, Wisconsin was able to overcome a first-half deficit to send the contest to overtime. Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams seemingly scoring at will. But, Florida got the last shot off on an acrobatic three by Chris Chiozza, which sunk Wisconsin at the buzzer. Final score 84-83, Florida.
Our third team heartbreak in the year. Hadn’t happened since 2012, I was starting to get worried there would only be two heartbreaks a year there for a while.
This was the beginning of the Bucks current juggernaut. Giannis had broken out, and the cast around him looked to be at least solid enough. The Bucks matched up against the Raptors in the first round, and actually took a 2-1 series lead going into game four. They were actually predicted as the favorites in the series at this point.
However, Toronto turned it on over the next three games, and solidly buried the Bucks. It was our first taste of real Bucks heartbreak in a while.
Rodgers got hurt for essentially the entire season. Brett Hundley was not the answer.
The Bucks had an even better season than 2016, and Giannis had broken out as a bona-fide superstar. It led the Bucks to a first round matchup against the injury riddled Boston Celtics.
So what did the Celtics do? Beat the Bucks in seven games. The Bucks offense seemed to collapse in the last three games, and the Celtics took advantage of it, winning two of the three and sending the Bucks packing in the first round for the second straight year. At least it got Jason Kidd fired.
The Brewers put up a really solid year in 2017, ending the year 10 games above .500.
But, the Crew lost some crucial games against each division rival in the last two weeks of the season, and had a few other decisions go other National League teams' way. They lost out on the second Wild Card spot by just one game.
The worst Packers season in recent memory. Finished the season 6-9-1, and head coach Mike McCarthy was fired in the middle of the year.
Badgers - basketball
This was Ethan Happ’s final season as a Badger, and the team was respectable enough to earn a 5-seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers were also good enough to lose to 12-seed Oregon by 18 points in the first round.
The Bucks won their first round series against the Pistons easily, and then beat the Celtics in round two without too much sweat. It led the team to a matchup against the Kawhi Leonard Raptors to go to the NBA Finals.
The Bucks went up 2-0 in the series before Raptors coach Nick Nurse deployed the “wall” defense against Giannis, and the Bucks were never able to adjust. Toronto went on to reverse sweep the Bucks, winning the next four games of the series on Leonards back.
In perhaps the biggest disappointment for the Brewers this decade, the Crew let an opportunity to go to the World Series slip through their fingers in 2018.
Christian Yelich won NL MVP, and the back end of the Brewers bullpen — led by Josh Hader — was lethal. In the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers the Brewers took the series to seven games, looking like the better team.
But in game seven the Crew mustered up just one run in the first inning, and then watched as the Dodgers scored five straight to end the game, and the series.
Matt LeFleur?? Aaron Rodgers is back?? 13-3?? The Packers have the top scoring running back, and arguably the best route runner/receiver in the league in Aaron Jones and Devante Adams??
Loss in the second round of the playoffs to the 49ers (who else) by three possessions. Final score 37-20 San Francisco.
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Jack Coan was one of the most efficient passers in college football, and Jonathan Taylor was unquestionably the best running back in the nation. Wisconsin choked big time in the Big Ten Championship game, but against Ohio State it can be forgiven.
It led to a matchup in the Rose Bowl against Oregon, who seems to just be dogging the Badgers in the postseason of any sport this decade.
Wisconsin let a fourth quarter lead slip through their fingers as Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert slashed through the Badger defense for a rushing touchdown with five minutes left in the game. The Badgers offense couldn’t get it going after the touchdown, and Wisconsin lost yet another Rose Bowl by one possession. Final score 28-27 Oregon.
I don’t even know what to write here. Best team in the league, about to be two time MVP and DPOY Giannis, Kris Middleton absolutely broke out to become a legit second star, and the team was rolling.
Then COVID-19 hit America, and the Bucks had to take four months off of basketball. Milwaukee looked awful in the bubble, and combined with interesting playoff lineups the Bucks lost in the second round to the Miami Heat, nearly getting swept in the process.
It’s back to the drawing board this offseason for Milwaukee, and I personally can't wait to see how they break out hearts next year.
The Brewers had a great 2019 season, and put themselves in solid position for the postseason entering their last series against the Colorado Rockies. The Crew just had to not get swept.
They proceeded to get swept.
But no worries, Milwaukee was still in the Wild Card game against the Washington Nationals, for a chance to extend their postseason run. In the game Milwaukee was up 3-1 entering the eighth inning, but ended up conceding a bases-loaded single that scored two runs, and added a throwing error to the play to let a third in. The Nationals took the lead 4-3 on the play, and the Brewers weren’t able to mount a comeback in the ninth, ending their season.