After the anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, Ryerson students recall some of their worst memories of sports fandom
Exactly 14 years ago, Kobe Bryant had the best night of his life. He scored 81 points, a personal record and the second-most ever in an NBA game.
Unfortunately for Torontonians, it was not the best night of their lives. Bryant’s incredible feat came at the expense of the Toronto Raptors, who finished with the fifth-worst record in the NBA in the 2005-2006 season.
On the anniversary of Bryant’s 81-point performance, five Ryerson students recalled some of the worst moments they’ve experienced as fans of sports teams — Toronto or otherwise.
The moment: 2014 FIFA World Cup Final (Argentina’s 1-0 loss to Germany)
It’s easy for Noah Irvine, a first-year Ryerson sport media student, to remember the date July 13, 2014 — the day of the 2014 World Cup Final. His family’s home country, Argentina, made it all the way to the final despite being underdogs. Then the gut punch came. Argentina lost on a go-ahead goal in the final minutes and the hope that Irvine and his family had built up over the past few weeks all came crashing down.
“The first thing I could remember was just deflation,” Irvine said. “I knew it was done after [the late-game goal].”
The worst part: The game happened to fall on Irvine’s 13th birthday.
“I still think about it all the time,” Irvine said. “That’s probably my biggest ‘what if?’ for my sporting life.”
The moment: 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, first round, Game 7
Santiago Ramer, a third-year journalism student, is a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. When his team gained a 4-1 lead in the deciding game of their 2013 playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Ramer was ready to celebrate.
“I had my jersey ready by the time the third period started,” Ramer said. “I knew I was going to wear it to school.”
He started to get a sinking feeling when the Bruins scored to cut the lead to 4-2.
“As soon as I put my jersey on and sit in front of the couch, that’s when Boston scores their first comeback goal,” Ramer said. “It just all went downhill from there.”
The Bruins tied the game at four by the end of the third period and finished their comeback with a goal in overtime, sending them to the second round and eliminating the Leafs. Ramer said he has never experienced a more heartbreaking sports loss.
The moment: 2014 World Cup semi-final (Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany)
Marina De Sa, a first-year child and youth care student, said she became overconfident during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Her native country, Brazil, made the semi-final of that tournament. When the team finally met its end in an embarrassing defeat to Germany, De Sa had to get away from the TV.
“At [5-0], I went to Dairy Queen with my mom because it was that bad,” she said. “I couldn’t watch the rest of the game.”
De Sa was in Grade 8 at the time and she knew that she would never hear the end of it from her elementary school friends.
“Everyone came up to me and just threw it in my face,” she said.
De Sa says she cried after the loss and her sports fandom has never been the same since.
The moment: Toronto Raptors’ playoff losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers; Maple Leafs’ losses to Boston Bruins
Tony Nguyen, a first-year nursing student, doesn’t point to a specific loss. Instead, he says the various defeats by the Raptors (2016, 2017 and 2018) and Leafs (2013, 2018 and 2019) to their conference rivals in recent years always hurt the most.
“Everything seems to be going so fine in the regular season, but then once we hit playoffs, it’s like our team falls apart,” Nguyen said, adding that last year’s NBA championship for the Raptors was the first time things really changed.
Even with the Eastern Conference’s best record and home court advantage against the Cavaliers in 2018, the Raptors still couldn’t get over the hump.
“You’re looking at [the Raptors and Leafs] like, ‘I know you can do this, why can’t you do it now?” Nguyen said.
The moment: 2015 UEFA Champions League Final (Juventus’ 3-1 loss to FC Barcelona)
Ben Botelho, first-year sport media student, was watching the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final with his father and grandmother. All three are big fans of Juventus F.C., an Italian soccer team that hasn’t won the Champions League since 1996.
Botelho says the final felt like it could be their only chance to win it for a long time. For him and his family, that made the defeat sting so much worse.
“We were just deflated,” Botelho said. “There’s no other way I can put it.”
Every sports fan faces the risk of colossal heartbreak at any given moment. Regardless, it’s the hope, the perpetual chance for those misfortunes to turn around, that keeps sports fandom alive forever.