October 06, 2009

The Tormentor: Does every major sports city have another city that is simply there to torment them?

In pretty much every major sports city, there is one city that simply owns you. No matter the sport, if your team is trying to accomplish something important, there is one city that just seems to revel in being there to thwart you.

Such is the case for Detroit. The Tigers’ collapse in the AL Central against the Twins is not the first time that a team from the Twin Cities has been a thorn in the side of a Detroit team. Just in baseball, the recent history has not been kind to Detroit when facing Minnesota. Thinking back to 1987, when a muscular and talented Tigers team faced the seemingly-overmatched Twins in the ALCS – the Twins would have finished 5th in the AL East that year and went 4-8 vs. the Tigers in the regular season – the Twins decisively thumped the Tigers 4 games to 1 en route to a World Series win. In 1991, the Twins signed away Detroit’s ace pitcher, Jack Morris, and he led them to the 1991 World Series victory with a great season and an all-time performance in Game 7, a 10-inning shutout of the Atlanta Braves. In the early 2000’s, when the Twins were on top of the AL Central, the Tigers were their favorite whipping boys; from 2002-2004, when the Twins won the division each year, their record vs. the Tigers was a combined 43-12. Then, of course, there was 2006, where the Twins trailed the Tigers by 10.5 games after the All-Star break, only for the Twins to chase them down and win the division title when the Tigers got swept at home by the lowly Kansas City Royals during the last weekend of the season. (Though the Tigers did get the last laugh by advancing to the World Series, perhaps in part because they didn’t have to face the Twins in the playoffs.) So perhaps it isn’t that surprising that the Twins would give the Tigers fits one more time.

Interestingly, though, the dominance isn’t just limited to baseball. The Vikings’ dominance over the Lions is equally notable. The Vikings’ all-time record against the Lions is 64-30-2, including 14-1 since 2002. Former Vikings’ coach Mike Tice (pioneer of the “Duh” offense), was 32-33 overall in four-plus seasons, but 10-0 against the Lions. This includes a 2004 game where the Lions staged a late comeback and scored a touchdown to bring the score to 28-27, only to follow it up by botching the extra point and losing. But Tice wasn’t the only Vikings’ coach to get nearly one-third of his victories against Detroit; the one-year disaster that was Les Steckel also got one of his three wins versus Detroit in 1984.

While basketball and hockey don’t have quite the same vibe of dominance for the Twin Cities, a recent development in hockey had to stir the ire of Detroit fans, as Sports Illustrated deemed St. Paul the “new Hockeytown”, a title that had long belonged to Detroit. So even though the Red Wings have had a great history of success in that sport in recent years, Minnesota still found a way to be a burr in their saddle.

If Detroit fans ever feel bitter about the woes that Minnesota teams inflict upon them, however, they can at least take solace in the fact that in every sport, there is a team from Dallas that is prepared to avenge them, as Dallas has caused Minnesotans as much agony as Detroit has suffered from Minnesota, if not more. The 1975 Vikings, considered by many to be the best of their teams in the 1970’s, were victimized by the infamous “Hail Mary” pass – or as Minnesotans call it, the “Offensive Pass Interference” – which started the Cowboys on the road to the Super Bowl. About a decade and a half later, the Vikings acquired Herschel Walker from the Cowboys, supposedly the last piece of their Super Bowl puzzle, in exchange for several players, draft picks, and future rights to three Super Bowls. The Vikings' Super Bowl dreams never materialized with Walker. A few years after that, while the Cowboys were still winning Super Bowls with the haul from that trade, things got worse for Minnesota sports fans as the State of Hockey lost their pro hockey team to -- of all places -- Dallas.

Meanwhile, in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks were even able to cause some humilitation for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 1993-94 season was off to a terrible start for the Mavericks, as after 41 games, they had an abysmal record of 2-39. It could have been worse, however, had they not gotten to play at the Target Center, as they were 2-0 against the Timberwolves on their own home floor. They didn’t win a home game during the 1993 portion of the season – their first home win was on January 29, 1994 over the Sacramento Kings – nor did they win anywhere else, but they did manage to embarrass Minnesota basketball fans not once, but twice.

A few years later in 1999, the Texas Rangers joined in the fun by sweeping the entire 12-game season series from the rebuilding Twins. So in pretty much every sport, Dallas has been the one city that Minnesota fans simply don’t want to see.

So one might wonder if any other major sports cities have another city that always manages to one-up them. Three other notable examples jump to the mind of this author:

-- New York over Boston. This one is pretty well-known to all fans. The ultimate embarrassment of the 2004 ALCS notwithstanding, the Yankees have a long history of punching the Red Sox in the stomach (and more painful places). The Curse of the Bambino, Bucky “F’n” Dent, you know the tale. Even in 1986, when the Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox from making the World Series, it was the other New York team that got to rub the salt in the wounds. In football, the Jets were able to pull off a coup by stealing Bill Parcells from the Patriots (although that was countered a few years later when the Patriots got Bill Belichick), and the Giants ruined the Patriots’ coronation in Super Bowl XLII by stunning the 18-0 juggernaut.

-- Miami over Chicago. This is one that no one really talks about, but Miami teams have caused Chicagoans a lot of grief over the years. The 1985 Bears had only one blemish on their record: a loss on a Monday night to the Miami Dolphins. In 2006, the Bears were 7-0 and talk of an undefeated season was in the air...only to have a 1-6 Dolphins team come to Soldier Field and put an end to that with a 31-13 thumping. Then, of course, there was the 2003 NLCS, which is likely to cause an aneurysm for any Cubs fan who even thinks about it for more than three seconds.

-- Boston over St. Louis. This one isn’t a long bitter rivalry by any means, because due to geography and how the leagues are scheduled (along with the fact that St. Louis hasn’t had an NBA team for quite some time), these two cities don’t face each other all that often. There is, however, an interesting trivial footnote about Boston and St. Louis: In all four major sports, Boston either won their first title or ended a long streak without one by defeating a team from St. Louis. Eleven years after their founding, the NBA Celtics won their first title in 1957, beating the St. Louis Hawks. The NHL Bruins broke a 29-year dry spell when they won the Stanley Cup in 1970, beating the St. Louis Blues. The New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl in 2001, upsetting the St. Louis Rams. And after finally getting past the Yankees in 2004, the Red Sox finally broke the Curse by sweeping – you guessed it – the St. Louis Cardinals.

posted by TheQatarian to at 10:23 PM - 2 comments

Then there is the Phoenix Coyotes -- fans don't know if they're coming or going.

posted by jjzucal at 11:07 PM on October 06, 2009

But St. Louis has also struck pain deep into the heart of Bostonians, with the Cards beating the Sox in two World Series that went seven games. In 1967, Sox fans who were old enough to remember the 1946 Series were inconsolable.

Randy Marsh deserves notice on an individual basis. Jim Leyland had his heart broken both last night and in the 1992 NLCS, getting beaten both times by dramatic plays at the plate at the end of unbelievable, landmark baseball games. Randy Marsh umpired both games.

However, Marsh also racked up a big notch in the redemption column by umpiring the 1997 World Series, when Leyland finally broke through and got his dramatic moment of triumph.

There is one city that utterly devastated another city for all eternity with one single stroke. Los Angeles over Brooklyn. There are still people in Brooklyn sixth floor walkups sitting in frayed chairs staring blankly at the river through sooty windows, quietly weeping.

posted by beaverboard at 09:46 AM on October 07, 2009

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