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Tuesday, March 12, 2002
Updated: March 13, 11:17 PM ET
Worst sports moments in D.C. history

Page 2 staff

As Page 2 continues its look at Washington sports, it's time to look at the 10 worst moments in D.C. sports history. Below are the top 10 moments as ranked by Page 2 editors:

Len Bias
Len Bias is laid to rest in 1986.
1. Len Bias dies from cocaine overdose (June 19, 1986)
University of Maryland star Len Bias, the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, dies of a cocaine overdose after a night of partying in his dorm suite. It's "the cruelest thing I've ever heard," says Larry Bird after hearing the news. Bias is a true local hero. "His world could be described as a small circle on the map of metropolitan Washington, a circle only as wide as the few miles from his house to the University of Maryland, which he chose to attend so he could remain near his family," writes Ed Bruske and Patrice Gaines-Carter in The Washington Post on the day after Bias dies.

2. Redskins go down in infamy, 73-0 (Dec. 8, 1940)
In front of 36,034 fans at Griffith Stadium, the Bears trounce the Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL championship game, just three weeks after beating the Bears 7-3. The Bears scored on Bill Osmanski's 68-yard run on the game's second play, and the rout was on. By the end of the game, all the footballs had been kicked into the stands on extra points, so, down to one battered-up ball, the Bears tried their final two extra-points from scrimmage. "Those Bears were wonderful, weren't they? That 'T' formation is really dread stuff and Coach George Halas comes pretty close to being the No. 1 offensive genius in the land," writes Shirley Povich in the next day's Post.

3. Senators skip town twice (Oct. 2, 1960 and Sept. 30, 1971)
The Washington Senators leave town in 1961, then leave again in 1972, losing their final games at home in both instances. On Oct. 2, 1960, the Senators -- who will move to Minneapolis and play in the 1965 World Series with much of the young nucleus from the 1960 team -- lose their last game to the Orioles, 2-1. In September 1971, the Senators play their last game at RFK Stadium -- owner Bob Short has decided to move the expansion club to Texas beginning in 1972. The Senators are leading the Yankees 7-5 with two out in the top of the ninth when fans storm the field. The Senators are forced to forfeit, and lose the final game in franchise history, 9-0.

Raiders celebrate
The Los Angeles Raiders celebrate after beating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII.
4. Raiders shut down 'Skins in Super Bowl XVIII (Jan. 22, 1984)
The Raiders crush the Redskins 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII, the most lopsided Super Bowl at that time. The Redskins came into the game riding an 11-game winning streak, but the Raiders defense throttled Joe Theismann, who threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, and John Riggins, who gained only 64 yards on 26 carries. "I could see the frustration in Riggins' face. I could see the fear in Theismann's face," Raiders defensive end Howie Long tells reporters after the game.

5. Lombardi era ends too soon (Sept. 3, 1970)
Vince Lombardi dies of cancer at 57, after only one season as head coach of the 'Skins. Lombardi became coach of the Redskins in February 1969 and led them to a 7-5-2 record, their first winning season in 14 years. "In his first and only year as the Redskins' coach," wrote Shirley Povich in The Washington Post, "Lombardi walked into a situation that had seethed more than once with subsurface racial strife. Almost mysteriously, it dissolved in a team brotherhood."

6. Georgetown loses two title games by three points (1982 and 1985)
The Hoyas, a fast-rising national powerhouse, play three championship games in four years, but win only one, in 1984. The 1982 loss will forever be remembered for the winning shot by North Carolina freshman Michael Jordan, and Hoya guard Fred Brown's the mistaken pass, which contributed greatly to the Tar Heels' 63-62 win. In 1985, coach John Thompson and center Patrick Ewing led the Hoyas to the final game against Villanova, but the Wildcats played a near-perfect game to pull off the stunning upset, 66-64.

7. Maryland loses 3-OT heartbreaker (March 9, 1974)
In a game many consider one of the best in college basketball history, undefeated North Carolina State defeats Maryland, which came into the game with a 23-4 record, 103-100 in triple-overtime, to win the 1974 ACC title and the ACC's only slot in the NCAA tourney. The Terps have three players -- Len Elmore, John Lucas and Tom McMillen -- who will go on to play in the NBA. N.C. State, led by David Thompson, Tom Burleson, and Monte Towe, goes on to win the NCAA title.

8. Bullets bottom out (1989-present)
The Bullets finish the 1989-90 season with a 31-51 record, their worst since the 1966-67 campaign. As we know now, things will go from bad to worse for the hapless Bullets-Wizards, who finish below .300 four of the next 11 seasons, falling all the way to 19-63 (.232) in 2000-01. Special demerits to management for their abysmal draft record (LaBradford Smith, Anthony Jones, Kenny Green, and so on), their astronomical Juwan Howard contract, and their trades to rid themselves of power forwards Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber.

Joe Theismann
Joe Theismann's brilliant career with the Redskins came to a grisly end in 1985.
9. Football riot (Thanksgiving Day, 1963)
The city title football game at RFK Stadium between Eastern High and St. John's draws 50,000, but the game is discontinued when an Eastern player throws a punch at a St. John's player and a riot ensues in the stands.

10. Brutal tackle ends Theismann's career (Nov. 18, 1985)
Joe Theismann, who has started 71 games in a row for the Redskins, is crushed on a flea-flicker play by Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, suffering a compound fracture of his right leg. It's one of the more grisly scenes witnessed on "Monday Night Football." "Joe screamed and we got off as fast as we could," Giants nose guard Jim Burt says after the game. Theismann's out for the season, and the injury forces him to retire.

Also receiving votes
  • 'Skins leave RFK (Dec. 22, 1996) -- The Redskins play their last game at RFK Stadium, moving to the sterile new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (now FedEx Field). Fittingly, the 'Skins face the rival Cowboys in their 229th straight sellout and final game in D.C. Sterling Tucker, a fan who, like many others, held season tickets for 35 years at RFK, tells The Washington Post, "We were the 12th man. They belonged to the District and, man, we belonged to them."

  • Dolphins dominate Super Bowl VII (Jan. 14, 1973) -- The Miami Dolphins dominate from the start, and their 14-0 halftime lead is enough as they go on to beat the frustrated Skins 14-7 and finish their perfect 17-0 season. Said one Redskins fan, "This is very depressing. No one realized how bad this would be."

  • Cowboys crush playoff hopes (Dec. 16, 1979) -- Roger Staubach tosses two TD passes in the final 2:20 to lead the Cowboys over the Redskins 35-34 at Texas Stadium, preventing the 'Skins from capturing the NFC East title and a spot in the playoffs. "This was the most disappointing loss I've had as a player or a coach," says head coach Jack Pardee. "It hurts and it hurts deeply. To have the division title won with 40 seconds to go and then to be eliminated completely, well, it's tough."

  • Longley goes long, 'Skins fall short (Nov. 28, 1974) -- The Redskins are leading the Cowboys 23-17 when rookie Cowboy QB Clint Longley connects on a bomb to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds remaining to give Dallas a last-minute victory, 24-23. The Redskins' loss delays their clinching of a playoff berth. "It was probably the toughest loss we ever had," says coach George Allen.

  • Cowboys end 'Skins playoff streak (Dec. 13, 1975) -- The Cowboys defeat the Redskins 31-10, keeping Washington out of the playoffs for the first time in five years.

  • Bullets fail to repeat (June 1, 1979) -- The Bullets fall short in their attempt to become the first NBA team to win back-to-back titles in the '70s, losing in a finals rematch against the SuperSonics in five games.

  • No cigar for Senators (Oct. 15, 1925 and Oct. 7, 1933) -- On Oct. 25, 1925, with the World Series tied at three games apiece, Walter Johnson takes the mound for the Senators against the Pirates at Forbes Field. The Pirates score three runs off Johnson in the bottom of the eighth to win the game 9-7 and the Series, four games to three. On Oct. 7, 1933, the Senators, who had the best regular-season record in the majors, lose the fifth and final World Series game to the Giants, who score the winning run in the 10th inning at Griffith Stadium.