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Dan Shaughnessy

As losses go, we’ve seen worse

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / February 7, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - Here we are again, standing above the medal platform, arguing about who’s going to get the gold, silver, and bronze.

It’s a parlor game we play in the sports department.

What are the most disappointing losses in New England sports history? Where do we put Sunday night’s disaster at Lucas Oil (Can Boyd) Stadium? Is it the worst loss ever, the worst loss in Patriots history, or just a crushing night that won’t hurt so much after we let a few weeks pass?

Seems we’ve been playing this rating game too much lately.

When it comes to mind-bending, catastrophic calamities, the Red Sox are the gold standard. They invented the genre. They produce more agita than “The Sopranos.’’ No team does colossal flops like the local nine. They tortured the region in the latter half of the 20th century with the Bucky Dent Game and the Bill Buckner Game. They gave us the Aaron Boone Game in 2003. Most recently, they perpetrated the biggest collapse in baseball history, blowing a 9 1/2 game wild-card lead in September.

The Bruins got in on the act in 2010 when they took a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers, then dropped four straight, including Game 7, at home, in which they took a 3-0 lead. The Bruins made a lot of that pain go away by winning the Stanley Cup a year later, but in the moment, it was pretty bad.

The Celtics largely have spared us from fantastic flops. The worst I can remember was the Game 7 Finals loss to the Lakers in 2010, when they had a 13-point third-quarter lead at Staples Center. That doesn’t even register on this Richter Scale of ridiculousness. Suddenly, the model-franchise Patriots are repeat contestants in this Bad Game Show. The vaunted Patriots, the would-be dynasty of the 21st century - coached by Bill Belichick and quarterbacked by Tom Brady - have their own bookend blunders.

After the shocking loss in Glendale, Ariz., four years ago, the Globe conducted a poll asking fans to compare the pain of Red Sox’ collapses with the derailment of the Patriots’ perfect season. More than 47,000 responded and the majority said the Sox’ losses were worse. A Boston Herald poll concluded that the Patriots’ loss was the worst of the worst.

Lucid fans know that 2008 in Glendale was far worse than what we saw Sunday night. Four years ago, the Patriots were whopping favorites in a game that would have solidified their place as the greatest team in NFL history. David Tyree’s Velcro-helmet catch and Asante Samuel’s missed interception contributed to the torture, and it was a loss from which some fans never recovered. It became The Game That Must Not Be Named.

Sunday’s game was different. Certainly Wes Welker’s non-catch (let’s not call it a dropped pass, OK?) was painful to watch and Rob Gronkowski was agonizingly close to the Hail Mary ball that dropped in the end zone, but the Patriots of 2011-12 were playing with house money. Ultimately, they were fortunate sons enlarged by a tomato can schedule and masterful coaching.

When we look back at XLVI we’ll probably wonder how the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to a team that lost seven regular-season games, a team that was outscored (400-394) during the regular season. Maybe this will signify the end of the High Renaissance of New England sports, the end of the Patriot Way, the night Welker and Brady did not DO THEIR JOB.

Brady had a bad fourth quarter (6 of 15, 64 yards, interception). He threw to the wrong shoulder on the Welker pass. Then his wife made everything worse with her unfortunate remark about hubby Tom not being able to throw and catch the ball at the same time.

Patriots-hating America is loving this. The Belichick-Brady Patriots are looking old and done. And the notion of Gisele Bundchen as Yoko Ono will gather steam now that Brady’s wife has inserted herself into his professional business. Eli Manning is a perfect 2-0 vs. Tom in Super Bowls and no one knows if these Patriots, will get another shot at the fourth ring.

A team that overachieved is suddenly under the gun. No franchise in NFL history has more Super Bowl losses (four) than the Patriots. The Patriots have the longest championship drought among the four New England sports franchises. But it is folly to suggest this is the worst loss ever. It’s not as bad as the Buckner Game, not as bad as the Dent Game, and certainly not as bad as Super Bowl XLII.

No gold. No silver. No bronze.

Let it go. Time heals. Some of the losses are forever. Not this one.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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