By Kieran Darcy
Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 2, along with ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," is counting down the 15 Most Tortured Sports Cities in America. This week, Gino Bona relives the life of a Bills fan in the early '90s, along with our list of the Top 10 most painful moments in Buffalo's sports history.

10. Bills vs. Redskins, Jan. 26, 1992
Following their heartbreaking loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XXV (see below), the Bills bounced back to make the Super Bowl again the following year. In Super Bowl XXVI, they faced the Washington Redskins. Everyone remembers this game because Bills running back Thurman Thomas, the NFL's MVP that season, couldn't find his helmet when the game began, and thus missed the first couple plays of the game. Once he got in the game, all he could amass on the ground was 13 yards on 10 carries. Washington went up 24-0 early in the third quarter, and went on to win the game 37-24.

9. Sabres vs. Penguins, May 8, 2001
In the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2001, the Sabres led the Penguins in the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 in Pittsburgh. And the Sabres led in Game 6, 2-1, and they were less than 90 seconds from advancing to the conference finals. That's when Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux scored a dramatic goal that sent the game into overtime. The Penguins ended up winning that game in overtime. Buffalo also had another golden opportunity to win the series in Game 7 at home -- they again had a 2-1 lead in the third period, but Pittsburgh again scored an equalizer and won the game 3-2 in overtime. The Sabres haven't been to the playoffs since, and their all-world goaltender ended up winning a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings the following season.

THE 15 MOST TORTURED SPORTS CITIES
15. Tampa Bay
14. Kansas City
13. Cincinnati
12. Phoenix
11. Washington, D.C.
10. Houston
9. San Diego
8. Atlanta
7. Seattle
6. Minneapolis
5. Boston
4. Chicago
3. Buffalo

Want to find out what the No. 2 city is? Tune into ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" next Tuesday morning. Then head back to Page 2 to read all about it.

8. Bills vs. Cowboys, Jan. 31, 1993
In their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, the Bills took an early 7-0 lead against the Dallas Cowboys. Late in the first quarter, the Cowboys tied the game on a touchdown pass from Troy Aikman to Jay Novacek. On the next play from scrimmage, Charles Haley sacked Jim Kelly at the Bills' own 2-yard line, and Dallas' Jimmie Jones picked up the ball and scored a touchdown. Suddenly, the Bills were down seven instead of up seven. Buffalo was able to get within 14-10, but two Aikman TD passes to Michael Irvin within 20 seconds of each other gave Dallas a 28-10 lead at the half, and the rout was on. Dallas ended up winning 52-17. Buffalo ended up committing nine turnovers in the game.

7. Bills vs. Titans, Jan. 8, 2000
The 11-5 Bills trailed the 13-3 Titans in Nashville, 15-13, with less than two minutes remaining in an AFC wild card game. Despite having no timeouts to work with, Bills quarterback Rob Johnson drove the team into field goal range, and Steve Christie's 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds left appeared to seal an upset win for Buffalo. But on the ensuing kickoff, Titans tight end Frank Wycheck tossed a cross-field lateral to wideout Kevin Dyson and Dyson ran 75 yards for a shocking game-winning touchdown -- forever to be remembered as the "Music City Miracle." Infamous referee Phil Luckett reviewed the replay and upheld the touchdown, although many Bills fans believe the lateral was actually a forward pass.

6. Bills vs. Cowboys, Jan. 30, 1994
It appeared as though the Bills might finally win a Super Bowl in their fourth consecutive appearance in the big game. They led Dallas 13-6 at halftime of Super Bowl XXVIII. But Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas fumbled the ball on the third play of the second half, and James Washington returned the fumble 46 yards for a game-tying touchdown. The Cowboys had suddenly stolen all the momentum in the game. Dallas running back Emmitt Smith tacked on two touchdown runs later in the second half, and Dallas cruised to victory, 30-13.

5. O.J. Simpson murder trial, 1994-95
O.J. Simpson was the running back for the Buffalo Bills between 1969-77, and the best player in franchise history -- in fact, he was the first Buffalo Bill to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1973, he became the first running back in NFL history to gain 2,000 yards on the ground in a single season (and he did it in just 14 games). But Buffalo's biggest sports icon will now always be remembered most for being accused of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, and the sensational murder trial that took place in 1995.

4. The Braves depart for San Diego, 1978
The Buffalo Braves were one of three expansion teams that began play in the NBA in 1970. After struggling early in their existence, the Braves made the postseason in three consecutive years (1974-76), led by coach Dr. Jack Ramsay and star player Bob McAdoo. McAdoo was named the NBA's MVP in 1975. But the team struggled again after ownership changes during the 1976-77 season, and the team left Buffalo for San Diego after the 1977-78 season, where they became the Clippers.

Scott Norwood
There isn't a Bills fan alive that doesn't remember this moment.

3. Losing bid for major league baseball team, 1991
When Major League Baseball decided to expand and add two National League teams that would begin play in 1993, Buffalo desperately wanted a team. They had a new stadium, and a strong fan base -- in fact, their Bisons broke the all-time minor league attendance record when they drew over 1.2 millions fans in 1991. But Buffalo was deemed too small a market to host a major league team, and Major League Baseball instead decided on Miami and Denver as the two cities to get new teams.

2. Sabres vs. Stars, June 19, 1999
Buffalo trailed the Dallas Stars 3-2 in the '99 Stanley Cup Finals. Game 6 was in Buffalo, and the teams were tied 1-1 in the third overtime. During that period, the Stars' Brett Hull tapped in an apparent game and Stanley Cup-winning goal past Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek -- but replays showed that Hull had his toe in the crease, and the goal should have been disallowed. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff immediately called for a video review of the goal, but by that time the celebrations had broken out on the ice and the goal ended up standing. It was the second-longest Stanley Cup Finals game ever -- and a very bitter pill for Buffalo fans to swallow.

1. Bills vs. Giants, Jan. 27, 1991
Super Bowl XXV was a classic, arugably the best Super Bowl ever played. The Bills, with their high-octane offense, were favored to win the game. Buffalo jumped out to a 12-3 lead, but the Giants hung in there with their ball-control offense, eventually taking a 17-12 lead. With the Bills trailing 20-19 and 2:16 left in the fourth quarter, Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly began leading his team up the field from his own 10-yard line. He was able to maneuver them into field goal range. But sports fans will never forget what happened. Scott Norwood. From 47 yards away. Wide right.



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TORTURED CITIES