There's nothing wrong with feel-good stories: the ones where the underdog fights back from insurmountable odds.

Everyone loves a "Hoosiers" ending.

Unfortunately for the Utah Blaze, there are also stories that don't quite go Hollywood. The ones where the team comes far, fights hard and never gives up — but loses anyway.

Despite returning from the dead and making Arena Football League history, the Blaze still didn't score the big story.

That would have required a win Saturday. Instead, they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, losing 49-44 to the Colorado Crush.

Get Gene Hackman on the line.

Tell him the new script is still in production.

"When we reflect on this one — it's too bad," Blaze coach Danny White said. "We had the chance to do something that was really, really remarkable. And we kind of already did. But to let this opportunity go by, we'll never see this opportunity again."

So file the 2008 Blaze season in the "odd but true" category, rather than "amazing stories." Put them in there with the 2007 Colorado Rockies and the 1998 Utah men's basketball team.

The little teams that nearly did.

As White said, it was almost quite the tale.

But for every Amazin' Mets/Jets/Red Sox victory scenario, there's one like this: "Mistakes Cost Blaze in Playoffs."

It's just that the underdog endings are soooo satisfying.

In itself, the Blaze season was one for the books. They lost their first nine games, which is like starting a 100-meter dash a couple of seconds late. More than halfway through the season they had nothing to show except blushes. But instead of checking out, the Blaze checked their guts.

They went 6-1 the rest of the way to make the playoffs — the first AFL team to do so after losing nine straight.

"Overall, because of this (loss) tonight, it was a disappointing year," White said. "I mean, 6-10, 6-11 is not acceptable at all. Not even close to being acceptable. Six-and-one in the second half of the year, that's what we expected all year. So the season as a whole was a disappointment. No question at all."

Trouble was, the Blaze flubbed their lines. There was the series late in the first half when they had a chance to go up by two scores. But they couldn't advance, and Colorado came back to score. The Crush then tallied on the first series of the second half to take a 28-24 lead.

Likewise, there was the third-quarter series when the Blaze got to Colorado's five but surrendered a sack and an interception. A missed field goal here, a failed PAT there, a late-game Colorado kickoff that the Crush recovered.

Four or five plays that mattered a lot.

Although Saturday's crowd of 10,073 was well below the regular season average, those who did come tried their best. Trouble with the AFL is there's so much siren noise, fire, motorcycle exhaust and shouting that it's hard to tell the post-season from the rest.

Throughout the game, the P.A. announcer would call to the crowd: "I can't heeeeeear you!"

That's because it was hard to hear anything but him.

Once the game got going, it was clear things had become slightly weird. That much was obvious when both a kickoff and field-goal attempt by Utah's Steve Videtich stuck fast in the uprights.

Just like the second half of the Blaze season, the ball was soaring and then stopped in mid flight.

In the end, it seemed almost fateful. As good as comeback stories are, late rallies don't usually work out.

It's like flowers the day after Valentine's.

The Blaze saved face but didn't save themselves.

"It's a life lesson," receiver Aaron Boone said.

He added, "It was definitely a weird year, and there's no better way to finish than to have a weird game, huh?"

Unless you want to go Hollywood.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com