Ah, Bill Simmons. The only sportswriter with whom a love-hate relationship can truly blossom. Simmons is at times the most entertaining guy in the business and highly useful, and at others obnoxiously unreadable. Falling (mostly) into the former category is the Levels of Losing that he made popular.
Incredibly, UVA found a way to lose in such a way as to bring like two-thirds of these levels into the equation. I wonder if that's ever been done before. There are fifteen levels. (Simmons claims there are sixteen but that's because he allows the insufferable whiny Red Sox girly-girl that exists within every Red Sox fan to write the end of the column, and places Bill Buckner at Level I. I acknowledge no such extra level.) Take a gander at how many of these applied to last night's lacrosse game:
- Level 15: Princeton Principle. No - we are not a Cinderella team.
- Level 14: Achilles' Heel. Yes. Faceoffs faceoffs a thousand times faceoffs. I told you we would not win if we couldn't win faceoffs. Final result: 26% - and we still almost won.
- Level 13: Alpha Dog. Duke's 14th goal was Max Quinzani's 68th goal of the season on Ned Crotty's 62nd assist. We have an excellent, well-rounded offense, but nobody that statistically dominant. Mark it a yes.
- Level 12: Rabbit's Foot. No.
- Level 11: Sudden Death. Not technically, but, yes, with 12 seconds left, it might as well have been. Don't tell me you weren't thinking "they can't score here or we lose."
- Level 10: Dead Man Walking. No, not really. The Stony Brook game caused a palpable sense of dread but that's not quite how this is meant.
- Level 9: Monkey Wrench. Not only yes but fuck yes. Picture the scene, in case you didn't watch. It's 8-5. Duke has the ball but our defense has been doing a good job of keeping them at bay, and it culminates in a shot that goalie Adam Ghitelman saves - with his damn face. Announcers make joke about courage. The ball, incredibly, is lodged in his facemask, but the refs don't blow the whistle, so the closest Duke attacker tries to dislodge it with his stick. Repeat: ball stuck in facemask, Duke attacker poking at it. HE IS HITTING OUR FUCKING GOALIE IN THE GODDAM HEAD WITH HIS FUCKING STICK. Defenseman Matt Lovejoy sees this and does the only thing a defender is honorably allowed to do in that situation: levels the Dookie with a vicious shoulder check. Penalty is called, but not for the faceshots; on Lovejoy for unnecessary roughness. Because there's no reason to hit a guy who's clocking your teammate in the head, right?
Duke doesn't score on the ensuing man-up chance - in fact, Ghitelman makes yet another nice save and UVA clears, but Duke naturally doubles the ball as our middie (Pomper, I think, but I can't remember and I'm not going back to look) tries to burn time. With the penalty expired, or nearly so, Duke regains the ball and races downfield for a transition goal to make it 8-6. They would score six more after that before we finally got the ball in the net again.
No doubt Ghitelman would have been penalized if he'd grabbed the ball out of his mask during play - you can't use your hand to play the ball - which is obviously why, other than the fact that there was a crosse up in his face, he didn't do that. So why is the presence of the ball an excuse to take illegal headshots? And if the ball was live (which I guess it was til the refs blew the whistle) then why the penalty for a shoulder check to the front of a guy who's playing the ball? Because it's Duke. You play Duke, Duke gets the calls. Duh.
Level 8: Butt-Kicking. No - and in fact, this shouldn't even be that high. A full-fledged butt-kicking wouldn't have been half so painful to watch.
Level 7: This Can't Be Happening. No. Reserved for losing to a clearly way inferior team. Stony Brook would have fallen under this category.
Level 6: Drive-By Shooting. No. Reserved for teams even worse than clearly way inferior.
Level 5: Broken Axle. Yes, on account of not scoring at all while Duke rattled off seven straight.
Level 4: Role Reversal. No. Sadly, this is what happened to Duke in the ACCs. But not here.
Level 3: Guillotine. Gotta go with yes. The whole time, the lead felt tenuous. We weren't winning faceoffs, we were looking sloppy, and at the same time so were they and you just knew that if Duke ever stopped being sloppy, the result wouldn't be pretty. All it took was an executioner to set it off, and this one came dressed in black and white.
Level 2: Stomach Punch. Tie game, momentum on our side, faceoff, ball right there on a UVA crosse for a last possession - and then it wasn't. Yes, and for a couple other reasons besides.
Level 1: The Tailspin. No, I suppose not. This one seems anticlimatic.
In one game, UVA found a way to lose in seven of the fifteen ways on Simmons's Levels of Losing, which has got to be some kind of record. And where's the category for Missing Your Best Chance when you know you haven't had this good a team in years, you won't next year, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that yours was the best team all season? What about Didn't Win For The Gipper? What about The Next Game Would Have Been Way Easier? Notre Dame's had a good run of it so far but Duke is going to crush them, and yes I know they already lost to the Irish once but they won't again. What about Great Now There's Nothing Left But A Meteor Game? Yes, I actually hope Duke wins because I like Notre Dame way less than Duke and if someone's going to win their first-ever lacrosse championship it better be a team that's paid a few dues, but still: ewwww.
Great way to kick off the decade.