Back before Bill Simmons was running his own site or was a studio analyst for ESPN's NBA coverage, he wrote a lot of entertaining columns for ESPN.com. One of my favorites was a 2002 column called The 13 Levels of Losing, which he updated five years later with three more levels. From the updated column, here's a snippet of Level 3:
Level III: The Stomach Punch
Definition: Now we've moved into rarefied territory, any roller-coaster game that ends with (A) an opponent making a pivotal (sometimes improbable) play or (B) one of your guys failing in the clutch. ... Usually ends with fans filing out after the game in stunned disbelief, if they can even move at all. ... Always haunting, sometimes scarring.
Looking back at IU Athletics over the 2013-14 season, starting back in September and culminating with last night's baseball game, we've had an entire year full of these games now. Let's look back and painfully recap these major stomach punch games throughout the year.
Fresh off winning their 8th national title, the Hoosiers had hopes to repeat this past season. However, IU's luck seemed to run out every time they played an overtime game during the regular season. The Hoosiers went 0-5-1 in OT or 2OT games during the regular season, including a 3-2 loss in double-OT to Michigan State that served as our fourth straight conference loss. Thus, there were a lot of unlucky breaks and stomach punches for IU soccer last fall. The Hoosiers ultimately rebounded and won the B1G tournament, but lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Hoosier football team had a few close encounters with the stomach punch early in the season. Navy sunk our defense with its triple-option, and our offense couldn't rally in time. We had the ball and were down two late in the game in Ann Arbor, but then the Wolverines scored two late TDs to put the game out of reach. But the gut punch came against Minnesota. Driving late with the ball, we had the chance to either put the game away with a touchdown, or send it to overtime with a field goal. Of course, neither of those happened, and a lateral gone wrong was ruled a fumble, thus ending the game. Even worse, losing to the Gophers pretty much knocked us out of bowl eligibility yet again, so it was a double gut punch.
There were a lot of bad losses in hoops this year. Northwestern at home. Nebraska on Senior Night. Any of the second-half leads we blew on the road. But nothing compares to our loss to Penn State at home, when with two minutes to go, the wheels just fell apart in an otherwise solid (but not great) effort. Eventually, we couldn't even inbound the ball. It was almost tragicomic, and kicked off a chain reaction of events that included Hanner's DUI, the Massacre in Mackey, and the beam falling in Assembly Hall -- all within the span of a week.
Seriously. We lost on a walkoff home run AT HOME. First of all, congrats to Stanford, who came back two games in a row and were on the verge of elimination to win the regional. But the fact of the matter is that it makes no sense that the Cardinal were the home team despite being the lower seed in this game. Despite this ridiculous NCAA Tournament quirk, we had only two more outs before winning the Regional and hosting again next weekend. But thanks to Tommy Edman's home run, it didn't happen. I guess I might still be stuck on the anger stage of grief myself. (Another related question: Why didn't this game start until 5:30? I'd get it if the game was on BTN or ESPN, but this was on ESPN3, which is online only so I assume they can broadcast that whenever they want. So they could have looked at the forecast and bumped it up a few hours to avoid the inevitable weather delay.)
I put a poll here that asks you which sport's stomach punch loss was worse, but I have a feeling I know the winner, especially because it happened so recently. Regardless, with IU baseball's season abruptly coming to an end, we will have a long summer before the football team kicks off against Indiana State on August 30.