Degrees of Victory

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February 22, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Yes, this was directly inspired by Bill Simmons, Levels of Losing.  This is the unofficial flip side of the same coin.  All victories are not created equally.

Stage 1: The Blown Call

Definition: This hardly counts as winning as the victor had to benefit from a third party, namely the officiating, in order to win, instead of by their own skill alone.

Example: Game six of the 1985 World Series.  Without the blown call by umpire Don Denkinger, the Cardinals, who were three outs away from winning the World Series, would have most likely won.  But instead of one out and no one on, the Royals rallied with no outs and one on to win game six and then the series the next night.  What most people forget is that Denkinger was the home plate umpire for game 7 as well, who if you remember was particular generous to Kansas City batters.  No doubt the MVP of that series Don Denkinger, and not Brett Saberhagen.

Stage 2: The One and Done

Definition: The team that comes out of mediocrity, wins it all, and just as quickly goes back to mediocrity.  They weren’t a team that was in contention in the past, or had been hanging around.  No, this is the team that finishes in last place in the division for five years, wins the championship one year, and then goes back to five years of futility.  This is sort of like losing your virginity to a prostitute; even though it happened, it almost doesn’t count.

Example: This might as well be called the “Marlin’s Principle” because the Miami Marlins are the best example of this.  After four years of losing records, in their first season with a winning record, they make the playoffs and win the world series against a superior Indians team.  It would be another six seasons before the Marlins would have another winning record, and sure enough in that year they won the World Series again.  They haven’t had a winning record since 2009, I guess they’re due for another ring.

Stage 3: God Takes Care of People too Stupid to Look After Themselves

Definition: This is a variation of the David and Goliath paradigm.  Here the David wins, but it’ not because they outplayed or “beat” the other team.  They either played less shittier than their opponent, or for some inexplicable reason won.

Example: Superbowl III.  Regardless of whether or not you’re a Jets fan you have to admit, it was a boring game that really no team should have won.  The Colts played a horribly ugly game, and the Jets didn’t look much better.  Yes, they won, but the Jets didn’t very much look like winners of the Superbowl, nor did they play like it.  It seems like the only way you can explain it is if not but the grace of God.

Stage 4: Pure Domination

Definition: From start to finish, one teams just manhandles the other team and halfway through the game, the idea of a competition becomes nothing more than a farce.  Even if you’re a fan of the winning team, you’re still bored by the game.

Example: Superbowl XXIX.  To begin with, the 49ers were favored by 18 points.  The game was over by halftime, as the 49ers would win by 23 points in one of the most lopsided Superbowls in history.

Stage 5: The Expected

Definition: The neutral point.  Victory at its most basic form.  No asterisks, or anything that can make you question the validity of the victory, but there isn’t any sense of extra joy as things turn out exactly as they were meant to be.

Example: The 2008 AFC Championship game.  There really wasn’t anything spectacular here.  The Patriots were supposed to win without breaking much of a sweat, and they did.  At the same time though they weren’t expected to crush the Chargers, which they didn’t.

Stage 6: Wait, What?

Definition: Not technically an upset, but this one will certainly leave more than a few people puzzled by the outcome.  If a team could have won 4/10 times, this was certainly one of the 4 times.

Example: The 2011 NBA Finals.  If I didn’t already know it, and someone told me that an old Dirk Nowitzki single handily beat a team consisting of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and some guy who looks like a dinosaur, I wouldn’t think they were necessarily lying, but I would have to think about the possibility of that actually happening.  It’s not insane that it happened, we just need a moment to take in the fact that it happened.

Stage 7: Easier Done Than Said

Definition: This is when a game or a series that wasn’t as competitive as it should been.  Unlike stage 3 however, it’s not because both teams underperform.  Just for some reason winning was easier than it should have been.

Example: The 1999 World Series.  Originally billed as the World Series that would determine who was the team of the decade, the Yankees, or the Braves, many thought the series would go to six or seven games.  While some of the games were competitive, the Yankees ultimately swept the Braves.  Even though the Yankees were the better team, they shouldn’t have won so easily.

Stage 8: The Underdog

Definition: As clichéd as it is, there’s something special about rooting for the underdog, especially when they go up against the best in the league.

Example: I’m obviously going to go with Superbowl XLII here.  The wild card Giants up against the undefeated Patriots, and a 14 point spread.  Not only were the Giants underdogs in the Superbowl, but throughout the entire season.  Starting off 0-2 no one gave them a chance at making the playoffs let alone winning the Superbowl against an undefeated team.  Not only did the Giants win, but more importantly they beat the Patriots.

Stage 9: The Rematch

Definition: After playing the same team so many times a rivalry will develop, especially if one team always wins.  The losing team will always want a rematch, and a chance to best their opponent who has triumphed over them time and time again.  All you need is that one win; one win would be more than enough to render moot any past defeats.

Example: The 1955 World Series.  After going 0-5 in the World Series against the New York Yankees, Walt Alston’s Brooklyn Dodgers finally got the best of the Yankees.  Brooklyn finally got one, and it was over the Yankees and their monopoly of championships, a team who had handed defeats out to the Dodgers time and time again.

Stage 10: The Marathon Men

Definition: When a team spends the entire season playing catch up to the league leader, and then on the last week of the season overtakes them for 1st place.  You spend the entire season waiting for that one moment and when it comes, it’s sheer elation.  You’re the cheetah that spent months hunting the gazelle and now you get to enjoy the kill and the thrill of the hunt.

Example: The 1978 New York Yankees.  After falling 14 games out of first place by the halfway point in the season, they got right back into it and forced a one game playoff with the Red Sox for a spot in the playoffs.  The most rewarding moment was Bucky Dent’s home run, which officially put an end to the chase, and the Red Sox playoff hopes.

Stage 11: The Culmination

Definition: A team that progressively gets better and better with each passing season until they win it all.  An instance where you can see the progression made season by season.  This may translate into a deeper playoff run over a succession of seasons.

Example: The Bad Boy Pistons.  In 1987 the fall to the Boston Celtics in a grueling seven game series only to advance past them the next year in 1988.  However they lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.  The next year the sweep the Lakers in the Finals and proceed to repeat with a win in 1990.  They start by losing in the round leading up to the championship, then lose in the championship year, and then go on to win the championship two years in a row.

Stage 12: Dynasty Builder

Definition: We all want our team to win as much as humanely possible, and to become a dynasty.  In any dynasty however, the most important victory is the one that got the ball rolling; after all there might not be a dynasty without that first crucial win.

Example: Although a mix of this and “The Culmination”, the 1996 World Series not only was the pinnacle of the Yankees rebuilding effort of the early 90s, but it ushered in the new dynasty.  They did it in a pretty flashy style too.  Not only did they beat the favored Atlanta Braves, but they beat the heavily favored, defending world champions Atlanta Braves.  On top of this the Yankees won four straight games, after losing the first two at home by a combined score of 16-1.  And yes, 1996 was my personal favorite Yankee victory.

Stage 13: It’s Over!

Definition: The championship that ends the drought.  And by drought I mean more than 20 years.  Like “The Rematch”, once victory is cemented, all the failures of the past are automatically forgiven or forgotten.

Example: The 2004 Red Sox.  After 86 years, the Curse of the Bambino had ended.  It ended in a sweep of the Cardinals who denied two previous chances to break the curse in 1946, and 1967.  But to be honest, the curse ended after beating the Yankees in the ALCS.  I’m sure most Red Sox fans would take that just as much as a World Series.

Stage 14: The War of Attrition

Definition: As sports fans, this is what we want, what we hunger for, what we crave, a battle where no quarter is asked and none given.  Blood, sweat, and tears were put into winning this championship, and the players probably would’ve died to win it.  This is sports at its best and its most transcendent.

Example: The 1991 World Series.  A grueling seven game series, and the best baseball has ever seen.  Three games went into extra innings.  Four games were won at the final at-bat, and five games were decided by one run.  Both teams wanted it just as much as the other one did, and it was a shame that one had to lose.  But the way Jack Morris pitched in game seven for the Twins not only sealed the deal for the club’s second championship in five seasons, but also served to typify the series.  He pitched a complete game 10-inning shutout in the game seven of the World Series.  It was hard fought, it was fierce, and it was painful.  But after a battle like this, nothing could taste sweeter than victory.

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