Stomach Punch

Famous ESPN scribe, and current Grantland editor, Bill Simmons has some gimmicks that he writes with; teen Wolf references, Vegas stories, the Ewing theory, but one these that I actually like his infamous “Levels of Losing.” I like the idea of taking the fact that we emotionally invest in a game and working to explain how it is we process this game. Wins bring joy. Joy is a more universal concepts filled with various levels of awesomeness, a birthday cake where chocolate with vanilla frosting is good and yellow with chocolate is best. Losing, the loss is different; hence the Sports Guy has his levels of losing. I’m not going to review all the levels here; I’m just going to talk about one. The stomach punch.I’m not even going to talk about sports; I’m going to talk about stomach punches. It’s that feeling of hijacked air and reduced lung capacity, where vomit feels like inevitability more than just a possibility. Where the world slips out of focus and back again, and once it’s back you’re not actually sure if that’s any better.

Just reading the phrase “stomach punch” brings us to a place that we would rather not be. It’s bad news, a negative connotation. Bad news that came like a locomotive crushing your good news as it stalled on the tracks. For many of us, the stomach punch first takes root while we’re still in school. It could be that test that comes back with a number that falls well below the number that had taken residence in our head. If you’re like me it could be the kid who you fear may one day literally punch you in the stomach, as he or she moves towards your general direction you don’t know if you’d feel better if you could disappear, vomit, or both.

A key marker of the stomach punch is that moment right after it happens. It’s that out-of-focus moment, and in that moment you think you’ve been hit with a knockout punch. As you try to absorb the blow your mind freezes, you are sure that this will be the thing that undoes you. In fact, I think there is an incredible symmetry to Bill Simmons including the stomach punch in one of his levels, after all, when we experience the stomach punch it can feel like your opponent knocks you back with a fatal blow in whatever conflict we’ve been engaged in. We’re going down, and nothing can ever bring us back up.

Of course, that’s not the case. Much like it works with an actual stomach punch, the initial shock will eventually subside, you’ll stand back up, gain your footing, and have a choice. You can either decide that you’re down and out or you can choose to do your best to snatch a victory out of this defeat. Again, we see the sports metaphor playing out perfectly, since after whatever loss your team has taken that has left you devastated, you’ll be back to root for them next time. See, that’s the thing with a stomach punch. It might be the decisive blow in a battle, but it won’t win a war.

For your comments:
What is one of your stomach punch stories?

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