In 2002 Bill Simmons wrote one of his most famous columns, The 13 Levels of Losing, updating it five years later with 3 more categories (one for my 2007 Mets. Ug.) The incredible, devastating, painful, shocking, humiliating, debilitating, mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, soul-destroying loss – no, loss is too weak a word - murder suffered by the New York Giants this past Sunday doesn’t quite fit one of the 16 categories perfectly. It matched eight of them.
XV. Achilles Heel: A fatal flaw is revealed (we knew special teams would cost us eventually)
XIV. Alpha Dog: A stud on the other team is too much (the Mutt-Murderer)
XIII. Rabbit’s Foot: Where seemingly everything goes wrong (let's not relive those 8 minutes)
XII. Sudden Death (no, it wasn’t overtime, but the clock showing zero as DeSean Jackson proved he’s the league’s next wide receiver ASSH0LE* made it feel like it)
XI. Monkey Wrench: Your coach makes an idiot decision (TMQB breaks down Coughlin/Fewell's Quartus Horribilis)
VI. Broken Axle: Where the wheels come off (um, yeah)
IV. The Guillotine: Where even the fan feels like he contributed to the karmic evil (I confess I started thinking through the playoff scenarios with Giants as a 2 seed)
III. Stomach Punch: Where the opponent makes an improbable play and/or your guy screws up (see above, multiple times)
* I don’t usually curse here at FreeTime, but DeSean Jackson – who has clearly learned from TO, Randy Moss, Ochocinco, and other members of today’s wide receiving prima donna community, cannot be described with a lesser word. How is that one position attracts so many individuals so badly in need of a beating?
Yes, the Giants collapse against the Eagles used up 8 of the 16 levels of losing! But you know that here at FreeTime we traffic in Optimism. We’re all about the silver lining, our cup is half full, we look on the bright side, we turn lemons into lemonade – yes, we’re delusional as Martini in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest!
So I’m going to ask my Giant fan friends to take a step off the ledge…yes that’s it, open the window, yes, c’mon back in the room. Okay, finger off the trigger, put the gun down. Okay? Listen to me. This loss was many horrible things, it contained 8 of the 16 levels of losing all wrapped up in one giant fetid steaming smelly pile of elephant dung. Bu here’s what it wasn’t:
A Level I Loss: That Game
A Level IX Loss: The Full-Fledged Butt Kicking
“That Game” is Simmons’ name for Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. And “The Full-Fledged Butt Kicking” – well you can figure out what that is. (Interestingly, the example he uses for this is the New York Giants 41-0 beatdown of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2001 NFC Championship Game. )
It’s important to remember this is not a Level I loss because Level I losses end seasons. The Giants 39-38 playoff collapse to the Niners in 2003 – a game in which they led by 24 in the third quarter - was a Level I loss. The 23-22 playoff loss to the Vikings in 1997 when the onside kick bounced off Chris Calloway’s chest and the Vikes scored 10 points in the final minute was a Level I loss. They had all the horror of Sunday’s game but no chance at redemption.
Nor was it a Level IX loss. The NFL had a wonderful example of a Full-Fledged Butt-Kicking recently – the Patriots’ 45-3 humiliation of the Jets. When the most common phrase said about your team the following week is “exposed as a fraud”, that’s a tough loss.
But the Giants did not get their butts kicked Sunday. And they did not end their season Sunday. Indeed, they remain well-positioned for a playoff spot.
So as you look for some scrap of optimism to hold onto, think about it this way: if you asked Tom Brady and the Patriots if they would like to face the Jets in the playoffs, that locker room would erupt in cheers. But if you asked Michael Vick to answer in complete honesty whether or not he wants to face the Giants again – indeed, whether he ever wants to be in the same room as Justin Tuck again – I suspect he’d answer like Apollo Creed at the end of Rocky: “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
As for redemption…I think we all know what that looks like. A six seed for the Giants, followed by a victory against the Bears in the playoffs, followed by a trip to Philadelphia in the 2nd round.
In these days of sensitivity around football injuries I’ll say what I know all Giants fans are feeling: no matter what happens after that, that loss will be expunged if the Canine Killer and TO's Spawn leave the field on stretchers - not seriously hurt, mind you; just a little shaken up - and the Giants leave it in victory.
Oh, and as for the title of this post...Finnegan is my dog's name. He hates Michael Vick.