Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Levels of Winning

The great Bill Simmons updated his "Levels of Losing" column recently, but he has yet to create a "Levels of Winning" column. Until the World's Greatest Sports Fan creates the definitive list, this one will have to suffice:

X. The Cheap Win

Your team ekes out a sloppy win, but only through luck, opponents' mistakes, and perhaps a little help from officials. The victory makes you happy but defensive; you don't want to watch a replay of the game. If you're a Democrat, you admit that your team caught a few breaks to win, but it all evens out in the end, so let's sing Kumbaya and move on. If you're a Republican, your team won, end of story, now shut the hell up.

Examples: Royals over Cards in 85, Heat over Mavs in 06, Pittsburgh over Seattle in 06, Argentina over England in the 86 World Cup, Pats over Colts from 03 to 05.

IX. Someone Had to Win

Your team wins, but no one else cares.

Examples: 84 BYU Cougars, 97 Marlins, 03 Bucs, 06 Cards, 98 Shakespeare in Love, any Tour de France winner after Lance Armstrong.

VIII. A Regular Win

Your team wins a game.

Example: In 1987, the Cleveland Browns defeated the New England Patriots 20-10 in the regular season to improve their record to 3-1. A reserve linebacker separated his shoulder.

VII. A Championship Win

Your team wins a championship.

Example: The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001.

VI. Birth of a Dynasty

Your team wins that second or third title within a five-year span, allowing them a place in the hallowed "Greatest Ever" discussions.

Examples: Yanks over Braves in 99, Pats over Carolina in 04, Spurs over Cavs in 07, Lance Armstrong wins his third Tour de France title, Season 3 of The Wire.

V. Winner of the See-Saw Battle

Your team wins a thrilling back-and-forth game (or series) against a great opponent.

Examples: Reds over Red Sox in 76, Celtics over Lakers in 84, Lakers over Celtics in 85, USA over China in women's soccer, Hagler over Hearns in boxing, Swayze over Farley in a dance-off.

IV. The Champs Hang On

A great team near the end of its reign is overmatched by a younger, more talented team, but your guys somehow gut out a victory.

Examples: Steelers over Rams in 79, Celtics over Pistons in 87, Bulls over Jazz in 98, Niners over Packers in 98, Michael Flatley winning the "Lord of the Dance" title in 04.

III. The Huge Upset

Your team comes out of nowhere to win. David beats Goliath. (By the way, I told the story of David and Goliath to the twins last night during dinner. For your information, Luke and Max both have really, really strong muscles and wouldn't need a sling to kill Goliath.)

Examples: USSR over USA in basketball, USA over USSR in hockey, Douglas over Tyson, Truman over Dewey. And any non-Holocaust movie that wins an Oscar for Best Documentary.

II. The Non-Upset Upset

This is oddly more rewarding than the huge upset because you feel like you're one of a handful of people who thinks your underdog team is going to win.

Examples: Duke over UNLV in 92, Denver over Green Bay in 97, Seattle over Pittsburgh in 06 (oh, wait).

I. Over the Hump - Finally!

Your team ends some sort of losing streak by winning it all in dramatic fashion. This is especially satisfying if rival fans taunt your team, such as when generations of Yankee fans chanted "1918" to remind the kind-hearted New England folks of the last time the Red Sox won the World Series. This highest level of winning is even better -- if that's possible -- when your team beats the hated rival on their way to the championship. In other words, the 2004 Red Sox fans had the perfect sports moment, coming back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees and go on to win the World Series for the first time since . . . 1918!

Other examples: The Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the hated New York Yankees in 1955; the New York Rangers finally won a Stanley Cup in 1994; Steve Young finally won a Super Bowl in 1995 (personal favorite #1), Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in 2007 (personal favorite #2), and Martin Scorcese finally won an Oscar for Best Picture in 07.

Feel free to add categories and examples in comments. I reserve the right to update this entry by "leveraging" your suggestions.


  1. The blow-out win.

    I had a masterfully crafted post written, which was shot into the ether.

  2. Good examples, Bob! I especially liked your category exemplified by the Red Sox in 2004. I'm hoping that the Cubs will be joining them soon, though I'm conditioned to know it's in vain.

    The only category I can think to add is the Pyrrhic victory -- a win with a high cost to the victor. An example might be if the star quarterback runs a keeper into the end zone for the winning touchdown of the league championship, but gets crushed by some sociopathic linebacker at the goal line and is out for the Super Bowl. Another example would be Pyrrhus against the Romans, but I'd have to consult Wikipedia for the 5th time today to get the story on that one.

    The most recent example may turn out to be Glasgow Celtic's 2-1 victory over heavily favored AC Milan. After the winning goal in the 90th minute, some crazed fan ran from the stands and smacked Dida, Milan's Brazilian keeper, on the neck. Dida didn't react for a second, but when he realized what had happened, suddenly went down in a heap as though someone had lashed his ankles with a bullwhip. I haven't heard yet whether there will be any repurcussions against Celtic.

  3. Hi again. Just a quick follow-up on the Dida/Celtic incident that I mentioned yesterday. If you're interested, here's footage I found.

    It's laughable, actually, the extreme to which Dida was willing to go -- the stretcher, the ice bag, ...