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The 5 Stages Of Grieving A Tournament Loss

March 23, 2011

I’ve spent the better part of three days trying to figure out what to write following Pitt’s 6th loss to a mid-major team in the NCAA tournament (Kent St, Marquette, Pacific, Bradley, Xavier, Butler) in the last 10 years. I’ve struggled with different ideas, ranging from the depressing post, to the optimistic post, to the straight out “WTF was that!” post. The more I thought, the more I realized that each idea was related to a phase of grieving I was going through after the loss.  So as I put each of those ideas together, I came up with those.  So, I present to you “The 5 stages of grieving a tournament loss from the point of view of a Pitt fan”.

There was 30 seconds left in the game and I was nervous but confident as Pitt had the ball, up 1, 20 seconds to shoot. Come on guys. 10 seconds to shoot. You’re taking too long! 5 seconds to shoot. Oh come on! Get a shot off! Shot clock violation, 9.2 seconds left. Damn.

Butler’s ball. They inbound. They’re going to give up a driving layup, aren’t they? It’s going to end just like the Villanova game, isn’t it? Shawn Vanzant drives, McGhee pulls of Andrew Smith to cover Vanzant, Vanzant passes to Smith…wide open layup, 2.2 seconds left. My heart sinks into my stomache. Just as I had called it. It’s over.

Pitt inbounds the ball. What the hell kind of inbound pass was THAT? A foul. A what?! Shelvin Mack fouled Gil Brown with 1.4 seconds left. Holy crap! For once we’re actually going to come out on top in one of these types of unfathomable endings! First free throw by Brown is good, 70-70. YES! Guaranteed overtime! Now if Gil can just make the second… Second free throw is no good. Damn, at least we have overtime. Buzzer.

There’s a foul. What?! ON WHO?! Foul on Nas Robinson. Stunned. Speechless. I can’t believe they would call a ticky-tack foul like that. Nevermind, it was legit. WHY Nas?! No way Matt Howard misses both of these. First free throw is good. Stunned. Game. The rest isn’t going got matter. Second free throw is no good. Buzzer.

Stage 1: Denial – The “No, That Didn’t Just Happen To Us” Phase

I sat on the edge of the couch. That did not just happen. My Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech friends try to console me.  My wife knows better and just leaves me alone. That sequence of events couldn’t possibly have just taken place. This ending was not just immortalized to the sweet vocals of Luther Vandros, was it? (1:14 mark)

It better be Luther Vandros again this year, Jennifer Hudson last year was a huge disappointment. Everyone decides that it’s probably in all of our best interests to watch something other than basketball for the remainder of the evening. I don’t care if they made it to the National Championship game last year, we didn’t just lose to a team who lost to Youngstown State! No arguments from the room, so the girls picked a movie to watch instead.

Fine. NOOOOOOO! We didn’t just select this movie!  There is no possible way we selected this movie!

Stage 2: Anger – The “Why Does This Always Happen To Us” Phase

I moved to my corner of the couch, laptop in hand, while the others watched the movie. Why does this always happen to us? I would occasionally glance up to see how bad the movie actually was. Kristen Bell is hot. She was hotter in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ though. I continued to read about the game and look up stats. 6 mid-majors!  We’ve lost to 6 mid-majors in the last 10 tournaments! I should probably not be reading about this game.  This isn’t good for me. Why do we always get beat by these damn Cinderella teams? Actually, they wouldn’t be Cinderella teams if we just beat their ass! I should probably stop.  Is the movie over? Why did they take Veronica Mars off the air and deprive me of weekly Kristen Bell? OK, it is over.  I’m going to bed.

Stage 3: Bargaining – The “What If…” & “If Only…” Phase

Sleeping was not going to be easy tonight. Haven’t we gone through this enough? I need something to do to take my mind off of the game, so I grab my laptop. If only that second free throw went in, this wouldn’t even be an issue today. Maybe I’ll play solitaire. If only Matt Howard played basketball like a real man and didn’t flop all over the basketball court like a dead fish, maybe it would have ended differently. (Warning, video lyrics NSFW unfortunately)

Damn this Vegas 3-card draw, you’re just frustrating me even more. What if we actually got a shot off just a split second sooner with 10 seconds left, this would have all been different, right? I don’t know why, but I decide to turn on the Panther Reaction Show on 93.7 The Fan. What am I doing?! People are calling for Jamie Dixon to be fired. I hate the typical yinzer reaction to things of which most of them do not understand…like sports, hairstyles, and music after 1994. Hey, @sta7ic is on the air with @PantherLair. A voice of reason backing Panther fans off the ledge. The feed cuts out midway through his call. Back to solitaire. What if Dixon had pulled everyone off the line on the last shot…there is no way we could have tipped it in in 1.4 seconds, right?  The worst case scenario was overtime! OK, I’m falling asleep with my laptop in bed.  Goodnight.  What if Nas just didn’t…zzzzz…

Stage 4: Depression – The “Holy Crap, That Really Happened To Us” Phase

Morning. We lost. I need to get my coffee.  We lost to 8 seeded Butler.  How does that happen? This is not going to be a good day.  Great, ESPN is on the TV when I come downstairs.  The Sports Reporters are talking about the game.  That transitions into SportsCenter highlights of the game. That really happened. Two of the worst fouls you can imagine in 1.4 seconds to decide a game really just happened. The Syracuse local newspapers even had it on the front of the sports section.  Ugh. We had a better FG%, a better 3pt%, and out rebounded them…but it happened again. A trip to Wegman’s will make this a little better, right? It’s the Wegman’s that Alec Baldwin goes to with his mother, that would be awesome to see him.

The place is filled with Syracuse Orange paraphernalia.  There is even a display of blue Pepsi and Orange Crush cases in the shape of the Syracuse logo. This is really depressing. Everyone is wearing their ‘Cuse gear for the game today against Marquette. I need to get my food and go back to Pittsburgh. So we do. No Alec Baldwin. Damn. It was a quiet drive. I did not make my wife listen to basketball on Sirius. I think she appreciated that. My standard ’24 hours to mourn a loss’ rule was not going to cut it, just like with Villanova in the Elite Eight and Cincinnati for the BCS Bowl game. This sucks. Longest drive ever. We arrive home and realize it’s the first day of spring. Rita’s Italian Ice is open again.  That will make this day better!  Apparently they are giving away free ice. There has got to be 60 people in line and no place to park! This really sucks.

Stage 5: Acceptance – The “This Is What Happened” Phase

It’s now Sunday night.  I’m occasionally checking in on the other games because, well, I just can’t turn away.  Wow, Texas, who was thought to contend for a 1 seed, lost to Arizona. Hahahaha I love when you are wrong Doug Gottlieb! Syracuse falls to 11 seed Marquette. Ouch, not good for the conference. Notre Dame gets blown out of the water by 10 seed Florida State. HA! I called that one! But this is really not good for the conference. And then it starts to sink in.  We lost.  We lost sooner than we would have liked.  67 of the 68 teams are going to lose than they like. It still sucks. This program far from a 1 year wonder.  It is the definition of a winning program.  It wins games with regularity.  You can count on one hand the number of programs over the last 10 seasons who have won more games.  It took great coaches like Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun many years to reach their first Final Four and win their first National Championship. I’m not fond of this statistic because many great coaches also won and achieved the same goals in less years. We find the statistics that help us make our case, but that doesn’t make the statistic any less true or these coaches any less great. We are built to be back to the tournament in the future. We will still suffer future disappointment in the NCAA tournament, that’s just how it works. We are never going to forget this loss, or Villanova, or many of the others.  The sting will live on for quite some time.  But someday, when we do make the Final Four and win a championship, the bitter disappointment we feel right now and have felt over the past decade will make those victories all that much sweeter. I can’t help but be an eternal optimist. It just takes time for me to get there. Hail to Pitt! Right now though, I’m still an ass, and can’t help but sing Soul Asylum in my head thinking of our BIG EAST brethern. Love you guys.

They say misery loves company
We could start a company and make misery



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