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The Stomach Punch Moment in Sports

Shocked.  Stunned.  Numb.

Back in high school I was a swimmer.  I remember standing up on the blocks before a race and being nervous.  Every race.  My body would seem to systematically begin to shut down.  My extremities would go completely numb, my peripheral vision would shrink so small I could barely see the water below my feet.  My jaw would clench so tight I thought I would break my own teeth.

My senior year we had our sub district meet in Shelton.  I was competing in the 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle and various relays that day and night.

By the time the 100 free had come around I had qualified for districts in the 100 back and two relays.  The 100 free was my event, it’s what I was good at.  It’s why I spent 20 hours or more a week in the pool.

I was on the block for the fifth time that night and my body was going through it’s routine of systematically shutting down.


The gun had sounded, we were off.  I was in lane 4, the favorite in this race.  The last time I swam in the 100 free I won the race by a full pool length.  Yes, I was swimming against JV swimmers, but still I thought it was an impressive feat.

After the first turn the kid in lane five was right next to me.  I could see him through the side of my goggles.  He slipped on the turn.  I didn’t.  I pushed myself into the next gear and I was all alone on the next turn and had almost a six foot lead going into the final turn.

The Shelton pool had two very big negatives.  One, the ceiling was curved in a circle so it was hard to find your place in the lane and stay straight.  Two, the tops of the lanes had tiles instead of a textured surface.

I slipped.  My turn was too high and I slipped and I slipped bad.  I was almost standing up in the pool and if I kicked off the wall again I would be disqualified.  I struggled to get back into a rhythm.  The kid in lane five passed me.  I couldn’t afford to breathe for the rest of the race.  I dug, my muscles were on fire, my lungs were about to burst.  I saw the kid to my left and I thought I had him.  I had caught up to him and in the final three strokes I knew I had him.  I touched the wall.

59.82 seconds.

That was my personal best in the event.  I knew I had won the race.

I then looked over at the time for lane five.

59.80 seconds.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a hand coming toward me to shake it.  I ripped my goggles off and threw them all the way across the pool building.  They landed in the diving pool about fifty or so feet away and sunk to the bottom.  I pulled myself, walked into the locker room, got dressed and went and sat on the bus.  I was ready to go home.  I couldn’t comprehend in my seventeen year old head what just happened.

Shocked.  Stunned.  Numb.

It was my first taste of a stomach punch because of sports.  The 95 Mariners and the 96 Sonics losing was tough, but the Mariners weren’t supposed to beat the Indians in the ALCS.  The Sonics weren’t supposed to beat the Bulls, the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Neither did.  It hurt, but you kind of knew it was to be expected and it made it a bit easier to get over.

It’s different when it happens to you.  It’s something that you think about fourteen years later while laying on the couch suffering from the flu and 103.6 temperature.

It’s all perspective of the situation.

Yes, many of you love the Seahawks and are absolutely crushed by the loss to the Falcons today.

Fortunately you didn’t have to physically live it.  You didn’t blow a 4th and 1 call, you didn’t actually fumble the football, you didn’t give up a 47 yard touchdown pass.

It’s all perspective.

As fan though, it is a complete stomach punch.  As fans we can’t dwell on it.  It’ll just drive us nuts.  We have to move on and hope that next season is even better.

My biggest stomach punch game as a fan happened in Spokane in March of 2010.  I was witnessing Maryland and Greivis Vasquez having an amazing comeback against Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Draymond Green just hit a jumper to put Michigan State up 80-79.

Then this happened:

Okay, screw it.  We can be sad about the Seahawks until training camp starts.