Column: A lesson in losing

Villanova head coach Jay Wright, center, reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

What is the opposite of clutch?

It’s a complicated question fans and media have been trying to answer forever.

Is it simply losing? Failing to produce in big moments? Or, is it a more systematic and internal issue?

With “clutch” players and teams, we attribute it to natural ability. Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods; they have the “clutch gene.”

But what about the losers, more specifically the losing teams? What’s their designation?

I present to you my favorite theory: Cream Cheese Soft.

We always use steel to describe clutch teams. “The Royals have nerves of steel.” “Classic San Antonio Spurs basketball there, tough as nails.”

Cream cheese is the exact opposite. It’s spreadable and soft. It has no backbone, and is easily movable. It doesn’t hold up well to pressure or heat.

You know, kind of like Villanova in March Madness.

There are just certain teams that are predestined to lose in big moments.

Let’s define Cream Cheese Soft (CCS). A team only qualifies for CCS status if they are:

1.)  Consistently good. This is a major key. The team needs to be in playoff contention year in, year out.

2.)  An established past of flaming out in spectacular fashion.

3.)  In season previews every year, they are tabbed as being the team that will finally “get the monkey off their back.”

4.)  No true fan of the sport is ever surprised when they lose.

5.)  A general lack of trust and faith in them in big games.

This is a theory that my friends and I have hammered out and nearly perfected. The original CCS teams are as follows:

Men’s college basketball: Villanova, Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse

How many consecutive years have one of these teams been the reason you didn’t win your bracket pool? Infinity. It’s been infinity years since these teams didn’t disappoint. Maybe the old Big East was worse than UConn remembers? Yeah, Jim Boeheim has a championship, but it was solely on the back of a future NBA Hall of Famer.

College football: Clemson, Georgia, Oregon

Clemson was the first team that ever came to mind when discussing CCS.  Just a steady stream of failed expectations and devastating losses in October that destroy their season. They had a chance to shed the label, but if you give up four touchdowns of 50 or more yards in a championship game, you’re CCS. Those are just facts.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers

Marvin Lewis, how do you still have a job? Lewis has taken the Bengals to the playoffs seven times in his 13 year tenure. He’s 0-7 in playoff games. Bruh.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Now, before you accuse me of an Anti-West Coast bias, I present the most clutch team in baseball: the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Angels have two of the biggest payrolls in the game, yet still don’t produce results. Clayton Kershaw is the MLB version of Peyton Manning, but even less of a winner somehow. Dominant regular season performer with a great Southern accent, but a consistent disaster in the playoffs.

NHL: Washington Capitals, New York Rangers

Alexander Ovechkin might be the best player of his generation, and he’s never reached the conference finals. Henrik Lundvist is the King Without a Crown. The 2014 Stanley Cup Finals were supposed to be his moment. Instead, he caught a loss in three overtime games. Would that ever happen to Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy? CCS.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul is the basketball Ovechkin. This team will always shoot itself in the foot and it will always be funny.

You just know it when you see it. Some teams win titles. Some teams are cream cheese.


Elan-Paolo DeCarlo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering men's basketball. He can be reached via email at elan-paolo.decarlo@uconn.edu. He tweets @ElanDeCarlo.