It was the thwap heard ’round the world.
Such, I believe, is a reasonable appellation for the nutpunch that, however indirectly, ejected Wake Forest from the NCAA Tournament last Saturday. We all know that second-seeded Wake lost to West Virginia in a stunning, double-overtime second-round upset. Wake met the Mountaineers as a result of that two-seed. And that two-seed was the result of an early exit from the ACC Tournament, in which Wake lost a quarterfinal matchup against underdog N.C. State—understandably enough, as Wake was playing without superstar Chris Paul.
And why was Paul riding the pine? He was suspended—suspended because of a low blow to State’s Julius Hodge in the game immediately previous. As the AP reports, “Paul was behind Hodge as the lanky senior was battling for position to rebound a missed three-pointer by Ilian Evtimov. After Cedric Simmons got the rebound, Paul reached around from Hodge’s right side and hit him in the groin. Hodge, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, crumpled to the court.”
Paul would later allow that “my emotions got the best of me.” But he could hardly have foreseen just how far his hand was reaching—not simply between Hodge’s thighs, but into the future, sparking a chain of events that would begin with his suspension and end in defeat 13 days later on a basketball court in Cleveland. No Paul, no ACC title, no one seed, no longer in the Dance. From nuts to naught, the causal chain is clear.
It was arguably the costliest nutpunch in the 52-year history of the Atlantic Coast Conference—but in the broader perspective, Paul’s blow is nothing. Indeed, history is positively riddled with portentous blows to the testicles; and though these incidents are well known to every schoolboy, they are always worth the retelling.
1200 BCE: Troy — Having been advised by Apollo of a hidden vulnerability, Prince Paris slays swift-footed Achilles, Peleus’s son and mightiest of the long-haired Achaeans. Ever since, “the Achilles nut” is synonymous with a sole weakness.
44 BCE: Rome — Brutus joins in the assassination of Julius Caesar, delivering the last in a hail of withering blows to the upper thighs and testicles. Historians estimate that the Roman dictator received 97 separate fatal crotch wounds. Caesar’s famous last word: “Oooof.”
33 CE: Jerusalem — “And while he yet spake, behold, a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the 12, went before them and drew near unto Jesus to nutpunch him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a—oooof!” (Luke 22:47-48, KJV)
1415: Agincourt, France — Outnumbered five-to-one, Henry V faces almost certain defeat at the hands of a well-supplied and well-rested French army under command of the Comte de Noix. But unbeknownst to their adversaries, the English had recently developed the nutbow, capable of accurately delivering a blunt object over 200 yards. Four hours later, an embarrassed French army hobbles off the field, leaving the victory to King Henry.
1492: Hispaniola, West Indies — An emissary of the Arawak Indians greets Chritopher Columbus with the ceremonial nutpunch of welcoming. Culturally insensitive and extremely upset, Columbus responds by unleashing 400 years of Western imperialism.
1517: Wittenburg, Germany — At Sunday mass, a clumsy altar boy directs a swinging censer into the crotch of a local monk—and prompts the incensed brother to dramatically rethink his relationship to the Catholic Church. The monk’s name: Martin Luther.
Friday, March 25, 2005: Durham, N.C. — As frustration with the declining quality of his writing mounts, Chronicle columnist Rob Goodman is physically assaulted on no fewer than four separate occasions. Reaching rock-bottom as the Lobby Shop refuses to sell him a bag of ice on points, Goodman vows to try harder next time, as well as to invest in a protective codpiece.
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Rob Goodman is a Trinity senior. His column appears each Friday.