We are prone to overstatement. Everything is bigger than the biggest, better than the best, faster than the fastest. It sells. But it also blurs reality, and confuses things when the oh-my-God stuff really does happen.
On Thursday, it really did happen. Rafael Nadal lost in the second round of Wimbledon. Who did he lose to? That's what someone asked me a few minutes after it was over, a few minutes after I had watched every single point of that match for hours.
The answer: Um, uh. Can't remember. Some guy with the same number of letters in his name as Nadal.
Some guy turned out to be Lukas Rosol, a 26-year-old from the Czech Republic who had never done anything before. He has lost more matches in his career than he has won.
And he beat Nadal 6-7 (11-9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
It was the biggest upset in the history of tennis.
That is not hyperbole.
"(It) is not a tragedy,'' Nadal said. "Is only a tennis match. At the end, that's life. There is much more important things.''
This throws tennis off its axis. What has made tennis fans feel right the past few years is Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic reaching the semifinals at every major. Then, one of them wins.
If you're wondering, no, Nadal wasn't hurt. He wasn't at his best, but he wasn't bad, either. He wasn't sick. He wasn't tired. He was not, as far as anyone knows, dealing with any personal crisis.
He isn't getting old. He isn't slumping. He just lost. A crazy, one-time thing. He was weak, mentally weak. And that was shocking, as tennis fans consider him a warrior.
He was agitated throughout, complaining to the chair umpire several times about something that Rosol was doing, possibly swinging his arms while waiting to return serve, or maybe making some sort of noise.
At one point, Nadal was so desperate and frustrated that he intentionally bumped Rosol as they switched sides, trying to bully and intimidate. Nadal needs to be fined for that.
"I was surprised that he can do (that) on Centre Court Wimbledon. . .'' Rosol said. "He hit me, and then three times he apologize(s). And I say, `OK, OK, OK.' ''
Nadal wouldn't say after the match what was bothering him, saying it would sound like an excuse. Too late for that. During the match, it sounded like this:
Tennis fans already are scanning their memories, and record books, to find a bigger upset. Just a few weeks ago, Serena Williams lost in the first round of the French Open to Virginie Razzano. But Williams is starting to get old, and the red clay at Roland Garros is her worst surface.
Some people think of Nadal as a clay-court specialist, but the past five times he has played on the grass at Wimbledon, he reached the finals each time, winning twice.
Rosol, meanwhile, had played the qualifying tournament at Wimbledon the previous five years, failing to get into the tournament each time. In five matches he won a grand total of one set.
Years ago, some guy named George Bastl beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon. That was a biggie, too. But Sampras already was on the way down. Nadal won the French Open two weeks ago.
Lori McNeil over Steffi Graf? Australian Peter Doohan over two-time defending champ Boris Becker at Wimbledon? Close.
But Nadal is one of the greatest players of all time, and was playing hot. Rosol is ranked No. 100. He snuck into Wimbledon somehow this year, won the first round, and now, wow.
"I didn't feel anything,'' Rosol said. "I was in a trance a little bit. . . I was somewhere else.''
Tennis is such a mental game, and Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have the other players psyched out. Usually by the time the opponent walks onto the court, the match already is lost.
This is how Rosol won: He outsmarted Nadal with brilliant touch and tactics and. . .
Just kidding. He had no touch. He had no tactics. Rosol won by swinging as hard as he could on nearly every single shot, and hoping that more went in than went out.
Why not? What other way was he going to beat Nadal? The amazing thing was that he never panicked. And Nadal did.
Nadal finally had the momentum in the fourth set. But after the set, the match was stopped for half an hour while Wimbledon officials closed the roof over Centre Court. It was getting dark, and they didn't want to risk having to close it in the middle of a set.
It worked perfectly for Rosol, who took a shower during the break.
The day did make you think of one other thing: Federer never loses these matches. He actually can get back to No. 1 if he wins Wimbledon, and the door just opened for him big-time. Nadal is the guy he can't beat.
Federer gets to the quarterfinals of every major, and it's a habit that doesn't seem to mean much, until you see what just happened to Nadal. There is always one guy playing the match of his life, but Federer finds a way to win in the end.
Nadal's loss also opens up half the draw for a shot at winning Wimbledon. Djokovic and Federer are on the one half. That means someone is going to break into the big three and reach the final.
Andy Roddick, fighting off questions Thursday about how long he will continue to play, now has one more chance. Andy Murray, a punch line in tennis because he's the fourth-best player in a sport defined by three guys, has his opening. The pressure is on him, as a Brit. (Don't count on him.) Juan Martin del Potro has a shot. The favorite to get to the final is probably Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but he's so inconsistent.
Five years ago Nadal beat Federer, known by most people as the Greatest Player of All Time, in a match generally considered to be the Greatest Match Ever Played. Now, on the same court, he lost to some tall guy named Rosol, who said his goal was to not lose 6-0, 6-1, 6-1.
Another "-est'' moment.