Cheering On the Underdogs

By: Stacy Thompson

chicago-cubs

Once a year this Gamecock fan goes on a local radio program with an equally-passionate female Clemson fan to talk about the year ahead for our respective football teams. My cohort and I don’t speak of uniform colors, discuss what to wear to games or swap tailgate recipes (though I love a good dip or three!), but instead tout the strength of our lines, critique coaching staffs and herald our playmakers on either side of the ball. We relish the opportunity to give guidance to our non-football-lovin’ (male or female) listeners as we pass along phrases to repeat during the game that will convince all armchair Monday-morning quarterbacks that you know your stuff, including:

“The game is won or lost at the line of scrimmage.”

“The coach should utilize the tight ends more.”

“That player (after an astounding catch or run) just has incredible vision and a motor that won’t quit.”

“The ref clearly swallowed the whistle” (on a big play by the other team) or “good non-call” (if the play goes your way).

I love football, and frankly, all sports and sporting competitions. For this reason, although I am not a dedicated enthusiast of Major League Baseball (or even much of a casual fan beyond the World Series), I was immersed in the battle between two long-suffering franchises, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. Part of me was rooting for Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn and Willie Mayes Hayes (see the movie ‘Major League’ to get the reference) to appear for the Indians, but mostly I was holding my breath with countless long-suffering Cubbies to end the 108 year drought and win a title.

In sports, we always love an underdog–a David vs. Goliath face off, nerd vs. popular jock showdown, a lovable loser. We root for the little guy not because we don’t want to see one overwhelming and dominating force, but because we feel like, hey, if that team/competitor with a clear disadvantage can overcome the odds to win, so can we. This year the Cubs were the best in baseball, both during the season and ultimately in the post-season, but they still had to overcome a supposed ‘curse’ to prevail–a curse that was, by most accounts, uttered by a slighted tavern owner who was turned away at the gate because he couldn’t bring his smelly goat into the ballpark. Yes, you read that right–a dude couldn’t bring an odorous farm animal into a public place and the end result was a team that could not win the final prize for 108 years. Whether the story was truth or fiction, it was the scapegoat (pun intended) for many near-misses and missed opportunities. Well, regardless, the curse is done and now most fans are now seeking out that next ‘best-to-never-win-it-all’ to cheer on.

The best and the worst thing about sports competition is that there has to be a winner, which naturally means there also has to be a loser. Learning to do either gracefully is the real takeaway in life, but watching the battle unfold can be reality TV at its best. Seeing players giving “110 percent” and “leaving it all on the field” may be cliche, but reminds us all that efforts don’t go unrewarded–even with the curse of a rejected smelly goat.

Congrats Chicago, and congrats Cleveland–you guys provided entertainment and hope for all us long-suffering fans of the underdog!

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