This week began the 2012 NCAA Men’s college basketball Tourney. This is my favorite sporting event of the year outside of Summer Olympic years. One word can encapsulate why. Upsets. I love upsets. I am not a gambler, nor am I fanatic for any team. My joy in the tourney comes from watching the underdog teams shock the country by taking on and defeating a highly ranked, and ultimately even better team.
Yesterday, Duke and Missouri, both number 2 seeds lost to Lehigh and Norfolk State respectively. Both number 15 seeds. The commentators made it a point to say that Norfolk State had never won against a ranked team since joining division 1. And I’m sure I’m not alone in asking, “Who the heck is Lehigh?”
There were other upsets as well, but these two were the first times a 2 has lost to a 15 in 11 years. An underdog victory like this is rare.
I think of some of my favorite books and movies– how many are underdog stories? The Lord of the Rings is about how the smallest, most inconsequential beings in all of Middle-Earth are ultimately what it needs to defeat evil. In Hoosiers, a troubled coach and troubled team from a tiny town in Indiana rise to win the state championship over schools with more talent and resources. Daniel Larusso stands up to his bullies in The Karate Kid, outmatched and outnumbered.
We root for the underdog. We identify with the underdog. They are just like us, facing odds that seem impossible to overcome. But they press on. When we see an underdog win, it makes us feel like we can succeed as well. And we can.
Here’s to Lehigh and Norfolk State. And to the rest of the underdogs.