History of the Underdog

October 28, 2006 at 5:46 am | Posted in misc, william | 2 Comments

Greetings, it’s my first post on “this person know what i’m talking about.”

I don’t actually know the history of the underdog but I’d like to make some general statements about it that sound reasonable. The attractiveness of an underdog victory is obvious for a sports fan. My first assumption is that sports are a substitute for war. Now of course we still have wars, but with all technical advances these days they’re so hard to follow, all the covert ops and whatnot. Who would watch the superbowl if it wasn’t scheduled, and one team would sneak up on the other whenever they found them, play a down, and then retreat for days?

So the days of spectatorship for war are gone. I guess that started with the first Olympic games. Sports of whatever kind now provide a forum for the virtues of the warrior to be displayed, even though we’ve come a long way from archery and wrestling and now have bowling. (Bowling still requires its own physical virtues of strength and finesse and pinpoint accuracy, it just doesn’t require the all-around fitness that the decathlon strives to display.) A competition is the chance to see the skills and attributes of the warriors of the respective sports to be tested and admired by the spectators.

Implied in this situation is that the spectators do not possess the virtues in the degree that the warriors do (or they would be the warriors). This allows the spectator to participate by proxy, aligning themselves with one side or the other and experiencing the battle emotional if not physically. We all know those people, usually moms, who walk in during a televised sporting event and make some comment about how they just want a fair game and the best side to win, with no regard for the fact that some of us have devoted months or years to the particular team and don’t appreciate comments about “good plays” by the enemies. But we also know those people, who are usually moms, wouldn’t be in war anyway and that’s why they have no appreciation for the beauty of the battlefield. Would they want the best army to win if it meant their husband never came home again? Pick a side!

Anyway, in picking sides it is more often than not the underdog that most people side with when they have not been devoting their lives to one of the particular sides. And I assume that this is owing to the fact that it makes a more fulfilling proxy experience because the vast majority of people assume they are the underdog in life. It’s certainly the case if they have delusions of grandeur, but it’s the position of all of us in relation to entropy. That makes it natural to side with the underdog in sports, and demand happy endings to movies. It provides hope for each spectator that despite the fact they weren’t endowed in abundance with the virtues of _______, if they show enough heart, the virtue that can be self-produced, they can achieve victory.

I often cheer for the underdog. I will admit I’m no Yankees fan. But I don’t advocate it as automatic as it too often is. There is pleasure to be found in rooting for the leviathan, and it is the appreciation of beautiful and skillful execution. This path is more difficult because the proxy connection is often lost if we consider ourselves inept, but it may reap greater spoils. I use the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan as an example. They were my team while they were good, and only then. It was bandwagoning at its best, I didn’t even like them much until after the first title, but the next five titles were a pleasure. I even loved it when they brought in Dennis Rodman and only lost ten regular season games. Rodman was an easy target for devoted underdog rooters but he didn’t give them what they wanted. I got what I wanted. I watched the greatest team of basketball players in the world win and win and win, specifically Michael Jordan. The grace and skill with which he was able to dominate was awe-inspiring, and ennobling to me. Underdoggers missed all that, consumed by his supposed arrogance, sidetracked by his gambling, private life, or sought to qualify it with the story of him not making the high school team and therefore making even his dominance an underdog story. I would have none of it. Fortune favored Michael Jordan and all anyone else can do is watch in awe.

The spoils of cheering for the favored are confidence and an appreciation for excellence. There is a danger of becoming haughty, but nothing the occasional underdog can’t remedy. The benefits of siding with the strong have bled over into my own life. I have a healthy confidence that I can accomplish what I want. I don’t fear for my survival and completely enjoy my life. With an underdog disposition I could believe it possible but the odds would always be against me. This way they are in my favor. It’s an easier way to live. And so I will continue to root for the favored and admire the virtues of the warrior.

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