Recently, while watching a playoff basketball game with my wife I felt the need to scold her when she said “it’s over” when there was still a significant amount of time on the clock and the game was still relatively close. I informed her that she just didn’t get the intricacies of rooting for an underdog. You see, in her mind the game was a foregone conclusion, because typically with the score of the game and the time left one could predict the outcome with a fair degree of accuracy. This comes from watching typical games with typical results and drawing conclusions from these games. This makes for good sports betting, but it is detrimental to the human spirit. You see, in watching the same game and scenario as Julie, I didn’t draw off the typical past results, I drew off of the numerous exceptions where expectations were shattered and a select few sports betters made a killing while the “smart” ones lost. I remember the games that got my heart racing; that got me out of my chair; that resulted in yelling, jumping, and fist pumping. These are the games that for a moment take us out of the dominant narrative of life which tells us that we are fated, and that we can typically predict who will succeed, who will fail, who will be happy, and who will be depressed. As you may have gathered, there are certain virtues that rooting for the underdog tends to develop, among these are faith, hope, patience, and perseverance. The downside is that in rooting for the atypical one encounters more than their typical share of heartbreak. The question then becomes which is better; a typical existence that falls within the Bell curve, or an existence of outliers in which the highs and lows of life are felt in all their vigor and intensity. If one were to choose the latter, here are a few suggestions to assist in rooting for an underdog.

  1. You understand that the game is not over until you have reached a point in the game where no team in history has come back from such a margin with the amount of time remaining (and even then in the back of your mind you hold on to the belief that records are made to be broken).
  2. When analysts say your team has no chance, you interpret their comments to mean that your team is being overlooked.
  3. When the opposing team speaks confidently of their chances it means they are overconfident and have underestimated your team.
  4. When they speak humbly and graciously going into a game or series it means they are scared.
  5. When analysts say your team doesn’t have the skill, you think they’ve forgotten your athleticism, when they say your team doesn’t have the athleticism, you think they’ve forgotten your team’s skill and experience. When they say your team has neither you say they’ve forgotten about heart.
  6. When your team is playing terrible and not getting blown out you think if we can keep it close playing this bad, just think of what we can do when we get things going!
  7. When your team is losing and you’re playing good you think it’s only a matter of time until they start missing some shots and we get a few breaks.
  8. And finally, when you’re playing good, getting blown out, tired, and clearly outmatched you think freak injuries happen, they might bring in their bench players too early and give us a chance to get going, and winning in such a circumstance would cement the team’s place in history.

Such is the absurd and paradoxical mind of the avid fan of an underdog.

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