My eyes were glued to the TV tonight as I watched 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast (who has only had a basketball team for a few years) face-off with 7th seeded San Diego St. in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament. A few weeks ago I had never even heard of FGCU, but on this night I was their biggest fan. My heart rose and fell with every point scored either by or against FGCU, and when they came out the victors, I felt absolutely elated.
But why? Why was I so emotionally invested in a game where I had no dog in the fight? Why root for this school I had no affiliation with? Because everybody loves the underdog and Cinderella stories in sports. There is something in our blood that motivates and inspires us when rooting for the player or team that wasn’t “supposed” to win. Some stories encompass one game, some evolve throughout a season. We all watch with bated breath. I surveyed a few friends on why we love to get behind the underdog. Their answers provided both a micro and macro level perspective.
You see, on a micro level, we personally relate to the underdog. I want you to think right now about a seemingly huge obstacle in your life. In the David & Goliath story, who is your Goliath? Now imagine how it would feel to take that giant down, how it would change your life. The underdog in sports gives us the hope that we can do exactly that in our everyday life. From a larger perspective, and one of the biggest reasons we love sports in general, there is a sense of great community and togetherness that comes from these stories. Just like in the famous movie “Remember the Titans”, with Denzel Washington, about a town and high school football team that is racially divided, when the underdog comes through and defies expectations, it puts our differences aside; it allows us to come together under a common victory and hope. Florida Gulf Coast is the first 15th seeded team to be in the Sweet 16. They made history tonight. In closing I have 2 questions for you: 1. What is your favorite underdog/cinderella story in sports? 2. What will you overcome today, be it little or small, that will allow you to inspire others?
p.s. For a little added inspiration, check out this clip from the aforementioned movie 🙂