An underdog is universally recognized as a competitor with little or no chance of winning a fight or a contest. At this time of year during March Madness, those of us who follow college basketball inevitably begin rooting for a team or two deemed to be underdogs.
This year, Syracuse has made it to the Final Four as a 10-seed. Granted, Syracuse has a lot of talent, but solely because of their seeding, it would be a big upset were they to beat North Carolina this Saturday. They seem to have little chance of pulling said upset because UNC is playing so well, which confirms the Orangemen status as an underdog. Pursuing this theme, I did a bit of research and came up with the following trivia (for you stat geeks):
To be honest, as a KU fan, I don't feel right rooting for Syracuse. I'm still bitter about losing to Syracuse in the Final in 2003. I don't want to root for them, but something about the underdog draws me in. Pyschological researchers suggest we are drawn to root for underdogs because they arouse our sense of justice and fairness. They also propose that in general, we view underdogs as putting forth more effort to overcome long odds, so we want to see that rewarded. When underdogs succeed, it gives us confidence that effort, hard work and persistence do pay off and convinces us that hope can triumph in the face of long odds and adversity.
This was certainly the strength and beauty of the original Rocky movie. We wanted to see Balboa succeed because of his dedication, effort and determination, not to mention the long odds he was up against. Today, we see this phenomenon in the Bernie Sanders campaign and how relying on mostly small donors, he's going up against the Clinton machine and giving them a heck of a fight that not many people expected. Real or imagined, Bernie Sanders is being viewed as an underdog and that is aiding his cause and a lot of people are enjoying seeing Hillary feel the Bern.
Watching the tournament unfold, and taking so much enjoyment from watching the upsets, we've reflected on how everyone living on the margins is an underdog. We don't all get the same start in life, nor are we on a level playing field. Here are a few examples of the underdogs that we are rooting for, while we are mindful of the words of Father Gregory Boyle who charges us not to judge the poor for how they carry their burdens, but rather to stand in awe of the burdens they do carry:
This is what serving on the margins means: rooting for these individuals and so many others, disadvantaged but beloved of God, to win the upset. The odds are stacked against them in so many overwhelming ways, but with some vision, some social support and encouragement, some practical assistance, and a very big God who can overcome all odds, we know they can do it. Many on the margins don't believe that hard work is rewarded, and hold a fatalistic view that keeps them from trying to be anything different than what the world tells them they are. But we have seen results of hard work, persistence, determination, and faith, and these folks are an encouragement to others in their community to follow in their footsteps. GO UNDERDOGS!
Quote of the month
""At the margins is the only place the Church will have credibility."