Being born and raised in Kentucky predisposed me to a certain affliction, or, some would say, an addiction of sorts. I prefer to think of it as madness. More specifically March Madness.
When the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament gets under way, my fan fervor for the University of Kentucky (UK) escalates, as I cheer them on, hoping that the road to the Final Four ends with another championship banner hanging from the rafters of Rupp Arena. That desired outcome has only happened eight times, but along with the rest of Big Blue Nation, I am hoping that changes very soon.
There is only one thing I enjoy more than cheering on the Wildcats during tournament time. There is actually another team that I pull for each round. The Underdog. No matter what my bracket picks are, I always have had a soft spot for the underdog and root for them. This year has been different, though. It may be the Chinese Year of the Dog, but in the NCAA Tournament, it has been the Year of the Underdog.
As I made my bracket selections, I chose a few underdogs to advance. By and large, though, I followed conventional wisdom and picked the top seeds over the bottom seeds, especially in the matchups between the #1 seeds and the #16 seeds. A #16 seed had never beaten a #1 seed. Never. Until this year.
On March 16, the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), a #16 seed, beat the University of Virginia, a #1 seed. The overall #1 seed, at that. They did not need a buzzer beater to win, either. The school, that very few people had heard of until their one shining moment, beat the school, heavily favored to win the tournament, by a margin of 20 points. The Retrievers began the game as the underdog and emerged as the top dog.
Other underdogs proved victorious during the opening rounds. Buffalo. Loyola. Marshall. Those upsets were thrilling in their own right, but they were not like the upset served up by UMBC. The Retrievers did something that other #16 seeds may have dreamed of, but never achieved. They made the seemingly impossible possible. And that is why I love the underdogs, those on, and off, the court.
Their victory was a much-needed reminder that on any given day that anything is possible. Anything. They can make believers out of the most hardened skeptics by not subscribing to the belief that just because something has never happened before, does not mean that it will never happen at all. Some things take time. They practice, prepare, and believe in themselves, and they show up and give it their all. Some days, their all results in making history. Other days, their all leads to little fanfare, if any, at all.
Underdogs may be underestimated by others, but they do not count themselves out. They know that in order to have a chance to succeed, they have to dare to dream and have the courage to try. So, that’s exactly what they do, day in and day out, as they get ready for their day to come.
Not every underdog finds success or experiences the thrill of victory, but sometimes, they find much more. They develop character, a strong work ethic, self-confidence, perseverance, and strength. The underdogs inspire and motivate us, and they give us something to cheer for along the way. They are the unassuming role models and the unsung heroes in the world, and they give us hope.
As the tournament continues, I will keep cheering for the remaining underdogs. Unless, they play UK. Then, I will wish them the best of luck and hope for a great game. Go Cats!!!
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story