Quote of the Day:
“If there’s one cultural quality we have, it’s that we always see ourselves as an underdog.” –Bill Gates
When better to pose the question above? TB’s been thinking of a new feature, “Underdog of the Week.” Today is the first installment. You may think the choice is obvious, but I have cautioned you, gentle reader, over and again not to pigeonhole me.
Then again, you can half-pigeonhole me on this one. The inaugural Underdog of the Week in the TBU is a shared honor–to the football teams at Jacksonville State University for their incredible upset victory over Ole Miss and to Boise State University for, not only defeating Virginia Tech Monday evening, but for their consistent excellence in the face of the institutional bias of the NCAA and its power conferences.
And really, it was the Boise State victory that convinced me to start the new feature. It was also the impetus for posing the question, “does America still love an underdog.” My sense of the issue is that we, collectively, do not. Oh, we say we do, but our actions belie our words.
Trolling several sports message boards last night, the prevailing attitude seemed to be that people were “tired of the media’s obsession with Boise” and that they didn’t deserve to be in the national title hunt or BCS bowl hunt because they “don’t play anybody.” It’s total bs of course, a worn out talking point. Boise plays who they can play. They are in a low level conference to be sure but they play the best non-conference foes they can find, usually on the road. And they would play more. The power schools are loathe to schedule Boise, certainly not on a home and home basis. So they beat the teams on their schedule, they are grudgingly invited to play in a major bowl and they go home with the trophy as often as not. Truth is, to many, they are no underdog. I doubt they see themselves as such. But because of the insanity of college football’s power conference monopoly on the system for choosing champions, they are an outsider to the elites, and remain an underdog in the system, if not on the field. And that’s the way America wants it, based on the actions of the elites at the NCAA and the internet rantings of the proletariat.
“But wait,” you may be saying. “All I heard from Saturday to Monday was how Ole Miss got upset by little old Jacksonville State.” This is so, but was the focus on JSU’s heroic and unlikely triumph? Not from where I sat it wasn’t. It was about Ole Miss’ abject failure. Analysis focused on “what this means for Ole Miss”, “how embarrassing was this for the SEC”, and “how did the Rebels LET this happen.” Very little credit was given to the underdog.
In the Revolutionary War, the USA was Jacksonville State, even a little bit of Boise. We were not in the club of Euro-nations that dictated world trade and boundaries, like Boise isn’t in the BCS. We had never fought any war at all, much less defeated another nation and we had an all walk-on army vs the Redcoat regulars. Hell the Brits even paid ringers from Germany to come fight. A scenario analogous to that which faced JSU to be sure. We started out as underdogs and for a couple of centuries we fought as one, supported others, in geopolitics and sports and beyond.
But somewhere along the way America became the biggest badasses on the planet. We have gradually become the bully, sometimes in a righteous cause, true, but a bully nonetheless. We once cheered the rags to riches stories of Horatio Alger, but now we watch breathlessly on TMZ for the latest shenanigans of an heiress. We once broke up the monopolistic corporations to favor fair competition for mom and pop shops; now we respond to a financial crisis instigated by the biggest banks in the country by consolidating even more power among fewer banks. We once celebrated Chaminade’s legendary achievement in beating a heavily favored Virginia basketball team led by Ralph Sampson and now we can only laugh at the giant for falling, ignoring the slingshot wielder entirely. We don’t care about Jacksonville State and we are annoyed by Boise’s uppity impudence.
Collectively, that is. For TB loves an underdog, and I will look far and wide to bring you the ‘dog of the week from now on so we can celebrate their achievements together. And if Ole Miss can knock off mighty Boise State next year in their opening game, they just might find themselves an unlikely place of honor, right here in the TBU.