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Do we like only underdogs?(5 posts)

Do we like only underdogs?DougSloan
Dec 9, 2002 8:18 AM
After watching the HBO special on the 1980 hockey win (the greatest sporting event of all time, IMHO -- I think you needed to have grown up with the Cold War to appreciate that), I realized that Americans (U.S.) like underdogs. We were underdogs from the beginning, whether you start with the Pilgrims, the American Revolution, WWI, or even WWII. We have always been the "come from behind" group, the "little guy," at least in terms of might.

We see this all the time in our sports heros. Tell me we didn't have more appreciation for Lance in 1999 than now. He was no doubt the underdog, not only in a cycling sense, but in the truest of all human senses. We aren't nearly as interested in him dominated as surviving, and then pulling off that first Tour victory.

We don't like bullies. We don't like empirialism. We don't like it when others do it, or when we see it in ourselves. We have been left standing as The world power, but largely by default. I'm not sure we are comfortable with the role. It's like we are the only guy in town with a loaded gun, but we really don't want to use it.

I don't know where we go from here. We can't be underdogs any more, can we? We can't deal with being the big dog. Where from here?

when there is onemohair_chair
Dec 9, 2002 8:35 AM
I think when there are at least two evenly matched teams or competitors, we like that, too. Underdogs are often fun to root for because everyone likes people/teams who give their all to beat the big guy, even if they don't. No one likes to see a weaker team/competitor get steamrolled. A few years ago in the French Open final, I forget who (Graf maybe), won 6-0, 6-0. The match took about an hour. You knew Graf had to do what she had to do, but you also hoped the opponent would at least win a game! The opponent didn't seem too upset afterwards, knowing she was in way over her head, which made it okay. (Several hundred thousand dollars and lots of ranking points helped, too!)

As far as hockey and cycling go, Americans are underdogs by definition because American culture does not embrace those two sports as much as other nations do. There are plenty of other sports where that is true as well. Soccer, for instance. (And there are sports that Americans should dominate in international competition but lately haven't, such as baseball and basketball.)

It's funny that Lance, once an underdog, now has more than a few detractors who think he is too dominant. The last Tour was frankly, boring, because underdogs did not exist. No one bothered to take him on. No one bothered to take on Jalabert for the polka dot jersey either, which may be for somewhat different reasons. The green jersey was the only fight, and considerng Zabel's history and fighting spirit, you can say the underdog won.

Your premise about America being the underdog is not completely valid. America has played the "come from behind" role in past conflicts and events because it chose to sit on the sidelines and watch. When the time came to get involved, America came in full bore.
sleeping giant?DougSloan
Dec 9, 2002 11:08 AM
I think we at least thought of ourselves as lacking dominance. While we may have had the ability to dominate WWI and WWII from the beginning, I don't think we knew it. Heck, I don't think we really knew it until after the USSR was gone and we won the Gulf War. I think even experts were shocked at our dominance there.

I think that if there weren't world conflicts like terrorism, Irag invading Kuwait, etc., we'd prefer to be isolationists (at least militarily) and go about our happy way. Dominating is just not what we like to do nor to see others doing.

In any event, I think in the past we always saw ourselves as the underdog, even if we truly were not.

Shelley saw it coming...cory
Dec 9, 2002 8:52 AM
I wrote a column saying essentially the same thing a couple of months ago, about the position we've more or less been forced into and some concerns about it: "A world cowering at our feet is a world looking for a chance to trip us up."
Surprisingly, the administration didn't pay much attention. But several readers sent me copies of "Ozymandias." Worth reading if you haven't; just Google the title and it pops right up. The last few lines:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
I'm not so sure.czardonic
Dec 9, 2002 10:11 AM
Not that the underdog doesn't have it's followers, but take the popularity of the NY Yankees of a few years ago, or the Braves, 49ers or Cowboys during their hey-days. Front-runners from all over the country flocked to the malls to outift themselves in "America's Team" colors. Heck, take the GOP of 2002.