Inspiring The American Dream, Cinderella Style

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finalfour.jpgThere is no doubt that across America people held their collective breath as Jason Richards’ three-pointer was in mid-air.  The miss ended Davidson’s run in the NCAA Tournament and left America breathing, but disappointed.  All across the country, except for Kansas fans (and that annoying guy who picked Kansas in one of his 15 brackets) the collective breath was exhaled with a feeling of disappointment.  The last chance for the dark horse ended.  Next weekend the Final Four in San Antonio will be without an underdog.

As Davidson’s Cinderella run fell to the wicked witch of the Midwest, history was made in college basketball.  For the first time in the NCAA Tournament history, all four number one seeds reached the Final Four.  All but Kansas did so with ease as Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA cruised to next weekend with resounding victories in the Elite Eight.  The four teams that a committee of college basketball experts decided to coin as “favorites” did what they were supposed to do, they won, and next weekend the Final Four will be dominated by evil empires.

Tomorrow at work people will talk about how much they wanted Davidson in the Final Four.  Somebody will say that Davidson deserved to win that game and should have.  But did they?  Did Davidson deserve to win that game, had they practiced harder, worked harder, did they want it more than Kansas?

There is no way to answer those questions, the heart and determination of a team cannot be compared to that of another.  That leaves only one question. 

Why does America want the underdog to win?

The evil empire has its Deathstar sized practice facilities, incredible recruiting budgets, gracious booster support, and a larger than life fan-base.  While Cinderella practices in the same gym the school intramural league plays their championship game in; her ACT score matters, and at Cinderella’s school the President actually makes more money than the basketball coach.  This only means that one school has invested more time and money into their athletic program than another school has.  You can’t blame a school for wanting an athletic program that excels and having the means necessary to make that happen.  In fact, ask yourself this: what kind of recruiting budget, practice facilities, booster support and fan base does your favorite school have?  Yeah, go ahead and let that one sink in.

Obviously the reasoning behind rooting for the underdog can’t be the inferior means for success.  Those that support one evil empire are eager to watch another empire fall at the hands on Cinderella.  So what is it still, that compels America to cheer for the underdog?

Everyone oohed and aahed in 2006 when the Final Four consisted of #2, #3,#4 and #11 seeds.  Articles were written and a new era of college basketball was ushered in.  This new era is exactly what the generation that grew up watching The Karate Kid wanted.  An era where the goofy, new in town, unathletic kid can beat the big and mean Cobras.  The generation that grew up reading “The Little Engine That Could” is mystified and captivated by the slightest chance that the little engine actually could.

The American dream in the sports world is realized through the underdog.  We want to see someone just like us do something extraordinary when no one believed they could.  It’s why we watch movies like Hoosiers, Rudy, The Karate Kid and Remember The Titans over and over.  The belief that on any given day during any given game the unthinkable can happen.   A three from the left wing drops in as the buzzer sounds and a #12 seed from a conference no one knows steals victory from the school everyone knows.

Karate Kid

Hearts go out to the kid that big schools didn’t recruit because he was too small or too slow.  Hearts thump wildly when the that same kid celebrates victory at mid-court, while the school that didn’t want him walks away defeated.  Hearts are stolen when one giant upset leads to another and hearts are broken when the run is over.  Finally, hearts rejoice when Cinderella dances with the Prince, even if it’s just for one song.

People relate to the underdog because when the underdog wins it inspires others to believe that they are capable of something bigger and better.  It’s a feeling that stretches beyond basketball and sweeps through every aspect of life.  Watching Cinderella defeat the evil empire reminds us that dreams do come true.

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One Response to “Inspiring The American Dream, Cinderella Style”

  1. BobWicket Says:

    I wish my school would build an “Alan Parson’s Project” sized practice facility.

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