Always rooting for the underdog

Judith Victoria Hensley Plain Thoughts

September 20, 2013

I love to see good things happen to unexpected people.

Remember the Down’s Syndrome student who was nominated as a joke for homecoming king? The guy who won the vote took the crown and placed it on the other young man’s head. He showed character that made up for the meanness of those who thought it was a joke.

Remember Susan Boyle who looked and acted nothing like a singer and had been raised on a Scottish farm in the UK singing to the barnyard animals? The judges’ smirks and the audience’s faces told it all. They thought that little frumpy woman was going to be a joke. But when she opened her mouth and the first notes came out, even the judges were awestruck. She won the hearts of people around the world when she won Brittan’s Got Talent and her first album went straight to the top of the charts around the world.

I’ve always been a White Sox fan. Need I say more on that subject?

In the classroom, I always secretly cheered for those who seemed destined to fail when they broke out of that place and did something extraordinary. I loved it when the quiet ones spoke up. I loved it when the slower learners knew how to do something the other kids didn’t know and got to teach them. I loved it when the invisible children won art contests or sang songs that gave us goose bumps. I delighted in the children who had trouble telling a story on paper turned out to be the most animated storytellers who could tell something and hold the whole class’s attention.

Maybe I root for the underdog because I’ve always felt like I was one. I am the Queen of Ordinary. Other friends and relatives have cruised through life based on their physical beauty. I’ve always struggled with weight. I was never the prettiest, never the most talented, never the most popular, never the smartest, never had the most money, never had the cutest boyfriend. But I’ve always worked hard and fought to be more than what people expected of me.

That’s how underdogs make it in this world. They know they are not on the top of the heap, but they try as hard as they can and pray for that break away moment when they finally get to shine. H. Jackson Brown said, “I never expect to lose. Even when I’m the underdog, I still prepare a victory speech.”

I’ve been watching Jimmy Rose sing tonight. I even called in my 10 votes for him. I’ve never done that before for anyone. That little Pineville, Kentucky underdog is already a champion to everyone in southeastern Kentucky and to every coal miner in these mountains with or without the million dollar prize.

When the season started, nobody thought he would make it to the finals. I started thinking about the other finalists. Probably, nobody thought they would make it to the finals either. They are all underdogs in one way or another. Having made it to the finals, they are already winners. Doors will open for them that they never expected, even a year ago.

Sports broadcasters often refer to one team in a match up as the underdog. People who bet on sports events often place money on the underdog because if they win the payback is greater.

Maria Sharapova said, “Fans always root for the underdog.”

Do you remember the old cartoon character, Underdog? “Do not fear! Underdog is here!” He was a very unlikely superhero, even for a cartoon character. He was a shoeshine boy’s alter ego.

For curiosity’s sake I looked up the term on the Internet. I was surprised to discover that there is a musical group called Underdog. I had never heard of them.

There were a lot of interesting quotes about being the underdog. I liked what George Steinbrenner said: “Don’t talk to me about aesthetics or tradition. Talk to me about what sells and what’s good right now. And what the American people like is to think the underdog still has a chance.”

Maybe in our own ways, we all feel like the underdog at one time or the other. There will always be someone bigger, stronger, wealthier, smarter, prettier, more popular, or more powerful. If you are an underdog, you are in good company.

In the society He was born into, Jesus was an underdog. His mother was expecting Him before she was married. People didn’t realize he was conceived by the union of the Holy Spirit and a virgin teen aged girl. His earthly father was a carpenter. People didn’t realize His real Father was the God of the universe. He was from Nazareth, which was a little place that people commented about, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

He was not from a wealthy family and had no political connections. The people he saw every day of his life growing up didn’t realize He was the Son of God or that His message would change the world forever, and that His willing sacrifice of His life would set all men who believed in Him free from sin.

The Bible is full of underdogs. Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old to be a dad and he lied. Moses had a speech problem. Jonah was stubborn. Leah had poor vision. Esau was ruled by his stomach. Jacob limped. Joseph was arrogant. Ruth was a widow.

Sampson had long hair. Jeremiah was depressed. Job went bankrupt. David wasn’t big enough to fill up the armor he was offered. Elijah was a scaredy-cat. Paul was a murderer. Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. Jacob was a liar. John the Baptist was a wild man. Martha was a worry wart. Thomas was a doubter. Peter was a hot head. And yet – they were all significant characters in the Bible who were transformed and stopped being the underdog. They all had potential.

We are all likely to have things about us that others don’t realize even though they see us every day. Just because others don’t believe in us is no reason for us not to believe in ourselves. Coming from southeastern Kentucky automatically makes us underdogs in some ways. Just like Nazareth in Jesus’s day, people say, “Can anything good come out of southeastern Kentucky?”

“Can anything good come out of the coalfields? Out of Harlan? Out of Pineville?”

Can anything good come out of you?

Absolutely. Underdogs may surprise people if they win, but they do win.

Are you content to stay on the bottom of the heap, or do you have the extra fight in you to come out on top? Do you have dreams that you are working on making a reality?

If you consider yourself an underdog today, think of all the other underdogs who ended up being winners. The difference in being an underdog and remaining an underdog largely depends on what you are willing to work for, believe in, fight for, and what you believe about yourself.