There’s a small private university in Indianapolis, IN called Butler. “In 2010, Butler was runner-up to Duke, after advancing all the way to the National Championship after defeating Michigan State in the Final Four. With a total enrollment of only 4,500 students, Butler is the smallest school to play for a national championship since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. In 2011, the Bulldogs advanced to a second consecutive Championship appearance after defeating Virginia Commonwealth University. In the 2011 title game, Butler lost to the University of Connecticut.”
Almost everyone who wasn’t otherwise interested rooted for Butler, because it was the underdog, while Duke and Connecticut were larger, well-established programs that had won the championship in the past.
Why do we root for the underdog? Maybe it’s “because we want to help compensate for undeserved inequality. If one contestant is outmatched for reasons that aren’t his fault, that’s unfair, and our sense of justice reaches out to fix it.
“We might also root for underdogs just because we enjoy drama:
“An alternative, or additional, motivation for supporting underdogs might derive less from abstract moral concerns about fairness and more from self-interested, rational calculations of one’s own emotions. Because underdog success is by definition unexpected, this may increase the excitement of rooting for an underdog.
“And for almost every little guy who wins, there’s a big guy who loses, and that makes us happy too:
“Rather than being strongly supportive of underdogs, might people instead root against dominant entities (this would be consistent with the sentiment, ‘my favorite team is whoever is playing the Yankees’)?”
Those who are viewed as disadvantaged arouse people’s sense of fairness and justice — important principles to most people. Moreover, as this article states: “We all can relate, because at some point we all feel small and powerless.”
Among the definitions of the word underdog include:
1.One that is expected to lose a contest or struggle, as in sports or politics.
2.One that is at a disadvantage.
One of my favorite cartoons as a child was Underdog. He was a clear parody of Superman, a “mild-mannered” dog known as Shoe Shine Boy, who became the crine fighter when villains such as Simon Bar Sinister plotted some evil scheme. His would-be love is sweet Polly Purebred, an alliterative name like Lois Lane or Lana Lang.
The introduction even evoked the Man of Steel:
A crowd of people…would say, “Look in the sky!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s a bird!” After this, an old woman wearing glasses would exclaim, “It’s a frog!” Another onlooker would respond, “A frog?!?” To this, Underdog replied with these words:
“Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog, It’s just little old me…” (at this point, Underdog would crash into something, then finish) “Underdog.”