We All Want To Believe In The Underdog

There’s a reason why we root for David over Goliath.

Common sense would tell us to do otherwise. After all, it is easier to root for the surer bet than to sentence ourselves to the probability of defeat. It is safer to stand behind the 10-foot tall champion of the Philistines, boasting armor and striking fear into the hearts of his opponents.

Then why do we ultimately take the side of the boy with a slingshot and a few stones?

Admittedly, proposing theological explanations for Biblical scriptures wasn’t the first thing on my mind as I stormed the field at Alumni Stadium on Saturday night. But Superfans weren’t the only ones rallying behind Boston College’s stunner.

Turn on SportsCenter, and you would’ve seen footage of Tyler Murphy running all over USC’s defense as the opening story. Take a look at Pete Thamel’s game story on SI.com, and you’ll read his heroic description of BC’s squad as being “sweaty and bloodied after a historic victory.”

Saturday night’s game was more than just a turning point for a football program, an excuse to celebrate, or a headline for ESPN—it was a reminder that we inherently love an upset.

How four quarters of college football can strike an emotional chord is explained by our perception of the underdog. Whether it’s the eventual King David or BC, we see something that immediately inspires a common link that propels us to take the lesser side, hedging our bets on the improbable.

In every underdog, we see a reflection of ourselves.

The underdog embodies the shortcomings we deal with every day, the punishing odds life throws our way, and the uncertainty we fight to overcome. When the slingshot-bearing boy becomes King of the Israelites, we realize that the extraordinary is within our reach. When an unranked squad can stare defeat in the face and take down one of the nation’s elites, we feel as if we can be more than we seem.

When a bandanna-wearing equities trader makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the innocent lives of others, we realize that humanity is capable of doing more good than it could ever imagine.

Maybe on any given Saturday, BC’s win over the Trojans could still happen. Winless streaks against ranked opponents are bound to be broken sometimes, and a game-winning touchdown run to seal an unlikely victory can be as random as it is triumphant.

We define life as a matter of happenstance, or we can look for something more.

In the bleachers stood a row of fans with painted chests that spelled out a brief yet impactful message: “#AllForWells!!” It captured the mindset of those 41,000 people in the stadium and a national audience—when a hero falls while attempting to overcome the odds, others rally to honor his cause. We lay it all out on the line because he showed us that we can and that we should.

And with this unifying sense of purpose, BC carried out a tradition of underdogs, 3000 years in the making.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor