In Defense of the Favorite


America’s story is that of the underdog (surprise!).  Over two centuries ago, Americans rose up and defeated the formidable British army.  Outnumbered but not outsmarted, patriots and minutemen fought with everything they had to help America gain its independence.  To this day, the incredible upset that was the Revolutionary War still draws comparisons to David versus Goliath, Rocky Balboa, and the freshmen-heavy 2008-2009 Northwestern men’s tennis team (hugs and kisses Mina!).  And that’s all good and nice, but I don’t buy this whole “underdog” thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that those patriots defeated the British army, and I am ecstatic that Sylvester Stallone has taken his rightful place as movie star extraordinaire.   I just think that sometimes, the favorite (because it sounds better than overdog) doesn’t get enough credit. That’s right, I said it.  No I don’t always root for the underdog.  Yes I do have a soul.


Because our country was originally an underdog (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago!), being an underdog has been in vogue in American society since 1776.  Ever since, for whatever reason, people have been desperate to obtain this underdog image.  Whether in sports or in politics, being an underdog seems to put more pressure on one’s competitor.  If I am not mistaken, the mentality is thus: if one loses after being favored, it is worse than losing after being deemed “the underdog.”  I beg to differ—losing is losing.  In the 2008 Illinois senatorial race, incumbent senator Dick Durbin and his opponent Steve Sauerberg (that’s right, someone did run against him) were in the exact same race in the exact same state at the exact same time.  I think it would be fair to say that Sauerberg was the underdog in this case.  Whose fault was it that Durbin came into the race with more money and more support?  Durbin worked to earn the respect and power that he had, and there was a reason that he garnered over two-thirds of the vote.  While the fact that Sauerberg was a huge underdog did put more pressure on Durbin, it does not change the fact that he lost.  It doesn’t matter that he lost after being an underdog, he still lost.  Losing is losing, no matter if you are the favorite or the underdog.


I’m sure that Boise State worked very hard to upset Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.  Very hard.  But let’s be honest, there was a reason that they were underdogs.  Oklahoma is a powerhouse football program that recruits some of the best players in the country.  Players made incredible sacrifices to earn a scholarship to play football at Oklahoma (while the same may be true for the players at Boise State, there is a reason that they were playing at Boise State).  In addition to playing a much tougher schedule, I have no doubt that the Oklahoma players worked as hard (if not harder) throughout the year than the players at Boise State.  But whenever anyone looks back on that game, all they will remember is Boise State.  It is now Boise State who gets the movie deal and all the publicity from the win.  Oklahoma had a great season with a great team, and it is a shame that all this goes overlooked. 


The common lament of the underdog is that they “don’t get any respect.”  What I’m saying is, there is a reason for this lack of consideration.  In many cases, the favorite has worked harder, garnered more recognition, and most importantly, they have proven themselves.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  There are certainly times where I have rooted for the underdog (this is usually the case when attending a Northwestern basketball or football game).  But I think that too many times, before even considering rooting for the favorite, people are drawn to the underdog simply because of their status.  Now, I’m not asking you to root for the favorite in every single contest, all I’m asking is that you consider their accomplishments (in other words, why they were deemed “the favorite”).  Because really, everyone deserves a little respect.


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