Odds and ends and underdogs

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 3/25/21

Is there anything we love more in this country than an underdog? Speaking for the non-gambling portion of the reading public, of course. I think about that a lot this time of year, with the NCAA …

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Odds and ends and underdogs


Is there anything we love more in this country than an underdog? Speaking for the non-gambling portion of the reading public, of course.

I think about that a lot this time of year, with the NCAA basketball tournament going on. There is nothing better than watching a tiny little program who barely squeaked into the tournament taking on a juggernaut who many people though might win the whole thing …and winning. It’s what makes the NCAA Tournament the best sporting event in America. In a five-game series, Illinois probably beats Loyola of Chicago four times; but in a win-or-go-home tournament, that one possibility for the Loyolas of the world is all they need to make history.

In fact, we love underdogs so much in this country that we almost have a disdain for success (unless it’s the home-town team that is winning). Think about how tired everybody was five years ago of the San Antonio Spurs — all they did was play an unselfish, team-oriented, entertaining brand of basketball without a lot of flash, and they had an incredible run of success. Boring. Next!

I don’t think I need to bring up the dreaded New England Patriots. And how much hate do we tend to reserve for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers?

And, of course, all of that has been exacerbated over the years by an underlying cultural movement towards contempt for success: nobody wants to emulate the guy going down the street in the big car any more, we tend to assume he is either evil or corrupt.

But for three weeks every Spring, we get to watch 63 games in which the assumption of corruption is pushed to the back burner (because we all know what a crack job the NCAA does of policing its own). 63 games that might feature players whose names will never be in lights playing for universities that we’ve never heard of staring across the line at young man-child freaks of nature who will be multimillionaires in months. And, once that ball is tossed onto the court, it doesn’t matter which is which.

It’s one of our most charming traits as Americans, a lasting legacy of our own beginnings as refugees and underdogs. I do hope we never lose that unsophisticated joy of always rooting for the Davids of the world over the Goliaths.

Apropos of last weeks’ column, this week in my inbox is the New York Times’ morning newsletter, highlighting the results of a Gallup survey which finds that “both liberals and conservatives suffer from misperceptions about the pandemic — in opposite directions.” For example, 1/3 of conservatives believe that COVID has killed fewer people than vehicle crashes — COVID has actually killed about 15 times more (never mind quibbling about people who die in car crashes with COVID). On the other hand, 69% of liberals believe the hospitalization rate for COVID is over 20%--the actual rate is about 1%. Middle ground, people. Come to the logical middle ground.

By the way, did you note that Italy has been placed under lockdown again this week, to last past the Easter Holiday? Pray for our friends across the sea — Europe is having a devil of a time right now.

Once again, we have a major outlet proposing a new facility in our own back yard (Amazon), and once again, forces are lining up against it. I know Maple Valley Park — I either run or bike through it five times a week during the summer. But if your campaign to “save Maple Valley Park” involves replacing an Amazon distribution center with a boutique strip mall, are you *really* trying to save the park?  

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” which is a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, will be available next week at michaeljalcorn.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Michael Alcorn, underdogs


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