By now, most sports fans know about the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles.
Five days ago, anyone on this side of the U.S. would be hard pressed to name two things about the recently famous Sunshine State school.
What’s the difference — an orange globe and a nation willing to embrace madness for a month or so.
The scrappy Eagles from Dunk City (Fort Myers, Fla.), have invigorated the sports world with their improbable run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament.
FGCU became the seventh No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the tourney’s 74-year history and the first to parley the major upset into a second victory, making it one of 16 Division I schools left competing.
With FCGU’s convincing win over San Diego State Sunday, which solidified the spotlight it now basks in, the Eagles have captured the sporting world’s interest and, with it, the hearts and imaginations of anyone who rooted for or thought themselves an underdog.
And there is nothing a sports fan loves more than an underdog.
So why is that? Why do I find myself rooting for the FGCU Eagles despite the trappings of my bracket?
For me, I root for the underdogs because they allow me to believe the propaganda my mother has been feeding me since I was a little boy: “If you try your hardest, anything is possible.”
That’s what the Eagles are showing the world — that just because millions of people picked against you, literally, it doesn’t mean they are right.
If you put in the time, put in the effort and believe in yourself — anything truly is possible.
It’s what our great country is based upon.
When the Colonies went up against the British, a heavy favorite on paper, it was the grit, hard work and unwillingness to yield that earned the Colonists their freedom, much like FGCU has earned its due respect by beating the heavily favored Georgetown Hoyas and the SDSU Aztecs.
In our capitalistic society, there is always a No. 1 or a top dog. Whether it’s a person in the office or a company that sells similar goods, there is the best and there’s the rest.
This societal hierarchy makes all those not in that top spot, an underdog, whether we call ourselves that or not.
That’s why the underdog is so beloved. It’s in our history, it’s in our everyday lives, and it allows the impossible to seem somehow attainable.
So, thank you, Florida Gulf Coast University, for reminding all the other underdogs around the U.S., whether in an office, on a playing field or on the playgrounds of schools, that every dog has its day.
And thank you for reminding me that if I try hard enough, one day I will be the captain of the Millennium Falcon.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.