Last night, I watched the UNC vs. WSU game.
I thought it was a real win-win situation. WSU hasn’t been to the Sweet Sixteen in forever, so they were already doing great for that program, but if they could win, it would surpass everyone’s expectations. I feel like they’re a team from home, so it would be fun to see them win.
On the other hand, it’s also fun when a team from my adoptive home does well, and UNC fits that bill (since Duke flopped out of the NCAA tourney like a dead fish). Students sometimes try to bait me into a UNC vs. Duke vs. Anyone else, but it doesn’t usually get to me at all. If any team I’m acquainted with does well, I’m happy.
But as the game began, I found myself pulling strongly for Wazzu. There’s no good reason for this that I can see, except that they were the underdogs. UNC is one of the favorites to win the whole tourney, they’re ranked number one in the country, and (as the announcers never failed to remind us) they have a three-time All-American on their team. At one point, the announcers referred to the game as a David and Goliath.
So that got me thinking. What is it about human beings that makes us root for the underdog? If there are two teams playing and we don’t have a dog in the fight, we often pull for the team that’s struggling. We’re glad to see a whistle-blower expose a corporation. Movies are filled with this stuff. But why?
Is it a Christian idea? It doesn’t really seem like it. I mean, is Christ the underdog? He did humiliate Himself, and He took on human flesh. Does that count as being an underdog? Yet it’s not as though the outcome was ever in doubt. Was Christ really an underdog? If not, why do we love this kind of story so much?
I think the answer lies in our love of stories. We want our stories to be interesting, and so we want the hero to actually have some sort of hardship to go through. We don’t want the hero to lose, but we don’t want it to be a cake-walk. Underdogs are fascinating because they have trouble, because there’s a story there. A rampaging giant doesn’t ultimately make for a good story. The hero needs to get knocked around and bruised before he gets the girl.
This is exactly what happens with Christ. We all know who’s going to win, but the story is more gripping because He is bruised and He is afflicted. It’s not as though we necessarily want our hero to have a flaw, since Christ has none. But He does suffer.
Giant-killers don’t always win, though: WSU lost. (And, yes, I’m just following in the footsteps of my pater, trying to tie WSU basketball to something bigger.)
I’m not sure I have this all figured out yet. Just musing.