I don’t know about you, but I could use a sports underdog right about now.
The world is so full of anger and animosity. I’m sure you can look elsewhere in the newspaper and find plenty of examples of that. Heck, I even had someone call my desk the other day and ask if there were any good people living in the congressional district, since that woman decided the congressional representative was not a good person.
In our spare time at home, we’ve been showing some of the classics to our children. They generally believe any movie older than five years is old, while I generally consider anything since I got married to be new. It’s interesting how those definitions change as you age.
Our interest in the underdog bounced back when we rewatched “Hoosiers,” that 1986 classic with Gene Hackman, a few weeks ago. Once our daughters got past the shock of seeing small-town 1950s America, they really got into the story of it not mattering where you’re from, as long as you work hard and do your best.
“If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re going to be winners,” the fictional coach Norman Dale says near the end of the movie.
As a youth coach, I can’t think of anything better to teach kids than that.
There were plenty of lessons about respect when we watched 2000’s “Remember the Titans,” where an African-American coach tries to unite a freshly racially integrated team.
“I don’t care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other,” the hard-nosed coach Herman Boone, played in the movie by Denzel Washington.
On Friday, we decided to check out “Miracle,” the 2004 telling of the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey teams surprise gold medal run, particularly beating the famed Soviet Union team at its own game.
“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” Al Michaels said in the world-famous broadcast of that game.
In reflecting on that movie, I think about how much an underdog brought our country together in such a turbulent time. Think about everything bad that happened in the 1970s, from Nixon's downfall after the botched Watergate robbery to the gas lines during the 1970s oil crises to the Iran hostage crisis. That team helped people unite, seeing past their differences and brought the country back together.
I know movies aren’t real life. Any time I watch something “based on a true story,” I look up online what’s fact and what’s Hollywood magic. Such a search ruined my affection for the 1993 movie “Cool Runnings.”
At the heart of every good underdog story is a struggle that’s keeping us from being united, the way we ought to be.
I’m just naive enough to still have hope. I hope our country will find another cause we can unite behind. I hope we’ll realize most of our bickering isn’t very consequential in comparison to the things we all agree upon.
If it takes rallying around a sports underdog to remind us of that, then sign me up.