Root for the Rat

In sports as in life, I place my bets on the underdog, because the underdog needs encouragement.  If you’ve ever been part of a losing team, you know that the more a team internalizes their frustration, the more likely they will continue losing.  It’s common knowledge in sports that you can beat yourself.

Outside of sports, where so many analogies are drawn, we are faced with many more underdogs, of all types.  My definition of an underdog would be anyone or anything who stands out beside others like him, who doesn’t fit at first glance, who struggles just to reach the starting line.  I’ll bet every single one of us is an underdog of some sort;  at one point different enough from those around us, that we do not start on equal ground.

In the professional world, one underdog is the woman who cleans up the cigarette butts on the sidewalk, hoses the walkway and makes rounds through the bathrooms to pick up after those who choose not to clean up after themselves.  But I usually befriend the housekeeping staff and security guards, and often know them by name, since I will stop to ask how their day is going, or I will hold the door for them to walk through, hopefully not feeling or acting entitled to their services.

Underdogs aren’t limited to only professions or sports achievements, though.  There are infinite manifestations of the underdog.  Think about it.  Each one of us have something to conquer:  our environment, our or others’ predispositions, or even genetic flaws that may create a disparity. At least temporarily.

Homeless cats who forage to survive are underdogs.
The immigrant who doesn’t speak English is an underdog.
I am an underdog at work, where 90% of my peers are male, and a different type of underdog in my small town, where I am one of the few blacks.
My kid’s friend, with scoliosis, is an underdog.

What impresses me about the underdog, can be attributed to the sheer determination that kicks in when faced with overwhelming odds.  We love comebacks and takeovers.  We love the team that rebounds.  I love the person that perseveres, that adapts to the situation, and then exceeds expectations. 

The immigrant who taught himself English at night.
The child who can’t take P.E., but has a keen eye for beautiful photography.
The blind person who, without sight, has overdeveloped her remaining senses.

What I celebrate with the underdog is that the thrill of victory, when it finally arrives, is sweeter and more rewarding than the victories of those we expected to do well – the people who had ‘everything’ going for them already and, for whom, not winning would be a surprise.  We should all experience disappointment at some time.

Sometimes we call our time on Earth “Survival of the Fittest”, meaning nature will weed out those who have weaknesses.  Or maybe you’ve heard it called “The Rat Race”, where, like unwanted pests, we struggle to move forward even when circumstances hold us back.  In this case, in this game… I think I’ll root for the rat.


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