Hail the bark of the underdog
It always works so well on the Silver Screen. Why not the Green Diamond?
In “Norma Rae,” it’s textile workers. In “The Longest Yard,” it’s inmates. In “Star Wars,” it’s the Force. Whatever. We love the underdog, the suppressed. We leap out of our seats in darkened theaters to cheer for them.
We get off on people who don’t sell out, who overcome by their own means.
But when it comes to baseball — or, really, sports in general — we don’t trust our team to earn its laurels. We want it to buy them.
This isn’t a commentary on current events. I’ve never gotten that. To me, it has always been more meaningful to pull for a team that had no chance than one which bought out the competition. Nowhere-to-go-but-up is always more fun than nowhere-to-go-but-down. Not in life. But in sports, an entertainment source meant to be uplifting? Bring me your tired, your poor — bring me someone I can care about.
If you invested in a team so heavily that you are expected to win — where is the thrill in that? So you win; that’s like buying a box of Cracker Jacks hoping to find peanuts inside. Whoopee.
But if you have a group of snot-nosed grinders, riffraff, baseball orphans — the Major League’s Bad News Bears, totally — and are giving the blue-bloods game, that’s stirring good stuff.
Yeah, we’re talking Pirates. Today. Yesterday, it was the Tampa Bay Rays. Tomorrow it will be some other team that for whatever reason — small media market, apathetic fans, even cash-strapped owners — has to fight heavy artillery with slingshots.
And sometimes they win. And they reinforce the idea that it is far more rewarding to band together and fight for success than it is to buy it. Rewarding for them, rewarding for their fans.
When the Pirates raise the Jolly Roger, Norma Rae raises her arms in triumph.