Or do we?
Last week during the N.C.A.A. Men’s basketball play-offs, Florida Gulf Coast University became the first 15th seed in the history of the Men’s N.C.A.A. to eliminate a #2 seeded team in the history of the basketball tournament.
Major media eruption! Not simply sports stations, but national news, local news, and talk shows. You couldn’t turn on the television or radio without hearing about the “Cinderella” story. Florida Gulf became America’s darlings—despite annihilating most of the betting pools throughout the country. No matter, they were the little school that could and did. And when F.G.C.U. clawed their way to the Sweet Sixteen, the media frenzy was overwhelming. Which actually made me begin to think.
Why when it comes to sports do people really enjoy and support underdogs, but seem to despise them in real life? (Sorry my sports’ fan friends—games are only real life to those who play them or work for or own teams.)
Perhaps ‘despise’ is too strong a word. Ignore works and might be a better term. How much attention has any specific family whose house has been repossessed received from the media—other than the very few who have made a huge public stink? No water cooler conversations about the hard working underdog who was the victim of mortgage manipulations by banks and companies who are apparently “too big to fail.”
In fact, where is the public outcry about the term “too big to fail or too big to jail?” Those institutions are over-dogs and I’m not hearing much anger about their oppression of our fellow citizens, much less their slice and dice of the economy which affected us all. Hell, that makes us the underdogs and we aren’t even rooting for ourselves. (Senator Bernie Sanders excepted.)
How often do people sit around the dinner table chatting excitedly about the pay differential between white males as opposed to women and Blacks who work at the exact same job for the exact same number of years? Yes, there are organizations that raise the issue, but it’s a long spit between an organization’s agenda and public fervor.
Unemployment. From where I sit, the only time that receives much attention is when it’s tied to a politician’s aspirations. Unless someone has a friend or relative out of work, I haven’t heard much support for those millions of underdogs. In fact, despite the absolutely clear evidence with regard to the lack of available jobs, I keep listening to bullshit about “If someone really wants to work, there are jobs out there.” Only jobs I ever hear about are “Welcome to Wall-Mart” and just try to make a living doing that. Even the Federal Reserve talks about 6.5% unemployment as acceptable. Acceptable to whom? Surely not one of those 6.5% underdogs.
Homelessness? People to step over, around, and avoid. Yes, here too there are organizations and shelters. Which have to constantly beg for funds. Where’s the hue and cry for these folks? And there’s sure no outpouring of bequests from the over-dogs about this either. Indeed, what I hear is pretty much “fuck ’em.”
Hell, we even have a ‘fuck ’em’ attitude toward those who can’t afford healthcare. Even the minor reforms that Obama initiated which added coverage for three million people was met with hatred. And some states are even refusing federal funds to extend their Medicaid program for their own poor.
Truth is, there are no end of examples where we don’t root for underdogs, but cheer those who make life miserable for most of our population—to say nothing about the way our country bombs foreign villages in order to save them. (See Iraq). This, along with no complaints about our support of dictators whose feet have been stomping on the necks of their people—for decades or longer. We support underdogs?
The only sense I can make out of all this has to do with a huge number of our people who actually identify with the overlords. A belief that they too can wind up on the top of the pyramid, though all evidence is to the contrary. An inability to get their heads around the reality that 5% of our population owns or controls 90% of our wealth (give or take a few % points). I guess we believe the club is still open. Ha!
So Florida Gulf Coast’s run gave all of us our collective misconception that we actually love underdogs. And we do—just not in the real world.