Why we love the underdogs

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” Yogi Berra

Baseball season is a week old. I am already overcome by the all familiar emotions that come with winning, losing, home runs and blown saves. And I already miss 2017. Last year, my beloved New York Yankees were in the middle of a rebuild. But miracle of youth, some magic and lot of luck saw them knocking on the door of World Series. The joy of 2017 was something I had not felt since the first year 1992: when I became a baseball fan. This year we have GoneCarlo. Our young-uns are certified rock stars. We are the evil empire again. It is 4.05 pm, and no matter where I am, I am tuning into the game. A fear gnaws at me. The stomach is in a knot. It is because I expect the 2018 Yankees to win. Every game that is! It is irrational — no team wins 162 games. Very few win more than 100 games a year. And yet, you think they will win. And when they don’t, you are disappointed. You are sad. You are angry. It is so much worse than knowing you have a team amidst a rebuild. You can tune in to the game — just for love the game.

You don’t expect them to win. But when they do, the joy you experience is unadulterated. It is as if it was your Birthday, Christmas and New Year’s Day rolled into one. You can’t stop talking about the win. You remember the plays. A win becomes a memory, to be savored.

And perhaps that is why we all secretly root for the underdogs. It is not just about them winning. It is about us feeling that moment of bliss. It is not just sports, but in life. I love startups — because most of us know, that most of them are supposed to fail. And when they don’t, you feel excited, elated and want to celebrate their success. One day you are Instagram, the next day you are Facebook. Anger that comes from expectations replaces the purity of joy.

As the weekend of baseball rolls around, I am cheering for the Athletics. And praying that the Yankees win. They have to. Or else, I will be disappointed.

But then, like Ted Williams said:

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.

April 6, 2018, San Francisco