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Everyone loves the underdog
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   It’s always interesting to me what recent event will trigger the cognitive juices and produce a Friday column.
This past weekend, it was the U.S. Open Golf championship where world-famous number one golfer Tiger Woods went head-to-head with perennial journeyman and 158th ranked player in the world, Rocco Mediate.
    For those who don’t know, the U.S Open is four rounds of golf played over four days. Tiger and Rocco were tied after 72 holes, then played an 18-hole playoff and then, after they were still tied, played a one-hole sudden death.
    During the playoff round, everyone expected Tiger to unleash on this unknown. And, true to form, he was up three shots with eight holes to go.
    Just as you’re about to write Rocco off and change the channel (to turn and watch four hours of Lakers-Celtics pre-game, which, by the way, is four hours too many. (P.S. Why IS the NBA playing in the middle of June, anyway?)), Rocco picks up a stroke on Tiger. Then another and another. Suddenly they’re tied with four to go. With three to go Rocco is up by one and still up by one going into the final hole.
    And there it is. You’re getting sucked in by the allure of the massive underdog pulling off the incredible upset, doing the impossible, the unbelievable. A guy you’ve never heard of but a guy you can somehow relate to.
    Tiger though, like all great champions, rises to the occasion, ties it on the last hole and wins the sudden death. To add intrigue to drama, Tiger is hobbled by a bum knee that causes him to grimace with each shot. (The network could not lose with this compelling story no matter how it turned out.)
    Rocco finished up just like the other famous underdog, Rocky, in that he didn’t win the tournament, but certainly won the respect of his peers, not to mention quite a few fans in the process of proving to himself that he could perform on the biggest stage.
    But as interesting as it was to see crippled Tiger claw his way back, so to speak, down the stretch people were rooting for the everyman, the underdog.
    You just can’t help it.
    The 13th seed during March Madness. The 13-year-old skater. The Jamaican bobsled team. Hoosiers. David v. Goliath.
        For me, rooting for the underdog transcends all areas of life — business, economics, politics, heck even relationships and movies. It’s fun to see the nerd get the girl. And look at this summer’s Marvel blockbusters Hulk and Iron Man. [Possible spoiler] In both, the hero at the end has to fight a slightly larger counterpart of himself and outsmart him — Abomination vs. Hulk and the bigger iron man vs. Iron Man. This way you instinctively root for the hero and your kids will instinctively bug you to buy a kid’s meal in order to obtain the cross-marketed Iron Man toy.
        But I also go with the underdog for many of my product selections — from electronics to household products to restaurants. For example, I try to eat at local restaurants, bank at local institutions and rent from local landlords. To me, this benefits the community around me. I also go with the up and coming technology companies. Typically, they are hungrier and less tied to convention and are therefore tend to be more innovative.
        Certainly experience and history play a part in any financial decision or product selection. But too often, after a company gets too big for its britches, caution supersedes creativity that ultimately leads to collapse.
        The underdog is part of the natural progression of things — construction following destruction, sons taking over from their fathers. After all, underdogs must succeed in order to become the new big dogs when the old ones become too unresponsive. So we root for them and give them encouragement so that one day they will become the institutions which will be toppled by the next underdog.
        (Singing “Circle of Life” from Lion King in my head)
        I also think living in America has us all naturally inclined to support the underdog. America loves the underdog because most of us still relate with the rag-tag troops of the American Revolution and think we could have rowed the boat which took George Washington across the Delaware River. Admit it, you think you could have wielded a musket.
        To wrap up with lyrics from the Underdog cartoon theme song, “When in this world the headlines read/Of those whose hearts are filled with greed/Who rob and steal from those who need/To right this wrong with blinding speed/Goes Underdog!”
        How comforting to know the underdog will always be with us.

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