Those Dangerous Underdogs
There’s a reason they call it “March Madness.” The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament has not gone exactly as predicted. It rarely does.
The notion of an underdog emerged from an unfortunate period in the 19th Century when staged dog fights were commonplace. The underdog was the loser.
Modern day underdogs don’t have to lose, but they must be statistically weaker than their opponents. We cheer for underdogs because they symbolize our desire to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in our own lives. We live vicariously through their improbable victories.
The most famous biblical underdog is David, a young man who challenged a pagan giant named Goliath with a sling and five smooth stones. Goliath, sneered and jeered but in the end he was killed and decapitated by David.
Goliath was the top dog.
David was the underdog.
Then Goliath took a shot to the head in the first round.
And the top dog was truly “gone.”
The David story and the NCAA Tournament both raise an interesting question. Why do underdogs win?
In sports, sometimes a unique match-up gives an underdog an unexpected advantage. So does a top dog injury, foul trouble and a three-point shooter with a hot hand.
For David, it was God who gave him the edge. He challenged Goliath with these words: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied”. (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).
Does this mean the secrets to an underdog’s victory are chance, and on some occasions, the mighty hand of God? If chance is defined by statistical probabilities for events in which God chooses not to intervene, then perhaps that, and certainly the latter. But there is a third component.
A distinguishing characteristic of a victorious underdog is his unwavering confidence in his ability to win. In spiritual terms, it is his faith in things that may not be clearly visible to everyone.
This is why David was able to defeat Goliath. He had faith in the unseen God.
Does this mean top dogs who lose ball games lacked faith?
On the contrary, some of the teams that have been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament are stacked with incredible testimonies of faith.
But the underdogs who defeated them were convinced they could win. And perhaps, together with other factors, this was the edge they needed.
I will let you decide the role faith plays in a basketball tournament. I believe God helps players play up to their potential, but I don’t think He plays the brackets. Besides, that would be a conflict of interest since He can influence the outcome.
But I am certain our faith is what helps us defeat our giants. And if any victory in our lives serves God’s purposes, and we are willing to seek and pursue His will, we are a force to be reckoned with. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
You might say God is the ultimate “bracket buster.”
Better get ready for your post game interview.
If you are open with a second on the clock, take the shot.
You can’t win if you just stand there.