Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.

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Underdogs give us hope

Q: Butler University's basketball team, which was fifth-seeded in its region in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, will play Duke for the championship Monday night. In fact, two of the Final Four teams -- Butler and Michigan State, whose coaches are pictured -- were fifth-seeded in their region. Does a low ranking serve to motivate or deflate? Does having less status than a competitor affect performance?


This subject has always fascinated me both in sports and in life in general.

While it is true that most of us love and admire champions, there is an almost universal rooting for the underdog. The champions whom we have come to love and admire have set standards and have provided us with goals that are achievable. When champions win, we are not really surprised because in most cases it is expected.

I suspect that being a champion playing an underdog puts more pressure on the champions, who know very well that they cannot let down even for a second. The very nature of the seeding process in college sports makes the assumption that in the end, the very best teams will play against each other -- champions aganist champions.

But it is the underdog's plight that provides us true hope. Hope in the form of opportunity to become champions. Therein lies the excitement and tension that move us to become emotionally involved and inspired in the process or the game.

It is a good thing for all of us to believe that endings of real stories, in life and in sports, can always be changed. We saw this on a grand scale in the last presidential election and in the last Super Bowl.

I believe that the status of the underdog tends to motivate performances. Yes, Butler (or, earlier, Michigan State) have the opportunity and the motivation to win the whole thing.

By Cleve Francis  |  April 5, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Underdogs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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