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ALEX MARTIN Column: Why I root for the underdogs

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I don’t know about you, but I have been rooting for underdogs for as long as I can remember.

It’s the reason I love to watch the NCAA Tournament every year waiting for that fantastic finish where a No. 12 seed upsets a No. 5. The same goes for when somebody in the NFL goes on a run as the No. 6 seed, or, nowadays, what would be the No. 7 seed. Heck, it is probably the reason I still am willing to sit through entire blowouts the Nebraska Cornhusker football team suffers for that one in a million moment when we finally pull off the win “our” program truly needs.

The odds are never in my favor, but …

Boy when the underdog wins, it leaves this intoxicating feeling inside of you, doesn’t it? (Provided your team isn’t the one losing to the underdog).

So it only seems logical that one of my more recent obsessions in sports has been watching historically bad or cursed teams make a run at greatness. From the Cavaliers in the NBA to the Cubs in MLB, I’ve become interested in whether these teams, these franchises, can do it. If they will be able to put those historically painful moments behind them and achieve immortality in the world of sports.

So, of course, for the past few seasons I have been rooting for the Browns. 

Up until last year it was seeming unlikely the franchise could ever achieve anything more than mediocrity. 8-8 seemed to be the best they would achieve. Always missing out on the playoffs and being the same old Browns.

But … then came last year. That win against the Steelers in the first round. Then the game against the Chiefs. No one gave them a chance. (In either game really). That was the moment I truly became a Browns fan for however long this “run” lasts. 

It wasn’t that they won, as I assume you know. It was that they fought back. They almost pulled it off. They nearly beat the… well the team to beat in all the NFL. Yes, it nearly happened because Pat Mahomes was hurt, but nonetheless I felt a bit of kinship with Browns fans at that moment. 

Now, I could never understand their pain fully. I’m a born and bred Nebraska Cornhusker fan. I have been taught that the greatness that us Husker fans feel is pretty much a birthright. So there is this inkling of hope in the past 20 years of misery for the fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. What have the Browns had?

There’s “The Drive.” Ernest Byner’s fumble. Everything the Browns and their fans have been through since. Oh, and the fact one of the greatest offensive linemen ever played for them his whole career and never got to play in the playoffs.

Why do the fans keep rooting for them? Heck, why does the misery of the franchise and it’s fans make me want to root for them? There must be some sensible reason we do this to ourselves. Root for the team we know is likely going to lose for that “one in a million” moment. That euphoric feeling we get when the supposed loser wins.

As far as I can tell it must have to do with the power of the underdog. We all can get behind an underdog, can’t we? As much as we may want to see our teams win, it makes it all the sweeter when they aren’t favored to win.

So, yes we favor the underdog, but why?

Well, we favor the underdog because, generally, we are the underdog. At the least we associate ourselves with being the underdog. It can be hard for us to associate with perennial winners (Bill Simmons, New England fans, I’m talking about you). So who do we root for but the team expected to lose.

Is that it? The end of the story, goodbye. 

There has to be more. More to the fact that people are willing to put themselves through immense amounts of emotional turmoil just to see the one day when everything goes their way.

Yes, there is, but I’m just a Nebraska Cornhusker fan. One who doesn’t have a favorite team in the NFL. I don’t have all the answers. At least, not yet. So I root for the underdog, the perennial loser, the pained, the lost, the proud. The Browns.


Alex Martin is a freelance writer and Bloomington resident who was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a diehard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. 


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