America loves winners. But, then again America hates winners. America hates losers. But, then again, America also loves teams, persons and animals who have no business winning... but they do. It's all so confusing being a sports fan.
The New York Yankees are the gold standard in professional sports. No franchise has won more championships than the Yankees. That success has brought the boys in pinstripes legions of fans across the country and around the world. But being the best has its downside. The Yankees are regularly at the top of the list of the most hated franchises in sport. The best of the best are perceived as being arrogant and aloof.
Tiger Woods has staked his claim to being the best golfer in the world right now..and possibly ever. Woods is also arguably the most popular athlete in the world right now. But there are still millions of people who will root for ANYBODY BUT Woods to win. And its all the better if it's a Zach Johnson, Sean O'Hair, or somebody else you've never heard of who does it.
What accounts for this animosity again the standard bearers of their sport? Is it jealousy? I'm sure that plays a role. But America is a country of contradictions. We love winners. But winners, like party guests who won't leave, wear out their welcome. Americans love change, We want to jump on the next Big Thing. So it's move over Yankees, and hello Marlins,
The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are the only two franchises on the Mount Olympus of the NBA. Both teams are contending again in the playoffs to add another title to their long list of championship. But for some, the best thing to happen to the league would be the Cleveland Cavaliers hoisting the championship trophy when the buzzer sounds at the end of the NBA Finals.
What do the Cavaliers, Marlins, and anonymous golfers have in common. They are all underdogs. America roots for the underdog. We identify with the little guy going up against a powerful favorite and winning. From the time of David and Goliath, we've loved, the Miracle Mets, the New York Jets, and the real life Rocky Balboas of sports.
A "long shot" is an "underdog" on steroids. They have virtually no chance, but once in a great, great while, catch lightning in a bottle. Saturday we've got the perfect example of the long shot. "Mine that Bird" was dead last at one point of the Kentucky Derby. The 50 to 1 long shot proceeded to make an historic charge along the rail and blew by the field to win the crown jewel of the Triple Crown series by 7 lengths. In a sport in which thoroughbreds have 7 figure price tags, this nag was bought for a a mere $9,500.
That's what makes sports so compelling. You appreciate the Yankees of the world for being able to achieve and maintain dynastic domination. But you also savor the emergence of a new success story, an unexpected success story, and a fairy tale success story.