The Underdogs

This weekend I got the opportunity to witness history. Those closest to me know that I am a die-hard North Carolina Tar Heels fan. They were to play the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday night for Mike Krzyzewski’s last game. Duke was the favorite to win that game. After all, just a few weeks earlier, they had beaten the Carolina Tar Heels at their home by about 20 points. This season is the first year that Hubert Davis is taking over as the head coach for the Tar Heels, and no one expected the outcome, which was to pull off the upset that would befall Duke that night. They were indeed considered the underdog for that game. The arena was a standing room only where even celebrities watched as coach Mike Krzyzewski coached his last home game. Stars like Jerry Seinfeld and Ken Jeong were in attendance. No one expected the game to turn out the way it did.

You have to understand Carolina is in the middle of a rebuilding year. All of their starting players played every minute of the 2nd half. That is no small feat for any athlete. What is impressive is that those underdogs played with more heart and tenacity than anyone expected. Both teams played an outstanding game. But in the end, only one team would emerge the victor. Fortunately for my team, it was because they awoke a sleeping giant. Watching the crestfallen faces of those in support of the Duke athletic program was an incredible feeling for the Carolina fans who knew from experience the pain they were feeling from the chanting Duke had done to Carolina at their home court. And to be fair, I’ve always liked Mike Krzyzewskefsky. He’s done a lot of good things for basketball as a whole. But in watching the game Saturday night, I realized that the win for the Tar Heels represented something greater. It means not to count out the Underdogs.

The underdogs are in every part of our lives. Heck, you might be one of them. But it’s important to remember that when people get cocky, they rarely see the blindspots that life presents. I used the game as an example but let’s look at other areas where the underdogs surprised people. Take, for instance, Milton Hershey. Today, his name lives on in infamy because of the incredible chocolate tastes he left behind. But there was a time when he failed miserably. Before launching his own candy business, he worked for a local candy factory. He decided to go on his own and failed several times. Eventually, he went back to his family farm, perfected the recipes and the best way to make the candy, and made a name for himself along the way. But, had he not continued to try, the world would never have had the opportunity to taste his sweet legacy.

Another underdog that impacts our history is Albert Einstein. Did you know that even though we consider him a genius in today’s world, he didn’t start very well? As a child, he didn’t speak a word until he was around the age of four. His elementary teachers thought he was lazy because he would ask questions that made no sense to others. Their actions didn’t deter his questions. He eventually formulated the theory of relativity, and many of us still have difficulty understanding the concept. Yet, his works are very relevant to this day, and there is no denying the impact of his contributions.

One of my favorite underdogs in history is Benjamin Franklin. Yep, one of our founding fathers himself. Who knew he would invent bifocals, a lightning rod, and still be an elementary-school dropout? While it might be challenging to believe, it’s true. Before he signed the Declaration of Independence, he had become an avid reader. His family couldn’t afford to finance his education after his tenth birthday, but that was only a minor deterrent. Any time he could get his hands on reading material, he would study everything that he could. The exciting thing is now ten-year-old kids are reading about him and his accomplishments in their libraries and schools. I remember there was a lecture in college about his achievements, and I thought it was insane how someone with very few resources could achieve more than others thought possible. Just like the Heels did with their win against Duke, these figures prove that it takes heart, grit, and determination to slay the giants and obstacles in their paths.

The men have had their turn, but what about the women? Underdogs aren’t always the men. Let’s take a closer look at the influential women that have been the underdog at some point in their lives. For example, Oprah Winfrey is an incredible role model to many. But, she had to overcome severe obstacles in her quest for success. Like many young women, Oprah became pregnant in her teens. Can you imagine what it’s like to be fourteen and lose your baby? Losing a child is worse than hell. At least you know what to expect with torment, but there isn’t a description that fits when you lose a child. Oprah allowed herself to grieve and use her experiences to give her strength. She endured repeated molestation by family members and a family friend. Nevertheless, she amassed significant success and a net worth of approximately $2.9 billion.

Another example of an underdog is J K Rowling. I admire the hell out of this woman because she pulled herself out of poverty and into the pages of the Harry Potter series. Despite being told “No” on numerous occasions, she defied the odds and created a series that people enjoyed with the magic and mysticism found popping off pages. She brought to life a magical world that many others never imagined. She went from depending on Government Aid to changing her life for the better.

There are all kinds of examples of Underdogs that have improved lives. Heart and determination are often the key ingredients to change their situations. Athletes depend on using their hearts to give them that extra push. But you don’t have to be an athlete or celebrity to find the strength to change your circumstances. When we believe in ourselves and work together, we can change our environments. Communication, team-buildings, confidence, and hard work give us the tools to create better opportunities in the long run. There are many people who the world doesn’t expect to make a difference. But that’s where the rest of the world is wrong. We all have a voice. So before you assume that someone will never beat you at something or that they will never do better than you, remember – they may find the eye of the tiger and be the underdog who steals your thunder. Assuming what people can and can’t do is always dangerous. Because in the end, having one’s heart crushed can give a person the strength to rise above the ashes and become a phoenix. Have a great day, everyone.

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