Why we can't help but cheer for the underdog: A quick recap of last night's Game 7

Why we can't help but cheer for the underdog: A quick recap of last night's Game 7

We all love a good underdog story. With last night's game 7 wins by the Panthers and the Kraken going up against what are arguably much stronger and more experienced teams, the world of NHL hockey is abuzz. Brackets are in flames. Fans are overjoyed or on the brink of madness. So why is everyone so mesmerized by these two wins? And why do we love underdog stories so much? 

What is it about the underdog that we can't help but love?

Studies in publications such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the Journal of Applied Social Psychology have shown that some of the main reasons we can't help but love the underdog is because of our natural empathy, sense of justice and need of justice, and hope for the future.

When we hear about an underdog, it resonates with our own struggles and we can easily relate to them and draw strength from their story. 

We also connect with the underdog because of our need for justice and hope; when we watch them achieve against all odds, it feels as if some universal restoration of balance has been achieved. Maybe subconsciously it also makes us feel that our kids too can succeed if they're ever faced with similar difficult situations. And realistically being matched up against a much stranger team is a common occurrence in youth hockey. So, yes, relevant. 

They embody hope

We love the underdog narrative because it embodies hope. Hope that no matter the size of your obstacle, no matter how out of reach victory is, you do not have to give up.
Boston had set a new NHL record with its 63rd win of the season. Its victory against the Panthers was as good as guaranteed considering the fact that the Panthers had barely made it into the first round. 

Similarly, the Avalanche was the favored team going up against the Kraken, which happens to be the newest franchise to join the NHL. Metaphorically speaking, the Seattle Kraken is just a baby having joined the Big Show in the 2021-2022 season with no playoffs experience. Its opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, is (was?) the defending champion with household names such as Cale Makar and MacKinnon still on its roster. 

The underdog reminds us that anything is possible if you have the passion and perseverance to go after it; nothing is too difficult for you to take on if you are willing to put in the work. We even have the chance to learn from them and apply their success strategies to our own lives.

How do we apply tying up the game in less than a minute left (what the Panthers did vs Boston in Game 7) in our own life? That's open to individual interpretation obviously but the bottom line is clear: it's not over until it's over. Keep grinding till the very end. Seeing someone achieve success can motivate us to take on our own challenges and give us courage to pursue our own dreams. 

They strive against all odds

The underdog’s determination to stand out and overcome their situation despite all the odds is what makes us cheer for them. They’re an example of how hard work and dedication will get you where you want to be, no matter what path you take.

Who doesn't want to see this in themselves or, better yet, in their kids? When things are looking grey because they seem to have plateaued in their developments or they're "stuck on the wrong team," or the countless other injustices we perceive as parents, that's when a good underdog success story can provide some reprieve and inspiration.  

The truth is when we see the underdog fight back, we can’t help but be inspired to never give up on our own dreams, no matter what roadblocks we encounter.

In the mood for some good fictional underdog stories? Try one of these:

Rocky (free with Amazon Prime) - Aa classic film franchise about a struggling boxer from Philadelphia who gets a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world.

Rudy - Aa sports film based on the true story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, a small and unathletic young man who dreams of playing football for Notre Dame.

The Karate Kid - A classic coming-of-age film about a young boy who learns martial arts to defend himself against bullies and eventually competes in a tournament against his rival.

Slumdog Millionaire - An Academy Award-winning film about a young man from the slums of Mumbai who competes on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" to win back his lost love.

Remember the Titans - A sports drama film based on the true story of a newly appointed African-American coach who tries to unite a racially divided high school football team in Virginia during the early 1970s.

Million Dollar Baby - A film about a determined female boxer who is taken under the wing of a grizzled trainer and overcomes tremendous obstacles to become a champion.

The Pursuit of Happyness - A biographical film about Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman who becomes homeless with his young son and eventually rises to success as a stockbroker.

Moneyball - A sports drama film based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, who uses data and analytics to build a competitive team on a limited budget.

Defeated but not forgotten 

I know Boston and Colorado and their respective fanbases are miserable today and hockey fans are notoriously ruthless to boot, however both teams still have their undeniable accomplishments and they put up a good fight despite what some disgruntled fans may think or say.  

I personally appreciate the entertainment in these real-life underdog-to-success stories. 

p.s. Yes, my dear Bolts succumbed to the Leafs (arguably yet another NHL underdog) recently but I didn't have the heart to bring into this narrative 😅This is the cost fandom. 

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