Underdog

My family loves March Madness.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, each year at this time the college basketball season comes to a close with a 68 team tournament.  The 68 teams are put into a bracket that will decide the eventual champion.  That bracket is then posted online and people all across the country fill it in to show who they think will win. 

My wife and I and our 4 children fill out the bracket each year to have a little family fun.  Whoever ends up with the most points at the end of our tournament gets to be “king” or “queen” for an evening at our home.  This provides some great entertainment as we keep track of the winners and losers over the course of the 3 week tournament. 

Each and every year I watch the games and find myself amazed at how unexpected the outcomes are.  Each year there are teams that I am sure will be unbeatable, only to find them get upset in the early rounds.  And each year there are underdog teams that I am sure have no chance of winning, only to find them pulling off upset after upset and wreaking havoc on my bracket. 

For instance, last year I spent some time carefully choosing my bracket winners based on my understanding of basketball, my observations from games that I had watched during the season, and advice from several basketball analysts from ESPN and other sources.  On the flip side, my 6 year old daughter chose to base her bracket winners on teams that came from places where she or her family and friends have lived over the years.  For that reason she chose Butler, an underdog team from a small school in Indiana, to beat some much more highly regarded opponents.  Obviously, she turned out to be right and my family and I found ourselves watching Cinderella and having a “ball” in our living room because Kalyn was “queen for a night.”

This year I once again used my head and came up with what I thought would be a very solid bracket.  But all of my final four teams wound up losing in earlier rounds and my wife and 8 year-old daughter are now in position to win this year.  Once again, Butler proved to be my downfall.  I chose Butler to lose in the 2nd round, while my wife chose Butler to make it to the final four.  She was right, and I was wrong.

But surprisingly Butler is not the biggest underdog team this year.  Virginia Commonwealth University deserves that title.  When the bracket was first announced several analysts ripped the selection committee for including VCU in the tourament.  They believed that VCU didn’t belong.  One analyst even called the inclusion of VCU “indefensible.”  VCU did not have a great season.  They finished 4th in the weak Colonial Athletic Association conference.  That’s one spot lower than Hofstra.  They lost 11 games during the season including losses to Georgia State, James Madison and Drexel.  Many analysts did not even expect them to make the tournament, much less win a game. 

But they didn’t just win a game, they have made an unbelievable run, beating Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas on their way to the Final Four.  They were the underdog in each game and yet wound up beating 4 teams from bigger conferences who were all expected to win.  VCU is this year’s biggest underdog story.

Basketball analysts refer to games like these as “David vs Goliath” kind of matchups.  In each game they played, VCU has been like David facing Goliath.  That’s a great reference, because David was the biggest underdog ever.  No one gave him a chance.  He defines what we think of when we call someone an underdog. 

Consider this, David wasn’t even big enough yet to go to war.  His brothers were part of the Saul’s army, but not David.  He was keeping watch over the sheep and running errands for his father.  He was just a boy.  Goliath was a man.  A seasoned warrior.  He was battle tested and an impressive physical presence.  He stood over 9 feet tall.  His armor and weapons probably weighed as much as David.  And yet David came at him with just a sling and a stone, and won!

That is probably the biggest underdog story in the history of the world.  It was so big of an upset that to this day we still talk about upset matchups in sports as David vs Goliath.  But there is one verse in that story that I just love and that is I Samuel 17:48 where it talks about how David ran to meet Goliath.  David didn’t think of himself as an underdog, he simply faced the enemy in front of him with a courage born of his trust in God.

Maybe in your life today you feel like an underdog.  Maybe it feels like the problems you face are bigger than you are.  I want to encourage you to remember the example of David.  Don’t listen what others might say about your chances.  Don’t consider yourself an underdog.  Run to face the obstacle in front of you with courage born from a trust in God.

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