Darkhorses

Darkhorses

5000/1: The same odds as it was for Christmas to be the warmest day of 2015. Also, the odds Leicester City were faced with coming into the Premier League football season to win the Premier League title.

Leicester City knocked off title favorites Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool to complete what seemed to be the impossible. The team, nicknamed “The Foxes” clinched the first Football League title in the 132 years of the club’s existence. To put this in perspective, the Premier League outfit ?  were favourites to be relegated into the second division of English football back in August.

In a high school setting, students witness underdog stories regularly, whether it be academically, or more prevalently in sports.

Mia Holtze (’16)  cites underdogs as teams with “less exposure to the spotlight”, and thinks back to Middle School where her club team, Hampstead Football Club faced off against Tottenham Hostpur’s youth academy. “There wasn’t much pressure when I was in the game as I didn’t expect to win, but afterwards I felt a lot better. Once we realised that we could do it, I wanted to win a lot more,” Holtze said. Holtze’s team ended up winning the final, creating one of the greatest underdog stories in grassroots soccer.

Former varsity soccer captain Jed Alberts (’16) considers his team’s ISST campaign two years ago as an underdog story even though the team didn’t go on to win gold. “I would say that ISSTs of 2014, specifically when we played Munich International School (MIS) in the semifinal playoff match. Although we hosted the tournament, they were considered favourites to win it all,” Alberts said. “The whole school came out and we beat them 2-0. We were so happy that we celebrated coming third more than other teams celebrated coming first,” he said.

On the other hand, both Holtze and Alberts believe that the team playing against the underdog has the pressure stacked in their favor, providing some advantage to the less favored team. “About a year ago, we played against Quintin Kynaston Community Academy (QK) and we were told that they weren’t an amazing team and the match would be considered a friendly. We were down at halftime and ended up drawing, but our coach was really annoyed at us as we came out with a very arrogant approach thinking we were going to win. When you’re playing against an underdog you can often be deceived by it as they will work a lot harder to try and win,” Alberts  said.

In regards to the scope students witness in professional sports Ryan Nealis (’17) believes an underdog story is largely based on wealth of teams or franchises. “An underdog story in this day and age often refers to the money a team can spend and teams that are underdogs often are these teams that are on the low end of the totem pole and are putting together squads with less money,” Nealis said. “Underdogs used to reflect the side with less talent or ability but now that money is a direct correspondent to this, underdogs are usually teams with less money.”

Revelling in success, oftentimes underdog stories enthrall audiences, sometimes creating folklore with cult films such as Moneyball. The film, which told the story of the Oakland Athelics during their 2002 season. Underdog stories are heartwarming, and irrespective of team affiliations, one tends to back the dark horse. That acknowledgment even comes from famed athletes such as Bo Jackson, who once said “My favorite role is always either the bad guy or the underdog.”

These heartwarming stories that garner the attention of the public tend to get placed on a multimedia format. Whether it be in the form of movies such as that of Miracle that commemorated The Miracle on Ice where the United States beat the USSR in an Olympic match-up. Or even lower scale underdog stories such as “Coach Carter” that depict the poverty struck lives of a high school basketball team in Richmond, California, that overcame their roadblocks.

Popular Disney Productions movie Cool Runnings which was made as a commemoration to the Jamaican Bobsled team who participated in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, served as motivation for Jamaican youth to participate in the sport, with the nation sending out a team to Sochi 2014. Underdog stories around the world have a dual purpose – they provide entertainment for sporting fanatics, but also motivate people to attempt to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

For Alberts, that sense of attention has come from YouTube, where he has re-lived the underdog story of Chelsea’s 2012 UEFA Champions League run. “There’s one Chelsea YouTube video I’ve watched 100 times, “The Road to Munich”. It’s incredibly inspirational as it’s my team who did something that seemed impossible. That motivated me to think we [varsity soccer team] could do anything unexpected too and we kind of did [in 2015].”