Oh how we love an underdog! It’s part of who we are to champion the rank outsiders, the no-hopers and the nearly men. In life as in sport we find ourselves willing the upset to happen against all odds – whether it’s hoping Batman & Robin can escape from the Joker’s trap, Simon Cowell defeated in the race to Christmas #1 or the little old lady down the road winning the lottery. They’re all million-to-one shots, but we can’t help ourselves from getting caught up in the fantasy of ‘what if..’
The English have always been advocates of the underdog as we can relate to the pride and willingness they show, giving their all for the win. Throughout history the British have prevailed when all else is lost, such as defeating the Spanish Armada or the Battle of Britain, though they have also been on the other side of the coin when they came up against Robert the Bruce.
In the past week it wasn’t just the luck of the Irish that saw their part-timers defeat the ‘mighty’ England in the Cricket World Cup. As an England fan in general we’ve suffered so much that there can be no more surprises, but this was one of the biggest upsets in Cricket World Cup history! England had set the minnows a massive task of 328 and at the interval England were a massive 1/500 in-running with Coral. Nobody gave Ireland a cat in hell’s chance!
This was similar to that unforgettable night in Istanbul some 6 years ago, when Liverpool overcame the odds to win the Champions League after being 3-0 down at half-time. I remember customers coming on for a bet at half-time asking the price on Liverpool to win and we were laughing at them! We sure weren’t laughing after the penalties…
This seasons success story has without doubt been Blackpool FC. Last season they were one of the favourites for relegation from the Championship but defied the odds and gained promotion through the very difficult play-offs. Before they’d even kicked a ball this season everyone had already written them off, comparing them with Derby County from 2007/8 and saying they will be relegated before Christmas. I know this because I too were one of them, though not to the extreme of being relegated before the New Year… How wrong we were! Blackpool have won a place in all of our hearts with their tenacity and constant defiance in adversity. They do not roll over for anyone and will not change their attacking style no matter who they are playing. Their talisman of a manager Ian Holloway has been a breath of fresh air to the Premiership not only with his tactics but his cheeky banter during press conferences. They have been a joy to watch and I sure hope I’ve not put the ‘kiss of death’ on them! Tonight they host Chelsea, full of belief that they can beat one of Europe’s top clubs. Would you want to tell Holloway it can’t be done?
So why do we support the underdog when in all likelihood they will lose? The pride and courage of the underdog is something we can all empathise and relate to, as it gives us hope and belief for ourselves that anything is possible. Before Barcelona beat Manchester United to win The Champions League there was no team talk. Barca’s manager Pep Guardiola had played his team a specially made video, featuring all of his players in-between several scenes of the hugely influential film Gladiator. If you can’t bet influenced by that then there is something wrong!
I’ve listed below My Top 5 Upsets in Sport, if you have a favourite not mentioned then please let us know!
Ivanisevic wins Wimbledon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RfpK4HzIb8
Croatian Goran Ivanisevic was ranked 125th in the world and only qualified for the championships as a wildcard. Number three seed Pat Rafter had hammered former mullet-wearer Andre Agassi in the semi-final. It had always been Ivanisevic’s dream to win Wimbledon and as he set up for his winning serve he already had a tear in his eye.
Dennis Taylor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxrFaYdzs5k
Dennis Taylor defeat the undefeatable Davis in a match that went down to the last black ball of the last frame. The images of Taylor waving his cue above his head and wagging his finger will live long in the memory.
Buster Douglas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Exrpoc6GP60
Douglas caused the biggest upset in boxing history in 1990 when he knocked out Mike Tyson in Tokyo to become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. At the time, Tyson was considered the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet and considered pretty much unbeatable, especially against a 38/1 shot
100/1 wins Grand National http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxbXMOXOIzM
The 100-1 chance Mon Mome caused a massive shock with a superb display to win the Grand National at Aintree.
Denmark win Euro ’92 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcHn5OxDT_U
Denmark shocked the world when they won The European Championships in 1992. The Danes initially failed to qualify, as they trailed Yugoslavia in their qualifying group. However, due to international sanctions, resulting from the Yugoslavia wars, the country was barred from the tournament, and Denmark entered as the second-placed team in its group. They had just two weeks to prepare. Some of the players were not even in the country at that time. A few of them were holidaying on the Mediterranean beaches and their captain, Lars Olsen drove straight from Turkey (where he was playing for the Turkish club Trabzonspor) to Denmark once he received the news of his country’s reinstatement.
By Christopher Treloar – Juventus fan