Rantings: Underdogs need to be embraced in college sports

By Steve Shonder

March Madness is the only time of year where people gather round their televisions and root for the underdog in college sports.

You may think I’m crazy, but this is the only time America allows for the underdog to be embraced without the underlying hatred that radiates from every orifice of just about every person’s body when they see some low-level team take out the top dog.

For some reason, everyone hates the underdog in college sports. Remember when NIU dared to play Florida State in the Orange Bowl? Kirk Herbstreit almost died.

If NIU was playing Florida State in the college basketball tournament, everyone would be rooting for the Huskies. Even Herbstreit, a college basketball expert in this scenario, would find some way to say NIU would upset the powerful Seminoles (who are good at basketball suddenly and not playing last year’s Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast, in the National Invitational Tournament.

Are college basketball fans just lovers of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella? They’re actually more into the Disney version. But, seriously: Why on Earth is college basketball the only sport that embraces some random school making a magical run to glory?

I’ll tell you why: There aren’t any real lunatics in college basketball. There are no Harvey Updykes poisoning trees. There’s no deranged mania that frowns at the unexpected and exciting.

Well, there is, but it’s nowhere near the fever pitch college football inspires. They actually prefer drama.

There are the Cameron Crazies, but that’s about it. No one completely loses it over college basketball.

College sports have two levels of crazy: college football crazy and college basketball crazy.

College football crazy is the “I’ll shiv you if you dare to think some mid-major school is going to beat ’Bama” type.

College basketball crazy is a small army of rabid fans who are just glad to be waving big heads on TV.

What does this have to do with rooting for underdogs? I’ll tell you.

Upsets in football are insults to someone’s team. They mean a superstar team like Alabama can’t handle the various pipsqueak schools it invites to be slaughtered at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It means you, as a fan, suck. That’s right: The college football upset means you are a moron for being a fan of a loaded team like Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, etc.

When a college basketball team pulls off an upset, it’s a miracle, it’s fun, it’s a joyous occasion. It means a nobody school is a somebody. It means that powerhouse school is a loser for the day and a powerhouse again tomorrow. No one has to feel stupid because it was a one-time thing.

Embrace the underdog. Embrace Cal Poly. Embrace the low seed. It’s exciting.