All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Robert Kennedy

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Inevitable Underdog.

Sports fans? No. Well suck it up, for a second while I gush. This may seem superfluous information, but stick with the narrative, just for a second.
Yesterday in March Madness, Florida Gulf Coast University defeated San Diego State University. The first time ever that a #15 seed has made it into the Sweet Sixteen. If you are not a sports fan, or a college basketball fan, that sounds like gibberish. So quick fun facts. March Madness is the nickname for the NCAA college basketball tournament. 68 teams are chosen and within 6 days (that's 34 games) they are narrowed down to 16 teams aka 'The Sweet Sixteen.' The word 'bracket' is thrown around a lot. There are four sections to the bracket. In each section there are sixteen teams and they are ranked 1 to 16. #16 plays the #1 seed and so on and so on. So basically at the end of the two weeks when the "Final Four" are announced, in theory, it should be four #1 seeds. Make sense? Why is it called Madness? Because in the history of this tournament, that has happened only once. There are upsets, heartbreaks, buzzer beaters (a shot made at the last second when the buzzer rings to win/lose the game) excitement and all the heart and passion that seem to get lost when they join the NBA. (#opinion) 
So why this diatribe on March Madness and Florida Gulf Coast? Because it is the age old story of David slaying Goliath, a Cinderella story, use whatever literature metaphor you like, the point is, everyone roots for an underdog. When people fill out said brackets, you always pick the #1 or #2 seeds to make up the Final Four. But no one can resist the Cinderella stories. And that's what Florida Gulf Coast is. They were paired against Georgetown, a #2 seed that has as many haters as they do fans and they beat them. Then they played San Diego State, a #7 seed and the beat them again. Now they are sitting pretty in the Sweet Sixteen with such monster basketball schools as Indiana, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, just to name a few. It is improbable and yet they have everyone on their side. 
What does this matter to me? Well...I always root for the underdog. My bracket is destroyed and yet I don't care. 
And as much as all you non-sports fans hate to admit it, it's a great metaphor for life. When people asked why I joined the Peace Corps? That is why. Because I root for the underdog. As much as we don't want to admit it, Americans tend to be Duke, UNC and Florida (who Florida Gulf Coast will play next week and more than likely lose to). There is so much work to do at Florida Gulf Coast. They are a smaller school, they are living in the shadow of bigger schools in the same area and trying to find their own identity, there's not a lot of money and yet there s a bond and a desire to strive to be more like Duke. Not exactly like them, but to follow their model to get bigger and more successful and more sustainable. Just now are they making a name for themselves and starting to get recognized so that people can realize their potential and start treating them as equals rather than inferiors.
I have 3 months left here at my equivalent of Florida Gulf Coast. And even though we're not gonna slay any giants, at least we had that glorious moment of getting to the Sweet Sixteen. And next year and the year after's just going to get better with time. And even though I'm going to 'graduate' I know that the future of this University/Country is in good hands.
Pure Elation.

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