Life is all about chances. Even Jim Carrey recognized this in his famous role as Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber. When told that the odds against him were 1 in a million to land the girl of his dreams, he was unfazed and said, “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” Just as in life, the odds are often stacked against people in sports. But as is often portrayed in movies, the little guy gets the glory. The concept of an underdog goes back to the beginning of time and has continued to this day: David versus Goliath, Underdog the cartoon show, and any inspirational sports movie. And even though you can find one of these movies on television on any given night of the week, it is still exhilarating to see it happen in real life.
The month of March is always full of surprises, and this year is no different. A year after Butler University was one bounce away from winning the NCAA championship on a last second heave, they return to the Final Four. And once again, no one expected them to get this far. After losing two seniors and their best player to the NBA, nobody would have been surprised to see Butler struggle even in the Horizon League against powerhouses such as Cleveland State University. But led by their baby-faced coach, Brad Stevens, they made an improbable run, and I’m not even sure if we can continue to call them underdogs. Being from Indiana, they are a true-life Hoosiers team (I told you any good sports movie involved an underdog). Stevens may have even measured the distance from the hoop to the floor to convince his team that the hoop was still ten feet even on the biggest stage. Nevertheless, Butler seems to realize that Final Four trips are never given away, they are earned.
Since Butler is becoming such a regular in the Final Four, the true title of underdog must go to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). If anyone had them going this far in their bracket, they are either a genius or incredibly lucky and people should begin rubbing their head for luck instead of the turtles on Central Quad. This is a team that received so much vitriol for getting a spot in the tournament over “more deserving” teams that no one expected them to make it past the play-in game, let alone make it to the Elite Eight. Jay Bilas pulled a muscle arguing so fiercely that they did not deserve a spot and has since been served several helpings of humble pie. With so much success, VCU may lose its cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow coach, but right now they are making history, and certainly making the most of it.
Soon the fanfare will be over, brackets will have been burned and Cinderella will most likely turn into the proverbial pumpkin again. People may forget about what VCU stands for and what a “Jimmer” is, but enjoy it while it lasts. The Madness only comes once a year, so enjoy it. And like these underdogs, take advantage of the opportunities life throws at you, because as Lloyd noted there’s always a chance.