Yesterday’s Super Bowl pitted the New England Patriots, the defending NFL Champions, against the underdog Philadelphia Eagles, the team from a city that relishes the underdog role. By now you probably know that the Eagles defeated the Patriots 41-33.
We love underdog stories, sometimes called Cinderella stories. In literature we have the story of Cinderella who despite her wicked stepmother’s best efforts gets to meet the handsome prince. Who can forget the “Miracle on Ice” when a group of American collegiate and amateur hockey players beat the powerful Soviet Union national team 4-3 during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. How about two of the most watched sports movies of all time. “Rudy” is the true story of Rudy Ruettiger who despite many obstacles lives out his dream of playing football for Notre Dame, and “Hoosiers” is a fictional account of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship, beating all the big powerhouse teams along the way.
Have you ever wondered where the word “underdog” came from? Most likely it originated from dog fighting in which the winning dog ended up on top and the losing dog was on the ground, under the winner. So there you have it; the origin of both top dog and underdog. We also get the idiom “pit against” from that same scenario; the dogs went against one another in a pit.
Just as there are underdogs in sports and literature, there are also people in our midst who face considerable odds; we might say the odds are often stacked against them. How about that single mom who is working three jobs to support her kids, the inner-city boy who lives in poverty, the teenage girl who finds herself pregnant, the refugee who barely speaks English, or that elderly neighbor who just seems to be alone all the time.
The Bible makes it clear that we are to care for those who cannot always care for themselves; those people who always seem to be underdogs. In Deuteronomy 10:18 we read that “He (the LORD) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Later on the Old Testament we see a similar theme. In Zechariah 7:10 are these words; “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.” In Luke 4:18 Jesus himself tells us that part of His ministry is to proclaim good news to the poor, offer freedom to the prisoners, give sight to the blind, and set the oppressed free. (He is quoting directly from Isaiah 61:1.)
We have all been underdogs at one time or another in our lives. We encourage you to look at your own life and see where you help those who have been marginalized by society. You can actively participate in helping to turn underdogs into top dogs, sometimes against all odds!
New Bern, North Carolina