Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Underdog

Everyone loves an underdog...

I vividly remember reading an editorial article in GQ back in 1999, whilst holidaying in Greece, that has stayed with me. Although the article lampooned the infamous procrastination of novelists - in a very wry and very true way - it was the story of a man, who after a debilitating stroke, managed to write a novel by blinking out the letters, that resonated with me. Apart from being a constant pillar of perspective and reference any time the writer-in-me gets a tad precious or believes there's 'never enough time,' how can I not deeply admire a man who despite a terrible affliction succeeds in accomplishing a herculean task that most able-bodied people could never hope to achieve?

I was reminded of that editorial last night, when I watched the Ladies Singles Final at Wimbledon. The newly crowned champion, Marion Bartoli, is the epitome of an underdog. Her playing style is unorthodox - two handed off both sides (reminiscent of the legendary Monica Seles), with a hammer-like service motion (that doesn't include bouncing the ball at the service line), added kangaroo-hops and shadow swings at the back of the court after most points (to help reset, alleviate nerves and focus on the point ahead), culminating with her physique (which is not traditionally athletic). It brought to the fore that in sport there are genetically blessed athletes and there are natural-born competitors. Marion is most firmly in the second camp.

Whether a literary or a sporting example, what is it that ignites the fervor of a reader, watcher, or admirer into advocating for the proverbial underdog? Is it an inevitable push-back of all things cookie-cutter in appearance? If so, it is a full circle moment for most adults as it tends to run against the teen need of fitting in. For me, it reminds me that we're all unique, individual creatures trying to forge our own path in the world. Cookie-cutter or quirky-souled, deep down we are all one-off creations with no inherent rule books to help us navigate through life. It is the obvious examples of the above paragraphs that provide a touchstone of this very truth and ignites a sense of camaraderie.

As we cheer for the underdog, we cheer for ourselves.

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