Why does the outside bet, the long shot, the unlikely hero, become a sports legend? I’d suggest that it’s as much about their skills, talents and fortitude as it is the support from their fans. Everyone loves an underdog! But more than the fractional benefit our support provides for our favorite protagonist, it may be Goliath that’s more impacted by our show of solidarity.
Next Tuesday, David squares up with Goliath when the new-kid-on-the-soccer-block, the Colorado SpringsSwitchbacks, take on our state’s soccer establishment and former Major League Soccer champions, the Colorado Rapids. The Switchbacks barely have a dozen competitive games under their belt. The Rapids have been the Colorado soccer "kings-of-the-castle" since 1996. There can only be one outcome on Tuesday night, right? Goliath is going to stomp all over David, and then take his ball home with him, right?
One sunny day in 1998 1988, I, like much of England, was glued to the T.V. to watch the greatest David v Goliath soccer game in my lifetime. It was the F.A. Cup final between Liverpool F.C., the newly crowned league champions and far and away most dominant team of the 1980’s, and lowly chancers Wimbledon F.C. ("Wimbledon" … isn’t that tennis?’)
"The Crazy Gang," as they were affectionately dubbed, had just completed only their second season in the old First Division — which at the time was the highest professional soccer league in England. Although they gave a good account of themselves that season, finishing a higher than expected seventh in the standings, they certainly weren’t tearing up any trees. They played a largely uninspiring brand of soccer, but endeared themselves to a wider audience because of their enviable team spirit. The Dons never-say-die, and their one-for-all-and-all-for-one attitude warmed them to many.
They had no pedigree to speak of, then having only been in the football league, playing the game professionally, for 11 years! However, in that short time they had climbed from Division 4 – just fractionally better than pub soccer – to Division 1, and were now squaring off against the most decorated club in England.
Liverpool, with their glittering array of international super-stars, including Division 1 top goal-scorer John Aldridge, had absolutely nothing to fear. This game was a done deal before a ball was kicked – or headed, for it was a header that shook soccer to its very foundations that day. The rest is football folklore:
And so back to our modern-day mismatch: Can the Switchbacks perhaps channel the Wimbledon spirit and overcome such a seemingly insurmountable foe? Can they topple the undisputed soccer lords of the Colorado manor? Can their talismanic captain Luke Vercollone do a Lawrie Sanchez? Of course!
Aside from the talent they’ll put on the field Tuesday evening, and the spirit that they’ll undoubtedly play with, they have a secret weapon. They have all those who pull for the under-dog on their side.
Whether you’re a passionate Switchbacks season-ticket holder, or casual observer, the romance of a possible upset draws you to the little guy, the “David.” It's human nature to want to believe that sporting fairytales can still happen, that the unlikely can become history. Believe!
Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for the past 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer, hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.