Patriots or Giants? I’d choose the Giants. Red Sox or Yankees? I side with the Red Sox. Most sports fans would say there is something terribly wrong with this picture. But I guess I’m not like most other fans …
Let me bring you back to 2004, the American League Championship Series, Red Sox vs. Yankees. I was a sixth grader living in New Jersey and did not follow baseball, at all. But, for that week, baseball was the hot topic in school. Every day, teachers and students were talking about the Yankees, and pinstripes seemed to have evolved into the school uniform overnight.
As a disengaged bystander, I neither understood nor appreciated the sudden surge in Yankee fan support. After the Bombers went up 3-0 in the series, I couldn’t bear the Yankee jeering any longer. What about the Red Sox? Where were their supporters? That night, I watched my first full game of baseball and cheered for the Red Sox as if I were a long-time loyal fan. The Sox went on to win not only the league title but also the World Series. I was the only happy camper at school.
Flash forward to 2008. Super Bowl. Patriots vs. Giants. Now, I was going to school in New Hampshire. That year, the Patriots had a perfect season, and they were ready to cap it off with a championship title. The whole week, my peers were getting pumped for the game and the Patriot chatter would not stop. Once again, out of defiance, I chose to side with the underdogs, the Giants. That Sunday, all of campus crammed into the student center to watch the game.
Two screens going at the same time: One surrounded by Patriot fans—undoubtedly the majority—and the other, much smaller screen, for Giants fans. When David Tyree made that amazing helmet catch, the Giants crowd and I erupted from our seats in celebration. The Giants delivered.
So maybe you know me as that person in the crowd who always cheers for the underdog. But really, who doesn’t like a little Cinderella story?
Now, even if I weren’t a Columbia athlete, even if I didn’t go to Columbia, if I followed Ivy League football, given my cheering habits, I probably would still be siding with our lovely Lions.
In fact, it was because of Columbia football’s losing streak that I went to its season finale against Brown last year. As many supporters gave up—even our own marching band—I turned hopeful, thirsty for an underdog win. Braving the November chill, I sat in the stands of Robert K. Kraft Field praying that Columbia would not have to bear an embarrassing, completely winless season.
And somehow, in a messy, dramatic, double-overtime game, Columbia overcame Brown with a 35-28 win. After stopping Brown dead in its tracks on fourth-and-goal from the one, Columbia rushed the field in an amazing postgame celebration. Twenty-four deserving seniors managed to clinch one last, crucial victory before saying goodbye to college football.
A couple of weeks ago, the Ivy League released its 2012 Preseason Football Poll. Columbia dodged the last-place spot, which was given to Princeton, and came in at seventh. Clearly, we are being marked as the underdogs again. I’m hoping that with head coach Pete Mangurian leading the program, Columbia football will give us a Cinderella story this year for our campus to rally behind.
Perhaps the rest of campus is also tingling with the idea. I expect Robert K. Kraft Field to be more filled during this year’s season-opening game against Marist on Sept. 15 than in years past. Apart from the bright-eyed new students, excited about their first college football game, perhaps some more returning students, out of pure curiosity, will make the extra trek to Baker.
On the bright side, this season cannot be much worse than last year’s. Also, when you’re rooting for the underdog, you can’t really lose: Either the outcome was already expected, or your team manages to defy the odds and secure a sweet victory.