exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

i hear the call of a lifetime ring

by Jen at 8:43 pm on 10.08.2008Comments Off
filed under: mutterings and musings

i’m a champion of the underdog.

i’m not quite sure how or why this came to be, but it’s indisputably true. it’s part of my fibre. if there’s a no-hope candidate, i’ll vote for it. if there’s a lame horse, i’ll bet on it. if there’s a sure-fire losing proposition, i’ll back it all the way.

i was thinking about this at work the other day. i’ve recently changed jobs, from a chronically underfunded, overburdened inner city one, to a full-coffers, white upper class, leafy suburban one. as part of my new starter intro, i had to attend a corporate induction, where they paraded in a few veeps to talk about the corporate “profile”. and when they started talking about how little grant money they get from central government, i could barely hold back a guffaw. when they started talking about “pockets of deprivation”, i nearly laughed out loud.

and i realised that the reason i have a hard time taking such hardship claims seriously is because i identify so strongly with the underdog. organisations trying to achieve so much more, with so much less. teams who have to surmount huge obstacles just to get on the same playing field as everyone else. people who face the kind of daily challenges most of us never encounter. they’re the ones i always gravitate towards and ally myself with. perhaps it comes from a childhood where i was always the last selected for the side, always the quiet overlooked one, always the one left out, left behind. after all – there’s no one else who knows better how it feels to be lonely in a sea of people, than someone who’s been there.

it’s a theme that permeates all areas of my life – from the political causes i identify with, to the sports teams i support. i’ve invested years of emotions rooting for a baseball team that was synonymous with “runner up”. when i went to the animal shelter, it was only the dog with the bum leg and medical problems that i wanted. i drifted into a career in a field working for some of the most ignored and devalued members of our society. there’s no coincidence there.

so it should come as no surprise that the olympics play upon my bleeding heart tendencies. i vividly remember the performances of Eric Moussambani, the jamaican bobsled team, and even “eddie the eagle”. if there’s an athelete who hasn’t a prayer of winning, but has the courage and spirit to show up anyway, you can bet i’m behind them.

and so it was yesterday, when jonno and i found ourselves watching the lowly ranked kerry lee harrington from south africa, against the number 8th ranked badminton player in the world. it was one of the first qualifying rounds – inconsequential, really. the result was a foregone conclusion, 21-4 21-4. but somewhere in there was a 41 second rally – a stretch where ms. harrington ran down every shuttlecock in every corner, returned every shot her opponent threw at her, and left it all out there on the court. we were on the edge of our seats, willing her to win at least this one hard-fought point.

she lost it, of course.

but for a brief moment, it almost seemed like the force of our wishing could make it so.

that’s the love of the underdog. siding with the let down and left out. taking on the unpromising odds and seeing them through. celebrating the small personal triumphs in the face of overwhelming defeat. and sometimes, wishing for the impossible.

i don’t think i’d trade it for all the gold medals in the world.

spoon – the underdog

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