Yesterday I failed to add to the list of magical powers I possess the ability to make football teams lose. I have always believed that all I have to do is root for a team to win and they will lose. I have tested out this power thoroughly over the years. Through most of my life I thoroughly detested the Dallas Cowboys. I hated the way they always seemed to have the advantage, the way they would always injure players on my favorite teams and force them out of football for the rest of the season, and they would always win. Even after moving to Texas and, still rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals even after they moved to Arizona, I rooted against the Cowboys in every game they played. I am amazed that they didn’t go undefeated for three decades. But a little miracle called “General Manager Jerry Jones” happened to the Cowboys. I moved to Dallas at a time when the team was being dismantled and dismembered by a magical ability of Jerry’s that seems very similar to my own. The Cowboys became the underdog. So much so that I actually began to root for them when they were not playing the Cardinals. This, of course, magnified Jerry’s magical gifts tenfold. The Cowboys became the same kind of perennial losers the Cardinals had always been.
So, you can easily see that I am one of those superstitious nerd-body nincompoops who always pulls for the underdog. I admit to helping the Boston Redsox win their first World Series at the end of “Babe Ruth’s Curse”. Those perennial also-rans benefited from playing my beloved Cardinals’ baseball team. So I rooted against them fiercely, and they won. In fact, underdogs sometimes win even in spite of magical ability. Some times they just have to win. In 2006 the Cardinals won the World Series on the strength of Chris Carpenter’s throwing arm and Albert Pujols’ bat, along with a team of underdogs and ne’er-do-wells who all played far above themselves. I rooted for them every step of the way. And we lost some battles, but we won the war. Such is the way it must be in this world. The ultimate victory belongs to the Underdog, the unlikely superhero that is sometimes confused with a flying frog.
The football Arizona Cardinals came through for me again in the same way last night. They were up against another good team in the Minnesota Vikings. And in spite of the fact that I was rooting for them every step of the way, I saw them pull victory from the jaws of imminent defeat. With mere seconds left, they created a fumble and recovered it, preventing a game-tying field goal that was practically in the bag. The Cardinals are now in the playoffs with an 11 and 2 record, poised to make another run at the Superbowl. That may not seem like an underdog to you, but if you look back over the years of rooting for a team that was often the butt of jokes and were usually losers like the current Cowboys are, then you can see that these are underdogs at the end of a long, long uphill climb. And aren’t we all like that most of the time? Aren’t we all climbing the mountainside in spite of numerous avalanches, storms, and falls?
Listening to the radio station KLUV doing their annual radiothon for Children’s Hospital while taking my daughter to school this morning, I heard the heartbreaking story of a little boy who is both autistic and epileptic. Apparently he collapsed in school, and when taken to Children’s ER, was found to have leukemia as well. I had to stop the car and cry for ten minutes. It never seems fair to have to listen to stories like that. You want to help the underdog to win. But you feel totally powerless. I don’t have enough money to pay my own medical expenses, and my daughter had to come home early with a fever. But believe me, I had to donate $20 to Children’s Hospital. It is a tiny, meaningless amount… but the magic is in the doing and the believing. I will continue to use my goofy magic to the very best of my ability.