The World Where Underdogs Win
Sermon preached at First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette (Wilmette, IL)
Sunday following the Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO
August 17, 2014
Texts: Genesis 45:1–15; Matthew 15:21–28
Our country has a history of valuing the underdog, of pulling for the one against whom all of the odds of the world are stacked.
Take, for example, Sam Gordon, a 9-year old from Salt Lake City. She was then a 60 lb. girl going up against guys almost three times her size, playing tackle football. It brings me absolute joy to watch this really fast, small girl run circles around these much bigger guys. In her first year, her rookie season, she had 232 carries, 1,911 yards, and 35 TDs. She also recorded 65 tackles on defense. To put these statistics into perspective, Eric Dickerson holds the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season at 2,105 yds. LaDanian Tomlinson holds the record for most rushing TDs in one season with 28. Both Dickerson and Tomlinson played in 16 games, Sam Gordon accomplished this in 10. Her video has become a YouTube sensation with over 5 million hits. She also became the first female football player ever to be put on a Wheaties box cover. You can see Sam Gordon’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdIOOY43HWs.
More recently, Mo’ne Davis, a 13-year old girl from Philly, became the first female pitcher in Little League World Series history to earn a win. She pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only two weak hits, and striking out eight. It was a dominating performance with her pitches topping out over 70 mph (equivalent to about 90-92 mph from a major-league distance).
We pull for underdogs, don’t we? Not just in sports but in life. There is something inspiring about someone who beats the odds that life has stacked against her:
- The inner-city child who goes on to become a Rhodes scholar
- The scientist who started life as an orphan in China
- The survivor who beats cancer at its advanced stage
- The immigrant’s story (and we are a nation of immigrants), where an ancestor comes with nothing but the shirt on his back before making a better way for his family in the new world.
- The person who goes from homeless to Harvard
For good reason we pull for the underdog. Their stories inspire us, give us a narrative to face into life’s difficulties, and, in short, give us hope when at times life seems to be filled with formidable giants and insurmountable difficulties.