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It’s Hard Not To Love An Underdog

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It was almost the stuff that fairy tales are made of. The sports world came close to seeing a magical ending to a magical season for one of the “little guys” teams. While there are certainly thousands of fans who were cheering for Duke as they played the final NCAA game for the championship, possibly there were a great many more who were hoping that the under dog team, Butler would be the one to claim the victory. After all, Duke has “been there and done that” before. They are a big, well-known school with a high powered athletic department and a coach who makes several million dollars a year. They undoubtedly have a very influential recruiting program that lures top athletes to their school and can, therefore, pretty much “stack” a team as they desire.

Meanwhile, at a much smaller school in a little town in the midwest, an extremely talented group of young men came together to be coached by a very young (34 years old) man named Brad Stevens. Stevens had given up a job in marketing for a volunteer coaching job with the Butler University basketball team. Three years ago, this lead to an opening in the program and he was awarded the head coach position. His salary is in the proximity of $400,000. That is a tidy sum of money to be paid for doing something that you love to do, but it is also a drop in the bucket compared to what the big boys make.

The combined physical talents and judgment abilities of Coach Stevens and his squad led the team not only to be selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament but to win each game they played leading right up to the play-off game with powerhouse, Duke University. And they did more than just participate in that final game. They played their hearts out and stayed with Duke right up until the final seconds and the final play. They lost to the Goliath team by only 2 measly points.

Certainly, Duke has fine athletes with great skills and families and fans who are thrilled with their victory.
And yet…..wouldn’t it have been awesome to see that little “come from nowhere” team take home the trophy. In this troubled climate that we are all living in today, that little bit of magic would have lifted the spirits and hopes of a lot of people.

Nancy Smith is one of the owners of RobbinsSports.com, an online retailer specializing in Warm Up Jackets and Basketball Jerseys.