No love for the underdog

Apr. 28, 2013 @ 07:54 AM

What happened to David being the crowd favorite when he battles Goliath? Why would "sports fans" rather be right than root for a great story and risk being wrong?

Now we live in a sports world filled with countless bandwagons and few fans that love a great story. Too many fans would rather see the Miami Heat sweep their way to an NBA title than see North Carolina's own Stephen Curry carry the Golden State Warriors back to national relevancy. The state is being taken over by Alabama Crimson Tide football fans and Boston Red Sox "faithful."

As many television analysts said during one of the most unpredictable college basketball seasons in recent memory, parody is great, but America loves winners.

This was blatantly obvious to me this past Tuesday night when I traveled to Shelby to watch Gardner-Webb take on the University of South Carolina in one of the more anticipated college baseball games that this area has ever seen.

Now I have no connection to Gardner-Webb or their baseball team other than growing up in Cleveland County. Honestly, I've never attended one of their baseball games prior to Tuesday despite living just two miles from the campus.

But as I made my way to Shelby along with nearly 5,000 other locals, I knew I wanted to see a Gardner-Webb win. Not because I'm a fan of the team, I just knew it would make for an incredible game and an incredible story.

It was newsworthy enough that USC was coming to play in Shelby in and of itself, but if a small Baptist college of 4,000 students knocked off a collegiate powerhouse like USC who appeared in six College World Series in 10 years and won back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011, the story would be huge.

However, when I got to the stadium USC wasn't only the home team on the scoreboard, but the stadium was overwhelmingly garnet and black, not red and black.

Now let's analyze this, Columbia is 130 miles from Shelby and Boiling Springs is a whopping 10.

I think it's safe to say that fans in Columbia don't travel that well, especially to a game that should have been a cakewalk for the Gamecocks. So I'm left with the assumption that the overwhelming majority of the people in garnet instead of red came from nearby areas.

I understand that USC is somewhat local in the grand scheme of things as far as national contenders are concerned and some people in attendance may actually have a sizable connection to the university, and I know that everyone wants to have a team that's still "in it" when seasons come to a close, but it bothered me to no end that Gardner-Webb had so little local support.

Again, I'm not a Gardner-Webb alum, donor, fan or anything of the sort. I'm simply a fan of great stories. And what unfolded Tuesday night was a great story.

Gardner-Webb pulled of an epic upset of the 15th-ranked Gamecock, 7-6. What should have been a celebration of overjoyed fans of not just Gardner-Webb baseball, but fans of sports and incredible moments, was an exodus of disappointed Gamecock followers.

Honestly, I'm slightly ashamed and I hate it for Gardner-Webb baseball.

As a UNC Charlotte alum who is excited beyond words for the 49ers inaugural football season, I hope something like that never happens to my school.

I've accepted the reality the 49ers football won't be much to speak of in the sense of wins for several years, but I hope the city supports their team and the newly constructed stadium stays green and gold no matter who the visiting team may be.

I guess I always thought that sports fans favored local teams no matter the opponent or circumstances the way I'm fighting through my fanhood of the Carolina Panthers and the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. It's even tough being a New York Yankees fan this year, which being a native of Vermont was engrained in me by my father at a young age. Believe me, at times I wish he did the same with teams in other sports. It'd be much easier to be a Patriots, Giants, Knicks or Celtics fan.

But you best believe that I would trade another World Series title for my Yankees for the Panthers to capture their first Super Bowl any day and every day. One because I love the Panthers, but more so because that would be much more newsworthy and exciting than a 28th World Series ring for the pinstripes.

Maybe it's the journalist in me that prefers a great story and bold headlines, but I wish more folks practiced such loyalty and loved the underdog the way that I do.