With all this Beatlemania going around (heavens — I forgot to get my flu shot!) I can’t help but remember that I actually was not as rabid a fan of John, Paul, George and Ringo as I was of Denis, Mike, Rick, Lenny and Dave. What? You don’t remember The Dave Clark Five?
Very possibly their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show — two weeks following the Fab Four’s — marked the moment in my life that I first fell for The Underdog. I was well aware in my 9-year-old brain that The Beatles were “killing it” and I wanted to comfort Dave and his buddies with my support and allegiance. “Dave’s the boy who beat The Beatles” was my war cry, a headline I’d seen in Sixteen Magazine alluding to the fact that the DC5’s hit “Glad All Over” actually knocked “I Want to Hold Your Hand” off the top of the UK charts in January 1964. A small victory, but satisfying nonetheless.
Thus began a lifetime of rooting for non-champions, non-first-place-finishers. Ironically, when our family moved to Chicago I decided to rebel against my new city by becoming a fierce New York fan. (I was born in White Plains, NY, raised in Scarsdale.) As fate would have it, every team from The Big Apple that year was rotten to the core and for quite a few years following. Even the Yankees stunk. But I loved them all to the death.
Underdog love extended into many parts of my life. I favored Hydrox cookies over Oreos. Loved all those weird cars from American Motors like Pacer and Gremlin. Deeply sympathized with the Civil Rights Movement and sweet soul music. My favorite Stooge was Larry.
And then I became an underdog myself. I was an overweight kid and I adopted a comic/tragic personae as the Guy Who’d Never Get a Girlfriend. My grades were mediocre as well. I began to identify with non-conformists. I liked being outrageous and acting crazy. I found I could be a star in my own right. A kind of anti-star.
So I wound up going after a career in show business where everybody starts out an underdog and most stay there. What does this say about me? And if you’re anything like me, what does it say about you?
Here are some observations.
1. Underdog Love supported many years of settling for less, especially in the arena of work.
2. Underdog Love cultivated in me a deep-seated compassion for people with struggles, people in need.
3. Eventually some of my underdogs became winners and it was very healthy for me to gain more identification with being a winner that way. (Joe Namath’s Super Bowl Champ Jets, the Bulls’ double three-peat, Will Champlin’s near victory in The Voice among others.)
4. By owning my Underdogness (as opposed to running from it) I see with greater clarity and have become more honest in assessing my own skills and talents. I am only an underdog if I say I am. I went to the Latin School of Chicago, for cripes sake. And I love winning.
5. The truth is this: I am a creation of a Power greater than myself, whether I call it The Universe or Nature or God. As the bumper sticker says “God Don’t Make No Junk.” I believe this applies to you too.
6. Shedding the underdog label, I actually become more responsible for myself and my life. As an underdog I don’t have to expect much. I can take a perverse comfort and safety in being “less than.” I don’t have to try very hard and risk anything. Very dangerous way to live.
7. Living W.I.L.D., doing what I truly love doing — just as Nature herself does — is my best bet. That’s where the real power is. And guess what? It’s already there inside me and you just waiting to be released. That’s what Non-Underdogs do. They do what they love doing.
As Ringo sings, “And all I gotta do is act naturally.”