Nothing gets sportswriters going like a good underdog story, be it the "Miracle on Ice" or Rocky II. It's a chance for columnists, bloggers and TV pundits to dredge up comparisons both fantastical and Bibical.
The latest incarnation of the "David vs. Goliath" phenomenon is the NCAA final between plucky liberal-arts school and hometown favorite Butler and March Madness supervillain Duke. The matchup has enough underdog wrinkles to satiate any sports junkie. Not only is Butler's campus just six miles away from Indianapolis, the site of the championship game, but the school's home court was used in the legendary flick "Hoosiers," the classic underdog sports movie.
The plethora of storybook material left columnists scrambling to find the appropriate metaphor. Opponents of fawning, clichéd language beware.
- 'Better Than the Movies,' gushes ESPN's Pat Forde, who doesn't shy away from any tried-and-true heroes and villains comparison for this "overdog-underdog matchup of epic proportion." After a lengthy comparison of the two programs, Forde puts the matchup in perspective with a healthy dash of symbolism.
Cinderella, no. David -- or, to go Hoosier Hysteria on the readership, Milan High School -- yes.
- 'Better Than Fairytale' At Sports Illustrated, Joe Posnanski cites a few facts to dispute the fairytale angle. Yet in the final paragraph, he finally drops the pretense that Butler vs. Duke is anything short of storybook. "The Bulldogs play Duke Monday in what looks like the ultimate battle of Giant and Jack, Goliath and David, Empire and Jedi, Bad Guys and James Bond," he writes. "Yes, Butler is a better team than the name suggests. So maybe it's not quite like the movie. Maybe, in some ways, it's even better."
- Butler Is America's Team One would expect the Indianapolis Star, Butler's hometown paper, to be staunchly pro-Cinderella. Bob Kravitz, who jokes that "Cinderella has a better budget than the Butler Bulldogs," argues all of America shares that mindset. "The Bulldogs' appeal is visceral and wholly understandable," he maintains. "We love the little guy in this country. We love the up-from-nothing story starring the overachieving Everyman. We love the guy who got to the top without the benefit of a silver spoon."
- Clichés a Disservice to Butler "This isn't 'Hoosiers'!" protests the Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp. Though his column was written before Butler and Duke won their Final Four games, Sharp makes a valid criticism of those willing to declare Butler the quintessential underdog. "When a team has won 24 straight games, sits among the top-10 teams nationally this season and gradually has matriculated up the seeding bracket over the past 10 years, finally making the Final Four shouldn't surprise," Sharp lectures. "The Bulldogs' competitive consistency warrants more respect and recognition than a clichéd movie reference."