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the March of the underdog

March… What an amazingly wonderful time of the year. March signals the end of a long winter’s confinement and the birth of new so many new freedoms. Spring is just around the corner. The wild birds begin to sing praises of joy and our world comes alive. The air fills our lungs with gentle whispers of hope and renewal. The sun warms our skin, inviting us back outside to take part in the beauties of our natural surroundings. Smiles begin to break on faces once long engaged by depression. It’s a rebirth of sorts. And it’s a gift. It’s heavenly. We’re reminded to be thankful for what we’re given, in spite of the fact that in months past we may have allowed gratitude to fall out of our reach from time to time. There will be no denying what we feel in our hearts now. We cannot help but be positive and make every effort to seize the day. March provides life to the aching bones of winter…it gives hope. In March we believe that anything is possible, and so, we’re offered miracles in return…this is when our faith is at its peak.

March Madness… Quite possibly the most exciting and passionate couple weeks of any true sports fan’s life. Even those who only follow the game sparingly often can’t help but get wrapped up in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Office pools, bragging rights, alumni connections and events, hometown heroes…we all have our own unique reasons for why this incredible event touches our heart year after year. But one thing common to everyone’s interest in March Madness has to be the presence of the underdog. Unlike in football, every single conference has its representative, and every school invited to the “dance” has a chance at achieving the “impossible”. String together six (or seven) straight wins, and you’ll be cutting down the nets in New Orleans. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, young or veteran, or whether or not you play your games in front of 20 people each night or 20,000. If you’re in, you have a shot. It’s the American dream…give the underdog a chance to fight because he’s just as deserving as anyone else. And you might be surprised by what he can do when he gets in the ring. March Madness is a time to embrace opportunity and believe in the “impossible”.

The word “underdog” has a bit of a cruel origin. It was coined in the late 19th century in dogfighting rings to identify “the beaten dog in a fight”. Today, greatly due to the involvement of Las Vegas casinos and bookmakers, “underdog” is a term used every day in the world of sports. For all events posted on the big board to which wagers are taken, we are provided a defined favorite and underdog. And so before one team is even given the chance to compete, they are already labeled as the side destined to fall. And we all know just how powerful an effect the mind can have on the quality of one’s action put forth. It becomes very easy to doubt your ability and allow your efforts to fall short of your best when the general public and perhaps even your own fans have little faith in you. But if you maintain faith in yourself and in your teammates…if you are able to drown out the critics and the naysayers…if you have others who believe in you, I mean really believe, then the beaten dog will always have a chance. Because an inspired underdog will be motivated…they will know adversity well… and there is no knockout blow for this type of believer; one can only hope to outlast them. Better lace them up tight, because forty minutes of heartfelt and relentless determination await anyone standing in their way.

We love these stories…the underdog is what makes the tournament so special. Last year it was Virginia Commonwealth and Butler who won our hearts on their way to the Final Four. Virginia Commonwealth was said to be the last team into the seeding…they actually had to win a play-in game to even make the field of 64. And wow, look what they were able to do with that opportunity! Amazing what a team can achieve when they believe.

Believe. That is the key word. And March provides the perfect setting for believers…but why? Maybe it’s that rebirth that takes place within all of us as winter departs and warm weather returns, filling us with hope and promise. Perhaps it’s the gratitude that fills our hearts and the positive outlook that we embody as we learn again to appreciate the simple things…the gifts of nature, our freedom, and the work of the Lord. It becomes almost viral. You can sense the hope all around you, and it spreads quickly through interaction and communication with family, friends, and co-workers. We all learn to buy in to what’s taking place and renewal and change happen almost effortlessly. The impossible is now possible, because we believe.

And by the end of the third week in March, our inspired minds and collectively evolving faith reaches its peaking point. Just in time for the underdogs arriving to take center stage for the most electrifying tournament in all of sports. We’re ready for them. We’ve spent the better part of our most recent days expecting miracles because our faith has been strong. And now, they’re about to unfold before our very eyes. The impossible is about to happen. Someone is going to win our hearts. Because somewhere, there is a locker room filled with desire and faith. There is a beaten dog that has picked itself up from the mat time and time again for this one last shot at achieving something remarkable. And it’s ready, it’s prepared, it’s going to go forty minutes, and then it’s going to go forty more. Because WE the fans are going to be glued to the screen, screaming at the top of our lungs, eyes filled with tears as we share in the excitement of the run of a team like VCU or Butler. We’re going to embrace them because our hearts are primed for an upset – we’re ready to believe – and now, as sit at the edge of our seats and serve witness to the miracle that is unfolding, we understand that impossible really IS NOTHING. If you fight valiantly and maintain unwavering faith in the final outcome of your actions and you surround yourself with people who bring out your strengths and believe in you, then truly, you can achieve anything that you’ve ever wanted. The door is open…and the underdog will have his day too.

Too often in this world filled with critics we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in everyone else’s expectations of how our lives will unfold and we then stop living, we stop creating, and instead we begin conforming. I challenge you in 2012 to make a sincere effort to ride your seasonal high. Build your faith. Start believing in yourself…believe in others…cheer for underdogs…embrace the role of the beaten dog and use criticism to motivate and inspire you to do bigger things. Because as you believe you build confidence…and with confidence comes a positive attitude, and with a positive attitude a better life and more and more people who will rally in support of your winning mentality. And you’ll quickly learn that you’ve now become someone else’s inspiration. They believe in you, and that not only makes it easier for you to continue your own success, it also allows for them to uncover their own desires to do bigger and better things. It’s a cycle that if made habitual could change the entire world. Why stop in March? We can do this all year long…but we need to get going, now.

March is for underdogs. If you’ve been down, been lost, been hurt, or have even been broken…this is your time. We believe in you, God believes in you…now it’s time for YOU to believe in you. Go out and fight…inspire us, make it happen…we’re anxiously waiting to witness your miracle unfold.

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