Everybody loves an underdog.
Say you're a casual college football fan, and you were the watching game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas A&M a couple of weeks back. There's a decent shot that at least some part of you was pulling for the Aggies to complete the upset.
It's a universal commonality — we, as humans, all love an underdog.
Especially when it comes to sports.
The underdog story is ingrained in our culture, and it's a strange dichotomy of the American psyche, when you think about it. Americans are obsessed with being the best at everything, but we love stories about people who overcome all odds to beat the best.
We enjoyed watching Michael Phelps dominate in the Olympics, but for those old enough to remember, the "Miracle on Ice" is probably one of your favorite Olympic moments.
Why is this?
I think the answer is pretty simple — life is hard, and it kicks you around. We love stories about people like us, beating the people we aspire to be.
Take this list of links to inspirational moments in movies as an example:
- Every Rocky Movie
- Remember The Titans
- The Karate Kid
- Major League
- Friday Night Lights
- Any Given Sunday
- The Fighter
- We Are Marshall
- Cinderella Man
Are you crying yet?
The standard formula for the underdog movie is comprised of the following elements:
1) Introduce the underdog
2) Show how bad they are
3) Set their ultimate goal
4) Have them train and improve
5) Make them bond with each other
6) Have at least one member of the team fall in love
7) Have an awesome montage
8) The final showdown
Enter the Kansas City Chiefs' defense
If I were to ask you to describe an underdog — you probably wouldn't say a team that has been to the last two Super Bowls and utilizes over 50% of their team's salary cap.
But last Sunday, that is precisely what members of the Kansas City Chiefs defense labeled themselves.
Motivation comes in many different forms. Positivity, negativity, hate, jealousy.. etc. I take it all the same and keep it moving forward. pic.twitter.com/gLmgRiTLCk— Sir Bink Wilfork-Saunders (@khalenNOTkaylen) October 13, 2021
Let me just say this before we go any further: the Chiefs are not underdogs. If anything, they are viewed by fans around the league more like the Russian hockey team than the Americans in the miracle. Each team that has faced them so far has come out swinging.
So far, the Chiefs have not been up to the challenge. They lost a heartbreaker to the Baltimore Ravens, beat themselves against the Los Angeles Chargers and got pile-driven into the mat by the Buffalo Bills. And it's in this way that the Chiefs do resemble one particular underdog franchise — Rocky.
I'm not bringing these up because we share the same name, but rather, there are definite parallels we can draw between the Chiefs and the "Italian Stallion."
The first Rocky movie is a rags-to-riches story about a half-punch drunk fighter who comes out of nowhere to get his title shot but ultimately loses to defending champion Apollo Creed in the end.
We'll call this the 2018 Chiefs.
Rocky finally defeats Apollo Creed and becomes the heavyweight champion of the world.
This is obviously the 2019 Chiefs.
Coincidentally, Rocky III is the only installment of the franchise movie that doesn't qualify as a true underdog story. Ironically, the Chiefs currently find themselves smack dab in the middle of this story arch.
In Rocky III, the "Italian Stallion is living high on the hog, soaking up the glitz and glamour that comes with being the champ, when a hungry young upstart named Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) comes along and knocks Rocky into next Tuesday.
This first part is the 2020 Chiefs.
In the end, Rocky sees the error of his ways and with the help of Apollo Creed, recommits himself to his craft and beats Clubber Lang to regain his title.
So where do the Chiefs go from here?
The standard formula for underdog sports movies is comprised of the following elements—
1) Introduce the underdog ☑️
2) Show how bad they are ☑️
The Chiefs defense is so bad. The offense will have to score 40 points to even keep this close— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) October 11, 2021
3) Set their ultimate goal ☑️
Improvement does not come without adversity. pic.twitter.com/N5JpY8Wene— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 11, 2021
4) Have them train and improve ☑️
On the Chiefs' execution issues, Derrick Nnadi says they have a phrase in the d-line room: "Practice execution becomes game reality." "That's why we have practice."— Joshua Brisco (@jbbrisco) October 13, 2021
5) Make them bond with each other ☑️
6) Have at least one member of the team falls in love ☑️
7) Have an awesome montage ☑️
It was quite the second half in D.C. pic.twitter.com/oWeDf91xMM— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 20, 2021
8) The final showdown
Several Chiefs players stated that the turning point in the game last week was when safety Tyrann Mathieu blew up on the sideline. From that moment on, the Chiefs' defense looked like the dogged street fighters we expected them to be coming into the season.
It's not the first time something like this has happened. Heading into the AFC championship game in 2019, the Chiefs were ranked 29th in run efficiency. Everyone was wondering how in the world they would stop Derrick Henry?
And then Frank Clark famously declared...
Clark was right. The Chiefs held Henry to under 100 yards rushing en route to their first Super Bowl appearance in over 50 years — which gave us this gem of a moment...
It would seem that Steve Spagnuolo's defense plays its best with a chip on their shoulder.
Each one of these situations encapsulated doesn't amount to much, but when you take them on the whole, it paints a picture of a team finding motivation in the idea that it's them against the world.
I have been critical of the defense this year. On our AP Rapid Reaction podcast, I said that, even if the Chiefs dominated Washington, the results could be fools gold. Washington is not a good team. I'm not backing off of those comments. It's going to take more than two quarters to convince me that this defense is fixed. But if this team needs people to question them to find the motivation to go out there and right the ship, then who am I to question it?
I want to believe in this defense again. I want to see them, bloodied and bruised, pull themselves up off the mat and spend the final 11 rounds (weeks) of the season fighting their way back to the heavyweight title.