By their very definition, an underdog is a person who is expected to lose in a contest or conflict, they are the unlikely hero, the person in the position of inferiority. Though they are the most likely to lose the competition, there is something else that they are most prone to do too - capture our hearts and inspire greatness in all of us. Underdogs are those who prove that even the most unlikely of victories are possible, that in the face of adversity, excellence is possible. Rooting for the underdog is something that many of us continue to do, no matter how bleak the situation is. Think about fans of the Chicago Cubs, they come back and root for their team every year, a team that hasn't won a world series since 1908; but hope abounds at the return of every spring. And for good reason, just think, the Boston Red Sox fans were in that boat not too long ago before winning two championships in 2004 and 2007. So, if the win is most unlikely, why are we prone to root most hardily for the underdog?
Because when they do win, it's like nothing else in the world.
In a recent moment, I found myself thinking about famous underdogs, and famous Philadelphia underdogs, and of course the very famous fictional character, Rocky Balboa came to mind. Living in Philadelphia, it's not hard to be reminded of Rocky, especially when you pass the iconic Art Museum steps. I swear sometimes you can hear the Rocky theme playing as you pass by, and more often than not, someone is recreating the famous scene. However, this time, it wasn't that triumphant moment that came to mind, instead, it was the similarities between Rocky and my daughter Alexandra "Alex" Scott and the Foundation that was at the forefront of my thoughts. These two Philadelphia stories have more in common than one might initially think.
For those who aren't familiar (though I'm not even sure that is possible), the fictional story of Rocky Balboa followed the small-time boxer living in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia during his unlikely match up with World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. Already, the similarities come to mind -- Rocky did not choose to fight Apollo Creed, instead, he was thrust into the limelight when Creed came up with the idea of giving a local underdog a shot at the title. My daughter Alex certainly didn't choose to spend her life fighting cancer; that choice was made for her, as it is for the thousands of children who are diagnosed with cancer every single year. What both Alex and Rocky did choose was to do something about their situations -- to make the best of them.
When Rocky found out that he would be fighting the heavyweight champion, he surrounded himself with a team who could prepare him for battle. Of course you remember his trainer Mickey who though tough, believed in Rocky's potential. Alex, too, had a way of attracting supporters who believed in what she was doing and that she had the potential to make a difference in the lives of others. When she was just 4 years old, Alex decided to host a lemonade stand to help other kids with cancer, and hundreds, if not thousands of people got behind her. It may have been the natural progression, but both Alex and Rocky had a team of supporters behind them who believed in their abilities and their potential.
If we are sticking only to the very first movie, both Alex and Rocky never let failures get in the way of their successes. What some people don't remember about the first Rocky movie is that Rocky didn't actually win the fight against Apollo Creed. It went to a decision, and Creed walked away with the title. However, this didn't stop Rocky from continuing on his journey (I mean think about it, there were five more movies!). Alex, too, experienced several setbacks, whether they were health related, or simply it literally raining on her parade during a long-planned lemonade stand. Alex never lost sight of her mission, and even when she knew that her life would end before her goal was reached, she had a plan. Alex enlisted the help of a nation to continue her dream, and to this day, Alex the underdog is still fighting. We all know that childhood cancers are the underdog in the world of cancer research, and yet, here we are, standing strong after all these years and continuing to make a difference.
Sometimes, when I'm having a rough day, I play that Rocky music and think about the determination that both Rocky Balboa had, and my daughter Alex had, and it lifts my spirits to keep fighting. We face many hurdles at our foundation, many battles have come this way and certainly lay ahead, but we will keep being the underdog and hope that our inspiration will spur others to join the fight. I am sure they will; afterall, we wouldn't be the underdogs if we didn't believe that the goals that seem unreachable are actually in fact within our reach.