The New York Times:
MOST casual college basketball fans can’t name a single player for long-shot Holy Cross, which is in the N.C.A.A. tournament this year with a losing record. We might not know who Stephen F. Austin is (known as the father of Texas, who gave his name to a university there) or that one school, ambitiously, calls its team the Governors (Austin Peay).
But come March, we’re suddenly Governors fans. We want the underdog teams to beat the heavyweights like Kansas, Duke and Michigan State. We want the little guys to triumph. At least we think we do.
There’s science behind this allure of the underdog. Researchers at Bowling Green State University — perhaps none too coincidentally, a typical underdog school — once documented the phenomenon. They told more than 100 survey respondents that Team A was playing Team B in a best-of-seven series in an unspecified sport. Team A was highly favored to win. Which would they root for? Eighty-one percent said the underdog. But then the subjects were told that Team B, the underdog, had, improbably, taken a 3-0 lead in the series. Now which team would they support? Half switched over to Team A, the original favorite, but now the squad on the verge of elimination.
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