The best story in sports, whether success is achieved through a solo performance, by a team, or a whole nation of fans, is that of the underdog. Looking back on 2010, we noted an inspiring trend among the top news this year: Underdogs who surged ahead, turning doubters into believers. These six stories are our favorites:
1) The Little College That Could: Butler Reaches NCAA Final
The little engine called Butler, a small liberal arts college from Indianapolis, won 25 basketball games in a row and beat Michigan State 52-50 in the semi-final to reach the famed NCAA championship final. The Butler Bulldogs, whose odds of winning the NCAA Tournament were 200-to-1, were the smallest school in 40 years to play for the national title. Although they lost to Duke in a nail-biter, no one could say the Bulldogs had really lost anything. (Read more)
2) Emotional Win for New Orleans in First Super Bowl Victory
Just four years after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city of New Orleans, the Saints rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat the favored Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV, lifting the spirits of a battered people.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has dedicated himself to helping both the Saints and city of New Orleans recover from the 2005 hurricane, was named the game’s most valuable player, as well as “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated for his on- and off-field leadership.
3) Humble South African Golfer Comes Out of Nowhere to Win British Open on Mandela’s Birthday
A South African whose odds of winning were 250-to-1 at the start of the tournament, and who had missed the cut in all three of his previous tries there, won the British Open in July on the 92nd anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.
Receiving thunderous applause, Louis Oosthuizen crushed the world’s best golfers by seven strokes to the delight the crowd. The outsider’s performance was simply “Oostanding”, cried the Daily Record.
4) South Africans Join Together to Make World Cup an Historic Success
It wasn’t only government and sports officials who made South Africa’s World Cup a great success. It was the 15,000 South Africans who volunteered — citizens experiencing patriotism like they hadn’t in years, or maybe ever. It was the first time an African nation held the honor of hosting the prestigious international football tournament. It turned out to be a historic success, as well as an economic boom for the nation — lifting their GDP by one percent.
5) Softball Team Could Have Won 50-0, But Chose to Forfeit and Improve Opponents Game
A junior varsity girls’ softball team from the inner city was playing their first-ever game with just scant equipment and no experienced coaching staff. Trailing badly, they were determined to finish the game, until the opposing team offered to forfeit the win in order to spend the rest of the time helping the new players improve their skills.
In a demonstration of true compassion, the all-white Roncalli High School team began teaching the Indianapolis girls the right batting stance, how to pitch, and how to run the bases. The coach even collected pledges for new equipment from the wealthier parents in the stands. (Read more)
6) Donovan Kicks World Cup Goal for USA With 4 Seconds Left
Even though the U.S. team lost to Ghana in the World Cup tournament to end its string of unlikely successes, a viral video posted to YouTube by an American replays the raw jubilation expressed by fans around the world, when Landon Donovan kicked in the winning goal against Algeria with barely 4 seconds to play.
The only nation where football is played with helmets and pads and small children own the soccer spotlight, finally took notice of the global phenomenon that is the World Cup. (Watch the thrilling video)