This past weekend, I casually flew out to Indiana to witness one of the greatest basketball games ever played, or the Final Four of what most people know as March Madness. “Most people,” by the way, does not include the vast majority of my friends, who stared at me blankly when I tried to brag about my weekend plans; this has enlightened me to the fact that maybe I should be seeking new friends. Almost no one knows I’m from Wisconsin, and people were very confused as to why I gave a crap about this game. The fact, is true basketball friends were practically salivating over the Kentucky-Wisconsin matchup, as Kentucky was (at the time, hee hee) 38-0 and heavily favored to win the entire tournament. But after one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking games ever played, Wisconsin came out on top, my dad won $100 in his office pool and my blood pressure is now a consistent five points higher.
(Let me add that while I never actually put pen to paper and wrote out a bracket, I had Wisconsin all the way to the final, so I definitely would’ve won almost every pool I entered. Ah, well, there’s always next year.)
But, as per usual, I digress. What made Wisconsin’s victory even sweeter was the fact that we were the underdog; we were the David toppling the Goliath, and somehow that just made the best game ever, well, better. But why does this matter? A win is a win, right? Of course not. The underdog is always a fan favorite; everyone can relate in some way or another, and so everyone can get behind the challenger in a way that no one supports the powerhouse. Because, come on: Who watches “Rocky” (1976) and roots for Apollo? No one. Even Apollo roots for Rocky.
So, as per usual (isn’t it nice to have a little stability in your life? Weekly doses of formulaic S&S really hit the spot), I’m going to let you in on a little secret on how to twist this to your advantage, and it can be summed up in one word: hustling. The key to winning and having everyone’s support is to be the powerhouse but seem like the underdog. In other words, deliberately underplay your abilities and then shock everyone in your blaze of glory.
This exciting new manipulation tactic (patent pending by yours truly) can be applied to a wide range of activities. Running a half marathon? Tell everyone you’ve never ran a mile in your life while neglecting to mention you were on the cross-country team in high school, and they’ll all be blown away by your stellar time. Want to get an incredible letter of recommendation? Enroll in Chinese 1 on the very day of the add deadline, and approach your teacher with concern about how far behind you’ll be; of course, you’ll keep to yourself that you’re actually already fluent, and by the end of the semester your professor will be amazed by your natural aptitude. You and your friend have your eye on the same hottie? Loudly bemoan your nonexistent flirting skills so your competition lowers their guard, and then swoop in with that pick-up line you’ve been practicing on your mirror for weeks. (I’ve actually never used this one, since, true story, I absolutely do have Zero Game.)
My econ class recently had a guest speaker from the advertising industry who told us that their motto is to “Be number one, but think like number two.” An admirable sentiment, to be sure, but I’d like to amend it slightly: “Be number one, but pretend to be number two.” Because, after all, no one ever roots for Apollo.