Recent quasi-sporting events have led me to ponder why we root for underdogs. They are the independents in life’s many arenas, from the cultural to the entrepreneurial to the athletic.
Although my sense of self-preservation prohibits me from making any uninformed comments about Red Sox Nation, I will say that watching the 11th seed in this year’s Major League Gaming Halo 3 Meadowlands Championship defeat the defending champions, only to lose two nail-biters to drop to third, was positively heartbreaking.
I very nearly wanted to rent Underdog just for the irony, but I imagine that doing so would be a lot like drowning my sorrows in boiling oil. Nostalgically bitter boiling oil.
Since coming to Boston, the land without Wal-Mart, I’ve been seeing a lot more little guys than I’m used to (and not simply because of St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun T-shirts). I’ll try not to delude myself into thinking that my suburban background or thrift shopping compulsion qualify me to sympathize with small business owners, but I really enjoy the variety on any given street: dozens of unique ways of offering goods and services, especially in terms of food.
I’ve always told people that I’ve never found a restaurant where I didn’t like something. Boston has only made me more adventurous.
It didn’t hurt that I started watching food shows on the Travel Channel around the time I arrived on campus. Once you’ve seen a few medium-well rare honeybees go “crunch,” the pork chops in pineapple sauce don’t seem all that intimidating. I’ve even appropriated a Travel Channel catch phrase: “if it’s fried, I’ll eat it.” I’m sure at some point I’ll come to regret my all-devouring appetite, but I’m hoping my trump rule of “if it has more limbs than I do, I’m not eating it” will save me if it comes to that.
More than just independent business, but independent music, movies, and games have been steadily creeping into my radar. Street musicians have been drawing a significant portion of my cash, and not because they need it, but because they’re good, even to my untrained ear.
I’ve been listening to contemporary music even less than I used to, and more finding myself championing the small bands who still remember passing out demo tapes and don’t need Hulk-esque security at their concerts.
And regardless of how 20th Century Fox butchers superhero movies, or what Fox Network did to that beloved space western, Fox Searchlight has made me begrudgingly thankful for the media giant’s existence.
I still go to see a lot of tentpole flicks, but when it comes to movies that I absolutely must watch with my friends as a group, I can never resist showing them something they’ve never heard of before, the trailers for which only appeared alongside other films they’d never heard of before. I suspect it’s no coincidence that a lot of the independent films I watch star former cast members of beloved cancelled space westerns.
I still keep tabs on the blockbuster video games, too — well, the ones that the gaming webcomics take the time to mention, anyway. The more aware I become that video games are an industry and not just a hobby, the more aware I become that the video game pyramid, much like the music pyramid, is necessarily much wider at the bottom.
For every next Mario or Final Fantasy game (and you know there’s always going to be one), there are hundreds of indie games made by small teams of equally serious developers. They may not fly off the shelves or even necessarily exist in shelvable form, but they will often be equally impressive in scope and intricacy, and, in many ways, equally fun. One could even argue that, in recent years, the originality offered by independent games has outpaced that of big-name, big-budget video games. Or so I’ve heard.
I imagine that it would be unforgivably trite to refer here to Robert Frost and his road less traveled, or Henry David Thoreau and the beat of his different drummer. Clearly, both of them are much too mainstream, and at any rate, I think you get the idea just fine. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do. The Lagaan/Shaolin Soccer double feature isn’t going to watch itself, you know. (If you haven’t heard of those, think Remember the Titans and Dodgeball, except not in English. Look them up.)