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Anatomy of an underdog

It’s tough to find anything the city of Omaha loves more than the College World Series. If I had to name one thing, it would be an underdog.

It’s human nature to pull for the comeback, root for the little guy, see the proverbial David bean Goliath. In Omaha where I’m proud to say I’m from, this holds truer than anywhere I’ve ever been. But it’s also been easy to root for the underdogs in Omaha.

Look back to 2006, the first of Oregon State’s national title runs. It wouldn’t have mattered if they came from Corvallis, Oregon or Tampa, Florida.

You try not rooting for a longshot team named the Beavers.

After the Beavers’ run ended, along came the 8-seed Fresno State Bulldogs. Again, easy pickings with a 8-seed cracking the bracket, especially when the other seven teams were traditionally perennial powerhouses. Fresno State was the poor kid at the private school.

2009 got a bit sticky with Southern Miss and Virginia. Southern Miss was the obvious pick save Virginia, whose coach Brian O’Connor hailed from none other than Omaha, NE. Neither team took home the hardware and fandom had a pretty even split.

Next year’s Omaha baby was another can of corn – the TCU Horned Frogs. Football helped put the school’s name in the media, but it wouldn’t have mattered. TCU was the obvious choice, especially with All-American pitcher Matt Purke, the dude with the goofy athletic glasses and even goofier demeanor. Like 2009, the other seven participants were mainstays.

Last year’s might have been the easiest choice of them all, California. The Golden Bear baseball program was in hospice before the (quite literally) nothing-to-lose squad went and made the big dance on the big diamond. M. Night Shaymalan thought it was an outrageous twist. If you live in or near Omaha, you still don’t go very long between Cal baseball hat sightings.

This year Omaha is burdened with a Sophie’s Choice-esque decision; Stony Brook or Kent State. The MAC Champion Golden Flashes or the (allow me a moment to look up Stony Brook’s conference) American East Cinderellas?

Kent State looked like Omaha’s team early in the super regional round when they stole game one from Oregon. Before Omahans had a chance to preorder their Golden Flashes attire, Stony Brook took down annual Omaha visitor LSU clinching their spot in the College World Series.

It’s going to be tough for Omaha to spurn Stony Brook, a team name you usually only saw on the ticker once per college football Saturday when they’re playing Colgate.

There’s also that fact that Stony Brook had a very impressive tournament run, making them look far more likely to outlast Kent State, and justify that $28 Seawolves t-shirt that no one is going to be believe you owned before this week. I mean, they did beat LSU. Everyone wants to say they picked the eventual winner – but to also pick a Cinderella team? You could feel smug and good about yourself at the same time!

Tigers coach Paul Manieri said there might not be a better baseball team out there than Stony Brook. Maybe he really thinks the Seawolves can win it all. Or yaybe he’s just trying to justify to the country the fact that the class of the SEC just lost to a team named after a small generic body of water. You decide.

So Omaha and CWS patrons, you must choose. You can go the absolutist route and root for Stony Brook in their first ever trip the greatest show on dirt. Or you could take the pro-underdog hipster route and route for Kent State because everyone else will be rooting for Stony Brook. You can go the vintage route and dig up the Florida, Florida State, South Carolina, UCLA or Arizona hat. You could take the nostalgic path and root for former NU coach Dave Van Horn and Arkansas. Something tells me that won’t be happening.

Personally I’m pulling for UCLA, because those blue and gold Red Sox knock-off hats are just the cat’s pajamas.

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