27 Sep

It’s ultra satisfying to pick the underdog – almost as satisfying as being that very underdog that nobody else believes in, I would imagine.

This past Sunday evening in St. Leonard, both FC Palmbay and the Avengers took their respective and heavily favoured division favourites by storm: the former beating out FB leaders Queen of the World 3-2, the latter edging out the Cougars in penalty shots after battling through both a scoreless regulation and extra time.

“It was such a close game,” explained head Avenger Julia Carozza, still reeling in ecstatic disbelief from the unexpected victory nearly 24 hours after the fact. “Both teams had so many chances but the ball just couldn’t find the back of either net. We were on our A-game that evening. The defense played a major role in securing the tie. However, the MVP had to be Karina, our goalie. She was a BEAST in nets the whole game and really proved why she’s one of the best in the league during shootouts.”

As the Instagram videos will attest, it was indeed a pair of back-to-back stops against Nicole Marek and Fallon Rouillier that would pave the way for the unlikely Avengers win; this from the same team that had suffered back-to-back 1-0 championship losses to Blue Ice and Blitzz in summers past.

“I am so proud of our team and the effort we put into the season,” she continued. “I am especially proud that we, the underdogs, beat our rivals, the Cougars, even when only a single member on the playoff panel believed in us. Thanks Dahlia!!”

So what led rookie staffer Dahlia to be the only panel member to back the Avengers?

“I feel like they just got unlucky sometimes and that’s why they didn’t finish first,” she explained simply over text. “They have some really good players and I knew they had a good chance at winning.”

I’ve been at these playoff panels for a while now, and it’s not always easy to go out on a limb and side with an unlikely squad. (And not just because it doesn’t pay!) I mean, Rick and I do it all the time. But more often than not, we just get burned.

Going against the herd is no easy task – especially when the herd includes one of your favourite human beings. But this time around, I chose FC Palmbay over Queen of the World, a team I had backed unsuccessfully for at least the last few seasons. Rick and Dahlia may have had their own underdogs in mind, but the rest of the playoff panel backed the Queens.

I knew Andrea would never let me live it down. When she asked me how I could go against my own sister following their semifinal win, I tried to explain it away as the toughest form of motivational love. It obviously didn’t work out the way I had intended, and it was unlikely FC Palmbay who’d have the final say. Gulp.

But this is how it is, folks. It’s late September, and there’s a war out there – both on the pitch, and in the familial cocoon of the panel.

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