Despite what the narrative structure of almost every Hollywood sports movie would tell us, it’s not always great to be the underdog.
Underdogs are fun, scrappy and come with any number of rally songs, animals and inanimate objects, but underdogs also lose more often than not. The reason they’re so named is because of the fact that they’re inherently less likely to succeed. That’s what makes it so thrilling when they do. Everyone watching grabs hold of that fleeting feeling of glory, directly applying it to their own lives or sports fandoms.
“Maybe my team will be next,” you may say. Maybe... but statistically, no.
However, being the underdog offers other opportunities, even for the fans. Missouri loyalists got a special look at them this past weekend during the NFL preseason slate.
Per @DamareaCrockett's Instagram, there was the first #Mizzou jersey swap of the year last night: pic.twitter.com/nvGwQXpogE— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) August 10, 2019
Jersey swaps are commonplace in all of professional sports, and many of them aren’t very meaningful. Outside of all-time greats or once-teammates now reunited, jersey swaps are more for the players than anything— a unique collection of memorabilia on which to reflect when their fleeting time as professional athletes comes to an end. A jersey swap between a depth wide receiver and an undrafted running back (who may not break camp with his team) is even less meaningful than usual.
However, Moore and Crockett’s trade represents the unique possibility that comes with being an underdog, especially one from Mizzou.
Despite some of their gaudy numbers in Columbia, neither player will be remembered as one of the greats to ever man their position on Faurot Field. In fact, Moore and Crockett may well be remembered for the possibilities they never fulfilled. Crockett, whose freshman season caught a conference’s attention, promptly lost his starting spot due to injuries and depth. Moore, despite posting some of the university’s best career receiving numbers, was marred by memorable drops and misplays that belied his obvious talent. Even amongst Tiger faithful, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who think either man will go onto football greatness.
J’Mon Moore recognizes this. He even spoke about his expectations for himself in a candid interview.
More honesty from #Packers WR J'Mon Moore, on what he thinks the perception is of him at this point in his career: "I feel like a lot of people are frustrated with me, and I’d be frustrated, too. Especially me knowing what I can do, and what they brought me here for."— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) August 11, 2019
Moore and Crockett represent a wealth of talent that may never get a full chance at realization in the NFL. They’re underdogs, plain and simple, and it’d be statistically wise to suggest they may never do great things as professional football players, even after they glanced greatness as student athletes.
However, that’s the beauty of possibility at a program like Mizzou. The great players at Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma? They’re expected to not only succeed, but thrive. If they don’t, they’re labeled busts, inexplicable markers on some poor, fired general manager’s resume and a regrettable jersey purchase in many a fans’ closet.
At Mizzou, however, fans can hold on to many of these little stories. Yes, Mizzou has its headline successes and busts. But it also always has a story or two on the back burner, just waiting to blow up whenever the player does.
Damarea Crockett and J’Mon Moore may never match their accomplishments as Tigers in the NFL. But even a preseason jersey swap is enough to get Missouri fans dreaming, wondering when the next big underdog story will belong to them.