Underdogtown: A History

Photo: Evan Pinkus/Getty Images (Manning); David Drapkin/Getty Images (Brady)

Rival: The New England Patriots.
Period of conflict: Earlier this month.
Playing field: University of Phoenix Stadium.
Why were they favored? Dominant offense, mastermind coach, perfect record.
Did we triumph against all odds? Yes.
Why/Why not? Epic performance by defensive line; last-minute drive led by Eli Manning; amazing catch by backup receiver David Tyree.

Photo: Super Stock

Rival: London.
Period of conflict: 2005.
Playing field: International Olympic Committee.
Why were they favored? Nobody liked the U.S. much that year. Also, after Bloomberg’s West Side stadium plan collapsed, so did our bid for 2012.
Did we triumph against all odds? No.
Why/Why not? Madonna treason, possibly. Or maybe bribes?

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Rival: Compton, Long Beach.
Period of conflict: Early to mid-nineties.
Playing field: Rap music.
Why were they favored? N.W.A, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg dominated the charts.
Did we triumph against all odds? Yes.
Why/Why not? Biggie, Tupac murders eliminated each side’s major player; L.A. rap got stuck in tired tropes while Jay-Z and 50 Cent reinvented the form.

Photo: Hiroko Matsuike/Getty Images (Time Warner Center); Super Stock (Golden Gate Bridge)

Rival: The Bay Area.
Period of conflict: Fin du vingtième siècle.
Playing field: Technology entrepreneurship.
Why were they favored? Silicon Valley; Stanford; Xerox’s famed Palo Alto Research Center.
Did we triumph against all odds? Not really, though we more or less adapted.
Why/Why not? New York’s biggest bet was on AOL; we’re a media and finance city, not a tech city.

Photo: Courtesy of NBC (Leno); Courtesy of CBS (Letterman)

Rival: Los Angeles.
Period of conflict: Since talkies were invented.
Playing field: Movies and television.
Why were they favored? Weather, cheap space.
Did we triumph against all odds? Yes, at least for certain boutique-sensibility things (Letterman, Miramax, HBO).
Why/Why not? Woody Allen; NYU film school; the Weinsteins; our endlessly destroyable skyline.

Photo: Super Stock

Rival: Paris.
Period of conflict: Continually, since about 1850.
Playing field: Fashion, food, art, general erudition.
Why were they favored? Tradition; having a thinner, more educated, and discerning populace. Plus things always sound more profound in French.
Did we triumph against all odds? Yes.
Why/Why not? Euro Disney.

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Underdogtown: A History