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St. Peter's Cinderella story and why we root for the underdog

Everyone loves an underdog. The 1980 US Hockey Team, the 2019 Nationals and don't forget, Rudy. But, did you know, there's a reason we love rooting for them?

WASHINGTON — March Madness is here and we already have the Cinderella story of the tournament. In a major upset, the St. Peter's Peacocks beat the number two seeded Kentucky University in the first round. 

If you find yourself rooting for the Peacocks or any other underdog team, there's a reason for that. According to sports psychologist Jamey Houle, Ph.D., your brain is driving you to hop on the underdog bandwagon.

Houle works with the Ohio State Athletics program, helping student-athletes manage their mental health.

"It's almost gratifying when folks that are supposed to win don't,” he explained, adding there’s a science behind the desire to cheer on those unlikely winners.

First, we can relate to the team – even if it’s subconsciously.

"What it makes us believe is that maybe at some point we may be able to do something great,” Houle explained. “Overcome some kind of odds that seem overwhelming."

There’s also a bit of magic to a Cinderella story.

We expect the best teams to win but when that doesn’t happen, we can find joy in the unexpected. Not to mention the schadenfreude factor. 

"When we see people who are really great mess up it makes us go 'oh, ok cool, maybe I'm not that different than everybody else.'"

A lot of times, fans root against a team as much as they root for one. According to Houle, that’s our brain’s way of wanting things to be fair.

"We want justice," he said. "We want things to be equal and when they're not equal that doesn't really feel good to us."

Finally, according to Houle, an upset is simply more exciting.

"We want chaos because it's more fun to watch than the regular things we do every day,” Houle said.

WATCH NEXT: Saint Peter's Peacocks giving NCAA Tournament an underdog story for the ages

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