Well, this is it.  Super Bowl Sunday is upon us.  The day each year that arguably represents the peak of the competitive sporting world in the United States, as well as the peak of couch potatoism and no-holds-barred consumerism.  Not only will Americans (according to a quick web search) consume roughly 8 million pounds of guacamole today, but companies will also be shelling out up to $3 million, as usual, to beam their commercial messages out to the largest TV audience of the year.

Personally, I’m not all that big of a football fan, so I usually pay more attention to the snacks and the commercials than the game itself — but this year’s a little different.  This year I’m into it.  The reason?  And the one that ties, at least loosely, into the webbing of a career-related blog?  I’ve found that this year there are just some terrific storylines that even a casual fan like myself can get excited about.  There seem to be an abundance of teams and characters this year that one can get behind, emotionally, and root for with great enthusiasm.

For example, if one looks at the four teams that made it the farthest in the NFL playoffs this year, here’s a quick synopsis of the relevant storylines and each team’s “rootability” factor:

Drew Brees & The New Orleans Saints: How can you not root for a team that’s never made it to the Super Bowl before — and that seems to be rallying the entire devastated city of New Orleans behind it, following Hurricane Katrina?

Payton Manning & The Indianapolis Colts: Payton Manning certainly has gained tremendous acclaim for his skills as a quarterback, but also has earned the reputation of being an all-around nice guy and terrific human being, so if he leads Indianapolis to victory we can all at least take pride that one of the “good guys” walked away with the trophy.

Mark Sanchez & The New York Jets: With only a 9-7 record in the regular season, and a rookie quarterback at the helm who most of us had never heard of before, the New York Jets were the undeniable “cinderella” team of this year’s playoffs — and Americans always love an underdog, don’t they?

Brett Favre & The Minnesota Vikings: In today’s youth-obsessed world, millions of Americans (including myself) tuned in to see if a 40-year-old veteran quarterback could take yet another run at the sport’s greatest prize — and this plot line nearly came to pass, were it not for a heartbreaking last-second interception.

So here’s my question.  As nearly 130 million people tune into the big game today, and root vociferously for their favorite athletes and their favorite team, take a quick moment between all of the plays, hype, and commercials (if you’re a professional in transition) to ponder the question: how many people are rooting for YOU?  Are you giving the people in your network a positive storyline and a reason to get 100% behind your job hunting efforts?  Are you carving out a special place in their hearts, minds, and Rolodexes, compared to other out-of-work professionals they might also know?

Over the years, while I certainly wish the best for all of my clients to a certain degree, I’ve definitely come across individuals who have (in one fashion or another) gotten me ESPECIALLY invested in and excited about their success.  Some of these people were facing a particularly daunting challenge (overcoming a disability, returning to the workforce following a divorce, etc.) while others were simply trying so incredibly hard, and going to such heroic measures to find work, that it was impossible not to cheer them and do whatever you possibly could to help them succeed.

So once you’ve digested your per capita share of guacamole and start preparing to resume your networking efforts in this coming week, keep this idea in mind — and make sure you’re giving the people in your circle of contacts a reason to pull hard for you and root for you with above-average intensity.  Are you fighting the odds and attempting to switch to an entirely new career, especially at an advanced age?  Are you returning to the workforce following an illness or tough family issue?  Is there a disability, language barrier, or form of discrimination (age/gender/racial) that might be limiting your prospects?  Whatever the case may be, don’t be afraid to weave this issue into your pitch, in an appropriate way, so that you can gain an even greater level of support from the people around you.  People love underdogs and they love helping people triumph against the odds.

And if you’re not in one of the above situations, where you have a clear disadvantage to overcome or a compelling David vs. Goliath story to share, then guess what?  Just focus on being the best person you can throughout the entire job hunting process, working extremely hard to reach your goals, and going the extra mile to help everybody around you.  Believe or not, this will set you apart and net you plenty of raving fans, too!  Payton Manning certainly hasn’t had to overcome any heroic disadvantages to get where he is today, to the best of my knowledge.  Neither did Lady Di, Bono, or Jonas Salk.  But millions of us have found it incredibly easy to pull for these people simply because they are class acts.  Character counts!