I was having a casual conversation with my son’s physical education coach at school a couple of days ago. Of course, the Super Bowl topic came up, as it would given that the big game is coming up this Sunday. Coach asked me the obvious question, “Who are you rooting for?” I have been an Eagles fan for a long time - since my grandmother had a crush on former head coach Dick Vermeil - so my answer was simple for me...no other agenda. I just want the Eagles to win because I like the team. Coach, however, had a much more fascinating response.
He told me he too was rooting for the Eagles, but only because he HATES the Patriots. I figured he hated them because he was a fan of a rival team. But, no. He explained that he just hates the Patriots. In fact, he went on to extol that he hates the Patriots even more than he likes any other team in the NFL! WHAT?! No deeply rooted rivalry…just hate. In his mind, it doesn’t matter who the opposing team is…if the Patriots are playing, they MUST lose. When I asked why, he said, “Because they always win.” I have to say, for whatever reason, I kind of agreed - although not to the same degree as Coach. But, it did start me thinking: why do we love to hate athletes and teams that always win?
In a world where we value hard work, focus, discipline, and success, it seems that, when it comes to sports, we only want to see that in small doses. If a team sometimes win, we are ok with it. If they “always” win, we don’t like it so much. If they are hit with adversity, we cheer that on. We eagerly await getting to see the mighty fall. We delight in their failure. I tried to do some research on this subject but there really wasn’t as much out there as one might think. The only consistent theme that I found was that “we love underdogs.” While I agree with this premise, this doesn’t explain the phenomenon that I am talking about. What I am referring to is actually wanting an athlete or a team to not be too successful. It really isn’t about the underdog overcoming a challenge. It is about actively wanting to see a team lose. And, as it is in this Sunday’s case, it is about stopping lengthy winning streaks.
As I contemplated this concept further, I realized that I, too, am a perpetrator of ill will against super success. I am a big Formula 1 fan and, for sure, I wanted to see Michael Schumacher’s multiple-year championship reign come to an end. Heck, although I am a solid Lewis Hamilton fan, if he wins one more season, I might stop watching F1 for a while. I couldn’t stand the Chicago Bulls after their ‘91-‘92 and‘96-’97 wins. I didn’t want to see them “three-peat” either time. The NY Yankees of the late nineties really annoyed me. Even Usain Bolt in the last two Olympics got under my skin! And, how about the Crimson Tide? I mean, come on! How many times can you win a National Championship in a decade? And, don’t start me on Manchester United. It drove me crazy how much they won - and I was even friends with the coach! The only exception to this phenomenon, of course, is if the winners are my team. I know that there is not a single Patriots fan, Bulls fan, or Man U fan in the world who would not want to see their team win over and over again.
So, the question still remains as to “why?” Why do so many of us want to see limited success in the field of sports? After deep consideration, the only thing I can really chalk it up to is boredom. In a world of fidget spinners, multi-tasking, multiple screens, and instantaneous delivery, I believe that, as a society, we are getting more and more bored - more and more quickly. It isn’t that we don’t like to see people perform at the top of their game or that we begrudge athletes a win when they put in years of hard work to be the best at what they do. I think we just get bored. We get bored of seeing the same team or athlete win over and over again. In a sense, it takes away from the excitement of the game. We miss the anticipation that we all love to experience during the build-up to a big sporting event like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, where everything is going to be on the line. For weeks, we wonder who will win. How will they do so? That tension is awesome. But, if the situation feels one-sided, then we go back to being bored. This leaves us feeling deflated at best, or angry and resentful at worst.
So, if you are feeling bored during the run up to this week’s Super Bowl, my advice is to quickly become a hardcore Eagles fan (even if you like the Pats) and enjoy the sensation of anticipating a possible underdog win at the Super Bowl. If boredom strikes you in any other case, my advice is to appreciate the hard work that the athletes have put into getting where they are, enjoy watching excellence in motion, and remember that every streak does eventually come to an end…it’s just a matter of time. I know this for a fact. I am, after all, a Trojans football fan!
By: Wendy Rosenthal