It is the typical underdog story that every Australian loves to hear. The outsider, the lesser opponent, coming from behind to pull off the tough and gusty win against the odds. The favourite is left bewildered and crestfallen, unable to complete the general expectations of a win.
Think about the 4x100m men’s freestyle at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Michael Klim smashing the record on the first leg before Thorpy dug deep to come from behind and pip the US. Holly Holm defeating the dominant Ronda Rousey, Calton pulling off the impossible in the 1999 AFL preliminary final. We love the come from behind win, especially when it is the lesser fancied opponent against the favourite.
But isn’t this morally fraudulent? I’m going to argue that backing the underdog may be good for your bets, but it isn’t to the benefit to the sport.
The moral implications of the favourite losing and the mental anguish of that competitor is never considered once the siren sounds or the final whistle blows. I’d say that given the expectations, the stress of being the assumed winner, that fall from expectancy to the pain of a loss is greater than that of the underdog who has no expectation to the ultimate feeling of success.
We can even put this into a simple maths equation. Renown psychologists around the world have accepted the formula Happiness=Reality/Expectations. Increase the expectation of the happiness and it means they feel more pain from losing than the underdog feels pleasure from happiness. The underdog loses, there is no expectation, they move on relatively pain free!
So, with maths proving it, where does your morals lie?
Maybe it’s that deep seeded convict thing, where we glorify the scrapper, the tough hard worker, and condemn the more privileged. I’m thinking about that tall poppy syndrome that seems to come up every now and again in the media. We drag those on the top down, preferring to see them wallow at the same level of the masses. I’m not exactly sure of the group mentality especially when it’s applied to something so abstract as Australian culture. Needless to say we love the scrapper, that hard worker, and whether that’s because we all did it tough originally or because we encourage those values is a question beyond my capabilities of answering.
To be honest, despite the reasoning, despite everything... I’m still backing the guy in last place!