Is it Better to be the Underdog?
Why is it that us humans seem to knock the successful, yet love the underdog? At first I thought this phenomenon was a bit of a British thing, but upon closer inspection it appears to be rife worldwide. It’s almost like we love to build people up just so that we can knock them down again. Isn’t it about time we gave some of our support to the winners too? Words by Ed H and images by Steve Jones.
Taken from Dirt issue 140, October 2013
Why is it that us humans seem to knock the successful, yet love the underdog? At first I thought this phenomenon was a bit of a British thing, but upon closer inspection it appears to be rife worldwide. It’s almost like we love to build people up just so that we can knock them down again. Isn’t it about time we gave some of our support to the winners too?
Of course I don’t think everyone is of this mind–set, but it’s definitely a strong trend, and as much as I love an underdog I can’t help but feel sorry for the guys and girls who make it to the top only to then be constantly knocked. I mean they’ve probably dreamt for years about that incredible feeling of being at the top of the game, yet when it actually happens much of that love they’ve received whilst fighting to get to that position often evaporates. It must taint the experience somewhat, and that’s the simple reason why I feel sorry for them. Is it better to have the glory of being the winner, or the love of being the underdog?
Of course if an underdog does pull out a win the love doesn’t instantly stop, but to me it seems that as soon as someone starts to get on a roll people gradually start to disperse in search of their new underdog. What I’ve found funny though recently, and this is really what made me write this, is that it seems like we can fall back in love with a rider once they’ve been toppled from their throne. This was made very clear when the World Cup hit Andorra this year and a certain Sam Hill looked like he could return to his old winning ways.
When Sam was previously smashing the rest of the World Cup field I couldn’t believe the number of ‘haters’ out there on the internet. I mean this guy was rewriting what we thought was possible on a DH bike, and yet all many people could do was try and slate him for something pathetic, and more often than not completely untrue. Then, for whatever reason he went off the boil for a few years, and now everyone seems to be gunning for him again because he looks like a good bet for toppling the likes of fellow World Cup racers Gee Atherton and Greg Minnaar. I bet that a load of the people saying that they want him to win a race again are the same ones that wanted him beaten in the past, and some of the riders that they’re now wanting him to smash will undoubtedly be the riders that they wanted to topple Hill in the past.
Basically I just find it all really fickle, and I would just love to know the reason why so many of us behave like this. After a chat in the office we started to realise that for some reason this phenomenon only seems to happen with individual athletes, and not teams. People seem to stick by their teams more, but when it comes to dealing with a bit of rejection then surely a team would barely notice it, whereas for an individual it could really suck. As a top rider these days it pretty much goes without saying that your sponsors will want you to be well into your ‘social media’, but that’s where all this shit talking seems to happen. What is it that makes so many of us abusive dicks as soon as we are behind a keyboard? If you actually happened to see the rider that you’ve taken an irrational dislike too, straight after taking yet another win, what would you really say to them face to face? Would you say “I wish you hadn’t won ‘cos you’re a grumpy twat and I think your style sucks", or would you say “congratulations on the win, that was an incredible run"? No matter what you thought of them in your head I would hope you’d say something closer to the latter than the former. You see that’s how humans should behave, so why is it that the internet makes so many of us forget how to be nice?
I suppose basically this is a plea from me to think twice about what you type on that keyboard/phone of yours. Yes I’ll probably fail in trying to get you to show a bit more love to those riders who are consistently getting the top results, but even if just one of you thinks twice before posting some knobish comment then it’ll be a turn for the good. You could even spend the time writing something positive about someone else instead. Your favourite underdog perhaps? Just don’t let the internet ruin the moment for the most successful riders, because after all they’ve earned it and deserve it, no matter what you think of them.