Why We Must Always Support the Underdogs; ALLAN MASSIE Salutes a Welcome Departure from an All Too Familiar Script

Daily Mail (London), February 10, 2000 | Go to article overview

Why We Must Always Support the Underdogs; ALLAN MASSIE Salutes a Welcome Departure from an All Too Familiar Script


Byline: ALLAN MASSIE

IT'S not only in Inverness that people will be wearing happy smiles this week.

Discounting Celtic supporters plunged into gloom, doom, and even analysis, the rest of us will have been cheered up no end by little Inverness Caledonian Thistle's defeat of the mighty Celtic.

For fanatical Rangers fans, their pleasure will be of a different order; the Germans have a word for it - schadenfreude - which means joy in the misfortune of others.

It is an unpleasant emotion, but it won't be the general one, which actually will have very little to do with Celtic. We may even feel some sympathy with them in their hour of darkness, but that won't prevent us from feeling delighted by the result. Our response is natural, human, and creditable. The victory of the underdog makes us feel good. It is reassuring.

We don't like to think that Might is Right and we don't like to think that the Mighty always win.

Considering that Caley was formed, after much bitter wrangling, only six years ago, theirs is an astonishing achievement, all the more welcome in these days when, in football as in so many other areas of life, money rules and the strong get ever stronger while the weak fall away. Caley have entered the mythology of Scottish football, along with Berwick Rangers, who can never forget that in 1967 they knocked the mighty Glasgow Rangers out of this same Scottish Cup.

In the sporting world, it has been a good few days for underdogs.

Scottish Rugby supporters may often find difficulty in recognising ourselves as top dogs, but that is what we were when we went to Rome last Saturday and were soundly beaten by the Italians whom everybody, including their own supporters, had written off.

After the game one of them could still scarcely believe what had happened.

'And you were numero uno,' she kept saying. We are so accustomed to being the underdog that we may find difficulty in understanding just how much pleasure our defeat will have given to everybody who isn't Scots. Being in Rome, I missed what would have been, for me, an even more satisfying victory of the underdog, when my own club, Selkirk, struggling to avoid relegation to the Third Division, knocked First Division Currie out of rugby's Scottish Cup.

It is sport which most often gives us the chance to delight in the unexpected triumphs of the underdog, for it offers far more examples of the pure contest than anything else in life. …

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