Editorial Exchange: Loving the Underdog

By Godbout, Neil | The Canadian Press, February 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

Editorial Exchange: Loving the Underdog


Godbout, Neil, The Canadian Press


Editorial Exchange: Loving the underdog

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An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published Feb. 6:

In an essay she wrote for The Atlantic last week about how much she hates Tom Brady, Philadelphia native and proud Eagles fan Adrienne LaFrance cited academic studies to show why people prefer the underdog in any competition and offer weak support for the expected winner.

Brady is the legendary quarterback of the New England Patriots and there is little doubt he is the greatest football player of all time at that position. On Sunday, he was playing in his eighth Super Bowl, having already won five championships. The 40-year-old Brady and his teammates were favourites to win again over the underdog Eagles, a team that had never won the Super Bowl before.

As a result, only Citizen columnist Kathi Travers and a few other people with clear ties to Massachusetts were the only ones upset that the Eagles won 41-33.

As the research shows, everyone loves it when David beats Goliath, which is why that story is one of the most memorable biblical tales.

The reason, the academics found, comes down to investment and payoff.

Cheering for the favourite is a high-risk, low-reward endeavour. Rooting for Canada at the Olympics in hockey or curling is the right thing to do for patriotic reasons but it's not easy. The favourite is expected to win, meaning that the disappointment when Canada loses is greater than the excitement when we capture gold in those sports.

Conversely, that's why rooting for the underdog is so much more fun, a low-risk but high-reward investment. The underdog is supposed to lose so the disappointment isn't great when it happens but a surprising victory brings such deep joy.

That's also why underdogs go out of their way to portray themselves as underdogs while the favourites pump lots of air into the underdog's tires before the big game.

The preference for the underdog isn't just a sports thing, of course.

On Saturday night, Andrew Wilkinson was elected as the new leader of the B.C. Liberals. The only time he ever led in voting was on the fifth and final ballot. He was third for the first three ballots and crept up to second on the fourth ballot before winning. Meanwhile, Dianne Watts, long considered the front runner in the leadership race, won every ballot except the one that mattered.

The jubilation by Wilkinson supporters was only matched by the dismay of those yearning for Watts to win. …

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