Why Do We Root for Underdogs?

“The underdog phenomenon is a complicated one, and I want to do it justice, but even sketching the outlines of what it entails is a herculean task, or perhaps Aristotelian. To follow up on what Supriya said in her last post, one can argue that all stories are either tragic or comic. Human beings, being narrative animals, understand all events in terms of the story they fit into. Underdogs are comic heroes, forever fighting superior forces: Jackie Chan against overwhelming numbers, Jerry against Tom, Josef K against the system. That seems to be true even though, unlike Jerry and Jackie, underdogs in the footballing world rarely win it all. In fact, underdogs rarely win anything at all in football, even in cup competitions, which are much less predictable than leagues. In the five major footballing countries of Europe there has only been one stunning underdog win these past ten years: En Avant de Guingamp winning the the Coupe de France in 2009, when the team was in Ligue 2.” (Run of Play)


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