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Underdog Week: Why To Never Root for the Underdog

They are supposed to lose, why are you cheering for them?

1980 Winter Olympics - Hockey - United States v Soviet Union
One of the Ultimate Underdogs - The 1980 USA Hockey team against the Soviets!

Note: It is UNDERDOG WEEK On Our SBNation Sites!

There are some people in this world who ALWAYS root for the underdog. I am not one of them. I like my team to win and I like to see excellent teams, even if it isn’t my team, be excellent. My mom, however, is one who likes the underdog and I can’t understand this mentality.

I’ve studied psychology. I love the movie Rudy. I understand the odd things our brain will do and the number of reasons it does them but I do not understand rooting for the team likely to lose, which is just a different way of saying rooting for the underdog, right?

Let’s dig into this underdog rooting person’s brain and think about “Why Oh Why” they would do what they do.

The thrill and anticipation of what just MIGHT happen is a good reason to root for the underdog. I agree, the excitement of the underdog team winning is superior to the joy of the higher seed team winning.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte

Remember when #16 UMBC beat #1 Virginia (my alma mater) in the 2018 NCAA Basketball tournament? The anticipation built as UMBC led by double digits. We knew they were going to win with minutes left in the game.

ONLY the person that roots for the underdog was cheering for them (and the UMBC parents) as not many picked them to win. In the ESPN bracket, 3.4% of participants picked UMBC. Maybe those 500,000 or so people that picked them (out of 18 million brackets) were underdog rooters already. If you are an underdog rooter you had this one rare time you reached your moment of ultimate satisfaction.

It is amazing when it happens...but it doesn’t happen that often.

Perhaps the underdog rooting fan relates to the underdog plight. I’ve been an underdog before. Ok, maybe I’ve been the underdog most of the time on the volleyball court with my short stature. It is one of the most motivating and liberating feelings in sports; also in life. Nobody expects me to win except me.

If I’m truly an underdog and can get to a place that I believe I can win (tough place to get), then I will likely have one of my best games. I will be mad, motivated, I will study film and be more prepared than the other team. I still, most likely, won’t win. I’ve had coaches paint our team the underdog when we weren’t really the underdog just to get us focused and fired up.

So, as an athlete and as a team in the contest, I can use being the underdog, that makes sense, but as a fan, I don’t see it. I don’t see the reason someone chooses to root for the team more likely to loose. I will pick and root for the team I think will win every time.