It is in the British psyche to embrace plucky losers over ruthless winners?
Rather than focus on the winners at Wimbledon the papers concentrate
on Laura Robson’s loss. Anywhere else it would be dismissed as an
expected defeat not front page news.
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Over the top adulation of Laura Robson
After reading the reviews of Laura Robsons match on Monday, the casual reader may have struggled to deduce that she actually lost. As much as her age of 15 is impressive, it is worth bearing in mind that Martina Hingis won the ladies doubles title at Wimbledon at the same age, and at 16 won three of the four grand slams. This is the sort of achievement that deserves the sort of adulation. All robson did was win one set against a tennis player in Hantuchova who has suffered a drastic slide down the rankings. We will never achieve greatness in this country if we continue to praise people for being losers.
This point is harsh in the extreme, Robson earned her headlines for a very plucky and mature performance way beyond her years. Hantuchova is a player with real pedigree, and is a former world number four after all. It was the power and athleticism that people were impressed with from Robson, and at 15 that is only going to improve. The comparisons with Hingis are totally unfair also. Hingis was certainly the finest tennis player of her generation, and arguably one of the best ever. Nobody doubts that Andy Murray is a fine tennis player, but they dont compare him with Borg or Sampras, because that is the sort of comparison that is just unfair.
Exposure of British players
Wimbledon being played on home turf if a chance for the British to support everyone, but particularly the underdog. As tennis is not a major sport in Britain, in as much as not having champions, the British hopefuls tend to go out early, leaving the field open for us to support those underdogs who play well and do their best against the best players. Because we want to see a good game we support the underdog to encourage them and attempt to rebalance the scales.
It is precisely the early exit of most british players that forces us to support the underdog, as our players almost always are. We are therefore forced to accept smallest victories by british players.
Britain (Especially England and Scotland) in rugby.
England rugby has only had one celebrated international time in history which culminated in them winning the rugby world cup in 2003. Apart from that, we are quite happy to watch our national team get trounced every autumn by the southern hemisphere touring teams, who actually take their sport seriously.
Scotland has had a dismal decade in the annual six nations tournament, coming fifth or sixth (usually depending on the form of fellow table-bottomer Italy). And yet, when they came within 14 points of England they appeared to be celebrating! Perhaps after the overrated Andy Murray fiasco they needed something to be positive about.
England suffered record home losses to the southern hemisphere last autumn, but boy did we celebrate as newcomer Armitage knocked a single drop-goal over the Australian bar. We lost 28-14, and it was commented on as an "encouraging performance"!?
We always back the underdog, in the way during the world cups millions place bets with odds of 32-1 against on Japan to reach the quarter finals. Rugby is a typical British sport; it encourages you to back the underdogs.
We prefer to win and have it come as an utter surprise, perhaps being best in the world got a bit boring for us. Never have I seen a nation united like when England reached the 2007 final and everyone having recovered from choking on their drinks delightedly cried "really!?"
It is too boring to know the outcome, and perhaps from a British perspective too painful to know the outcome. Therefore, we watch the Davids line up to tackle the Goliaths and roar "go on, my son", because we all want to believe the impossible is really possible.
Britain is a small country that achieved big things. The notable achievement was industrial revolution, an embrace of the free market as preached by scots Adam Smith and David Ricardo, a system that encourages coumpanies to compete and win to survive. Darwin came up with the theory of evolution through the survival of the fittest, hardly an embrace of plucky loosers.
The British empire spanned the globe, the largest empire in history, created by a small atlantic island. This does not show a psyche that is against winning, or a celebration of the nearly man/woman. Rather it shows that we were, and embraced, the ruthless winners for several hundered years.
Being a winner does not prevent you at the same time embracing a plucky loser over a ruthless winner. Britain in diplomacy embraced the small nations over the big continental powers. We supported Greek independence, and later the independence of other small nations. In the First World War it was plucky Belgium that captured the imagination of the british public allowing Britain to join in to 'save' the galliant Belgians from the Hun.
Other sporting examples
The success of Jenson Button in Formula One shows that ruthless winners are also encouraged. To win 6 out of 8 races without much competition is a great feat, and the public are praising it. He doesn’t need to fight for victories to be accepted by the general public.
The story behind the support for Jenson goes back a few years where he has been at the back of the field driving a below-par car. It is part of the 'phoenix from the flames' story that the media puts the success with.
celebrating defeats is justified in some cases
Competition isn't a simple matter of winning = good, losing = bad. Which person do you admire more, the person who fights hard against inurmountable odds and almost wins but is ultimately defeated, or the person who bags an easy victory? The person who is defeated but sticks to their principles or the person who uses deception to win? The person who manages to negotiate well at a disadvantage and secure themselves more than if they hadn't surrendered, or the one who wins but feels dissatisfied with their victory? it is not a cultural failure to acknowledge this.
it is precicely the competition that makes 'plucky loosers' interesting. Particularly in tennis it is most interesting to see a match go on for some time with good rallys and exciting moments where one or other player is on the verge of defeat only to pull it back. There is a need to embrace the 'underdog' in order to try to get the most exciting matches. If they have suceeded in making a match exciting and interesting then the the british psyche us correct that they should be embraced even if they were the ultimately the loser of the match.
What do you think?