At some point of my football fandom, I’ve developed this irrational hostility towards the “top” teams in football leagues – Bayern Munich, Barcelona, the two Manchester teams, Paris Saint German, and many other teams capable of winning titles. A good part of that hostility comes from their ego-bloated transfer policies, which seem little more than buying a big fat gold chain every season to wear around for a year or two before chucking it out on eBay; but it mainly boils down to the sense of apathy and stagnation I feel whenever I force myself to root for teams like Bayern Munich or Barcelona. As teams who spend incredible amounts of money on signing and keeping world-class players and coaching staff, they are downright demanded to deliver success every season; failure to do so ends up in a higher level of disappointment, followed by a bombardment of insults from their fans as if they were served burnt scrambled eggs from Gordon Ramsay. The ones who could support the “top” clubs without being haunted by such obsession to success are most likely tied to their clubs on a more personal level; unfortunately (or fortunately), I have none. Therefore, that sense of disappointment that fans of the “top” clubs must feel whenever they fail to win is far more entertaining for me to watch as a bystander than to experience as a fan.
And that, I feel, is the beauty of hating “top” teams in football.
To me, opposing the top clubs is an effective way to project the story of football to my own – a man striving for opportunities to achieve success. Such projection to reality creates a narrative to a game of football, a story of the underdog that in turn makes the games even more enjoyable to watch. The entertainment value I see in the shocked looks on the players and the fans of the top teams when they lose, completely blown away by the possibility that they might not win a cup for more than two seasons, is equally matched by that in the utter joys of the opponent teams, rejoicing their success, appreciating everything it took and cost them for that moment of glory. All these will be gone if I were to support the “top” teams, in which a game won is treated as importantly as a piece of toast I eat every morning, and a game lost as a flat tire on my way to work.
Of course, that is not to say that I don’t like the “top” clubs to succeed. As a matter of fact, I would like all teams to achieve success. It’s simply that I feel more elated to see a team madly celebrate a hard-earned win, then a team under-appreciating their success.
<Featured Image from : Azteca Soccer.com>
This line really stuck out to me:
“The utter joys of the opponent teams, rejoicing their success, appreciating everything it took and cost them for that moment of glory… all these will be gone if I were to support the “top” teams, in which a game won is treated as importantly as a piece of toast I eat every morning, and a game lost as a flat tire on my way to work.”
I wanted to revisit this article after Duke won its 5th national championship, since Duke is the most-hated college basketball team in the country–because we win. I like the metaphor you provided in the line I quoted above, because when I think about Duke games, I think about how much I love watching Duke-UNC, a few key matchups throughout the season, the ACC Tournament, and the NCAA Tournament–but the majority of games are automatically counted as wins because we’re THAT good. That’s the same way I feel about Real Madrid–Barcelona, Atletico, and the Champions League later games are great to watch, but Getafe? Another notch in the win column.
So I agree, and hate to admit it, but so much of that fire is lost when top teams play–yet imagine if Getafe were to beat Real Madrid, EUPHORIA would ensue. This reminds me of the Phillies’ magical run, from mediocre to a 5-year dynasty where the playoffs were guaranteed and even key Mets series were treated as automatic wins. Now, the Phillies just took 2/3 from the Nationals in the second series of the season, and people are already treating it as a highlight. So is it really more fun to be a fan of a top team like Duke or Real, or are those bursts of euphoria for the Getafes and (unfortunately) Phillies of the world worth the pain?
I have often noticed that top teams in all sports seem to have a hate group.The hate is often backed with respect but the hate group loves to watch great teams lose. My opinion on this is that it is natural it is just fans trying to get the sport from being so predictable. The same hate towards great teams winning is the same energy that fuels the joy in the underdog victory.
John, I completely agree with your point of view that it is extremely satisfactory to see top teams fail, often at the hands of small teams that are neither financially nor technically wealthy enough to pose a threat to these teams in the first place. I started passionately following the EPL around 2006, after Chelsea won their second Premier league crown under Jose Mourinho. After 2006, it was Manchester United that started dominating English football for several years, and I personally found it frustrating that they won so many titles back to back often because of last-minute winners as a result of the infamous “Fergie Time.” There’s no doubt in my mind that Sir Alex was a tactical and social genius, and that he often had his way with regards to extra time, but it was still frustrating to see this team dominate for so many years at such a monotonous level. This being said, I prefer rooting for the underdog when my favorite team isn’t playing, particularly in league play. In cup play, I always prefer to see the top teams square off against one another in a battle of opposing coaches, strategies, systems, and beliefs.
John – awesome article-your analogies made me chuckle. I agree that there is a beauty in seeing “top” teams fail and the disappointment that their losses cause. Regardless of the sport, people inherently want to see “top” teams fail. These teams that have so much money and the best players, and are the most successful – at times “top” teams seem like they are unbeatable. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing them lose, because it shows that the teams’ players are human.. Interestingly, hating on top teams only brings them more viewers. Fans tune in to Bayern Munich and Barcelona games, regardless of whether they are rooting for them or against them.
People also want the underdog to succeed and to defeat the top dog. Fans like cinderella teams.