A-Z April 2015

U is for Underdog

We’re in the closing stages of this year’s Blogging from A-Z challenge, and we have arrived at the letter “U”.

Us Brits are a funny lot. We know this because we get frequently told by our cousins across the pond and by our next-door neighbours in Europe. Everyone knows about the quintessential British qualities that mark out that “funny-ness” (or downright peculiarities, whichever way you look at it!), such as our love of a proper cup of tea, our fondness for queuing, our preoccupation with the weather and so on.

But there is one trait that we Brits share that is perhaps not really noted abroad, and that is our collective championing of the underdog. In sporting events, in education, in musical events, politics…whatever the field, we Brits love to cheer on the one who is least likely to win. We have even been known to cheer on the opponents of our national heroes if they present themselves as a plucky challenger. Strange eh?


I wonder why that is. It’s not that we don’t value winning, because we do – just ask any football fan about 1966. It’s not that we don’t have any national pride, because we do – just look at our turnouts for things like Trooping the Colour, or Remembrance Sunday events. It’s not even that we don’t value our champions, because we DO! Just look at our celebrations when Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013. I think there’s something intrinsically supportive in our national psyche, and being a little island in a very big ocean on the world stage, we do recognise the efforts of those who take on the big guns armed with little more than pea-shooters.

We don’t want to see mighty Titans brought crashing down, not at all, but we do like to lend our support for the little man, or woman. The David rather than the Goliath if you like.

london marathonA prime example of how we support the underdog is going to be demonstrated tomorrow at the London Marathon. Yes, there are elite athletes from around the world competing and will by aiming to get round the course in as quick a time as they can, and yes, there are always surprises in their results. But what really REALLY gets the crowds going are the thousands and thousands of fun-runners who are doing it for charity. Those dressed in gorilla costumes, or dressed up as telephone boxes. The teams of soldiers who will be running in squad-shaped blocks with their kit bags on their backs. The elderly runners who will take twice as long as others to complete it, and the people such as Michael Watson who took six days to complete it because of his level of mobility after brain injury.

It’s not just the London Marathon though. Just this week, I have been watching the Snooker on the BBC and there is a new chap who looks for all the world like Steve Davis’ love-child. He is called Anthony McGill and he had to qualify to play in the tournament (not invited as the elite players are) and he played Mark Selby, the defending champion, inthe second round. He was cheered along and the crowd were rooting for him throughout his match, and he – very surprisingly – won it. He wasn’t expected to win it, in fact he wasn’t really expected to get to round 2 in the first place, but nevertheless, the crowd and the commentators were behind him every step of the way. Not to take anything away from Mark Selby’s achievements, but all interest and support was with the newbie. The qualifier, the underdog.

anthony mcgill

I rather like that trait that comes with being British. It shows that we value people for their efforts as much as their achievements, and it shows that we all have a chance at whatever we do because our fellow Brits will be cheering us on. Let’s face it, we’re all underdogs really aren’t we?



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