In the face of difficult questions, the most talented egos use impeccable sleights of language to rebrand their behaviours to seem heroic. This series is dedicated to those rhetorician-magicians.
I: NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU CARE (you are here)
II: IF YOUR CRITICS DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU, NO ONE WILL (you are here)
In the interest of full disclosure—and Seth-promotion—the spirt of this rant, and other works of Sethiquette, is now available in my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism.
In sports, when underdogs win unexpectedly, there seems to be an almost unanimous tendency amongst such winners to suddenly deride those who predicted they wouldn’t win.
INTERVIEWER: How does it feel to win?!
UNDERDOG CHAMPION: Yeah, everyone was counting us out. They were all bashing us. Nobody believed in us, but ourselves, and we proved them all wrong!
I find the indignant tone of such remarks to be a wee bit confusing. It’s as though the vindicated athletes think the pundits were maliciously targeting them in a manner akin to someone telling a child they would never amount to anything:
PUNDIT: I predict the Rangers will beat the Blazers 4-2.
BLAZERS’ PLAYER: Oh, great, so you’re saying I’m not good enough to win?! You don’t believe in me just like my parents never believed in me! Thanks a lot.
Surely the players understand that—if predictions are to be made—someone has to be estimated to lose, so their designation as underdog was not necessarily mean-spirited. But maybe I’m missing the point. Perhaps the players simply don’t like being predicted upon at all:
INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to go into this tournament ranked number one?
HIGH RANKED PLAYER: Actually, I find the whole notion of rankings to be disrespectful: I’m tired of being treated like a piece of meat whose results can be anticipated by non-players. Instead of typecasting us based on past performances, why don’t you just wait and see what happens? Whatever will be, will be!
Strangely, though, such railing against complimentary predictions happens rarely. Instead the players only seem resentful when they’re not picked to win. Actually, that’s not completely true. More accurately: they only object when they’re not picked to win, but end up winning, after all. However, I’ve yet to hear an assault on predictions of losing when they prove accurate:
INTERVIEWER: So, how do you feel about your 5th place finish?
5TH PLACER: Well, let me first point out that everyone predicted I would come in 5th. And I just want to say ‘Screw you!’ to all those people that didn’t believe in me.
INTERVIEWER: So you feel you should have been predicted to fare better?
5TH PLACER: Yeah! It would have been nice if someone would’ve believed in me. I see that all sorts of people believed in Mr. World Record Holder over there. Isn’t that nice for him? So not only does he get the glory of winning, he also gets the pre-event accolades, too. Couldn’t those predictions have been shared out evenly? Or better yet, here’s an idea: why not treat us all like we have an equal chance of winning and not predict at all!?
So, given that the athletes only object when they are inaccurately predicted to perform worse than they do, maybe their objection is not that their results were estimated, but instead that the alleged experts got it wrong. Hmm, but the problem there is that if inaccuracy of prediction is the only issue, wouldn’t the “overdog” players predicted to win complain when they lose?
INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to lose after being the favourite in this tournament?
OVERDOG LOSER: Well, the truth is I was a little irritated in the first place when we were ranked so highly. Clearly, the so-called experts don’t know what they’re talking about. They said we’d come in first, and did we? No. I just feel really bad for the fans who were given false estimates by the pundits.
So I’m not sure what the solution is to the incrogruity that predictions seem to be okay so long as pundits don’t predict certain teams to lose. When I coached kids’ rollerblade hockey, a four-team tournament was divided into “Gold Medal Winner,” “Gold Medal Runner-up,” “Silver Medal Winner,” and “Silver Medal Runner-up.” Admittedly, one of my ten year old players approached me afterwards, and said:
“Why are we being called ‘Silver Medal Runner-Up’? Didn’t we come in last?”
Despite the youngster’s ability to see through the trophy-based re-framing, perhaps sports prognosticators can learn from such efforts to protect people from ever thinking they’ve lost:
PUNDIT: I believe equally in all four teams in this tournament. They’re all ranked number one in my books! If I had to choose—and it’s basically a coin flip—I would rank the Bears ‘1A,’ the Tornados ‘1B,’ the Lions ‘1C,’ and the Ravens ‘1D.’
RAVENS’ PLAYER: Awesome! We’re ranked number 1!
For delightful illustration of the above, consider below Jim Carrey’s (Academy Award worthy) Lloyd Christmas in one of the greatest (and most underrated) comedies all all time, Dumb & Dumber. In this wonderful scene, Lloyd masterfuly reframes a situation in which first glance might suggest he hadn’t succeeded.
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t view you if you haven’t yet seen this brilliant movie!
II: IF YOUR CRITICS DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU, NO ONE WILL (you were just here)