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Envy and Animus: The Loser's Language

In the wake of today's Ohio State Buckeyes loss to the unranked Iowa Hawkeyes, fans across the Big Ten Conference, particularly those of the University of Michigan, joined in the celebration to add emphasis to this stunning defeat of the number six team in the nation.



This form of fandom was also present during this year's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, which saw even casual baseball fans in the San Francisco Bay Area saddling up in support of the Astros, despite the absence of any real connection to either team. This revealed only that the animosity between the two bays remains alive and well.

But what end does this sort of fandom actually serve?

Well, as it turns out, it suggests a lot more about the fan than he or she would comfortably admit.

Ultimately, sports fans who root against teams, in the way that Michigan fans have derided Ohio State after the Buckeyes' loss today, are analogous to the public's thoughtless envy toward their wealthier counterparts. 

They tend to be widely unfamiliar with the flesh-and-blood individuals under those helmets, and they hate them because of their own personal failings and insecurities, or in this case their own team's inability to win games. 

The primary practical difference, however, is that the football team, through its abundant successes, can effectively displace its competitors out of playoff contention, whereas the wealthy enterprise operates within the forum of civilization, not that of sport or physically-defined boundaries, which works to accrue wealth through consensual benefits shared with the envious public, a measure known in economics as consumer surplus

You see, the economic world is a dynamic and symbiotic place, not a fixed pie, whereas the sports world matches a loser with every winner.

Yet even in the realm of athletics, an opponent's excellence tends to impel the whole league of competitors, even those losers, to heights which were before unknown or deemed impossible. This phenomenon is evidenced by the first four-minute mile, broken by Roger Bannister in 1954, after two decades of being within six seconds of that barrier. In fact, it took the world of track and field a whole decade to shave off that final 1.6 seconds to finally accomplish that feat.

After Roger Bannister achieved that which was popularly termed impossible, a number of other runners would break the 4-minute barrier by the end of that decade, a development attributed to the psychological advantages of witnessing a fellow mortal hit that mark. 

The same phenomenon has ensued in football, with Tom Landry's introduction of the shotgun formation into the NFL, "Bullet" Bob Hayes' transformation of the wide receiver position, and lately the evolution of spectacular catches after the theatrics of Odell Beckham. 

In a poignant example from 2007, the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys, which had fielded a record 13 Pro Bowlers, defeated the New York Giants twice during the regular season. 

The Giants eventually eked out a victory over the 'Boys in the postseason, going on to eventually win Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots, after an iconic catch by David Tyree. 

During that contest, I merely hoped for an entertaining game and thought that a Giants victory would prove only how competitive that Dallas Cowboys team had been that year. 

When they eventually won the game, I felt modestly more proud of my team, knowing that my Cowboys had defeated that same team two out of three games that year; they were clearly one of the best teams in the league. 

Now, if we were to have witnessed a Giants defeat, that would have only proven how great the Patriots really were, as everyone had already expected, while achieving little to nothing for the Cowboys by way of extension. 

Ultimately, the real outcome effectively elevated the significance of those victories over that Giants team, implicitly showcasing the 2007 Dallas Cowboys as a team worthy of an honorable mention.

On the contrary, a Cowboys fan could have understandably favored the Patriots, as the Giants are division rivals and, after all, they did eliminate the 'Boys from the playoffs. 

But what end would this have really served, beyond that of knowing that neither team had ultimately been successful?

It serves only the end of animus, precisely akin to a child who whines when someone else begins to enjoy a toy that, until that very moment, bore no significance to him.

The only discernible difference is between the character of those toys, the ways in which they are decorated, and the way the whiners and their words are dressed up along with them. 

As it turns out, this is the language of the loser.

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