Supporting an underdog football team taught me to celebrate life’s small victories


It has been an unusual and exciting week for me. Nottingham Forest are back in the Premier League. Probably not a big issue in the spectrum of current events, but a milestone for me and my childhood friends nonetheless.

Right off the bat, I have to point out that I’m a Saturday night fan. However, my friends back home are real supporters and fulfill the mission of “real supporters”. I will watch the best moments on Game of the day or Youtube.

Nottingham Forest doesn’t evoke the fantasy spirit that comes with the Premier League for most people. They have played in the 2nd and, at the time, 3rd tier of English football for the past twenty years. They were emotionally linked to the wonderfully eccentric Brian Clough and, under his reign throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, won European leagues and cups. They were a mainstay in the upper echelons of English football.

I support Forest because my friends supported them. I could have easily chosen more glamorous teams, but I’m so glad I went the playful peer pressure route.

My childhood friends have been traveling to see them play for 20 years. Leaving home at a stupid time in the morning and coming home at a stupid time in the evening, tired and weary after watching them draw or lose to teams like Luton Town, QPR or Charlton, all teams that also once lived in the heady heights of the Premier League. I stayed home and stared indifferently at the results.

My daughter asked me on Saturday: “Why do you support them?” I explained to her why, and she shook her head and said, “No, why are you supporting a team hundreds of miles away? I then tried to explain to him the influence of British professional football in Ireland and how Irish players mainly ply their trade there. I also explained that I had a soft spot for Longford Town football club.

But then I decided to reverse the situation with her. “Which team do you support?” She instantly said without hesitation, “The team I play for.” She plays for the local team GAA. She was intrigued by “supporting” a team she doesn’t play for, so we conducted a selection process to find one for her.

Instantly, she had demands. She didn’t like red jerseys. I suggested Chelsea as they play blue, are the current Super League champions and play for a top four spot in the Premier League. She wasn’t sold on them. Then I thought of Spurs. As we went through the teams, she innocently pointed out, “Maybe they’ll choose me?”

She was right. The teams you support choose you. Whether it’s your home country, club or foreign league football team. They have a habit of approaching you until you almost unconsciously blurt out your selection.

Nottingham Forest players. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.

It is also, for me, a link with the past, in particular my childhood. My dad, a staunch GAA and Kerry man, loved Brian Clough and the entertainment of teams “passing the ball around”. One of my funniest childhood memories was holding up a TV aerial we built on the roof to pick up BBC reception when Forest played Crystal Palace in the FA Cup. He and my two friends were inside watching him. They had to roar out the window, “ALWAYS 0-0”

There’s romance and intrigue for those who follow the lesser known. There was an innocence in football back then. Your team could win the league. Even today’s kids know that the teams with the money are the likely winners. But dare I say it, it’s almost beneficial to support the underdog.

Author Cory Stieg, writing for CNBC, says: “Being part of a fan community can also help people cope with losses. A 2019 study found that watching a football game with other fans helps mitigate the adverse psychological effects of defeat.”

This is so true when it comes to economics versus society supporting a team. I know a lot of people who have lifelong friends in support groups for large and small teams. It’s also a conversational glue that allows disparate people to talk and connect. There’s also a shared experience of good times and bad, as Stieg explains.

“For fans of the losing team, sharing the pain may have protected them from loss of self-esteem,” said study co-author Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, professor of communications at the University. Ohio State University, in a statement. There are other things the fandom brings with it beyond the ability to bask in team successes,” Wann says. “Watching sports can be a way to relieve stress or spend time. time with the family. “

So you might be thinking, “What’s the point of supporting a team that isn’t winning?” The thing is, we don’t know what a win is for this team. Consider the new Netflix series, Drive to survive. I’ve always loved F1, but people have asked me how to support a machine. Or a faceless automaker? What this series has done is show the internal struggles and personalities of the team and how it works. It humanized the sport. He showed that “survival” was, in essence, the ultimate achievement. A 6th place finish for a more minor team could be a massive win for them. When my own county, Laois, beat Dublin at the Hurling Championship two years ago, it was an important victory for them and for the county. It was worth celebrating.

So what? Well, it taught me to celebrate small victories like going to the gym twice a week or not eating shit for dinner. Last Tuesday, for example, I knew there were Choc Ices in the fridge. For the health-conscious general public, it wouldn’t mean anything not to eat it, but for me, it was a huge scalp that just left it there and didn’t touch it. It was the equivalent of Forest getting a 0-0 draw at Anfield. In GAA terms, I take my points because the goals will come. As for my daughter and her team? Who knows who will choose her? I suspect it might be a team playing red after all.

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