I have heard it said so many times that the English hate winners and love losers. I simply don’t believe this is true because we’re just as happy as any other nation to see our sports people and teams win. Some have suggested that we admire people who try hard but don’t win whereas others have said we admire talented amateurs who turn up and win without seemingly putting in any effort. Perhaps, but there’s no consistency to these ideas.
I think the explanation is actually quite simple, but yet no-one else appears to have identified it so I thought I’d make a point of it on themaverickman.com.
As a nation we have an intense dislike of arrogance and people who have a high opinion of themselves. We like people – in fact it is a necessity to be liked at all – when they are humble and “down to earth”. Not for us people like Muhammad Ali chanting “I am the greatest”, unless such a comment is imbued with an identifiable cheekiness. If an English sports personality wins, whether they have to try hard or not, their popularity is assured so long as they remain magnanimous, down-to-earth, display self-deprecating humour and are generally a “nice” person.
If one compares two Sheffield sports stars, Jessica Ennis and Naseem Hamed, it makes the point. Both are winners, but Ennis appears likeable and “nice”, whereas Hamed liked to bang on about how great he was, and as a result Ennis is popular with the public and Hamed was not, with people saying at the height of his career that they wished he would lose, in order, presumably, to bring him ‘back down to earth’.
I think the assumption that we love people more if they come second is not in fact the case, it’s just that people who come second are less likely to be arrogant and will have to be self-deprecating precisely because they haven’t won.
I think this particular aspect of Englishness (or Britishness – I wish we could make our minds up) extends into every aspect of life. I think it is most unlikely that a figure like Hitler would ever come to power in Britain because of our intense dislike of people with that level of intensity, arrogance and lack of humour. Far from holding us back as a country I think the English dislike of this type of personality is a highly positive attribute and long may it continue.