Quirky differences between Brits and Yanks Part I… coping with defeat

Usflagflying Coming from the old country and spending the last few years adjusting to life in Englandflag the new world, it’s about time I started sharing some observations over the cultural chasm that exists.  However, it’s probably better I leak out my views in digestible chunks to avoid risk of deportation.  Anyway, let’s start with sport:

Savoring victory.  Sorry, the Yanks just don’t know how to do it properly.  Living in Boston, I have experienced the highs of Super bowl victory and the pain of defeat inflicted upon the locals.  In the UK, if the local team wins the Cup Final, everyone goes nuts, has a parade in town and gets drunk for days, and savors that victory for years to come (we still celebrate our 1966 World Cup triumph…).  When the Patriots last won the Super bowl, there were a couple of car horns tooting rhythmically, but it was pretty muted.  Even the celebrations for the Red Sox winning the 2007 World Series barely lasted a day.

Coping with defeat.  Now here is a marked difference.  The depth of despair suffered by Yanks when they lose clearly outweighs their heights of ecstasy when they win.  In the UK, it’s the reverse.  When we lose, we go into a mild depression, take the mickey out of our team for being "rubbish" and quickly look forward to the next attempt at silverware.  Over here, I have never seen anything like it – words such as "disaster" dominate the press.  Inquests begin, radio phone-ins focus on the deep depression that has inflicted the local society.  Another coping mechanism I have observed over here is to simply ignore their team if it is losing.  I will never forget the Ryder Cup in 1999 (Brookline Mass) where the media made quite a fuss about the prestigious tournament and hyped it up considerably for two weeks prior to the event.  Then disaster struck – the Europeans dominated days 1 and 2, racing into a seemingly unassailable 6-point lead moving into the final day.  I was eagerly trying to find some media coverage, and only found a 6 inch sized write-up in the Boston Globe.  So from hype to nothing in two days.  No-one seemingly wanted to talk about the loser golfers.  Then the famous "Day 3 comeback" happened.  At about 3.00pm on the final afternoon. the media suddenly realized their boys were poised to pull off a stunning comeback.  The golf returned to the main TV networks, and friends of mine who had zero interest in the sport started getting involved as if they never missed a PGA event…. that evening I had to be subjected to prolonged victory gloating from people who probably thought Jack Nicklaus had holed the winning putt…

My conclusion is that the Brits, quite simply, are used to losing, probably originating from the collapse of the British empire.  When you’re downtrodden and no longer aspire to the greatness you once had, you take comfort in the small achievements when you get them.  The US Empire is still pretty strong – the country still rules the world (until Beijing 2008 anyway).  Maybe in another 20 years, they’ll start to take defeat with a pinch more salt and self-mockery than they currently do…

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2 Comments

  1. Brian
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Phil – you Brits are such losers! You’re so used to losing, you deal with it :)

    BJ

  2. Posted February 5, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    We revel in glorious defeat…

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