I don’t particularly follow football, my children are both rugby players and I focussed on athletics and netball myself, but it is hard not to be swept up by the almost romantic notion of a non-league team winning or just reaching the FA cup final.
This year we were not to witness a giant-killing and the result confirmed the dominance of the big clubs however it is interesting that throughout the competition, no matter which team one might support, the majority of the non-partisan fans seemed to back the under-dog.
Over the past few weeks there have been a number of unexpected victories in sport or near upsets at least, with surprises such as Johanna Konta's journey to the final of the Italian Open, Matthew Jordan setting a course record at the British Masters and James Cahill’s shock win over Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Snooker World Championships. Even Liverpool’s 4-0 victory over Barcelona provided an underdog comeback feeling, despite Liverpool being one of the ‘big guns’.
Open Competitions are important. The very nature of being ‘open’ to all such that everyone has a chance, provides opportunities of aspiration and inspiration. I have recently taken up golf and whilst as a beginner there is no doubt it can be a hugely frustrating game, the moments of connecting properly with the small white ball at the driving range lead to imagining that it could be possible to do the same on the fairway. I’ve even found myself believing it could be possible to compete with more advanced players – after all, the TV shows them perfectly able to get it wrong and land in bunkers or ponds.
The concept of open competition is even valuable at the level of economies. The OECD is working hard to help governments create environments where small businesses and start-up companies are able to enter markets and succeed. Open competition can be a driving force to bring countries and individuals out of poverty and we can all see the value in enabling new ideas, talents and innovations to flourish.
Whether or not we like the plethora of reality TV shows, the likes of Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor do seem to be enabling greater opportunity for all.
But why are we so keen for particular individuals and teams to succeed against the odds? Is it because we perceive that they are working harder than the expected ‘favourite’ or is it that we can see ourselves in them and want to believe we can do it too?
Whatever the case, competition is part of life – and isn’t it refreshing to know that anyone can take part – and who knows….