Why people root for the underdog -- win or lose

    The Kansas City Chiefs won arguably the best NFL Playoff game ever against the Buffalo Bills.

    (CNN)Monday, January 24, 2022 was the least productive day of my professional career. The culprit was the Buffalo Bills losing to the Kansas City Chiefs the day before in arguably the greatest NFL playoff game of all time.

    The Bills have never won a Super Bowl and will need to wait at least one more year before they do. Every time the Bills fall short, I am filled with a feeling that can only be described as expected despair. As the saying goes: it's the hope that kills you.
    A question I'm often asked is why do I root for this underdog, as if it is some unexplainable mistake. It turns out, however, that there are many people just like me, and there are good reasons folks keep rooting for teams that break their hearts over and over again.
      There have been lots of studies about people like me who root for the underdogs, and a couple of theories have been formed about why we do what we do.
        A good article from the Baylor College of Medicine on the topic provided a summary of those explanations, and I must admit some fit me fairly well.
        For example, we root for the underdog because we relate to them. I was someone who didn't speak until late and struggled learning well into high school. Relative to my classmates, I saw myself as a bit of an underdog -- a team like the Bills fits me well.
        Bills fans might suffer a lot of heartbreak, but they remain ever loyal to their team.
        More broadly, they fit the city of Buffalo very well. Buffalo has the smallest television market in the country for an NFL team. The population of the city had, for a long time, been dwindling for years. Being seen as the outcast reinforces the fact that the Bills are Buffalo's own.
          To this end, the city protects its team in situations that I doubt few other cities would. When the Bills lost Super Bowl XXV on a missed field goal, the city of Buffalo still hosted a festivity after the game. A crowd of 30,000 gave a standing ovation to the man who missed the winning kick: Scott Norwood.
          Bills fandom is about loyalty, win or lose.

          The science of the underdog

          Science also tells us that people get a lot of happiness out of the underdog pulling it off -- people get more joy out of winning unexpectedly. Ask any Leicester City fan after they won the Premier League in 2016. They were a 5,000:1 shot.
          The same is definitely true for someone like me. I actually cried when the Bills merely made the playoffs in 2017 after a nearly 20-year drought. I replay the moment the Bills made the playoffs over and over again on YouTube.
          Keep in mind, the Bills only got in because the Baltimore Ravens lost against the Cincinnati Bengals; the Bills won a tiebreaker and were able to sneak in through a backdoor.
          The Bills getting into the playoffs didn't get them anywhere close to a Super Bowl though, as they lost in the opening round of the playoffs.
          Leicester City's title-winning Premier League season in 2015/16 was the stuff of fairy tales.
          While rooting for the Bills is not something many Americans do, the yearning to root for an underdog is widespread.
          Americans actually prefer the underdog to the favorite. Academic studies show that about two-thirds of people will root for a hypothetical underdog over a hypothetical favorite. Not only that, but experiments indicate that people will switch allegiances if they find out the underdog is winning.