In a recent TDO group chat, one of our members strongly declared that he’d never bet on the team he supports, ever. The said club is in the English top flight, doing rather well, with several decent wins-most of them emphatic, on the back of good performances, with a very healthy goal difference count, and most importantly, in with a shout of winning the league. This happens to many people, and this article addresses the 21st century cultural norms that leads to such a mental model, and how our current clubs’ situations make us bet the way we do.
Human beings have evolved on the very basis of attaching themselves to a cause. Films and documentaries are churned out every other day about men who sought to conquer and conquer in a dominant way, eviscerating the enemy and taking slaves and burning entire cities to the ground. In modern times (well, after World War II) this sort of mindset has found its way into sport, football much much more than the other disciplines, to the point where clubs compete right from the board level-transfer targets and all, to the actual action on the pitch. And since there are no more wars for majority of the world’s inhabitants to participate in, and as everymen with ordinary jobs and businesses, we have aligned our loyalties to clubs whose principles are tuned to world domination, to dizzy fanatical levels in which wins and trophies are celebrated and talked about with pride and glee, and as verbal weapons, stout birchs to bludgeon supporters of rival clubs with, whose clubs historically have lesser successes or at a basic level, lower in a league table.
Chances are at the time you were in your childhood, as most normal kids do, picked the most successful team in that era, or as a rebel to popular opinion, chose to support the bitter rival of the most dominant team in the land at that point in time. The common denominator is that people will naturally want to identify with champions. Nowadays people in Kenya have been wearing Manchester City, and even Leicester City shirts to the private derision and contempt of ‘football purists’. These new niggas, as the phrase goes. Kids nowadays are more likely to support Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and City than Manchester United just because, barring Chelsea’s no show last season, United’s performances on the pitch in recent times have left nothing worth of inspiration, only picking up in recent months.
Well, of course your main club wins more football matches than it loses. Your side club is probably involved in a relegation battle in the Serbian second division. Your third club is never going to be promoted past League 2 but it wins most of its home games. Your fourth club is in Malaysia and they are off season. And you’ll bet more times on the latter two clubs than on your main team. Why?
Here’s the problem when it comes to your main club. Title races are usually so intense that one compares his team’s performances, points totals, and thus league position to their rivals. Let’s say United, at the time of writing currently in sixth, have won a fair share of games but Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have won more points. The general scope of the fact that United are in fact winning, to the point that they can’t be relegated, is overlooked to focus just on the positional inferiority to the other five clubs above them. And since being behind these clubs is not good enough, emotions come to the fore and there’s no way in hell a United fan is going to stake on his team to win a home game against a struggling Swansea. Let’s look at it from a league leader’s point of view. In April 2013, United were 14 points ahead of City just before a derby game. Sergio Aguero made a mockery of Phil Jones’ defending (why did Jones make that weird face, Jesus) while scoring the winner in a 2-1 win. 11 points is still insurmountable given that there were still four league games to be played and at that point United fans were still nervous about potential future banana skins. Such games are watched in utter horror just because a team is so close to the title. Chelsea are having an incredible season but some of their fans are wary about thinking big just because they fear a lead might slip, and with the mocking from rival fans that will go with it, such fear manifests itself into a preference to bet on Celta Vigo beating Alaves at home, or even a vastly inferior, in player ability, Cheltenham Town winning a home game against Southend United.
Another thing is, fans remember defeats more clearly than resounding wins. I do. Ask Arsenal fans who scored the third in four goals against Swansea four years on from now and most won’t remember. Ask the same fans to name an opposition player who scored the winner in a 2-1 defeat and most will. Others will point out a defender who wasn’t close to his man. The keeper not guarding his near post. You get full match reports. Even the referee’s name for good measure. And with so much on the line, with it goes the enthusiasm of betting on your own club to win. Whether your club has the most scintillating forward play/top scorer/most goals in the goals-for column doesn’t matter. You ain’t placing a penny on them, never. The most fascinating thing is that let’s say an Arsenal fan sees rival teams as winning machines, even if a point separates them. Spurs v West Brom? Easy win for Spurs. Chelsea away to Stoke? Walkover. United at home to Middlesbrough? I’ll make the bookie suffer.
Do I bet on my club to win? Yes I do. Nowadays. Ok, for the last two months at least. Why? Because I started to look at it from a standpoint of us having better players and in better form than our opponents. Just the same way I look at PSV Eindhoven’s league position against Roda JC and it’s a no brainer. Or Sevilla hosting Granada. Or even high flying Nice (I only bet on Ligue 1 if am very, very bored and there’s no value bets elsewhere on earth, and Balotelli is a walking red card, but it’s better than betting on my own club) hosting Lorient. Of course Arsenal, United, Spurs, City, Liverpool and Chelsea will outscore the clubs 7th and below on most days, but majority of their fans will be betting on Portsmouth to defeat relegation threatened Leyton Orient just because.
Hoping you all place a sizeable chunk on your main teams next weekend, no? I know you won’t. Mid table Genoa are hosting Crotone instead. Easy.