Every year during the baseball playoffs, my son and I debate what we enjoy more: 1. Cheering for our favorite team to win; or 2. Cheering for the New York Yankees to lose.
The Germans have a word, shadenfreude, which means taking delight in the misfortunes of others. Many philosophers consider feelings of shadenfreude to be the sign of a bad person, and I wonder whether I’m a bad person for delighting in the failures of the Yankees and for encouraging my son’s shadenfreude when he once said he liked Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and I told him Jeter never calls his mom on Mother’s Day.
The Yankees are the most popular as well as the most hated team, both because of their success and because they have a payroll six times that of the smallest market underdog teams. Most of us root for the underdog, whether it be in sports or in life, and every year when the Yankees are officially eliminated, Optimist Prime and I cheer for underdogs everywhere and make a list of the underdogs we hope will succeed in the coming year and finally vanquish their overdogs. Today we made the following list:
Brussels sprouts versus dessert–How would you feel if your friends invited you to dinner and as soon as you sat down their kids start whining, “Aww, man, I hate Paul. Not Paul again. Why do we always have to have Paul at dinner?” That’s how brussels sprouts feel.
Zombies versus boarded up windows and doors–Why do we cheer for the boards to win instead of cheering for the zombies? Are we forgetting we share much more in common with zombies than boards since zombies used to be human? Shouldn’t an undead human still be smarter than a board?
Fire hydrants versus dogs–Those fire hydrants are there to save us in case of emergency, yet we do nothing when dog after dog lifts a leg to disrespect them. Some day fire hydrants will start spraying back!
The humans in Jurassic Park versus the dinosaurs–I don’t remember a single human ever killing a dinosaur in any of the three movies while the dinosaurs must have killed dozens. How could they be so much smarter than we are if they went extinct and we were smart enough to bring them back? Our other enemies may see these movies and become convinced humans are weak and could be easily conquered.
Sidewalks versus ice cream–Scoops of ice cream have been falling off cones and onto sidewalks unprov0ked for years, leaving behind a sticky mess. The time of the sidewalk to rise up has come!
The Feds in the movies versus everyone else–The FBI, CIA, or military always seem to come in and mess everything up after ignoring the warnings of the small town cops investigating the supernatural or the local group of children who discovered the alien. Just once I’d like the government to save the day and the townspeople bake a pie for those Feds who are just doing their jobs and probably miss their families while they’re traveling.
Windows versus baseballs–The score is a million to nothing in favor of baseballs. We owe windows a debt of gratitude for letting in sunlight and allowing us to spy on our neighbors. Just once I’d like to see a window break a baseball.
Draco Malfoy versus Harry Potter–I know we’re all supposed to root for Harry Potter because he was battling Voldemort, but if I’d gone to school with him, I’m pretty sure I would have hated him, too. Harry always won the house cup, the Quidditch Cup, and was constantly defeating the darkest wizard in history. If Draco were my son, I would tell him to try setting himself apart by being the class clown. And if that didn’t work, try participating in a plot to kill the headmaster, Dumbledore.
Tom and Jerry–Optimist Prime used to get teary-eyed whenever he watched Tom and Jerry because he felt Tom was getting such a bad deal. Tom was just doing his job trying to keep the house free of rodents–many of which carry disease–and he was constantly threatened with unemployment and the loss of his home if he failed to catch Jerry, yet we laugh when Jerry hits Tom with a frying pan.