Driving home from Wembley stadium last month, I had a realisation. I’d been to watch the women’s FA Cup final where my team, West Ham, took a thumping. “You must be very disappointed,” said my friend with tender concern. “I’m fine,” I started, “I’m used to it.” That’s when it hit me: I’ve never watched a football match where my team has won.
In fact, in my adult life I’ve never seen anyone I support triumph – not my sports teams, nor my politicians, nor my chosen contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Disappointment is my default; I am a stranger to reflected glory. I don’t know what it would feel like to have that brief moment of supporter’s euphoria where anything is possible, and all is right with the world.
Some of it is simply coincidence. I might have only seen losses but would surely catch a victory if I properly followed a team. But the rest is down to me and my curse: I cannot shake my love of the loser. I can only wave my banner for the hero likely to fail. Give me an underdog and I’ll give you devotion. Why? I’m not so sure. A childlike naivety to dream the impossible, or cynical, bitter schadenfreude, to wish to see the mighty fall?
Perhaps I like underdogs because I relate. When I see them race ahead from the back of the pack, I imagine that someday that will be me. Surely the future will bring more victories to add to my 2007 pub quiz win with a team we embarrassingly named Alcoholic Synonymous?
Still, I can’t see myself switching from Team David to Team Goliath anytime soon. So if I remain committed to the little guy, I’ll have to learn to take my wins elsewhere, to find successes in less obvious places. I found out later that the FA Cup match was the most attended women’s game in UK history. I’ll take it.