Spoiler Alert! How easy is it to watch a recorded game without knowing the score?

spoiler alert

It’s the Champions League final on Saturday night. I’ll be at a wedding. Meanwhile, my boyfriend will be attending a black tie dinner. I think I’m a bit more excited about my evening than he is(!)… but it leaves us both with a football-shaped Sky Plus conundrum. One of the best things about TV is being able to record programmes, so that you can successfully coordinate a social calendar alongside the year’s biggest televised sporting events. But what’s the best way to watch Ronaldo and co. play after the game has finished? Know the score and just enjoy the game, or avoid interacting with any other football-loving human all evening and go through the tension and excitement of the action on time delay?

Of course, this isn’t a new problem. Home video recording of television programmes began to happen more widely in the 1960s and 70s. A few people reading this might remember the ‘Likely Lads’ episode where Bob and Terry are determined not to find out the football results and end up seeking refuge at the hairdressers. (You can click on this link to watch a short clip from the episode.) There’s still the classic line at the end of the Ten O’clock News every Saturday night: “If you don’t want to know the scores, look away now!”. These days, anyone who has managed to get all the way through to Match of the Day without seeing or hearing about a result has done well considering the countless avenues modern media uses to get to us. Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, the radio, TV… and that’s if your mate hasn’t mentioned it to you via a phone call or text message.

In some sports, I’m convinced it might be better to know the result beforehand. For example, most of the time, the first and last laps are the only bit of Formula 1 races that are worth watching. That’s where the drama, the mass overtaking, the minor crashes and the glory happen. So I quite like watching those parts of a Grand Prix without it being a killjoy to know in advance whether it will be Vettel, Hamilton or Alonso spraying Champagne from the podium at the end of the race. I have definitely watched football, rugby and hockey matches where I wished afterwards that I had known it would be low scoring and highly boring, and that I had would have subsequently decided against wasting a couple of hours of my life on.

An anonymous source tells me that in beach volleyball, no one cares about the result before, during or after a game. Does this little joke objectify women diving about in bikinis and buff men showing off their tans? Maybe. That said, I watched some beach volleyball live during the Olympics in London and even I can remember more of the half-time dancing and the crowd doing the Conga (during the points) than the games themselves…

In other sports, a lot of the fun of watching is in not knowing what will happen. Think of an amazing Twenty20 cricket run chase or most tennis matches involving the modern greats. You can appreciate the skills on display even more vividly when you are experiencing something of the tension and pressure of the situation yourself. Although it was awful, hide-behind-the-sofa viewing for most of the game, watching Manchester United becoming champions of Europe with an astounding comeback against Bayern Munich in 1999 wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t suffered the first 90 minutes in real time beforehand.

A mate of mine regularly records rugby matches to watch later if he can’t watch them live, on the grounds that knowing the result ruins the game: it becomes “sport without the tension”. He says that he is often successful, but it relies on some rules: no Internet, no radio (not even traffic info!) and asking anyone he speaks to not to mention anything about rugby. These measures may sound extreme, but if that’s what it takes to maintain excitement in sport as a busy spectator then it must be worth it.

Perhaps the choice depends on whether you have a vested interest in a result. Sometimes, as a supporter, your desperation for your team to win (and the inevitable pain if they don’t) means it just isn’t worth avoiding the prior knowledge that is available to you if you choose to access it. Additionally, in today’s world of social media and being hit by a constant flow of information, it can be quite a challenge not to find out anyway.

In the end, I suppose it all depends what you want out of watching an event. If the game itself – whether it ends up being the most exciting comeback ever or the dullest fixture in the history of sport – is the thing that’s more important to you, it will probably always be worth watching without prior knowledge. Other people may be able to enjoy the performance, the skill and the spectacle independently from the drama and emotion of it all. Then there are those who just can’t take not knowing something that is knowable.

Ironically enough, I watched Liverpool’s Champions League Final comeback live in 2005 alongside the bride whose wedding I’ll be celebrating on Saturday when this year’s final is being played. Although it was a bit painful to see Liverpool’s dramatic second-half comeback from 3-0 down (for a Man United fan anyway), I think it’s fair to say it wouldn’t have felt quite the same to watch the game later, knowing it was going to happen. I’m not quite sure what we will do on Saturday. It will be tough to entirely block out the outside world until Sunday morning… but maybe it would be worth it.

 

The Long Walk to… Boredom?

I like a challenge, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. I know fleeces and sledges and so on are probably a bit more hi-tech these days, but the icy fate of Captain Scott has made my mind up about polar exploration. Similarly, Mount Everest is quite simply too big a hill for my little legs. I like Alton Towers as much as the next person, but Nemesis and Oblivion are quick enough for me, so trying to break the land speed record isn’t on my agenda. I think I would quite like to do a skydive. But from the sky not outer space like the (clearly mental) Felix Baumgartner did in 2013.

Up until now, hockey has provided me with enough physical, mental and emotional challenges to keep me busy, motivated and too tired to do much else! But things, for this summer at least, have changed. I’m looking for new challenges and what better way to start than a Tough Mudder. This is a 12 mile course, made a bit trickier by the inclusion of various obstacles – think 10 foot walls, icy water tanks, electric shocks and LOTS of mud! (For an idea, watch this video). I’m doing this as a bit of fun, as something to train for and to raise some money for Help for Heroes.

Strangely enough though, I think I’m more nervous about the 15 mile charity walk I’m doing in Jersey tomorrow morning. This is partly because as a general rule, I find walking boring. I feel I should apologise at this point to my two walking companions for the title of this post (and to the late, great, Nelson Mandela for ‘paraphrasing’ the title of his amazing book). Ultimately though, finding a very ‘human’ action – and for most humans, an integral part of how we move – ‘boring’ is a reflection on me, not on them. I’m sure we will chat our way along the south coast of Jersey with ease. I just find the monotony of placing one foot in front of the other for hours on end a greater mental challenge than I think the physical difficulties of jumping, sliding and running through the Yorkshire mud will pose.

I realise this is a bit of a shameless plea for a bit of sponsorship. But the point is, even though sometimes our fundraising attempts can seem a bit self-indulgent because of the ‘personal challenge’ involved or the fact they’re actually quite good fun, as a general rule, they are geared towards helping others. Whether I manage to walk 15 miles tomorrow without getting bored, or trudge through 12 miles of mud in August, if I can raise a bit of awareness and a bit of money to help some people who need it, then that will be a much more powerful outcome.

Click here to visit my Tough Mudder sponsorship page and donate to Help for Heroes

or

Or visit this website to find out how you can donate to help adults and children with a learning disability in Jersey.

Thank you!
@inkingfeeling>

Is it Time to Wave the White Flag on Sporting Patriotism?

sporting patriotism

With the Football World Cup just around the corner, we’re bound to start seeing a few more St George’s crosses than normal adorning houses, pubs and cars across England in the coming weeks. It’s amazing how a few people kicking a ball around a field can reveal Joe Public’s apparent national pride more than anything else. It may only really last for a month every four years, but by Jove we’re jolly proud of our Englishness when we support our boys’ inevitably unsuccessful attempt to regain the glory days of 1966.

I don’t think being proud of where you come from is a bad thing. When it comes to sport, I’ve been fortunate enough to see this from both perspectives: I’ve had the honour of wearing an England (or Great Britain) shirt and singing “God Save the Queen” on an international hockey pitch when representing my country in competition. I’ve also supported British athletes in countless sports in stadiums and arenas, not to mention the comfort of my own living room. I am proud of my Jersey, English and British roots. I have always found it hard to understand it when a teammate or a famous sportsperson doesn’t seem to demonstrate their own pride in that England or GB badge through how they are going about things. Regardless of not quite playing in it myself, I felt proud to be British when Team GB had such an amazing London 2012.

This brings us to an interesting point. Lots of our medallists (and in fact British representatives in general at the Olympics, including many coaches) weren’t born in Britain. I pass no judgment in mentioning these names, but Mo Farah and Sir Bradley Wiggins, undoubtedly two of Britain’s best-known Olympic gold medallists, were born in Somalia and Belgium respectively. In fact 60 out of 542 Team GB athletes were born outside Britain. Of course, every one of these athletes met the required eligibility criteria to compete for Team GB. For the most part, the successes of our Brits were celebrated regardless of their birthplaces. Personally, I’m glad this was the case.

The eligibility criteria for athletes to compete for a nation vary across different sports. Factors such as place of birth, residency, dual passports or even the birthplace of an athlete’s parents or grandparents can all open and close doors to representative honours depending on the sport. There are lots of other examples of sportspeople competing for different countries to where they were born, grew up, or first gained representative honours. British athletics has accepted a number of athletes from other countries, many of whom have been criticised for being ‘plastic Brits’ (again, not my opinion, just a widely-used label). Many of the most famous England cricketers from recent years are of South African origin – Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior, to name a few. The England and GB hockey teams have some currently (or soon to be) eligible players who have previously represented Ireland at international level. Rugby union has seen many nationality switches in both directions between countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Scotland, Italy and Wales. A number of Kenyan distance runners have famously switched nationality to represent Qatar, Bahrain and the USA.

Not every sportsperson’s change of nationality is welcomed. There was a recent story about the possibility of Aljaz Bedene, a Slovenian, competing for Britain in the Davis Cup after applying for a British passport. This news has been met with mixed reactions. Dan Evans (another British tennis player whose Davis Cup place could be under threat should Bedene be allowed to compete) tweeted, “So a guy is becoming British who has already played for his country… Doesn’t quite sound right to me!”. This isn’t new to British tennis. Greg Rusedski represented Canada before switching to Britain in 1995 and he experienced mixed levels of British support. If we’re honest, he was backed when he was winning and criticised when he was losing. We want GB to do well and it’s interesting how quickly we can overlook or highlight a person’s nationality depending on how we perceive our team to be getting on. Laura Robson, the current no. 1 British female, was born in Australia and didn’t move to the UK until she was six. When she won a silver medal at London 2012, nobody seemed too worried about that…

Of course, there are some famous historical examples of national pride being taken to extremes, or simply hidden behind in an attempt to justify absolutely immoral behaviour, terrorism and terrible acts of war. In sport, misguided ‘national pride’ has contributed considerably to institutionalised doping, corruption and sport’s symbolic status being used in controversial or extreme ways. To me though, these things are a world away from a person’s decision about which flag to wave on their victory lap.

It seems to me that our acceptance of athletes who transfer and their decisions on which nation to represent is dependent on a number of factors. People make assumptions about the identity of athletes who make a switch based on essentially superficial characteristics such as accent, success and ostensible ‘Britishness’. Some sportspeople are judged negatively because their motivations to change nationality are (allegedly) based on money, opportunism or ambition… even though the people making these judgments don’t know what their actual reasons are. It should also be mentioned here that for whatever reason, we judge sport differently to other aspects of life. Hypothetically, let’s say you have an ambitious friend who moves abroad to take up an opportunity for a job with better pay. If he or she ends up applying for citizenship in their new land, would we judge them in the same way as an athlete who essentially does the same thing? Athletes who compete for one nation before switching to another also seem to be considered differently to those who are simply born in a different country to the one they represent.

There’s almost always more to these decisions than meets the eye. Let’s think about the Kenyan runners who have ‘become’ Qatari. One widely held assumption is that they are only doing it for money. It may be a factor, but there is almost certainly more to it than this. It could lead us to question whether the Olympics really is the ‘best of the best’. If it was, there might not be a cap on the number of athletes who can compete on behalf of each nation. In recent times, Ethiopian long distance runners, Kenyan middle distance runners and Jamaican sprinters could very possibly have filled up most of the places in various  Olympic finals based on their ability and personal bests. Maybe it isn’t surprising that a Kenyan runner chooses to change nationality to enable himself to earn a living, compete at the very highest level and realise the Kenyan running dream – even if it isn’t for Kenya. Many South African athletes switched nationality as part of the fallout of Apartheid and other sportspeople have changed passport as a result of seeking asylum. It isn’t always as simple as wanting to represent your country at your sport.

Don’t forget, some athletes born and bred in Britain give back less, compete with considerably less pride and passion, and invest their prize money in Monaco to avoid paying taxes. Where you’re from isn’t always a good indicator of how proud you are to wear that shirt and sing that anthem. I am very proud to be British and I don’t think I would want to change my nationality to try and enable some of my sporting ambitions to come to fruition. However, clearly this isn’t always a simple answer to a simple question, because every athlete’s individual situation is undoubtedly different. I’m sure it’s never an easy decision to make. We never know the whole story and we make judgments based on perceptions and assumptions, both good and bad. As far as I’m concerned, the most important thing is that an athlete always does his or her best and represents his or her team or nation with pride and honour. I don’t really have much hope or expectation, but I’ll be supporting “Roy’s Boys” in Brazil in a month’s time. If another team or other players set the football world alight though, I’ll get excited by and enjoy that too. Different sport of course, but I played for England in a World Cup in 2006. I’m very proud of that… but true sporting pride is about much more than a waving a flag or a wearing a shirt.

If You Grew Up as a 90s Kid…

If you grew up as a 90s kid

Or you’re the parent of someone who did

Then this poem may just resonate

‘cos life back then was really great

First day at school, January 1991

This rhyme started as a spark inside my brain

When I got a Panini sticker book once again

Remember football players, teams and shinies

In playgrounds and swap shops back in the 90s?

And what about the other crazes:

Yo-Yo’s, Pogs and Beanie Babies

Did you ever try to make sea monkeys grow,

Or ‘feed’ a Tamagotchi all those years ago?

90s crazes

Remember begging your folks for popper trousers?

And tying knots at the front of summer blouses?

Scrunchies and braids; the green and yellow Man U shirt,

Crop tops, cotton cycling shorts and my best denim skirt.

What about the shoes that we had on our feet:

Reebok Classics and Kickers, man they were sweet!

High tops and sneakers when they weren’t even cool

Jelly shoes were essential at the beach or the pool.

90s fashion

Now there might be a thousand channels to flick through on Sky

But in the 90s I don’t think we had Channel 5

‘The Playbus’ and ‘Andy in the Broom Cupboard’ on CBBC

Then ‘Fun House’ and ‘The Hurricanes’ on CITV

We were scared of the Child Catcher but we loved Power Rangers

Saw ads for Calgon, being Tango’ed and ‘stranger danger’

The theme tunes for the shows were classic as well –

Remember ‘Hang Time’, ‘Sabrina’ and ‘Saved By The Bell’?

90s kids tv

Weeknights meant ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’

Then ‘Top of the Pops’ after tea on a Thursday

‘Live and Kicking’ was the start to a childhood weekend

But it was on Saturday night TV that we came to depend

Baywatch got things going, what a start to our night!

Gladiators next (to inspire our play fights)

Then Cilla, ‘our Graham’ and the fun of ‘Blind Date’

We finished with Casualty (BBC1, ten past eight)

90s saturday tv

If we were bored, we went outside to play

Swingball and hopscotch were the games of the day

We tried to hula hoop for as long as we could

I made my sis go in goal – she was younger, she should!

Six week summer holidays, the sun always shone

Ironically global warming seems to mean those days are now gone

But when not playing outside or watching TV,

We listened to music on a tape or CD

90s games

I remember when ‘Wannabe’ was number one

And arguing whether Mel C or Mel B was more fun

Eternal, Take That, Backstreet Boys and then Hanson

Mmmbop and Whigfield, they both got us dancing

The Macarena routine is stuck in my brain

We practised those moves again and again

The Fresh Prince rap is one we all know

Not to mention MC Hammer and of course Coolio

90s music 

We actually grew up alongside Harry Potter

Scared ourselves reading Goosebumps and later Point Horror

Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario arrived

We spent hours on Gameboy and keeping Lemmings alive

We welcomed email and the Internet age

But it took over a minute to load one single page

When you called up a friend, you used the house phone

And if no one was in: “Please leave a message after the tone.”

90s technology

Pick n Mix at the cinema was a big part of the trip

We all saw ‘The Lion King’, ‘Beethoven’ and ‘Free Willy’ doing the flip

When we left my Grandparents’ we got two jelly teddies as treats

Spent pocket money at the corner shop on penny sweets

If we were thirsty we had Panda Pops, UmBongo or Capri Sun

“Can you get your straw in? Me either! Help me Mum!”

We made ice-lollies with squash and ate Petit Filous

Fish fingers were yummy, potato waffles too

90s food and film

If you’re a 90s kid I hope you made sense of the rhyme

Just a few of my memories from back in time

Don’t stay in the past – we’re long out of school

But being a 90s kid… man, that was cool!

On the beach

 

Baby Talk: What if it All Made Sense?

baby talk

Today we had a lovely visit from a friend and her little one-year-old cutie-pie. A couple of hours later, bubsy had entertained us with smiles, giggles, wobbly walking and even a few tears whenever the cat went anywhere near her. She (the baby, I should confirm) communicated with us purely through her facial expressions, body language and of course the little – or sometimes loud – noises that accompanied them. Children’s speech development obviously varies and can occur at different rates, and at different ages. Crying, pointing, rhythmical noises and gurgling are all part of the journey towards that magical first word. Secretive attempts to coerce a baby into uttering, “Mama” or “Dada” first seem to be in good spirits but I’m sure Mummy and Daddy are desperate to win that little battle, however much they might try to deny it. But what if babies could talk coherently from the moment they arrive in the world? What if we could understand their thoughts, feelings and view of the world from the start?

I should probably clarify at this point that much as I love kids, my experience is mostly limited to evenings of babysitting as a teenager and more recently, time spent with the children of my own friends. These are just a few musings from an inexperienced, thus far childless viewpoint and subsequently anyone who has kids may read this and disagree with everything. Maybe you’ll agree, or think of other ways life could change if babies could talk. Either way, leave any comments at the bottom and maybe at some point in the future I’ll realise how wrong (or how right!) I was.

I always imagine that one of the scariest things as a parent must be when your child is crying, and clearly ill or in pain, but you don’t know what is wrong. A baby can convey that he or she is unhappy or suffering, but sometimes it must be difficult to know why. If bubsy could just explain what is hurting rather than just screaming the house down, it could allow a parent to treat the problem or even just know it’s nothing major to worry about after all. I feel like it could help solve that awful trouble on plane journeys when a baby keeps crying and crying. I suffered from bad ears as a kid, especially 30,000 feet up in the sky, so I always try to stay sympathetic in this scenario, as it is often down to earache. However, you do sometimes wonder if the desperate, tired and often embarrassed parents have a clue what is actually wrong. If baby could tell them, maybe it would help point them in the right direction. Of course, maybe the infant would say, “I’ve got terrible earache” and then spend the next eight hours bawling anyway, so it might not help after all.

Then there’s the potential eye-openers that hearing baby’s viewpoint could create. Sometimes a new perspective is just what we need to refresh our own overcomplicated views of even the simplest things in life. If we go on the assumption that coherent baby speech was possible without being accompanied by an associated surge in brainpower, maybe the little ones could help us to appreciate the simple things in life through what they said. But then again, maybe they do that anyway, without needing to ‘make sense’. That happy little gurgle is the cutest noise ever. Playing with a toy, throwing a ball, or a game of peekaboo can create a smile and a giggle that would probably be ruined by hearing a running commentary.

Of course, we assume from the fact that a teddy bear or ‘talking’ toy can make babies giggle repeatedly for hours on end that they are less sophisticated, intelligent and generally ‘grown up’ than us. That they need help eating, cleaning themselves and moving seems to support this. But what if it’s all a big game? Maybe if babies could speak, the first thing that they’d tell us would be, “Stop speaking in that stupid voice! ‘Goo goo gaga?’ What are you talking about, you idiot?”. My Mum’s favourite character in the animated TV show “Family Guy” is Stewie, a one-year old talking prodigy. According to Wikipedia, the show’s creator has stated that, “Stewie is meant to represent the general helplessness of an infant through the eyes of an adult”. Maybe babies are smarter than we give them credit for and perhaps we do them a disservice through the rubbish we tend to babble at them. But I promise you that if you do try to speak to a small child in the same way you talk to an adult, you’ll be the one who feels stupid.

And what about when we’re all grown up and we get to watch home videos of ourselves as kids? The joy of seeing yourself totter about, fall over and believe in Father Christmas as a small toddler… all of that might be lost if you were recorded talking to the camera about these things at the time. The magic is in watching the smiles, the relief, the growing confidence embodied through action, not in hearing it spoken about. I’ll probably regret sharing this with the World Wide Web, but we have a great home video of me as a three-year-old exclaiming, “Goodness gracious me! It’s another book” as I tear open a Christmas present. If I had already spoken like a fully-fledged adult for my whole little life, I doubt this would seem so funny when we watch it back now. Good to know I was already a bookworm at that stage though.

As I’ve said, I don’t have any kids just yet. It seems to me that overall, it’s probably the most rewarding, enjoyable, challenging and tiring job in the world all rolled into one. And now I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure I’d want a baby chatting to me all day if I looked after one 24/7. Some people grow up to talk too much and so maybe a year or two of nonsensical gurgling from your little darling is a preferable start to parenthood. If I could change things, I think babies should try to develop their pointing skills a bit earlier. That way, although verbally expressing what hurts, or what object they want to shake and dribble on would be beyond them, at least we might have a bit more idea of what we could help with.

 

Follow me on Twitter @inkingfeeling

Searching for Sporting Glory: the Underdog vs the Favourite

goal 2

In most sports, the competitors start on a level playing field. At the beginning of a game, the score is 0-0 and in a race, everybody starts on a line the same distance away from the finishing tape. However, it often seems like the tags “favourite” and “underdog” can have a big impact when it comes to performance.

Sport has an amazing capacity to get us talking, judging and predicting long before a whistle has been blown or a ball has been played. In the run up to any big sporting event, people across the world spend lots of time discussing and lots of money betting on who will win. Sportradar, a company that monitors sports gambling activity, suggests that the global sports betting market could be worth up to $1 trillion (that’s 12 zeros. 12!). We are bombarded with statistics, odds and opinions, but does this really have any bearing on a result?

Maybe it’s all about what goes on in our heads. Being labelled as the favourite can generate confidence, belief and a feeling of invincibility. But it can also create pressure and expectation. An underdog may struggle with self-belief or feel like they have no real chance, but for some sportspeople, the idea that there’s nothing to lose can help set a performance free. I have a strong belief that in sport, statistics don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story. Just because Team A has beaten Team B the last nine times they have played, it doesn’t mean that game ten is a foregone conclusion. If it was, we wouldn’t feel so excited, nervous, tense and emotional about it all. That said, if either team allows the past to play on their minds, whether those thought processes are positive or negative could have a big impact on what is likely to happen.

Why can external opinions have such a big internal effect? The concept of self-efficacy may be important here. This idea is centred on self-confidence being situational and affected by factors such as observational learning and social experience. Learned behaviours and previous experience can seriously impact on a player’s belief and their subsequent execution of skills, tactics and physical performance. It might seem easier to win if you have done it before, and if others also believe you can do it again. But this is where underdog stories come in. As well as giving some sportspeople a sense of there being nothing to lose, they show us that in sport, unexpected things are possible. An underdog can sometimes have a great performance under no pressure at all and on any given day that can mean that an unexpected result happens.

In the last month, my hockey team has probably been considered both a favourite and an underdog in the three matches that determined the success of our whole season. In the English Hockey Playoffs, we had to play against two teams who had finished above us in the league table and who historically have had more experience and success in top-level club hockey. In the Cup Final, we were up against a lower league team who had done brilliantly to make the final (against the odds, if you’re the gambling type). As much as I think we approached all of our matches professionally and confidently, there’s no doubt that our sense of where we stood before the game had an impact on how we played.

Of course the favourite and underdog tags have a bigger effect on some sportspeople than others. In global sports or events, where media and public interest can be unbelievably high, the effects can be hugely multiplied. Just think of Cathy Freeman, the defining face of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. I can’t think of many examples of a sportsperson with greater pressure and expectation on his or her shoulders. Freeman was hailed as a favourite for the 400m, but her bid for glory transcended the track: she became a symbol of Australia, of the Aborigine people, and of a person trying to follow her own dream with the hopes and expectations of millions of people behind her. Incidentally, Freeman handled the pressure and won a gold medal.

For many sportspeople, the Olympics is the pinnacle of performance. We consider Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Kelly Holmes to be British sporting heroes. They aren’t the only famous names from Olympic history though. What about Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eel? Aside from the obvious necessity to have an alliterating nickname, the thing that these guys have in common is their underdog status. The public (including those who watch and support the Olympics as the peak of performance) tend to admire the bravery and pluckiness of these sportspeople regardless of the fact that compared to most Olympians they are pretty useless. ‘Useless’ may seem harsh… but Eddie the Eagle came 55th in the 1988 Ski Jumping with a combined total of 57.5m, whilst even the guy who came 54th managed 110.8m. Meanwhile Eric the Eel (who had never even seen a 50m pool before arriving at the Olympics) took twice as long as the winner of his heat to complete two lengths. These two Olympians may have emerged as crowd favourites, but they are two of the best-known underdogs in sporting history.

For some sportspeople, even elite athletes, they can remain regarded as underdogs if they do not quite achieve the very highest levels of success. Lee Westwood has been the world’s number one golfer, won the golf money list and represented Europe for the last eight Ryder Cups. Yet because he hasn’t yet won a major championship, pundits never really seem to think he will win. They think he might, but they never say he will. Rory McIlroy carried a four-shot lead into the final round at the 2011 US Masters but crumbled spectacularly under the pressure of being favourite. Just two months later, he built up an eight-shot lead over the first three rounds and coped with the pressure just fine to become a major champion for the first time.

Meanwhile, Tim Henman and Andy Murray have spent the last two decades carrying the tag of favourite for Wimbledon, regardless of form, rankings and the fact that both have played against some of the greatest players ever to hold a tennis racquet. Until Murray broke Britain’s 77-year duck on male winners at SW19, these Brits have somehow been tagged favourites every year despite the fact that realistically, they were probably always underdogs. And then of course there’s Wimbledon’s true underdog story: Goran Ivanisevic. Although he had made three Wimbledon finals earlier in his career, Ivanisevic entered the tournament as a wildcard in 2001 with a world ranking of 125. He went on to win the tournament. To illustrate quite how unexpected this result was, let’s consider the bookies. Ladbrokes and William Hill didn’t even give out odds for Ivanisevic at the start of that Wimbledon.

As I type this, World Championship Snooker plays quietly on the TV in the background. Earlier, I spotted Jimmy White in the crowd. Despite being a six-time finalist, he has never managed to win the World Championship. Snooker is a game of angles, finesse and very fine margins. White emerged as a prodigious teenage talent, progressed to play as a favourite, and probably ended up as the eternal underdog every additional time he failed to become champion. Of course, only in Britain would we dub a six-time runner up “The People’s Champion”.

It is considered typically British to support an underdog. This trait may have come from outside the sporting arena – maybe it’s something to do with coming from a small island nation. We consider the little guy who makes it big to be inspirational. We want to believe that even if the odds are against you, it’s possible to succeed. These attitudes are to some degree perpetuated by films and popular culture. Sports movies such as ‘Cool Runnings’, ‘Miracle’, ‘Rocky’, and ‘Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story’ teach us that whilst the underdog sometimes wins the championship and sometimes they don’t, it’s possible to win the hearts and minds of others by giving it a go.

I can’t even begin to cover every underdog story in sport here. As a football fan, lots of examples spring to mind: Greece and Denmark becoming European champions; Wigan winning the FA Cup in 2013; Manchester United and Liverpool mounting famous comebacks to win the Champions League from losing positions. What about baseball’s Boston Red Sox finally winning the World Series in 2004 after an 88-year drought? How about Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson as a 42-1 underdog for the fight? There are plenty of other examples out there, many of which have been inspirational and become legendary.

Of course, top sportspeople thrive on pressure. They expect to win and they want others to expect it to happen too. They may not have started out as a favourite – some sporting greats may have even have begun as underdogs. But to become truly great over an enduring period of time, you have to learn to perform with the tag of favourite. Michael Jordan, Steffi Graf, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo (and Lionel Messi, so I’m not accused of favouritism): they haven’t just got to the top – they’ve stayed there.

As for my team, we managed to win as both underdogs and as favourites. Based solely on our emotional responses, I can understand why victory as an underdog may feel more exciting than when you are expected to win. For us, it was pure delight to win the National Championship. I think it’s fair to say most people expected us to win the Cup Final. That didn’t mean it was a given, but it made our victory a little less dramatic and maybe the happiness was mixed in with a bit of relief. Either way, I’m really proud of each and every one of the girls for doing their bit, getting better as the season has gone on and performing well when it mattered the most.

Pressure and expectation can affect us in both positive and negative ways. The bottom line is, sometimes favourites can lose and underdogs can win, but things might just go by the formbook. I’m hoping that we go on from being double champions once, to being remembered for doing it again. Because in the end, there are two types of sporting story that are remembered for the longest: the truly great and the underdog champ who defies the odds and makes the unexpected possible. Which would you rather be?