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Americans Love to Hate Winners

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We have a fascination with the little guy. Foundational to American storytelling is the little guy overcoming adversity to make it big. Americans love happy endings. The movie credits roll when Rocky raises his fists to the sky. Or when the young lawyer wins the big case against the mean corporation. Or when the nerdy sales guy finally marries the hot receptionist.

A storyline of a champion successfully defending his place in the world would never make it on TV. You’d never see a TV drama about a big law firm protecting their big clients assetts in a positive light. It would be offensive to our American storyline to celebrate the big guy keeping the little guy down. Our culture isn’t wired to believe that is a valid storyline.

We, collectively, hate the perennial winner. When the Chicago Bulls finally won the NBA Finals we celebrated with Michael Jordan. But when they won 3 in a row that seemed a bit much and everyone was fine with MJ going to play baseball for a few years. We were sick of his winning ways. The good guy needed to go wear a black baseball hat for a while… so we could welcome him back as he overcame being down to come to the top one more time.

We love the process of becoming a winner. But actual winners become the enemy in about two seconds.

This plays out painfully in politics. Collectively, we loved Bill Clinton as president. Then we hated him. We loathed his sleazy ways and couldn’t wait for him to leave office. People loved George W. Bush. It’s almost embarrassing to say that publicly– but the people loved Bush! Then they hated him. As time wore on everyone looked forward to him leaving office. Not even Republican nominees for his office wanted him at their events in the last year of his presidency. And now the tides are turning against Barack Obama. Just 12 months ago more than 60% of Americans chanted “Yes We Can” as they cast their ballot. Many cried along with the thousands at Grant Park when Obama won. Many lined up for days to proclaim his innaguration as the greatest day in our lifetime. But now he’s not the little guy, is he? The little guy has become the man and there is something in our collective DNA that must learn to loathe him.

It’s a little surreal when you look at it like that, isn’t it? Maybe its just hip to hate the President?

Sports? Same thing.

Celebrity? Same thing.

Business? Same thing.

Churches? Same thing.

Pretty much anyone or any thing which rises from obscurity to some notoriety is immediately loathed once they make it to the top. People hate Microsoft. They hate Dell. They hate AT&T. They hate the Yankees. They hate CNN. They hate Rick Warren. They hate Miley Cyrus.

I don’t know about you. But I’m ready for a new storyline in our culture. I’m sick of the hatred. I’m bored with making celebrities awesome in order to just tear them down. The plot is disgusting to me.

How about we start celebrating the everyday champions? The ones who never gain notoriety for coaching a freshmen basketball team. Is it possible for our culture to celebrate the Jack & Diane’s of the world? How about celebrating longevity? How about focusing on long term success instead of a parabola of success?

Of course not. We love creating superstars for the sole purpose of destroying them far too much.

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9 Responses to Americans Love to Hate Winners

  1. Matthew McNutt October 12, 2009 at 4:57 am #

    I’ll own it: I hate Miley Cyrus.

    Unfortunately, I also have one of her cds …

  2. David Lambert October 12, 2009 at 5:35 am #

    AMEN! I have seen this play out in churches far too often…It could be the new pastor everyone loves at first and then can’t stop finding fault with after the “honeymoon period.” Or it could be the new program everyone supported and touted only to see it as an inconvience at best or an abomination at worst when it’s been successful for a few years. I’ve even seen this play out in my own ministry, aimed at my own success, the success of a youth ministry volunteer, or a new program that’s out-performing an old tried-and-true. It’s time for the Church to lead the charge away from this polarizing, success-oriented mindset. We must model for the world the better way–unity around a common mission, not seeking our own interests, but the best interests of everyone.

  3. adam mclane October 12, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    @matt- you know you have all of her CDs and the collectors edition DVD set, signed, in your office.

    @david- this definitely plays out in the local church. “We love you, you’re the man… ugh, we’re sick of you. When will that winner leave so we can raise up someone else?” Too true.

  4. Gman October 12, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    And hopefully it isn’t always about hate but about helping those in the trenches. Maybe one day the LEAFS will win the Cup again … there is always hope. Of course there is more to life than just fans though. Fans like to hate or like but there tends to be no devotion or committment. Now followers, that’s a different story and gets into the whole love issue.

  5. Tom October 12, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    It is more complicated than support on the way up and trample them once they get there. Much of it depends on how they respond in the spotlight. Tiger Woods, Billy Graham, President Eisenhower, Mickey Mantle, and others have maintained their stature. What hurts is arrogance, exploitation of the masses and self absorption. Most of us liked MJ until we heard his acceptance speech into the hall of fame. They do themselves in, not the other way around.

  6. Elizabeth October 13, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    I am totally the person you are talking about. I hate the Yankees, and the only reasoning that I have for my hatred is that I am sick of seeing them or hearing about them.
    I can see that I do this in church too. I love the youth program that I work with but more and more I am finding little things that bother me about the youth pastor and the way he does things. Thank you for shining light what so many of us fall prey to!

  7. Nick Arnold October 15, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    Sounds very similar to the way things go in and out of fashion.

    Watch “Merchants of Cool” on PBS. It’s a little old in its examples, but the concepts remain the same.

  8. Mr.Carrot46 October 22, 2009 at 4:02 am #

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  9. Maxx60 October 23, 2009 at 2:56 am #

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