In the world of tournament bridge there is always a small minority of top class players who regularly turn up expecting to win. In contrast there is a vast majority of humdrum, rank and file, players, who turn up every now and again only in the hope of winning. But here in the UK there is a well established culture, which encourages bridge players to enjoy the status of underdogs, and to always support and back the underdogs, regardless of who they are taking on. They love the label of " underdog ", but sadly they are all victims of this terrible syndrome. Indeed, the name given to this affliction ( and other one mentioned below ) owe their origins to character called Ken Hunt, who had set about trying to define what character traits Aussies possess.
However, no one realised until recently that the condition was far more relevant to bridge players. Indeed, I vividly remember when I was asked to deal with club member, who relished the idea of being an outsider, a no-hoper, " just one of faceless majority ". As far as he was concerned the kudos of giving the experts and champions a run for their money was far more satisfying than the prospect of actually winning a major bridge event. The syndrome became more acute when he realised that all his peers loved him...... as being the little bloke, the ordinary Joe, the David with the sling, prepared to take on and slay the giants against all the odds. Such was his dogged and persistent challenge to knock as many spots off these top dogs, to ruffle their furs, and to upset the status quo, he soaked himself in the glory of defeat, like those brave and foolish men who fought alongside Sparticus.
Tragically, once the syndrome has reached its full blown stage, a victim becomes compelled to strive even harder to upset even more apple carts. He allows himself to wallow in the accolades of becoming the people's champion, as opposed to being the tournament champion. Real champions and expert players are nothing more than fairground ducks, targets to aim at and knock over. Yet the curious thing about this syndrome is that when a victim, or should I say underdog, ever goes on to win a tournament .....and in the process become a real champion......then clinical depression sets in. This of course is based on the knowledge and awareness of the forthcoming pain and anguish when a replacement syndome takes over ( see below ).
DR. JOHN'S CASE NOTES : THE TALL POPPY SYNDROME
This subsequent and replacement syndrome is very short lived, owing to the fact that underdogs who win a major tournament will soon experience the reality of crashing back down to earth. Only then can the underdog label be picked up and worn again. However, during the short honeymoon period of being real champions, life for these usurpers and upstarts quickly turns into a real bummer, plunging them into a rare type of depression. For while they have the newly acquired status of being top dogs, deep down they know they haven't got a cat-in-hell's-chance of living up to it. Moreover, they are now the easy and hated targets of all underdogs who previously loved and worshipped them. In bridge tournaments before, coming half-way was still something that could earn warm applause and congratulations. But now such a result earns derision, ridicule and scorn. Therefore, any tall poppy, who stands out from the riff raff of ordinary non-achieving Joes , will inevitably find himself cut back down to size. Knowing that this will surely happen, along with the painful experience that comes from being abruptly thrown off your pedestal, is the very thing that brings about this temporary depression. The reality of the situation becomes all too clear: winning a trophy as an underdog is not so much a blessing as a curse. Indeed, for the ordinary players of the bridge world there is far more joy in the pursuit of a dream than bringing it to fruition.