August 03, 2012

Would You Rather Win Silver Or Bronze? (Be Careful What You Wish For): "If you set aside the happy people who win gold and look only at the people who come in second and third, it's the men and women with bronze medals who invariably look happier than the athletes who won silver."

posted by Joey Michaels to olympics at 07:12 PM - 3 comments

This got me thinking; I wonder if teams in (for example) the NFL playoffs feel better if they were eliminated earlier. For example, was it harder to be on the Patriots last year or The Lions at season's end?

posted by Joey Michaels at 08:20 PM on August 03

I think there are a number of reasons this may happen- some outlined in the article, but lots of variations on "Silver means I just lost out on Gold, while Bronze means 'Hey I medaled!'".

I also wonder if part of that is because the Gold and Silver go to the two best, who are often neck-and-neck and in a different class than everyone else. In that case, it's almost a coin toss which of them win in any given race which is practically a two-person duel for the "best in the world", all but separate from a race of "the rest of the field", almost none of whom expect to outpace the top two but who are thrilled to outpace everyone else.

It's like, Coke and Pepsi can have a bitter rivalry to hold that dominant position, but RC Cola and Fanta and the rest are just really freakin' happy to be on the store shelves.

Joey: It's probably different for annual sports than for Olympic ones, where the only "real" championship is the one every 4 years and you might only get 1, 2, rarely even 3 chances to "Win it all".

If you're playing every year, each loss is muted, so I think it would still be better to be on the Patriots, because making the Superbowl- even if losing in a similar heartbreak fashion as the last time- says "Hey, we're good enough to get here, we can be back, we can work on what we did wrong and get it all next year" whereas not even making the playoffs, or getting knocked out in the first round, is like "Eh, we were the token wild cards, we have a long road ahead of us to be a contender with any regularity".

posted by hincandenza at 08:43 PM on August 03

In some sports, one has to win a consolation match to earn bronze; thus they would be very happy to be on the podium.

posted by jjzucal at 08:11 AM on August 04

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