Yesterday my mother-in-law told me about an article she read by Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal that had to do with “pleasure in someone else’s pain,” also known as the German word “schadenfreude.” (Cohen’s Wall Street Journal article link)
I said, “Oh, we call that being a ‘hater.”
In addition to schadenfreude, Cohen’s piece also explores a made up German term “gluckschmerz”, which is the sentiment that when the “desired misfortunes fail to happen and we simply feel secret disappointment.”
This I hadn’t put much thought into, but I suppose that if you “hate” then you also get disappointed when the “hating” doesn’t pan out.
As a Miami Dolphins fan, this is what I feel like on most Sundays when the dynastic New England Patriots inevitably come up victorious (ironically, they lost their first game of the year last Sunday night at Denver).
So the question is what can we learn about ourselves from schadenfreude and/or gluckschmerz?
I started making a list of the attributes of what some of my most “hated” college programs and/or sports franchises. What I came up with was this:
Prepared, organized, clutch, focused, dominant and maybe even lucky.
So I suppose that we can all find successful college programs or professional franchises to feel some schadenfreude towards but also respect them as well.
Then again, if you feel yourself laughing or shaking your head at a franchise, and continuing to criticize coaches decisions, recruiting, end of game execution, etc. that can still be schadenfreude but more than likely you are just watching a poorly run organization with no leadership (a few organizations come to mind!).
My suggestion is to save your schadenfreude for your rivals or those organizations that you really respect. You will get much more out of it.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo