The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.


Sports Authority

Carson: Taking pleasure in others’ pain

| Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Could I have the language of origin? German.

Definition? A feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

Could you use it in a sentence? Alex Carson had a feeling of schadenfreude upon hearing that his favorite soccer team’s manager had been fired.

In a general sense, schadenfreude is a funny thing. The term comes from the German words for “damage” and “joy” which has a bit of an awkward correlation in the first place. I mean, sure, when your ex-girlfriend gets dumped by her new guy, you might be a little happy about it, but to have a word for that? It’s a little peculiar.

But this, of course, is a Sports Authority column, so let’s get back to the sports.

There are two soccer teams in Europe that I root for — Aston Villa in England’s Premier League and Hertha Berlin in Germany’s Bundesliga.

Both have had incredibly disappointing seasons. Granted, disappointment as a sports fan is nothing new to me, but as time wore on, it was clear to everyone that both clubs needed to make a change.

Last Wednesday, Hertha Berlin lost in a lifeless performance that dropped it into relegation spots for the first time all year. The next morning, I woke up to the news that the club had gotten rid of manager Jos Luhukay. It was news that put me in a good mood for the rest of the day, and it carried into the weekend when the club won its first game without him in charge 2-0.

Then Tuesday, Aston Villa lost in a lifeless performance that dropped it into the relegation places for the first time all year. Yesterday, I saw the news that the club had sacked its manager, Paul Lambert.

And I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

It’s really weird in a way. I’ve never met Luhukay or Lambert and fundamentally, they’ve never done anything to me. They gave me some good sporting memories — Luhukay won Hertha promotion a couple of years ago while Lambert led a run to the semifinal of England’s League Cup — and put everything they had into the clubs they were in charge of.

But at the same time, their teams had driven me to the brink of hating soccer.

At the end of the day though, I’m left sitting here celebrating that a couple of men lost their jobs this week. Sure, they’ll each probably land on their feet somewhere at a different team, but it’s still a weird thought to have cross the mind.

When the jobs report comes out every month, I’d like to think that almost nobody celebrates if unemployment has risen. As far as I know, there won’t be parties when the local high school has to lay off 10 teachers.

But the schadenfreude we take in coaches being fired is a perfect example of the level to which sports have the ability to transcend, really who we are.

And this goes well past coaches being fired. I’m a Cleveland sports fan. In 2011, I got tons of joy from seeing the Heat defeated in the NBA Finals.

Or let’s go to college football, a great place to see our love of sports schadenfreude play out with 21-year-old student-athletes. It’s probably because of the immense passion that we as a society direct towards college football, but it’s my favorite genre of schadenfreude out there.

I mean, don’t even try and pretend that you don’t laugh every time an Alabama fraternity guy is on ESPN — dressed in his Sunday finest, no less — bawling his eyes out because his beloved Crimson Tide might actually lose a football game. Or as Notre Dame fans, don’t say you haven’t taken at least a few minutes to laugh at the misfortunes of that school in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Sports do a lot of irrational things to us. But when it makes us take pleasure in the failures of others? That’s maybe my favorite one.

So … it’s s-c-h-a-d-e-n-f-r-e-u-d-e. Schadenfreude.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: , ,

About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

Contact Alex