There always have been people who refuse to admit defeat. But in a society that puts a growing premium on self-regard and empathy for long-excluded groups, sore losers can be redefined as unfairly maligned victims, according to psychologists and political scientists who study changing attitudes toward losing.
In sports, for example, “fans are now more likely to insist their team would have won if it wasn’t for some fraud, if it wasn’t for that one bad call,” said Jimmy Sanderson, a professor of sports management at Texas Tech University who has studied the psychology of losing.
New technology and social media have given fans and players a way to find others who share their grievances, and that has emboldened people to reject the fact of defeat, Sanderson said.
“When I grew up, you lost, you admitted it, you moved on,” he said. “Now, players are more willing to challenge league commissioners and fans refuse to admit a loss — even though they know it happened — because we don’t want to give the other side the satisfaction.”