The German word Schadenfreude means joy in the misfortune of others. Most of us experience such pleasure some of the time, and some of us most of the time. Schadenfreude is an evil relative of the sorts of topics positive psychologists usually study. How close or distant a relative, I don't know, but I invite readers of this entry to consider the issue.
I thought of Schadenfreude during the past week, ever since the news broke that Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel resigned amid escalating accusations of wrong-doing by his players. I do not know what really happened - what the players did, what the coach knew, and when he knew it - but regardless, as a sports fan, even one of the University of Michigan football team, I felt sad because these events diminished a game that I so enjoy.
I am not saying that those who break the rules should go unpunished, only that punishment, no matter how much it may be deserved, is not an occasion for joy. However, I have been wondering if I am alone in Maize and Blue Nation. To and from work (at the University of Michigan), I often listen to a local AM sports station that features talk. Those who call in are usually Michigan fans, and for the past week, callers have been positively giddy with delight over the misfortunes of the Buckeyes and their coach. If their joy were the result of the reasonable expectation that Michigan would benefit down the road from Ohio State's likely loss of football scholarships and exclusion from bowl games, not to mention the resignation of a very good if tarnished coach, I would be more understanding. Those thoughts crossed my partisan mind. But what I have been hearing from most callers is ungrounded joy, simple and hardly pure.