Here's an image that Kentucky University basketball fans can probably relate to after Sunday's last-second loss in the NCAA Tournament to the University of North Carolina.
Video of fans riding an emotional rollercoaster at a sports bar during the last 20 seconds of the game — which ended in a two-point defeat for Kentucky and a trip to the Final Four for UNC— went viral on Twitter after the game. As the weight of the loss settled in, many expressed their dismay with the same non-verbal cue: hands on the top of the head, elbows out to the side.
The pose actually resembles a conventional "power pose" — but with one subtle change, body language expert Patti Wood told ATTN:.
This is actually a "slight variation in a cue that means almost exactly the opposite to what they're using it for in this instance," Wood said.
Traditionally, the "crown-and-cape" pose — as Wood defines it — is used when a person wants or has power over a situation. Think about a business executive leaning back in their chair, hands behind their head and elbows extended outward.
The hand placement is important from a body language perspective, Wood explained. Most of the Kentucky fans have their hands on the top of their head, as opposed to behind their head, and that's meant "to protect from a blow."
"What's interesting is that combination of the elbows out with the hands on top of the head for protection," Wood said. "It's a mixture of, 'Oh my god, we had the power and we lost it.' You've got the combination of the cape, which would have been a win, and the hands on top — we lost the win."
If you watch the video, you can understand where that emotional combination comes from. Down three points with 10 seconds on the clock, Kentucky's Malik Monk gets the ball and makes an impressive shot from the three-point line, tying up the game.
The Kentucky fans go wild, jumping in place.
Then UNC's Luke Maye answers by hitting the game winning shot with less than a second left on the clock, ripping the rug out from under Kentucky fans' feet.
"There's a unity of emotion — you're feeling it as a group together and that's what that photo is showing," Wood said. "You're all feeling that same loss in that moment."