December 19 – Underdog Day

Posted on December 19, 2014

Today is the day to celebrate the underdog.

Underdog” means the team or athlete or contestant who is expected to lose a sport or game or competition. 

We also use the term in battle and political election situations. 

Actually, nowadays we sometimes also use the term to talk about rags-to-riches “Cinderella stories" of people who hit it big against great odds.

J. K. Rowling's rise to stardom from
obscurity is a stretch for the term
"underdog" - but the term is
sometimes used for this sort of

The first recorded use of the term underdog, from the late 1800s, referred to a dog who was defeated in a dogfight. The dog who won, of course, was the “top dog” – and this term, too, has been generalized to the winning (human) teams, athletes and contestants.

Needless to say, I hate the idea of pitting dogs against each other, having them fight for sport and for gambling. However, the word underdog no long has such unsavory connotations. 

And everyone loves the story of an underdog who wins. It's David and Goliath, in chess Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky, and ordinary worker Erin Brockovich against a big chemical company. 

We even love stories about underdogs who lose but do so with unexpected vigor, guts, or style. In the first Rocky movie, Rocky doesn't win the boxing match, but he shocks everyone by "going the distance" and wins the audience's hearts as well as "the girl."

Two sports stories about underdogs are
Gabby Douglas's surprising Olympic
Gold Medal...

...and the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," when
the U.S. hockey team beat Russia.

Some people writing about this holiday on, you know, on ye olde Internet, apparently think it's “Sidekick Day,” a day to celebrate the guy or gal NEXT to the star, the hero, the headliner. But my two cents is that underdog has another meaning. If you want a "Sidekick Day," choose another day and start one!

Also on this date:

Knocking Nights in Germany 

It's still time for Las Posadas!

Plan ahead:

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