Watch our highlights channel

Honor the world’s greatest unsung heroes, runners up and unlikely winners who have pulled off the unexpected on Underdog Day! For those that may not know, an “underdog” is a person in a competition or other event who is popularly expected to lose or fail. The individual expected to win is called the favorite or top dog.

History of Underdog Day

Originally, an underdog was a shipbuilder who stood in a dark pit and helped to saw planks of wood from beneath whilst the overdog, a supervisor of sorts, sawed the planks from above.

The underdog got all dirty and covered in sawdust, yet the overdog got all of the credit for the hard work carried out. The first recorded uses of the term occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century; its first meaning was “the beaten dog in a fight”. An “underdog bet” was a bet on the underdog for which the odds were always considerably higher.

Established by Peter Moeller in 1976, Underdog Day is the time to honor all of life’s unrecognized hard-workers.

Nowadays, the underdog character has become quite popular in pop culture, from Forrest Gump to The Karate Kid. Famous unlikely winners, such as Britain’s Got Talent’s Susan Boyle or Paul Potts have also been especially liked for their underdog status.

In fiction, some famous underdog winners include characters like Rocky Balboa or William Wallace in Braveheart–despite the rather thin or simply unlikely plots of both of these movies, they have both become cult classics, proving the status of the underdog character.

In fact, mankind has always rooted for the underdog. Perhaps there is something central to the human experience that means we all feel a bit like our lives consist of collecting the sawdust of life, and so we dream about the prospect of one day emerging from this filthy,  splintery mess victorious.

It would seem that people find it much easier to identify with the imperfect underdogs whose accomplishments often go unnoticed than the heroes everyone talks about and revers. It is hard to identify with the perfect, infallible characters who always know exactly what they’re doing and make no mistakes, the simple reason for this being that that’s not what reality looks like.

Nobody is perfect, so seeing people being presented as such can actually make us dislike them. And the truth is that a lot of those heroes would not be who they are, and would not have achieved what they’ achieved if it wasn’t for their humble sidekicks, the underdogs. Imagine Batman without Robin or Sherlock Holmes without Watson. Not quite the same, right?

How to celebrate Underdog Day

One of the best ways to celebrate underdog day is to get together with friends and watch some movies that have famous underdogs in them, like the aforementioned Karate Kid, any of the Rocky movies, or Sherlock Holmes.

Alternately, you could throw a fancy dress party where each of the participants has to dress up as a famous underdog, like Batman’s Robin, Robinson Crusoe’s man Friday, Forrest Gump, or Kung Fu Panda.

Or perhaps Michael Jordan, if you can growl out his famous 2008 quote, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed” anywhere close to as well as he did, sending shivers down the spines of everyone who has ever not tried something for fear of failure.