Friday December 17th is going to be National Underdogs Day. What is an underdog and why is it so fun supporting them? An underdog is the predicted loser in a competition. It stems from Old English, referring to the “beaten dog in a fight.” Presumably, the “fight” is a dog fight—once a betting spectacle, but now illegal and inhumane. In modern usage, it just means the team or competitor who is not the betting favorite.
The underdog holds a special place in American culture. One can see that our love of the underdog is ingrained within our very history—the founding of our country after wresting it from the grasp of the tyrant King George was somewhat of an underdog’s tale. Also, the idea of the American dream perpetuates the underdog mentality: a land where someone who comes from nothing can build themselves a prosperous life through hard work and grit. That hard work and grit encapsulates what it means to be an underdog in our modern times. The underdog is not one that has the blessed gifts, the prodigious upbringing, and the haughty attitude. The underdog puts their head down and gets to work, and achieves glory through determination, perseverance, and passion. These are the qualities that are celebrated in our society.
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I love my hometown dearly. As a sports fan I am most avid for Atlanta sports teams. For many readers, that alone will garner sympathy. (Do not even mention the super bowl.) Atlanta has never truly been a sports mecca, although baseball might come close (congrats, Braves!). The state is mostly a football state, especially college football, and the Braves and ATL United (soccer team) have tasted recent success. But I am a basketball guy. And the Hawks are my team. I think being a Hawks fan means that you have to be a rational person because you can never get too excited about the team’s prospects at a championship. You always have to reason with your inner excitement about the roster, the schedule, and the matchups. You can’t be too excited about wins for fear of jinxing the team. You learn from the setbacks and you put your head down and get to work. You always have the underdog mentality.
Sports often seem to be a metaphor for life. The struggle, the grind, and the rewards for a job well done seemingly speak to our own day-to-day existence. There is a second definition for an underdog: a victim of injustice or persecution. As an attorney, what greater calling is there than to help those who feel like they are the victim of an injustice? perhaps it helps to always have that underdog mentality.