An underdog is a person or group in a competition, usually in sports and creative works, who is largely expected to lose.[1] The party, team, or individual expected to win is called the favorite or top dog. In the case where an underdog wins, the outcome is an upset. An "underdog bet" is a bet on the underdog or outsider for which the odds are generally higher.

In the battle between David and Goliath, David is an archetypal example of an underdog.

The first recorded uses of the term occurred in the second half of the 19th century;[2][3] its first meaning was "the beaten dog in a fight".[4]

In British and American culture, underdogs are highly regarded. This harkens to core Judeo-Christian stories, such as that of David and Goliath, and also ancient British legends such as Robin Hood and King Arthur, and reflects the ideal behind the American dream, where someone who is poor and/or weak can use hard work to achieve victory.[5] Underdogs are most valorized in sporting culture, both in real events, such as the Miracle on Ice, and in popular culture depictions of sports, where the trope is omnipresent.[5] The idea is so common that even when teams are evenly matched, spectators and commentators are drawn to establishing one side as the underdog.[5] Historian David M. Potter explained that underdogs are appealing to Americans not because they simply beat the odds, but overcome an injustice that explains those odds - such as the game being unfairly rigged due to privilege and power.[5] Sometimes a team or competitor may be technically the favorite in a game but be an underdog in the big picture, as they weren't expected to be in that kind of position, such as a Cinderella team in sports.

In a story, the Fool is often an underdog if they are the main character. Their apparent ineptitude leads to people underestimating their true abilities, and they are able to win either through luck or hidden wisdom against a more powerful, "establishment" villain. An example in film is The Tramp portrayed by Charlie Chaplin.[6]

Cinderella edit

In sports, the terms Cinderella, "Cinderella story", and Cinderella team are used to refer to situations in which competitors achieve far greater success than would reasonably have been best expected.[7][8] Cinderella stories tend to gain much media and fan attention as they move closer to the tournament final game.[9]

The term comes from the well-known European folk tale of Cinderella, which embodies a myth-element of unjust oppression and triumphant reward, when the title character's life of poverty is suddenly changed to one of remarkable fortune. In a sporting context the term has been used at least since 1939, but came into widespread usage in 1950, when the Disney movie was released that year, and in reference to City College of New York, the unexpected winners of the NCAA Men's Basketball championship also that year.[10] The term was used by Bill Murray in the 1980 movie Caddyshack where he pretends as the announcer to his own golf fantasy: "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion."[11] Referring somewhat inaccurately to the plot details of the classic Cinderella story, the media will debate whether the given "Cinderella" team or player will "turn into a pumpkin", i.e. fail to win the prize and then return to its former obscurity.[12] In the fairy tale, it was the carriage that turned into a pumpkin at midnight, not Cinderella herself. Another popular term is "strike midnight", when a Cinderella team does finally get beaten.[13]

Prior to the widespread use of Cinderella in this way, the more common term for unexpected and dramatic success was Miracle, as in the "Miracle Braves" of 1914, the "Miracle on Grass" in 1950, the "Miracle of Coogan's Bluff" in 1951, the "Miracle Mets" of 1969, and the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980.[citation needed]

Cinderella teams are also referred to as a surprise package or surprise packet, and their success would be termed a fairy-tale run. A related concept is the giant-killer, which refers to a lesser competitor who defeats a favorite, reflecting the story of David and Goliath. In Soviet sport, particularly team sports like football and hockey, there appeared a term Thunder to the Dominant [teams] (Russian: Гроза авторитетов, Groza avtoritetov) that referred to underdog, often a strong mid-table team, of which the dominant teams were afraid. The title is still in use in the post-Soviet period and sometimes is given to "dark horse" teams which manage to win a major tournament.[14] There was an official sports award that was introduced by the Soviet sports weekly "Sportivnaya Moskva" in the 1970s and 1980s for football and hockey top competitions awarded to teams that managed to take away the biggest number of points from the last season top-three placed teams.[15]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Keinan, Anat; Avery, Jill; Paharia, Neeru (November 2010). "Capitalizing on the Underdog Effect". Harvard Business Review (November 2010). Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
    "Everyone loves a scrappy underdog", as the article observes.
  2. ^ "Definition of UNDERDOG". Archived from the original on 2016-05-29. Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  3. ^ The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Third Edition, 1983. First use 1887.
  4. ^ The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Third Edition, 1983.
  5. ^ a b c d Halberstam, J. Jack; Lowe, Lisa (2016). "Everybody Loves an Underdog". Asian American Sporting Cultures. NYU Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-1479840816.
  6. ^ Snyder, Blake (2005). "Give Me The Same Thing... Only Different!". Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need. Michael Wiese Productions. p. 37. ISBN 1615930000.
  7. ^ Merron, Jeff. " Page 2 : Who are the greatest Cinderella stories?". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  8. ^ Kim, Suzie (26 March 2004). "Cinderella stories: Battling from the bottom up". The Gazette. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  9. ^ Bonsor, Kevin (17 March 2003). "How March Madness Works". Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  10. ^ ESPN (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York: ESPN Books. p. 28. ISBN 9780345513922.
  11. ^ "Soundclip of Bill Murray in Caddyshack". MovieSoundsCentral. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
  12. ^ "March Madness 2013: Is Harvard the next 'Cinderella'?". Christian Science Monitor. 22 March 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Clock Strikes Midnight for Cinderella Team George Mason - WRIC Richmond News and Weather -". Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-03-24. "Clock Strikes Midnight For Cinderella Team George Mason"
  14. ^ Oleg Koshelev. The Thunder to the Dominant": the main sensations of the Russian Cup in football (Гроза авторитетов: главные сенсации Кубка России по футболу). TASS.
  15. ^ Thunder to the Dominant (Гроза авторитетов).

Works cited edit

External links edit

  • "Top dog". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 2013-09-19.