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National Underdog Day

National Underdog Day has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with canines! 

WHAT Is National Underdog Day? 

Established by Peter Moeller, National Underdog Day occurs on the third Friday in December (December 17 this year) and was first observed in 1976.  The term is used to mean that the “underdog” is “the dog that lost the fight.”  


Based on statistics, overall standings or simple opinion, an underdog is an individual who, for one reason or another, is not expected to be successful (Think:  Forrest Gump), or a team competing in an event in which they are expected to lose.  In Sports, it’s said to be “an upset” when the underdog wins. 


Not all underdogs are athletes, because, to tell the truth, there’s a little “underdog” in each of us.  All of us hear (or have heard) that sneering voice in our heads, saying “You can’t do THAT!”  “Who do you think you are?”  “Fageddaboutit!” 

Famous Underdogs  

Here are some underdogs you will definitely recognize. 

Sylvester Stallone

Rocky (Pixabay)

Back in the 1970s, Sylvester Stallone was a poor, struggling scriptwriter whose income was so meager, he could barely provide for his family.  His wife left him, and it’s said he even sold his dog in order to have a few dollars to live on.  Finally, his Rocky screenplay was sold.  Ultimately, he would star in the multiple Academy Award winner, and six sequels would follow. 

The rest is history. 

Darlene Love 

Back in the 1960s, she was a back-up singer for headliners like Sam Cooke, the Beach Boys, and even Elvis Presley, but by the 1980s, she was out of show business, with no prospects, and working as a housecleaner in Los Angeles. 

Anyone who has ever heard Darlene Love’s voice knows that was the least creative use of her talents.  She decided to give show business one more shot.  In 1986, she accepted an invitation from David Letterman to sing “Christmas (Please Baby Come Home)” on Late Night With David Letterman – and for 28 years, Love closed Letterman’s final show of the season.  Her change of heart paid off, and she is now the star in fact she always was in her heart. 

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (at Lincoln Memorial) (Pixabay)

When he was 9 years old, he lost his mother after she drank tainted milk.  He was basically self-educated, having spent just 18 months in an actual classroom.  During his lifetime, he worked as a rail-splitter, a flatboatman, a storekeeper, a postmaster, a blacksmith, volunteer soldier, and a surveyor.  He also taught himself law, and went on to pass the Bar (so add lawyer), all of which was quite a feat, since he suffered from depression and generalized anxiety disorder and had two known nervous breakdowns.

Certainly, no one expected this poor, relatively uneducated fellow from the back woods of Kentucky to, in March 1861, be inaugurated the sixteenth President of the United States of America.  His name is Abraham Lincoln. 

Oprah Winfrey 

Born of a single mother who worked as a maid, she’s the little girl they dressed in a potato sack (it was free and free fit the budget) who lived with her grandmother in Kosciusko, MS, until she was six years old.  In her early life the child experienced economic hardship, years of molestation, became pregnant at the age of 14 and bore a still child. 

You think anyone expected Orpah Winfrey to end up being a beloved American talk show host, television producer, Academy Award-nominated actress, author, and philanthropist with an estimated net worth of almost $3 billion? 

J.K. Rowling 

Her mother suffered with multiple sclerosis for ten years, and lost the struggle in 1990.  Her first marriage began on October 16, 1992 and ended 13 months later, when their daughter was two months old.  During the marriage she experienced a miscarriage and was abused by her husband, and she began to think of herself as a failure. 

As a 27-year-old divorced mother, she was jobless, receiving public assistance, suffering from depression and seriously entertaining thoughts of suicide.  On top of everything else, J. K. Rowling’s book series was rejected by 12 publishers. 

That first book?  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – it generated over $1 billion!  

Walt Disney 

He was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”  His Laugh-O-Gram animation studio went bankrupt.  A studio “stole” his first successful cartoon character.  Going nowhere fast on the East Coast in the 1920s, together with his wife Lillian, his partner Ub Werks and his brother Roy, he decided to try his luck in Hollywood.

Walt and his brother began the Disney Brothers’ Studio when they moved to California.  In 1928, Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, gave them voices, and starred them in a short film, Steamboat Willie, that ran about 8 minutes.  Stars are born! 

Over the years, Disney – the guy with no imagination – collected 22 Academy Awards – more than anyone else, ever!

Check out my “Happy Birthday” posts for Mickey and Minnie right here.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.  Walt Disney 

Chris Gardner 

He had big dreams.  They all fizzled.  He could barely provide for the family.  His wife was their only real income producer, working double shifts as a maid, but she finally reached her limit, and told him she was “out.”  Somehow, he talked her into letting him keep their son, who was then a toddler. 

After he and his son were evicted from their motel room, they spent the next year moving from place to place, “in and out” of homelessness, living on the street, sleeping in train stations.  He had no money, no job and no real prospects. 

He had a dream and determination. 

Chris Gardner – The Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Attribution: Angela George

When Chris Gardner finally did get a job, it was as an apprentice stockbroker.  No pay, just training.   It was the foundation for his future.  Things “worked out,” because in 1987 he founded his own brokerage firm:  Gardner Rich & Co.  In 2016, BBC News referred to him as “The homeless man who became a multi-millionaire investor.” 

Did you read the book or see the film The Pursuit Of Happyness?  Well, that’s Chris’ story.

Missed my December Pet Awareness Days?  No problem, It’s right here.  


When Life seems to be dealing you a bad hand, and it really looks like you’re losing, being an underdog doesn’t taste too sweet.  But it seems like it’s not the hand you’re dealt that makes all the difference, it’s how you play it.  Then the taste of having been the underdog doesn’t seem as tart. 

Wearing those potato sacks is probably a distant memory for the woman who motivates America and has founded two schools for girls in South Africa.  She’s looked up to by millions the world over. 

Trying to sell a sript about the life of a down and out boxer or a fantasy book series about an orphan boy with magical powers, or knowing you can belt out a popular song better than the star who recorded it (while you clean house), and even sleeping in train station bathrooms while you try to raise your young son are the “dues” these folks have paid for their success. 

In an odd way, being an underdog is certainly a blessing in disguise, although it probably doesn’t feel like it – but just look at these examples.  Underdogs are inspired from within to “keep on keepin’ on,” and they are inspirations because when we see someone overcome seeming failure, we are reminded that, not only is it possible, we can do the same thing. 

We are motivated by their tenacity to get up and (as Nike says) “Just do it.”

National Underdog Day is the day to honor those unsung among us who, through hard and persistent work, find success. 




Dominican University of California, The Experience of Generalized Anxiety Disorder through the lens of Abraham Lincoln:  The Effects of Mental Health Stigma, by Daryl Claude Medina, Dominican University of California, https://doi.org/10.33015/dominican.edu/2017.HCS.ST.08  


VOA, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ Tells Real-Life Rags to Riches Story of Successful Businessman Chris Gardner, October 31, 2009, https://www.voanews.com/a/a-13-2006-12-20-voa47/399834.html

The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, https://www.oprahfoundation.org/portfolio-item/oprah-leadership-academy

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