There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!
Just typing those words put a smile on my face. When I was five, the undisputed hero of my life, and the star of my all time favorite television show was UNDERDOG. You may not have heard of him. He didn’t have the commanding presence of Superman or the tortured soul of Batman. He wasn’t even a man. He was in fact, a dog, trying to navigate a world filled with a strange mélange of humans, anthropomorphic animals, and aliens from outer space. His real life persona, Shoeshine Boy, was deemed insignificant by everyone he knew. Shoeshine Boy was in love with Sweet Polly Purebred, a comely canine news reporter, who was oblivious to his devotion to her. However, once he donned his Underdog cape and tights, she couldn’t get enough of his heroic attentions.
It was, even by the standards of the day, a cheaply rendered cartoon, with the thinnest of plot lines. Almost every episode was a “cliff hanger” as the stories never completely resolved, and I was always left wondering how Underdog would rescue Sweet Polly Purebred from her latest predicament. The series originally ran in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Syndicated reruns aired in later years, edited to remove the sequences where Underdog boosts his strength by popping an energy pill he kept hidden in a secret compartment in his ring. (I grew up watching the unedited versions, yet somehow managed to mature into adulthood without becoming a pill popping fiend.)
Forty years have passed since those days when I sat glued to the television set, watching Underdog battle Simon Barsinister and Riff Raff. He’s no longer the hero of my life, though he will always occupy a nostalgic corner of my heart. (Full disclosure: I was distracted into watching a few episodes of UNDERDOG while writing this post, and my kids aren’t even here. He will always be my favorite cartoon!) But I do notice a tendency of mine, perhaps cultivated during a childhood watching a lowly mutt battle incredible odds, to favor the underdog. Whether it is real life or in the movies, I want the underdog to come out on top.
I root for lost causes and bottom ranked competitors. I want to see the nerd get the girl, and I want the single mom to win the lottery. I want the nice guy to finish first. I was a school kid when the U.S. Hockey team came from behind to triumph over the Soviets and win the gold medal in 1980. I don’t know a thing about the sport, but for those few golden days during the winter Olympics I was a die-hard hockey fan. And, I’ll be honest: I didn’t even know who Gabby Douglas was before the 2012 London Olympics, but as soon as I saw her, I wanted her to win the gold. Cheering her on seemed like the thing to do, somehow.
There’s something satisfying about watching an underdog overcome the odds and achieve greatness. Maybe it’s because the road to success hasn’t been easy. It feels right to support someone who keeps going, no matter what, especially when it seems like life goes out of the way to put them down.
So, who’s my hero these days? I guess the answer hasn’t changed after all — the underdog, without a doubt.
*inspired by The Daily Post prompt