As defined by Funk & Wagnalls:

underdog n. 1. One who is at a disadvantage in a struggle. 2. One who is victimized or downtrodden by society.

An underdog is anyone who has to face a higher level of adversity to reach a goal (often survival, or "winning") than either their opponent(s), contemporaries, or peers. Often the classic underdog is a victim of an antagonizing opponent. Moreover, a classic underdog typically has positive qualities that are absent in his or her stronger or better armed opponent.

Underdog was made by Leonardo Productions, makers of Tennessee Tuxedo. He was a cartoon character; imagine if Superman was a dog.

He had an alter ego, Shoeshine Boy. Whenever he heard a call for help, he'd run into a phone booth, there'd be an explosion, and Underdog would fly out. He'd usually speak in rhymes, then do battle.

Every so often, he'd use his "Underdog Super-energy pill" hidden in a compartment on his ring.

Funny, there was a bad guy on the show called Riff Raff, which predates Rocky Horror. Nowadays, Underdog's got a float on the Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Two other cartoons shared the Underdog show: The Hunter and The World of Commander McBragg. These segments had been seen before, in King Leonardo and His Short Subjects.

In its second season, Underdog switched networks and replaced The Hunter with Go Go Gophers, a show about two Native American gophers who were being driven off their land by the local cavalry. Every week, Col. Kit Coyote would have a different plan to eliminate the gophers, and every week, he would be outsmarted by the clever duo. The Colonel’s second in command, Sergeant Oky Homa, often tried to warn him, but to no avail. For whatever reason, the only remaining tribe members were the two gophers: Running Board, the leader, and Ruffled Feathers.

The other new segment, replacing Commander McBragg, was Klondike Kat, a feline Mountie who was perpetually on the trail of the thieving mouse Savoir Faire ("Savoir Faire is everywhere"). Every episode would feature Klondike hatching an elaborate plan to capture his foe, shouting his familiar threat, “I’ll make mincemeat out of that mouse!”

Rules of Underdog

Note: When I say "disc" or "frisbee" I mean the same thing. A 175-gram Discraft is what you want. Also, most of this will make no sense unless you are familiar with Ultimate Frisbee.

Underdog was a game created at Jordan High School (in Durham, NC) a few years back, (very similar to ultimate frisbee), out of the need for a disc related game that can be played with 6 players or less (see, nobody was ever coming out to practice). I don't know exactly who invented it, and if I forget any of the rules, just tell me.

According to tradition, one should play Underdog barefoot. This is primarily because of the Yin-Monkey-Hammer (described below), and the possibility of being cleated in the head as a result of that. However, the last time I played Underdog, the barefoot part caused me and a few others to get nasty blisters, on the week before Nationals (big deal). So my updated doctrine is as follows:

1. If the field is wet, you probably want to play barefoot. It's more fun that way.

2. If it's hard and dry, like it was, wear sneakers. Please, no cleats. Someone undoubtedly will want to play barefoot, and getting toes crushed like that is no fun.

Other than that, you will need:

1. A frisbee. Preferably Ultimate weight, and preferably not one of those Wham-O things.

2. Two Kiddie sized soccer goals. You can probably substitute anything of approximate size (Lacrosse/Hockey goals, trash cans on their side, whatever). In the interest of fairness, each goal should be the same size.

3. 8 cones/markers to mark a box around each goal. If there are no lines painted on the field (as there are at Woodcroft), you may need another 12 cones to mark off the different zones of the field.

4. 4-6 Players. You could try it with more, but I wouldn't recommend it without a larger field.

1. The Field

The Field is set up as following:

You should have a box set up about 25 yards on each side. There should be a narrow strip in the middle of the box, extending infinitly out to each side. This is the Twirly-Zone. The areas above and below the Twirly-Zone are each teams respective sides (to begin the game). In the middle of each side, there is a line dividing it (perpendicular to the Twirly-Zone) separating the Rolling-Zone and the Scoring-Zone. Scoring-Zones should be diagonal of one another. On the sideline of each Scoring-Zone, facing the Rolling-Zone are each of the Kiddie-Soccer goals. Surrounding each is four goals about 2 yards apart (should be big enough to easily walk around the goal without leaving the box). There are the Goal-Box-Things. My attempts at ASCII art follow:

| | |
| Rolling | Scoring ^ \ ^
| Zone | Zone |
| | ^ / ^
| | |


| | |
^ / ^ | Rolling |
| Scoring | Zone |
^ \ ^ Zone | |
| | |

So if you squint, maybe it looks a little like a field. The ^ things are meant to be cones, and the little dish things are the Kiddie soccer goals. Each zone is labeled as best I can manage.

If you've been to the Woodcroft fields in Durham (where our practices are), we can show you exactly how the fields look. Also, if you do play at 'croft, please remember to set up the cones and goals as they originally were, or else you will anger the hairy man will drive his minivan onto the field to yell at you.

2. A Brief Overview of the Zones

1. Scoring-Zone: With a few exceptions, this is the only place you can score from.

2. Rolling-Zone: When you have the disc here, you can roll the disc to anywhere else on the field. If the disc falls, either because it was kicked or you suck at rolling, it's a turnover.

3. Twirly-Zone: If the disc is turned over here, or you catch it here, you have to spin around 5 times and throw it, eyes closed. More on this later.

3. Gameplay

In some respects, this is similar to ultimate. Just as in ultimate, you may not run with the frisbee, you must establish a pivot, and it is generally non-contact. (except in the Twirly-Zone and the front of the Goal-Box-Thing). Major differences are:

1. The stall count does not progress from 1-10 as it does in Ultimate. Rather, it is the first ten digits of Pi. Any language you can speak will work here. For those of you who aren't nerds, Pi = 3.141592654 (so you say "Stalling Three Point One Four One Five Nine Two Six Five Four STALL!"). The person being marked is allowed to call out any random numbers they want to try and throw off the marker. If you mess up, you have to start over again.

2. If the disc is rolling on the ground, it is not a turnover. You may still pick it up, roll it back inbounds, into the goal, across the Twirly-Zone, whatever. You may also initiate a roll to yourself if you are in the Rolling-Zone on the side you are trying to score. If you roll it into the Twirly-Zone, and pick it up, you do have to do the Twirly-Zone-Thing. When you roll it like this, the stall count is reset to the start. Also, any defensive people can try and knock the frisbee over in any way they can. If it falls over, it is a turnover.

3. Contested calls do not go back to the thrower. Rather, whoever made the call gets the frisbee at the line between the Rolling-Zone and the Scoring-Zone. They must roll the disc into the goal. No interference is allowed, except that the contester may try and blow the disc over. If the disc makes it into the goal, then the call stands, otherwise, play on as if the callnever happened.

4. Games are played to 21 points. If you go over 21, your score drops back to 15.

5. If you haven't figured this out, the point is to throw the disc into the goal. If it bounces out, it's still a goal.

4. The Pull

The pull is the first way you can score. After arguing about who's on who's team, and who takes the pull, and how big the Goal-Box-Things should be, one team takes the pull from the far corner, and tries to throw the disc into the opposite goal. If it lands in the goal, the team that pulled gets 2 points. If it lands in the Goal-Box-Thing, the pulling team gets 1 point. The other team may stand where-ever they wish and try to create a distraction, so long as they are on their own side of the field, and they ARE NOT allowed to touch the disc until it is completely stopped (if the disc is headed for them, they have to move). Any interference on a pull which does not land in the goal or Goal-Box-Thing results in a re-pull.

Every time someone scores (except on pulls), you switch sides (losers walk) and the team who just scored will pull again.

5. The Zones, in depth

A. The Twirly-Zone

When the disc is turned-over or caught here, the player who has the disc must spin around at least five times, with eyes completely closed, and then throw the disc while still spinning. It is common practice for everyone (including defense) to yell the thrower's name in attempt to let them know where they are. Simply dropping the disc, thus forcing the other team to do the Twirly-Thing, is bad sportsmanship (even for Underdog) and will probably result in a beatdown. If you throw it in the goal from here, it is 5 points. The issue of a combined Twirly-Yin-Monkey is currently in debate.

B. The Rolling-Zone

This was described above, in Gameplay. If you roll it from the Rolling-Zone into the goal, you get 5 points. This has never actually been done.

C. The Scoring-Zone

There are a number of ways to score from here. The first of which is to simply throw it into the goal. This is worth one point.

After that there is the Yin-Monkey-Hammer. Named in honor of Yin Song who originated the throw, it is performed by vaulting yourself onto one hand (both feet must leave the ground) and throwing a hammer (optionally a thumber) with your free hand. For added coolness, try doing a complete cartwheel if you are able. If you're not entirely clear on this, try tracking Rim/Mati/Bill/any-jordan-player-who-can-do-it down somewhere and ask them to demonstrate (I think Yin is sadly injured to the point where he can't do this one anymore). Getting this in the goal is worth 4 points.

The other two scoring methods involve the Goal-Box-Thing. The defense may enter the Goal-Box-Thing if there is an offensive player in it, but they must leave if the offense leaves the box, or if the disc is caught inside it. If you catch the frisbee inside the Goal-Box-Thing and in front of the goal, you must immediately turn around so that your back faces the goal, and throw the disc between your legs into the goal. If you make it, you get 2 points.

Lastly, if you catch it inside the Goal-Box-Thing and behind the goal, you may layout and throw the disc into the goal. The defense may stand on the edge of the Goal-Box-Thing and make a counter-layout to deflect the frisbee out of the goal. Wussy bids, like simply falling over are not allowed. This is worth 3 points.

6. The Neutral Person (optional)

If you have an odd number of players, you may use a neutral person so that everyone can play. The neutral person works like this: they stand in the Twirly-Zone and play defense until one of the teams moves the disc across the Twirly Zone and retains possession in some way. After this, the Neutral Person moves to the Rolling-Zone and plays offense, however they may not score or enter the Scoring-Zone. Usually it's polite to alternate the Neutral Person every so often because it's not as much fun as playing fo'real.

7. Adding More Rules

If you have any variations you want to add, go ahead. This game is far from complete, and if you think something isn't fair, don't play that way. Just message me if you have any suggestions for the game or you want me to clarify a rule (I'll probably just make something up...)

Like a lot of classic cartoons, Underdog has recently come out on DVD, a collection of many of the Underdog episodes, plus a few selections from the supporting cast (Commander McBragg, Tennessee Tuxedo, and the Go Go Gophers) on each of the discs.

It's interesting to read the independent reviews posted on places like Amazon. No small number of them point out the political incorrectness of the Gophers. While I do agree that it's a bitingly racist depiction, you don't hear much talk about an even more politically incorrect element of the whole series.

For those unfamiliar with the show, each Underdog story is broken up into 4 very predictable segments. The first introduces the villain, or in the case of recurring villains like Simon bar Sinister and Riff Raff (how do they keep getting out of jail, anyhow?), reveals the latest scheme -- Sweet Polly Purebred may or may not get in over her head in the first episode. If she hasn't in the first, she definitely does in the second, and Underdog fights his first skirmishes with the villain. However, the villain rarely shows all of his cards in those first fights, and has something up his sleeve to beat the crap out of Underdog in the third episode...and Underdog invariably ends up getting mightily whomped, being exhausted from the fighting in the second episode. In the fourth and final episode, Underdog pops his super energy pill (stashed in a secret compartment of his ring) and, re-energized, unloads on the villain, saves Polly, and all is once more well with the world.

Only a product of the late 60s/early 70s could have gotten away with that plot device. Racism is a bad thing, certainly...but what's Underdog's message to the youth of America? When the chips are down, drugs will make everything better. Underdog feels down and beaten, so he downs a stimulant, and he makes all his troubles go away -- granted, it's by judicious application of fisticuffs. And Sweet Polly is in some serious denial about her boyfriend's drug problem, as he has to remind her every single time that the pill is in his ring. (A secret stash!) This is a superhero?

Give me Ruffled Feather and Running Board any day...but just say no to Underdog.

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