2018: The Year of the (Under)Dog

2018: The Year of the (Under)Dog

I'm a poor underdog
But tonight I will bark
With the great Overdog
That romps through the dark.

    - Robert Frost, “Canis Major” 1928


1. a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a contest
2. the Vegas Golden Knights

 The dog is one of 12 animals that represent the Chinese zodiac in a repeating, 12-year cycle. Ranging from the (tiny) rat to the (fearsome) tiger to the (behemoth) dragon, each animal’s attributes correspond to a calendar year. But why the fixed order of twelve?

 The answer lies in the ancient Chinese folk story, which tells the tale of all twelve animals competing in an epic race across the river. And in this “The Amazing Race” / Disney Pixar mash-up of mythological proportions, our agile, athletic canine not only misses the podium, but finishes second-to-last (ahead of only the “lazy” pig)! The racing world hadn’t seen such a disappointing showing since the Hare lost to the Tortoise in The Great Aesop Upset of 560 BCE.

So it’s little wonder why the dog, often regarded as silly and spirited, isn’t given its due.

And here we are in 2018, The Year of the Dog, where suddenly, the notoriously underperforming, furry companion is defying those Vegas odds.

Perhaps the Philadelphia Eagles were a “sign” of things to come, when they shocked the world at Super Bowl LII by defeating the heavily favoured, perpetually dominant New England Patriots.

Beantowners may chalk that defeat up to bad luck, but hockey fans across the continent can make no such excuses after the Vegas Golden Knights, in their pioneer year in the National Hockey League, punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Nobody, including the bookmakers residing on the Vegas Strip, could foresee that this cast of send-offs would perform such an unthinkable “miracle on ice.” Perhaps only the knights themselves, armed with pride, leaning into their competition with the added weight of a chip on their shoulder, and willing to go out on their shields knew they would get this far. If anybody told these “Golden Misfits” and their courageous king - head coach Gerard Gallant - that expansion teams aren’t expected to succeed in their first year of existence, they didn’t listen. Like the zodiac dog, it would have been acceptable, even admirable to finish second last in this race across the (frozen) river.

But that itself is the beauty of competition. We root for the underdogs because they are not supposed to win. We know the house is favoured, but as the city of Las Vegas continues to prove, the thrill is in the bet.

They say that every dog has its day. If 2018 is to be believed, the dog is having the whole darn year.

Written by D'Arcy Cooney