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Chris Graham: Well, they always do. This year, Arizona was supposed to make the Elite Eight. Instead, once again, they turned out to be the Tournament's Peyton Manning.

Ted Trimble[1] : What do you mean?

Chris Graham: Well, you know how, every year, Arizona comes in with impressive stats and all the hype, and, every year, they.. fizzle out!

Ted Trimble: Yeah.. sure. But why is that a Peyton Manning?

Chris Graham: You know that expression.

Ted Trimble: No.

Mandy Jensen: Um.. it's like — how do I put this? When someone has this great reputation, but you always wonder why, because, when it really counts, they can't deliver?
Saturday Night Live, ESPN's NCAA Tournament Pool Party

This person is rarely successful: they might look good on paper, but when it counts they fizzle out.

Supporters will claim he is the greatest thing since sliced bread, all the high-stakes failures do not prove anything because they really won them and will attack anyone who tries to point out that they can't deliver when it counts.

Compare Fake Ultimate Hero, where most people seem to realize they are not that great, and Ted Baxter, when it's the person himself who has a bloated self-esteem.

The name comes from an SNL sketch while Manning was hosting after he won the Super Bowl.

This is different from Informed Ability in that the person might have the skills and you have seen them, but they are not able to finish the job with them. A villain who regularly faces a Boring Invincible Hero is likely to be this. Fans of these teams tend to become Acceptable Hobby Targets.

Examples of Every Year They Fizzle Out include:

Auto Racing

  • Due to the large fields, this trope can occur many times in auto racing:
    • In the NASCAR ranks, this trope arguably defines Mark Martin, a perennial crowd and statistical favorite through his career (even into his early 50s), but he's never won a Cup Series championship nor a Daytona 500; many fans think he's been ripped off of at least one of each (the best known of each being the dastardly 46-point penalty that wasn't his fault, costing him the championship against Dale Earnhardt in the early 1990s, and the infamous finish of the 2007 Daytona 500 regarding NASCAR allowing him and race winner Kevin Harvick to fight to the checkers while a last-lap Big One occurred behind them in a situation where NASCAR would throw the caution flag in other scenarios).
    • Before the title got passed over to Martin, Dale Sr. himself was best known as the driver that couldn't win the Great American Race. Wrecks, flat tires, being outraced by other drivers, the Intimidator just couldn't win it until his 20th try, in 1998; even then, that race ended under caution, so who knows if he would have led that final lap had it been green.
    • In addition to Martin and Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, a two-time Cup champion, has been shutout in the Daytona 500 in 11 tries, including the 2008 race where he led coming to the white flag, but he and teammate Kyle Busch got outdrafted by the Penske duo of Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, Kyle's brother. (Ironically, Newman would join Stewart's new team in 2009; neither driver won the 500 but Smoke still got the summer race.)
    • No winless drought in auto racing might be better documented than the entire Andretti family at the Indianapolis 500. Sure, Mario won the race in 1969, but in the 40 years since then, nobody from the clan has won it as a driver, often having it snatched away in bizarre and mind-numbing scenarios, such as Danny Sullivan's spin and win over Mario in '85, mechanical problems in '87, Michael's own problems in '92 (he led 160 of 200 laps), and Marco losing it to Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 despite leading on lap 199 (the first driver ever to lead lap 199 and not win; critics say Marco lost it due to taking the wrong line into turn 3 which cost him too much speed). Having Michael win the race as a car owner for Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti really doesn't take away any of the sting...
    • NASCAR wags have said that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick should marry each other "so they can have beautiful, well-funded children who never win anything". Ouch.
    • Applies to Japanese manufacturers at Le Mans and as constructors in Formula One. Honda had great success as an engine manufacturer to McLaren and others but the Honda team only has three wins (one each in 1965, 1967 and 2006). The Toyota F1 team raced from 2002 to 2009 in F1 and won nothing despite their huge budget. Toyota has tried the Le Mans 24 Hours several times in different decades and has never cracked the top step of the podium. In fact the only Japanese win at Le Mans was Mazda in 1991. Nissan tried Le Mans but also never won it.
    • This trope is also pretty common amongst the Formula One. Victories are largely determined by the quality of the car, the driver himself can only do so much. If his car is a driving wreck even the most skilled pilot will struggle to even secure some points, not even talking about winnig a race here. As such most races are won by drivers from the top two or three teams, with the occasional underdog winning one every once in a while. German driver Nico Rosberg for example is considered an exceptionally good driver with lots of experience despite his young age, but he managed to secure his first win after competing in over 100 races, despite everyone expecting him to be able to this much earlier.
    • In recent years, Carl Edwards has become one of these, having the misfortune to be one of the best non-Hendrick drivers in an era dominated by Hendrick drivers (the most heartbreaking example being losing in 2011 to the Hendrick-affiliated Tony Stewart [2] in a tiebreaker, he led by three points going into the race).

College Sports

  • The University of Michigan football team was well known for most of the '00s to have an exceptional season, and then lose both The Game versus Ohio State (the biggest rivalry in college football) and their Bowl game. The worst was in 2006, when Michigan went into The Game after a perfect season ranked #2 to OSU's #1 and barely staved off an embarrassment losing 42-39, and then proceeded to go to the Rose Bowl and get thoroughly thrashed by the University of Southern California 32-18. Go Blue.
    • Making this a real Kick the Dog moment was that just the day prior to the now-famous edition of The Game, legendary Michigan coach and former Ohio State assistant Bo Schembechler died.
    • Two words for you, my friend: Appalachian State.
    • Ohio State's victory in The Game 2006 turned out to be a Pyrrhic one; they ended up losing to Florida in the national title game. Speaking of...
  • Ohio State is a perennial powerhouse and generally acknowledged by everybody except Michigan fans as the top team in the Big 10. But they also have a well-earned reputation for postseason futility against the Southeastern Conference[3], with their only bowl win against an SEC team being in the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas...which was officially vacated (along with all of their other wins for the 2010-2011 season) due to OSU putting 5 ineligible players on the field. The losing streak against the SEC includes two years in a row in which a #1 ranked Ohio State met an SEC team in the national championship game, and proceeded to lose in embarrassing fashion (once to Florida and once to LSU).
  • While we're still on the subject of Big Ten teams, let's not forget Michigan State. They have been known by fans and detractors alike as "illusionists" and "pretenders": often times they would always get off to a flying start only to end with late season collapses and embarrassing losses. For the 2010-2011 season, it seemed that they may have finally proven themselves to be a real contender[4], sharing the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and Ohio State. Then came the Capital One Bowl against Alabama, which was a loss deemed so bad by many[5] that people wondered why they even bothered to show up to the game, let alone continue to play after halftime. In turn, the team lost the credibility they built up that year, as people just chalked up the loss to Michigan State "holding their illusion up longer than usual".
    • They finally shed the label in 2011-12 by beating an SEC opponent (Georgia) in the Outback Bowl. In double-overtime. The fact that it came down to hoping for Georgia's kicker to miss a chip-shot field goal in the first overtime and blocking a field-goal in the second overtime did not make the win any more impressive.
  • In College Basketball, the NCAA men's and women's tournaments are a subversion of this trope, given that besides the usual powerhouses, different teams tend to appear every other year. One exception is Arizona, who was the last men's team with a notable tournament streak-25 straight appearances (until 2010). In fact, one of the attractions to March Madness is that it's incredibly, exceedingly difficult for one team to make it to the Final Four two years in a row. On the women's side, however, that is not exactly the case with Boring Invincible Heroines Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford. Any one of the three is a safe bet to reach the Final Four year in and year out.
    • University of North Carolina has been a long-dominant team, but had a nasty reputation between 1976 and 2005 as the University Noted for Choking, because they only won three championships in thirty years despite regularly making the top 8 or the Final Four.
    • People who fill out men's brackets have learned to take Duke and Kentucky no further than the Elite Eight in most cases. In fairness, Duke won the national title in 2010, and Kentucky in 2012.
  • The University of New Hampshire Wildcats football team consistently defeats higher ranked teams, NCAA division 1-A teams (they're 1-AA), and, from 2005 to 2008, lost in the 1-AA semifinals four years in a row. They lost in the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2010, and the round of 16 in 2011.
  • Oklahoma football almost always has a winning season, but ever since head coach Bob Stoops' brother and defensive coordinator Mike left to become the Arizona head coach, neither has had the success alone that they achieved together, and Oklahoma's reputation for winning big games (To the point where Bob Stoops was referred to as "Big Game Bob")has given way to Chokelahoma's reputation for choking in them.
  • The University of Missouri Tigers have been playing basketball since the early 1900's and still have never appeared in a Final Four, making them the Butt Monkey of border state rival (and Invincible Hero) the University of Kansas. This is despite the fact that Missouri has dominated Kansas in nearly everything else. Kansas could also qualify, as they have just three championships to show for their near semi-annual Final Four appearances.
  • Clemson in everything.


  • The 00's New York Yankees were known for this. They were coming off of their unbelievable run of 4 World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000. However, between 2001 and 2008, they achieved the top seed in the AL 3 times and made the World Series twice, and didn't win a single title, one of the longest stretches in the history of the club. They had three particularly notable years in that stretch. First was in 2001, when they fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team in only its 4th year, in the World Series, making the D-backs the youngest team in modern American professional sports to win their sport's title. The second was 2004, when they became the first team in MLB history and only the third team in the history of American sports to lose a best-of-7 series after racing out to a 3-0 lead, falling to the division rival Boston Red Sox. The third time was in 2008, when they missed the postseason for the first time since the early 90s.
    • There was also Dave Winfield, whom George Steinbrenner called "Mr. May" due to his failure to perform in October when it mattered. Alex Rodriguez seems to hold this role now (former Yankees manager Joe Torre has revealed that Rodriguez's nickname "A-Rod" was altered in the locker room to "A-Fraud" for his poor postseason performances), though his recent clutch performance in the 2009 Yankees series win might shake that a bit.
  • The Atlanta Braves won a record-setting 14 consecutive division titles (or 14 in 15 seasons, depending on whether you believe the 1994 season, which ended in strike, counts). They took home the World Series trophy once. The streak ended with four consecutive first-round exits. This despite having three future Hall of Fame pitchers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz all in their prime (one of those three won the Cy Young Award in a stretch of seven out of eight years in the 1990s, although one belonged to Maddux when he was with the Chicago Cubs), forming one of the greatest rotations in baseball history.
  • Paul Dickson's Baseball Dictionary uses the term "morning glory" for a hitter who shines early in the season but then cools off.
  • The Chicago Cubs have a very long-standing reputation as "lovable losers".[6] But in the last decade, they've fielded good teams that by all rights should have been contenders. Despite that, they're still the Cubs. No matter how good they seem to be in a given season, you know that they'll choke somewhere short of the World Series.
  • The 2011 Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves will forever be linked for one miraculous, baffling and unbelievable 1 hour and 39 minutes: Game 162 on September 28-September 29. Both teams were and still are considered codifiers until the Braves won the World Series in 1995 and the Red Sox won in 2004. Anyway, "Game 162" for 2011 does not refer to one game, but four that would determine the wild card seeds for the playoffs. In 1 hour and 40 minutes, the Red Sox and Braves were out of the playoffs, and the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays were in. A short timeline is below:
    • 10:23 pm Eastern in Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria hits a home run in the bottom of the 8th; the score is Yankees 7, Rays 6. The Rays began the inning down 7-0.
    • 10:26 pm Eastern in Houston: Cardinals defeat Astros 8-0. At this point, they'd need the Braves to lose to have the wildcard outright. If the Braves won, they'd have to play an additional game to determine the National League wildcard seed.
    • 10:47 pm Eastern in Tampa Bay: Dan Johnson hits a home run to tie the Yankees-Rays game. That was Johnson's first hit since the first month of the season.
    • 11:28 pm Eastern in Atlanta: Hunter Pence scores in the 13th inning for the Philadelphia Phillies to take a 4-3 lead.
    • 11:40 pm Eastern in Atlanta: Game over. Braves are out, Cardinals are in.
    • 11:59 pm Eastern in Baltimore: The Orioles' Nolan Reimold ties their respective game versus the Red Sox at 3-3.
    • 12:02 am Eastern in Baltimore: Robert Andino hits a game-winning single; Orioles win 4-3; it's the backup SS's 7th RBI against Boston in the last eight days. The Red Sox now need Rays to lose to force an additional game for the American League wildcard seed.
    • Just three minutes later...12:05 am Eastern in Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria hits a game-winning home run: Rays 8, Yankees 7. Rays are in, the Red Sox are out.
    • Remember: Tampa Bay was losing 7-0 with six outs to go in Game 162 against the juggernaut Yanks. They had to pull a Miracle Rally just to pull off their September Miracle Rally! It was like a Major League movie come to life (and no team had ever rallied from such a deficit in the final game of the season to get into the playoffs).
    • The Sox, meanwhile, were 89-0 when leading after 8 innings that year, with closer Jonathan Papelbon facing the bottom of the hapless O's lineup with two outs and no one on.
    • This whole ordeal is now Harsher in Hindsight for the Rays and Yankees. Both teams lost in the AL Division Series to the Rangers and Tigers, respectively. "Game 162" was meaningless for the Yankees; they had already won the AL East and were in the playoffs win or lose.
    • It's also this for the Braves when you remember that the Cardinals ended up winning the title.
    • And the historical capper: Both teams set the mark for biggest blown September leads in baseball history. The Red Sox led the Rays for the AL Wild Card by 9 games on September 3rd, the Braves led the Cardinals for the NL wild card by 8.5, and no team had ever squandered such a commanding lead in September, with their mathematical odds of reaching the playoffs each being over 99%. Since the Red Sox are the more signature franchise and were the favorites to win it all after adding superstar Carl Crawford, they grabbed most of the headlines, much to the small consolation of the Braves, who are basically the MLB leader in this trope over the last 20 years.
    • Needless to say, probably the greatest day of baseball ever.
  • The New York Mets have gotten this in the past few years. Oftentimes, they'll start the year playing fairly well, but by August or September, things will go wrong enough for them to be out. The worst of these were their epic collapses in both 2007 and 2008.
  • The Houston Astros have been this any time they field a good team. Of particular note is their late-90's run, where they won the NL Central three years in a row, but not once made it past the Division Series.


  • The San Antonio Spurs seem to have turned into this. They had the best western record in 2011, then proceeded to lose to the 8th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. They had the best record again in 2012, reached the western conference finals, won the first 2 games and then proceeded to lose 4 straight.
  • The Utah Jazz in The Nineties. Their power forward Karl Malone had a tendency to shoot worse and be less assertive in the playoffs.
  • Believe it or not, but in the 60's the Los Angeles Lakers were exactly this. Led by Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, the Lakers were often expected to dethrone the Boston Celtics, yet even when they jumped to leads in Finals series and later on added Wilt Chamberlain, they could not overcome Bill Russell and Boston.
  • The Dallas Mavericks. They have an outstanding lineup and they even went to the Finals once. And every year they choke.
    • Probably the worst choke was in the 2006-2007 season, where the Mavericks had locked up the number 1 seed with 67 wins, one of the better records in NBA history. They then went on to be upset by the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors, also setting the record for having the most wins of any team to lose in the first round.
    • As of 2011, however, they've seemed to have shaken off this label, by winning the championship in a playoff run filled with two uncharacteristic 4th quarter comebacks against the Thunder and three comebacks in the finals to upset the Miami Heat, who were heavily favored prior to the beginning of the finals. Furthermore, they had already lost to the Heat four years prior, in the 2006 Finals - very fitting.
    • And then they lost in the first round against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 playoffs. Great things only happen once, huh?
  • After a certain point you get to believing that God simply hates the Indiana Pacers, because... goddamn. Take for instance the infamous 2004 season, wherein some of the Pacers' most valuable players were suspended for the rest of the season after Ron Artest assaulted a fan and caused a huge melee. This would also be team legend Reggie Miller's last season before retirement. When the Pacers managed to make the playoffs, it was clearly a golden opportunity for the franchise to finally be champions... Until their playoff series against the Detroit Pistons (the very team they faced in the notorious "basketbrawl"), where an out of nowhere shot block at the very last second sent the Pacers home with their tails between their legs. They've yet to recover, really.
    • Reggie Miller in general was a phenomenal talent who could never seal the deal. This is the man who scored eight points in 9 seconds, who posted game winning threes over Michael Jordan, who ESPN's 30 for 30 described as "the reason [New York] never slept", but all he ever lead his team to were late season collapses and finals blowouts.
  • Since the 2006-07 NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James have increasing become a major example, especially the last two postseasons when they were considered a favorite to win it all:
    • Advanced to the 2007 NBA Finals only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs
      • The Spurs were heavy favorites.
    • Lost in the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals to eventual NBA Finals champion Boston Celtics
      • The Celtics were the favorites to win it all from day 1 of the season.
    • Lost the Eastern Conference finals in 2009 to the Orlando Magic.
    • Lost the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals to the Celtics in 6 games. Also contained a horrible moment when, with just over a minute and a half to go in Game 6, Cleveland (trailing by a far-from-insurmountable nine-point deficit) seemingly gave up, showing no urgency in trying to score or play defense.
      • This last one is getting to be particularly notable, because many analysts are of the opinion that LeBron isn't even trying for whatever reason.
        • In response to that one, many of the Cavaliers Fan Dumb have managed to plant an entire forest of Epileptic Trees, including, but not limited to, it all being a carefully constructed Batman Gambit, designed by LeBron, so that when they lose, he'll piss off all the fans so much that when (if, at the time of this troping) he leaves for another team, people will be glad to get rid of him. Of course, building the team to number one, just to purposely lose, seems so crazy it's insane.
    • LeBron James might just be on his way to being an individual player example of this trope, as after his eventual descent by taking his talents to South Beach, it still proved to be fruitless with the Heat being upset by the Mavericks in the Finals. It didn't help that in the series, LeBron was notably ineffective in the fourth quarter (leading to many jokes about how asking LeBron to give you change for a dollar will get you 75 cents[7]), not scoring more than 10 points in the 4th quarter of any game. Nor did it help that the Heat's other two stars, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (especially Wade) generally seemed to be putting forth much greater effort. Basketball fans (especially those from Cleveland) see this as quite a fitting outcome.
  • NBA cousins Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter are widely considered individual-player versions of this trope, to such an extent that nearly EVERY team they play on (they've both played for 4+ teams EACH) happen to find limited success in the post-season. Tracy McGrady's Houston Rockets eventually ended a drought of not winning a Playoff series since acquiring him-- as SOON as he was sidelined by injury and unable to play. Maybe this trope should be named after McGrady.
    • As of the 2011-12 season both McGrady (by now playing for the Atlanta Hawks) and Carter (playing for the Dallas Mavericks) were bounced in the first round by the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder, respectively.
      • The Atlanta Hawks dealt with injuries and inconsistent play throughout the team, the Dallas Mavericks lost Tyson CHandler in the off-season and their defense and rebounding took a major hit because of it.
  • The Sacramento Kings in the early 2000's. Fans of every NBA team not named the Lakers could rally around them. They became the NBA's Woobie at that time. They are one of a handful of franchises in any sport to have played in FIVE different cities with only one championship to their name. 2012 marks their 51st year since winning a title.
    • Even worse, the Kings at their peak were a victim of a fixing at the hands of referee Tim Donaghy, swinging the crucial Game 6 of the 2001 conference finals back in the Lakers favor when the Kings had a commanding lead and a ticket to the NBA Finals in hand.


  • Peyton Manning who for over a decade with both the University of Tennessee and Indianapolis Colts seemed to always choke and fold before he finally won the Super Bowl in 2007, yet he was always near the top of the best QB list and received a ton of endorsements despite his record.
    • He's slowly gaining that reputation back, having made the playoffs every year since, winning 12+ games in all but one of those seasons, nabbing 2 NFL MVP awards, and even making it to Super Bowl XLIV, where his Colts were favored against the New Orleans Saints. And yet, during that streak from 2007-2010, the Colts went one-and-done in the playoffs 3 out of 4 years and lost in the Super Bowl the one year they won any playoff games.
    • Before 2007, this reputation was certainly not helped by Tennessee winning the national championship in 1998, one year after Manning graduated, behind unheralded quarterback Tee Martin. Who's Tee Martin? Exactly.
  • Since Manning won his Super Bowl, the "Perennial Choker" label has moved to Donovan McNabb, who has lost 4 NFC title games and a Super Bowl. But then came the 2010 Super Bowl which Peyton seemed to choke away. So, as with everything in sports, it's a good talk radio argument.
    • McNabb's losing streak was so bad that fans started calling him "McChoke".
    • The Colts had a running game in Super Bowl XLI (the one they won), while the XLIV version seemed to operate by running "a few obligatory running plays, every now and then" between passes. When the pressure was on in XLIV, guess what kind of plays the Saints could safely figure the Colts would not be running?
    • To be fair, Peyton played really well in Super Bowl XLIV, if it's anyone to blame, it's really the Colts' defense (which were like ghosts against the Saints offensive attack).
  • Brett Favre seems infamous for this. Despite breaking darn near every major NFL passing record, as well as actually winning a Super Bowl, it seems that whenever the season is on the line (such as the 2007 and 2009 NFC Championships), it's almost certain that Favre is going to throw a game-ending interception. While he's not the only quarterback that's had this problem, none have been as viciously mocked or criticized for this as Favre. That last bit may be due to his holding the record for interceptions, as well. Not to mention the detractors (who increased greatly in number after his repeated "retirements") finding it hilarious for his career at three different teams[8] to end with an interception.
  • Dan Marino holds or has held almost every major NFL passing record, but only won the AFC Championship once in 1984 (his second season), and he lost the Super Bowl.
  • The Dallas Cowboys, despite being one of the most successful teams in NFL history, had not won a playoff game for years until their home win in the 2010 wildcard round. This has become increasingly worse for Cowboy fans in the last two years with the Cowboys being easily one of the most dominant teams in the league, but choking in the first round (first time was against the Seahawks with a gimme field goal being botched and the second time they lost outright to the heavy underdog Giants). The Cowboys finally got a postseason win over Philadelphia in the NFC wild-card round.
    • And this isn't the FIRST time that could apply for the Cowboys. During a stretch between 1966 and 1970, the Cowboys were one win away from advancing to the NFL (pre-merger) Championship game (losing to Cleveland in the divisional playoffs in 1968 and 1969), after narrowly losing to Green Bay the two preceding years in surprisingly close matches that cost Dallas a shot at appearing in the first two Super Bowls. The year they finally broke through, 1970, they lost the exceptionally sloppy Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts with kicker Jim O'Brien's game-winning field goal; resulting in the Cowboys' being dubbed "Next Year's Champions" (a moniker they would finally shed in Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphins)
    • One more instance of this trope hitting the Cowboys was the early 1980s. Between the 1980 and 1982 seasons, Danny White (replacing the retired Roger Staubach) led Dallas to 3 straight NFC Championship appearances only to lose all three, first to Philadelphia, then San Francisco following a thrilling conclusion with young quarterback Joe Montana throwing the winning pass to a leaping Dwight Clark, and finally arch-rival Washington in a game where Danny was knocked out early. These games, combined with the Cowboys' decline soon after, relegated Danny White to the status as being known as the Dallas quarterback between Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, despite having stats that surpassed Aikman and rivaled Roger's.
      • Another instance of this trope in regards to Cowboys Q Bs has to be Tony Romo, their current starter. After a series of HORRIBLE starting quarterbacks after the injury-induced retirement of legend Troy Aikman(Chad Hutchinson, Quincy Carter, Vinny Testeverde, and a washed-up Drew Bledsoe), Tony Romo burst onto the scene in 2006, showing incredible talent and drive and reigniting a fizzled interest in the Cowboys franchise, with a decent ability to scramble, a Favre-like gunslinging style of play, and a strong arm capable of deep passing plays. However, the crucial moments of each of his starting seasons(sans 2010, which he missed most of due to a broken clavicle), ended with heartbreaking losses due mostly to blunders on the part of Romo himself. The one time Tony Romo's won a playoff game was 2009, and the jury's still out on whether this is the exception rather than the rule.
  • The Minnesota Vikings. are an even better example, as they're one of the two teams that have gone to the Super Bowl four times and failed every time.
  • The early-90s Buffalo Bills make every other entry on this page look like clutch players. They won 4 straight AFC Championships and attending 4 straight Super Bowls, the only four in their history. To this day, they're 0-4 in Super Bowls. And they haven't been back to the playoffs in 10 years, since they were eliminated by the "Music City Miracle". Most notably, in 2004 they entered the last week of the season needing to beat Pittsburgh to get in to the playoffs, with Pittsburgh having already locked up their seed and resting their starters. They lost at home to Pittsburgh's 2nd and 3rd string by a touchdown.
  • The Houston Oilers. Ever wonder why they were nicknamed "Choke City"? It's because they made the postseason during a seven year stretch between 1987 and 1993, but had three exceptional collapses during the postseason between 1991 and 1993.
    • First, the 1991 Divisional playoff game against Denver. The high-powered offense of the Oilers shot out to a 21-13 halftime lead, and late in the game a punt pinned the Broncos back to their 2-yard line, where trailing 24-23, John Elway led a late-game drive punctuated by two fourth-down conversions to set up the winning field-goal in what some dubbed "The Drive II" (same spot on field, and almost five years after "the Drive")
    • The second would be the most infamous. The Oilers raced to a 35-3 lead over the two-time AFC champion Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild-card game, when backup quarterback Frank Reich led a succession of drives culminating in five unanswered touchdowns. The Bills would go on to win 41-38 in overtime.
    • The last one came in the Astrodome after the Oilers had gone on to clinch the #2 seed and a first-round bye. They went on to face the Kansas City Chiefs where, after starting the fourth quarter holding on to a slim 10-7 lead, the Oilers became the victim of another comeback, this time orchestrated by Joe Montana that culminated in a 28-20 loss.
  • The Houston Texans took ten seasons and four quarterbacks in the same year to make their first playoffs. When they first started, it was expected they would be terrible because of their expansion status. But after awhile, they put together talented players and their finishes in the late 2000's were disappointing.
    • The fact that ESPN analysts often picked them as "a team to watch out for" and "playoff-bound" did not help matters, as their disappointing finishes rewarded them with nicknames such as "Forever 8-8" and "Next Year's Divisional Champions", a combination of an insult and a reference to the Cowboys' years of being this trope in the 60s.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers between 1994 and 2004 (all under Bill Cowher) advanced to the AFC Championship game five times and lost four of those (and would have lost the 1995 game against Indianapolis had receiver Aaron Bailey not dropped a last-second Hail Mary). The really frustrating fact about this? All five of those games, the Steelers were the home team.
  • Another American football example: the Cleveland Browns went to three conference championships in four years (1986-87, 1989) and lost every time. To the same team. Who went on to lose the Super Bowl every time.
    • The City of Cleveland itself can qualify. They haven't won a professional sports title since 1964. The heavily-favored Cavaliers didn't even make it to the Finals in 2009.
    • Joke: Do you know why Toledo, Ohio doesn't have a professional football team? Because then Cleveland would want one too.
    • There was the 2007 season where they reversed the trend, went 10-6, and STILL didn't make the playoffs thanks to one Vince Young, quarterback of the Tennessee Titans at the time.
  • The San Diego Chargers. At least they're not as bad as they were in 1997-2003.
    • It's not just the Chargers. Every professional sports franchise in San Diego suffers through this. In forty-plus years of playing, the city has claimed only one championship, the 1963 AFL Championship by the Chargers. The Padres are 0-2 in the World Series and all Basketball teams that come to this town (Rockets, Conquistadors, and Clippers) have had short lives. It's so bad in San Diego, that someone made a wiki page detailing their misery.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals, though in their case it's more like "Every Year They Shoot Themselves In The Foot".
    • The final week of 2009 season and the first round of the playoffs added another chapter in their storied history of ineptitude and futility. Cincinnati had already locked up its best possible playoff seeding, but New York needed to win to get into the playoffs. Since New York would play at Cincinnati the next week if they entered the playoffs (their game was the Sunday night game and the last scheduled game of the regular season), Cincinnati played with minimal effort to avoid risking their players to injury or tipping off any of their plays. New York won, made the playoffs, and then beat the Bengals in the playoffs the next week. Cue the ridicule of Bengals fans by their AFC North rivals (as well as the rest of the league).
    • The 2011 season had an odd example; thanks to not one, not two, but THREE teams slipping up in the last week of the season (Jets, Broncos and Raiders), the Bengals made the playoffs regardless of losing to the Ravens in their last regular-season game. The Bengals then went on to get destroyed by the Houston Texans, who were playing their first playoff game in franchise history.
    • Thus they're better known to fans as the Cincinnati Bungles.
  • Although in most years they're straight-up hapless Butt Monkeys, in the rare seasons that they even seem remotely competitive, the Detroit Lions seem to choke. Most painful was when they lost to the terrible (at the time) Chicago Bears in the last game of the regular season, losing a spot in the playoffs.
    • It was basically this trope that resulted in Barry freaking Sanders to retire from the game, even though he was within one good season of passing Walter Payton, and barring injury, could've put the all-time rushing record out of even Emmitt Smith's reach. The Lions followed up two of their best seasons, 1991 (going 12-4 and getting their only playoff win since 1957 to date, over an up-and-coming Dallas squad) and 1995 (in which Herman Moore and Brett Perriman became the first teammates to finish 1-2 in total receptions) with 5-11 records the following year. Barry didn't walk away because of any issues with coach Bobby Ross, as was speculated at the time, but because the front office absolutely failed to make the necessary moves to improve the team (especially on defense), and the lack of a winning culture that resulted drained him of his love for the game. Needless to say, It Got Worse under the Matt Millen administration, which saw the Lions' Butt Monkey status not only cemented, but fellow perennial cellar-dweller Arizona make the Super Bowl for the first time (a feat the Lions have yet to accomplish).
    • The 2011 Lions, which went 10-6, have given the team new hope. Only to those hopes dashed by a dominating 45-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints...who not long ago were in the same "perennial Butt Monkey" boat as the Lions.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the Philadelphia Eagles advanced to the playoffs eight times. During that span, they advanced to the NFC Championship game five times, but lost four of those, and lost their only Super Bowl appearance. The worst part was that three of those years happened in a row, including two years where they were the number 1 seed.
  • Under head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons have had four straight winning seasons and playoff appearances in three of them. All three of those playoff appearances (two wild cards, one divisional) a first appearance loss. The fact that in each loss, the team that beat them would go on to the Super Bowl, probably doesn't help, nor does the fact that they were the favored team in each of their losses.
    • This has lead to Matt Ryan receiving the "overrated" and "choker" label by his detractors: A common response used in any response to people talking about Matt Ryan being one of the league's top quarterbacks on Image Boards is "Playoff wins: 0". Kind of ironic, when you remember his days at Boston College, where he was known as a clutch QB (Hence the nickname, Matty Ice).
  • The Baltimore Ravens are starting to show some dangerous signs of becoming just another team that can't seal the deal. Since their Super Bowl Win over a decade ago (2000-01 Season), it's been nothing but seasons of "almosts" in the Charm City. For the past decade now the Ravens have been an AFC contender consistently fielding one of the league's most prolific Defenses led by stars Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It hasn't brought the Ravens much success from 2002-2007 when Baltimore underwent a long postseason win drought (Reached the Postseason Twice, lost both first games at home until the losing streak was snapped in 2008), but that was perhaps easier for fans to take than the John Harbaugh-coached period of 2008 to the present, where the Ravens have reached the playoffs four seasons in a row and coming up short of the Super Bowl each time. The latest postseason collapse (2011-12 AFC Championship Game) perhaps being the most painful chapter yet, thanks to Lee Evans[9] and Billy Cundiff [10], with an assist from the officials[11].
    • The four straight AFC Championship losses have caused the Ravens to be labelled as the Spiritual Successor to the early 90s Buffalo Bills mentioned above [12]. Some consider it an Buffalo, that is. At least the Bills made the Super Bowl.


  • In the NHL, the Ottawa Senators are perennial division leaders, with two conference leaderships, and one President's Trophy (awarded to the team that finishes with the most points). They're only second to the Detroit Red Wings in regular season wins for a decade. No Stanley Cup has been won by Ottawa as of yet. They also boast the dubious distinction of winning the most playoff rounds for a team without a Stanley Cup for a decade.
    • And when the Senators did make it to a Stanley Cup final, the game-winning goal in the cup-losing game was booted into their own net by the goalie.
      • The 2000-01 post-season was an extreme example; after winning every single regular season game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and ending up 2nd overall in the conference, the two teams faced off in the first round of elimination, with Ottawa heavily favoured to win. Instead they were swept 4-0.
    • Something similar happened to the St. Louis Blues. They went to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first three seasons (largely due to the fact that from 1967-68 to 1969-70, the playoff format forced one of the Finals opponents to be one of the six 1967 expansion teams), only to be swept all three times (most famously in 1970, when Bobby Orr scored the game-winner in overtime). The Blues then had a consecutive-playoffs streak of 25 seasons (1979-80 to 2003-04), but never quite made it back to the Finals, getting closest in 1985-86. The trope doesn't apply to the post-lockout Blues, since as of 2010 they've only made the playoffs once since the lockout.
      • Canadian teams in the playoffs since 1993 also qualify. The Senators, Flames, Oilers, and Canucks have all made it to the final round, (and as far as game seven for the Flames, Oilers and Canucks) and promptly lost, breaking the hearts of a nation.
  • The San Jose Sharks also qualify, having made the playoffs in 13 of their 18 seasons but never making a Stanley Cup Final and only twice making the conference finals. They, too, won a President's Trophy, in the 2008-2009 season...and promptly lost in the first round to the 8-seed, the second time in four seasons that they lost to the 8-seed. (Incidentally, the first time, it was as a 5-seed that had upset the 4 in the previous round. The NHL's playoff system ensures that the lowest remaining seed plays the highest remaining seed in round 2--and this remarkably ended up producing 5 vs. 8 and 6 vs. 7.)
  • The Washington Capitals are starting to show alarming signs of this. Four years in a row now they've made the post-season without getting beyond the second round. 2010 was especially egregious, where they ran away with the eastern half, locking up the top spot a full month before everyone else started qualifying for the playoffs-and promptly crashed out in the first round(that was another remarkable year, where all three division winners in the east lost their first round and the conference final was 7-seed vs. 8-seed. 7 won). 2011 they spent much of the season revamping their style specifically to suit the playoffs, ending up with a come-from-behind win of the eastern half in the process, showed it off to pretty good effect in the first round-and then got swept in the second.
    • The worst part? The Capitals' owner doesn't even sound concerned about the team's playoff issues, which did not sit well with Washington fans and analysts alike.
    • To be fair, in 2012, when the Capitals arguably got their fizzling out done during the season itself when they dramatically failed to meet very high expectations, after squeaking into the post-season they played fairly respectably through two long playoff rounds, upsetting the reigning champions in the first round, but they still lost in the second.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers. Thirty-four playoff appearances in forty-two seasons (and fourteen of the last fifteen), but only two Stanley Cups, and none since 1975. Part of the problem is that unbelievable consistency prevents them from bottoming out and having the ability to select a slur of high draft picks; their arch rival Pittsburgh Penguins are built on the first overall pick in 2003 (Marc-Andre Fleury), second overall in 2004 (Evgeni Malkin), first overall in 2005 (Sidney Crosby), and second overall in 2006 (Jordan Staal). Not to mention how the Penguins had a meteoric rise in the 1980s after drafting a young Mario Lemieux...
    • The Flyers "bottomed out" in the mid-1990s, spending heavily to acquire the rights to Eric Lindros from Quebec (which was the first of a series of trades that built the Nordiques into the Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche). They did eventually build back up, led by the "Legion of Doom" line[13], but after being swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1997 Finals, they settled back into the Eastern Conference pack. They got a bit lucky in 2010, having Montreal knock off the heavily favored Capitals and Penguins, before losing to Chicago in the Finals.
  • The Detroit Red Wings were this for a period of about a decade, having rebuilt from the "Dead Things era" to make back-to-back Conference Finals and making the playoffs in 9 of 10 seasons (the 1989-90 season was rife with internal strife, resulting in management trading away several young stars for washed-up veterans), but never getting over (swept by the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 Finals, nearly trading away Steve Yzerman to Ottawa). Finally, in 1997, the team got over on new arch-rival Colorado, and then swept the Flyers to win their first Cup in 42 seasons, and the first of four Cups in 11 seasons. Still, it seemed to be feast or famine for the Wings; prior to 2006-07, they either won the Cup or ended in the first or second round.
  • The Vancouver Canucks have consistently made the playoffs and won their division throughout the 00's but always falling short even after getting Roberto Luongo, a guy many consider to be the best goaltender in the world didn't improve their efforts.
    • Luongo himself is a perfect example of this: a dominant goaltender during the regular season, yet crumbles in the playoffs, earning himself the Fan Nickname of "LeBrongo".
    • In 2011, it Went Horribly Wrong when the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins and riots ensued in Vancouver.
    • And now in 2012, they win the President's trophy only to lose 4-1 in the first round to the Los Angeles Kings.
  • The New Jersey Devils have only missed the playoffs twice since 1987 and are generally considered a pretty good team, but have only won three titles.
  • Player version: Brian Savage, most notably of the Montreal Canadiens. Savage always went on an early season tear, only to disappear throughout the season.


  • The Chicago Sky of the WNBA were founded in 2005 and get into the playoff race every year, only to trip at the finish line. This happened again in 2011, despite an accomplished coach and several great players.
    • The Atlanta Dream have only existed for 4 years, but they're already looking like a good example. In 2010 they made it to the WNBA Finals...and got swept. In 2011 they made the Finals again...and got swept again. Who wants to bet they'll make it a three-peat?
      • In fairness to the Dream, they were facing the Minnesota Lynx, who had rookie juggernaut Maya Moore and had completed one of the biggest turnarounds in WNBA history.


  • Everyone on the England national football team, which despite containing some of the best and most famous players in the world haven't won a major tournament since they won The World Cup in 1966.
    • Before the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup titles, the Spanish football team would also qualify. Both English and Spanish players have enjoyed success at club level, though.
    • The Dutch team has also been described as "the best team that never won anything" - the "Clockwork Orange" lost two straight World Cups; Gullit/Van Basten won the European Championship, but bombed in the WC they went to; the recent generation of Bergkamp and Kluivert never went past the semifinals of both the World Cup and European Championships (they even didn't qualify for a WC after being eliminated by Ireland); and the current one (Sneijder, Robben) lost the 2010 finals, turning the Netherlands the only team to qualify for three World Cup finals and lose them all (though the Dutch's Unnecessary Roughness made Spain really worthy of the title). NFL fans could say they're the Buffalo Bills of soccer.
    • The Portugal team was this more recently, with players like Ronaldo, Deco, and teams like Porto running the Champions League. Until 2016, the national side failed to win anything, especially in 2004 when they reached the final of the European Championships, at home, and against Greece, but still lost. This may count as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the Greek side though. They won the European Championship for the first time in 2016, though their appearances in the World Cup have been less successful with no top 3 placements since 1966.
    • The Egyptian team has a similar story to Portugal's, with the national team dominating Africa and Al-Ahly and Zamalek running the African club-play scene (to say nothing of Al-Ahly's 3rd-place finish at the '06 Club World Cup). Nevertheless, they have qualified for the World Cup exactly three times (1934, 1990, 2018), never getting past the first round. Egyptians suspect that the good Egyptian players are intentionally not playing up to their usual best, in hopes of better European club contracts.
      • And in the qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, the Egyptian team having won the past 3 African Nations Cup championships have fizzled out of the qualifying stage, finishing bottom of their group and the team which topped their group, Niger.
  • In women's soccer there's Brazil, which has a team as strong as the male one (one of their players, Marta, was chosen five years in a row as the best female footballer by FIFA), but not as victorious, fizzling in both the Olympic Games (two straight 4th places followed by two straight runner-ups... losing both finals to the US team!) and the Women's World Cup (runner-ups in 2007, 3rd place in 1999, two quarterfinals and two group stages).
    • In Brazil's defense, they might have the best female players in the world, but Brazil puts almost no money into their women's soccer program, as compared to every other powerhouse. The Brazilian women's team is underfunded to the point that they wear old mens jerseys and cleats.
  • Liverpool FC, the team most likely to come third in any championship you care to name. The stacks of trophies from back when this wasn't the case just make it worse. In some parts of the UK, "Liverpool supporter" is considered roughly synonymous with "masochist".
    • Does Liverpool still count even if they came out of nowhere to win the Champions' League? (in other words, the top club in all of Europe, including giants like Manchester United, Juventus, AC Milan, Real Madrid, and Barcelona)
      • Yes, because the only title Liverpool want right now is the Premier League, having not won it for x years. Scratching around the cups and occasionally surprising everyone by grabbing something in Europe was the domain of pre-roubles Chelsea. Compare Arsenal; they could win the league another sixty times and Arsene Wenger would still consider himself a failure if he didn't get one Champions' League title.
      • I think Spurs, Man City, Everton, Villa etc. are better examples in England. And London clubs in the European Cup; despite years of English success. Chelsea, in particular, have lost the Champions League in 2005,07,08 and 09 in some of the most bizarre and painful ways.
  • Arsenal FC. Despite always being in contention for the League title, they haven't won one since the legendary "Invincibles" season of 2003-2004, consistently finishing either 4th or 3rd in the League, complete with impressive wins at times when it didn't matter...and frustrating losses and draws at times when it did matter. Nowadays, Arsenal has the rather derisive moniker of being "strong against the weak and weak against the strong". Unlike Liverpool, they don't have a rich Champions League history; before they reached the 2005 final against Barcelona, Arsenal had never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.
  • German soccer has Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 two top teams who just can't win a championship despite often best conditions (or in Schalke's case waiting for over 50 years since the last one). Leverkusen even managed to be only second place in three different contests in 2002: the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup, and the Champions' League. They're nicknamed Neverkusen for a reason...
  • Thierry Henry was accused of this at Arsenal. Despite being their record goalscorer and voted by the fans as one of Arsenal's greatest ever players, he was still thought of as being unable to preform in the big games like Cup Finals. Most notable was in the 2006 Champion's League Final where the Gunners were leading 1-0 with ten men against Barcelona, Henry failed to score from a one-on-one with the keeper when usually it would have been no problem. Arsenal eventually lost 2-1, and that's the closest they have come to securing that European trophy they most desire.
  • Aston Villa in the Martin O'Neill era is an excellent example. They would look like they were going to challenge for the Champions' League places, and every year, specifically in March, they would go on a bad run of results and drop out of the challenge.
  • Australia's world cup curse: According to former Australian captain Johnny Warren's Autobiography, the Australian team, prior to a match against Rhodesia, got a witch-doctor to curse the opposition goalie, and then failed to pay him, causing him to reverse the curse. Australia then suffered a string of failures in World Cup qualifiers, most famously 1998, where they were leading 2-0 late in the game against Iran, only for Iran to score two late goals, and qualify for the World Cup on away goals. In 2004, television personality John Safran paid another witch doctor to remove the curse, and Australia qualified for the 2006 and 2010 world cups (even making in to the second round in 2006).
  • In Brazil, Vasco, Botafogo, Palmeiras and Internacional became infamous in the 2000s for going far but tanking in at least one championship per year (Vasco was runner-up 14 times in 12 years, and Inter managed to finish second thrice in five Brazilian championships, plus losing to an African team in the FIFA Clubs World Cup!).

Other Sports

  • Tim Henman is possibly the canonical British equivalent - he's the one everyone follows and cheers for at Wimbledon, even going so far as to have a massive seating area for his fans (Henman Hill), despite being knocked out in the quarter- or semi-finals of every Wimbledon he's entered.
    • Andy Murray, another fellow Brit, shares this problem as well.
  • Despite being the most decorated U.S. skater ever, Michelle Kwan never won an Olympic gold medal.
  • Kurt Browning, four-time World Champion Canadian skater who never got the gold at the Olympics.
  • The queen of this trope would be Sasha Cohen, and there are more figure skaters than one can easily list that do fit: Josee Chouinard, Nicole Bobek, and Emanuel Sandhu to name a handful.
  • Until he won the Masters in 2004, Phil Mickelson was known as the best player never to win a golf major. That mantle has passed on to Sergio Garcia.
    • Colin Montgomerie surely? The guy will most likely never win one now and he's certainly had enough near misses.
    • The only under-50 tour majors Greg Norman won were two Open Championships, contested in Great Britain. He was a long-time contender on American soil majors (The Masters, US Open, PGA Championship) but either through his own bad play or miracle shots from other players, he's had an 0-for in those three tournaments. And Norman was ranked #1 in the world for over six years. That'd be like saying Tiger Woods still has his four Masters victories while erasing away his other ten major wins and any more he may win in the future.
  • Phil Gordon. Wrote several books teaching Poker. Color-comments several poker tournaments. Has never won a World Series of Poker bracelet, and has in fact never finished higher than third in one (though he does have a high finish of 4th in the main event and has a WPT title). Most importantly, he got rich playing.
  • Raymond Poulidor finished second three times in the Tour de France, and third five times. Unfortunately, not only did he never win, he never even wore the yellow jersey. Because of this, he became known as the "Eternal Second".
  • Take a look at the top seeds in Ninja Warrior. There are ten or so competitors (among them Bunpei Shiratori) that consistently pass the second stage. Then recall that only three men have ever won (and one of them, Kazuhiko Akiyama, has had about a 50/50 record of clearing Stage One since - though to be fair, he's suffered chronic injuries). Pretty much all of them fit the trope.
    • This is slightly hard to say for sure, because every time someone wins the producers go and change the whole course. They may scale it back if no one wins after so many seasons, but the difficulty is upped constantly.
  • The United States men's and women's Curling teams. every match they have played so far has been decided by the very last rock in the 10th and 11th ends, and always not in their favor.
  • The French Rugby club Clermont Auvergne. Despite reaching the final of the French Top 14 championship ten times, including each of the last three years, and having a squad that many consider to be the best in Europe, they have never actually won the competition.
  • The New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, had not won the World Cup since the first tournament in 1987 despite going into every tournament as favourite, usually when ranked at number 1. They have finally won in the 2011 Rugby World Cup which was hosted in their home country.
  • Every professional sports franchise in Seattle. In the forty-plus years of the modern sports era, the city has claimed exactly three championships, one in men's and two in women's basketball. (And then the men's team did the ultimate fizzle and moved to Oklahoma City.)
    • The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied an all-time Major League record with 116 regular season victories. They didn't even reach the World Series.
  • South Africa in the Cricket world cup. A team that has always been highly-ranked since they were allowed back into international cricket in 1992, but has never made it past the semi-finals due to a string of amusing (not to them) failures. Highlighs include:
    • In 1992, they looked to be heading to victory in the semi-final against England, until a rain interruption, which by the rules of the time left them needing to make 22 runs of one delivery to win. This was the impetus for the introduction of the Duckworth-Lewis method, which we'll see below.
    • In 1999, they their semi-final against Australia ended in a tie. Australia advanced to the final due to finishing higher in the super sixes stage of the tournament.
    • In 2003, their group stage match against Sri Lanka was affected by rain. A miscommunication caused the batsmen to leave the field with the scores tied under the Duckworth-Lewis method, causing them to miss out on a spot in the super sixes.
  • In Australian Rules Football, Collingwood were this from 1958 to 1990, much to the delight of their Hatedom. After Essendon lost to them in the 1990 grand final, the Carlton cheer squad (their team being a major rival of both Essendon and Collingwood) rubbed salt into the wound, with their banner for their first match the next year riffing on Essendon sponsor TAC's slogan: "If you lose to Collingwood in a grand final, you're a bloody idiot."
    • After 1990, Geelong took over the mantle (although that began in 1989 with their grand final loss to Hawthorn). This lasted until they won the 2007 premiership.
    • At the moment, it's the Western Bulldogs, who have lost the last seven Preliminary Finals they have played in.
    • As the page quote suggests, Port Power was this during the 2000s. Despite being minor premiers two years in row, they choked during the finals both times, before finally winning the Grand Final in 2004. They also reached the Grand Final in 2007, but lost it to the aforementioned Geelong.
  • In Australia's National Basketball League, the Sydney Kings got the nickname "Violet Crumbles" due to (1) their colors of purple and yellow resembling the packaging for the chocolate bar of that name, and (2) their tendency to disintegrate in the playoffs.
  • Here's how David "Tank" Abbott's four UFC tournaments went:
    • UFC 6 - Marketed as a villain, openly flaunting his one-dimensional technique, and hyped to the gills before his first fight (all unprecedented in the history of MMA) he charges in full of confidence. He proceeds to steamroll over John Matua, one of early UF Cs many, many no-talent clueless nobodies and dominates Paul Varelans, quite possibly UFC's biggest underachiever ever. Then he runs into a tomato-can wrestler named Oleg Taktarov...and all of a sudden, his tournament got a whole lot harder. Both men are hopelessly gassed for nearly the entire fight, but Taktarov manages to do just enough to lock up a tapout win.
    • Ultimate Ultimate - Before the tournament, says that "I had the shackles on my lungs" in UFC 6 and this would be different. Easy first round thrashing of Steve Jennum, an extremely limited "ninja" who's only here due to an incredibly lucky break at UFC 3. Semifinal is against a somewhat tougher opponent, Dan Severn, who proceeds to put on a grape-mashing festival while Abbott quite literally just lies there and takes it. Severn wins a no-brainer decision. Abbott would later deride the "Poindexters" for giving Severn the win, meaning that in addition to his suspect fighting skills, he expects the judges to give him the win just because.
    • UFC 11 - Squashes his first opponent with little trouble before facing alternate Scott Ferozzo in the semis, an overweight two-dimensional slug with terrible stamina. Ferozzo runs him from pillar to post, easily landing at least twice as many clean shots, and scores a one-sided decision. Abbott, who you will recall wiped the floor with John Matua and Paul Varelans not too long ago, would later claim that he lost because he wasn't prepared for a big guy.
    • 2nd Ultimate Ultimate - Wins his first two matches with little trouble; faces Don Frye in the finals. Frye blunders into a tremendous right by Abbott which knocks him down and opens up the cut...which would be the only offense Abbott would get. Frye by tapout.
    • Abbott left UFC with an 8-10 record, by far the worst record by anyone with at least that many fights. He is the only UFC tournament competitor to finish both second and third twice.

Professional Wrestling

  • WWE's angle for the revival of ECW was based on this - Rob Van Dam was built up as, in Joey Styles' words, the greatest competitor to never win a World championship, heading into his battle with WWE Champion John Cena in the main-event of the revival show One Night Stand. By the time the show was over, he wasn't without one anymore.
  • Chris Benoit was the subject of a similar storyline going into Wrestlemania XX, where both Triple H and Shawn Michaels made a huge deal over the fact that, despite receiving numerous opportunities, he always seemed to choke in world title matches, and thus both felt he was not in their league. Guess who won?
  • As it stands, most would probably go with either The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase or "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig as the greatest competitor to have not been granted the world title.
    • Ironically, Dibiase was promised by WWE to win the WWE Title at Wrestlemania IV. However, politics occurred (that didn't even involve him!). WWE wanted The Honky Tonk Man to drop the Intercontinental title to Randy Savage, but Honky refused and threatened to leave WWE with the belt, so WWE caved in and allowed Honky to keep the belt, and gave Randy Savage the WWE title at Wrestlemania IV to make up for it.
  • In ECW, Tommy Dreamer had a long feud with Raven in which he continually ended up losing to him. Dreamer finally won on Raven's last night with the company.
  • Ring of Honor pulled this with Tyler Black and Roderick Strong; the latter was 0-15 in World Title matches at one point. Ironically, Strong would defeat Black to win the title at Glory By Honor IX.
  • Then, there's Lex Luger. He choked against Ric Flair (multiple times), Yokozuna (twice), and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.. all for either the NWA/WCW or WWF Championships.

Non-Sports Examples


  • A commercial for Staples features the main character rattling off a series of office archetypes (the paranoid employee, the lazy employee, etc,) before turning to one employee and saying, "Joe, you continue not living up to your resume."


  • In The Game Plan, The Rock plays one of these before he meets his long-lost daughter.
  • Played with in By The Sword. Alex Villand believes his father was like this, because his father was a fencing champion who died after a duel with a student of his that he had challenged because said student was having an affair with Villand Senior's wife. This leads the younger Villand to muse "He spent half his life winning fencing tournaments, but the only time in his life he was a fight that mattered he got himself killed". This fuels Villand's win at any cost, no matter how dirty your tactics approach to fencing and life. Later that student, now out of prison for the killing Villand Sr, sets Villand Jr straight. Villand's father had given the student a live rapier while arming himself with only a practice sword, and beat the student within an inch of his life with the practice sword. At the end, humiliated by his defeat, (in part because the student had been an Arrogant Kung Fu Guy too back in the day) the student had stabbed Villand Senior In the Back when senior was ready to show him mercy.
  • One of the reasons why Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore was such A Jerkass was because he was never able to get the Golden Jacket.

Anime and Manga

  • As much is said about Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, he actually never hardly ever won a fight on his own, and only ever mostly succeed when fighting with Simon. Granted when they are fighting, Kamina appears to be doing most of the work. Also, he was able to get Simon to stop being such a wimp, basically get the whole story and rise of man thing started and come back from the dead as a ghost or something to get everyone out of a Lotus Eater Machine, which makes him something else entirely.
  • Mai Valentine/Kujaku from Yu-Gi-Oh!. Her duelist cred is often accused of being an Informed Ability, but it's really this. She has displayed great skills at times, but never manages to deliver when it comes to the big duels. Of course, much of the blame for this is due to Plot Demanded Losses (of course Mai's not going to be able to beat The Hero or the Big Bad, no matter what her skills are).

Web Original

  • Byzantium in AH World Cup is meant to be an Expy of the Netherlands in The World Cup, always one of the favorites to win it all but never actually does. Even in the actual simulations, Byzantium struggled against teams they were expected to win against, drawing all their matches before they were finally defeated when facing another favorite.

Real Life

  • The Rafale fighter plane. Consistantly touted by French aviation fans and a few others as close, equal or better than the F-22 despite the disagreements of the foremost authorities on the matter and even a number of French politicians and defense experts. Has been the focus of a major PR campaign in weapons sales by Sarkozy after no foreign sales ten years after going into production to no result, and looks to see either no sales ever or half a squadron's worth of planes. In early 2009 France itself cut production, amidst governmental backroom beatings of the Dassault Thales' managerial staff. Contrast with the highly successful Mirage series, compare with LeClerc.
    • Sounds more like these "French aviation fans and a few others" have been drinking the Kool-Aid about the Dassault Rafale, rather than it being an Every Year They Fizzle Out.
    • It does, however, easily match or surpass performance of its actual competitors on the export market: the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (American), Eurofighter Typhoon (British/German/Italian), Saab JAS 39 Gripen (Swedish), and Mikoyan MiG-29M and MiG-29K (Russian). The F-16 has been exported to 25 nations, the F/A-18 to 7, the Typhoon to 3, the Gripen to 4, the MiG-29M to 2, and the MiG-29K to 1. The Rafale, as of October 2011, has yet to secure a single export contract.
    • Interestingly, one of the potential buyers for the Rafale was the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi...which France took a leading role in overthrowing by using their own Rafales to bomb the hell out of his military. Perhaps the new government formed by the rebels, which both saw the Rafale in action and has considerable reason to be grateful to France, will finally provide Dassault the opening they need?
  • William Jennings Bryan electrified the Democratic National Convention with his famous cry of "you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." and at the tender age of 36 (only one year older than the Constitutional minimum of 35), he became the youngest major-party nominee in history, and he put his dazzling oratorical power to good use, traveling 18,000 miles in three months, giving 500 speeches in 100 days - He lost by a huge landslide in the Electoral College. He was nominated again in 1900 - and lost by another huge landslide. He sat out the 1904 election, quite rightly realizing that he had no hope of beating popular incumbent Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt stepped down in 1908, Bryan jumped back in and proceeded to lose by his biggest margin ever.
  • Similarly, Adlai Stevenson had a reputation as a campaigning orator, and suffered two landslide defeats in a row against Dwight D Eisenhower. In fairness, he was campaigning against the hero of World War II in Europe in a time of unprecedented prosperity.
    • Stevenson seemed to be quite aware of how little chance of victory he had. When a supporter told him that every intelligent American would vote for him, he responded, "That's not enough. I need a majority."
      • Huh. Having contempt for the voters turns out to be a bad strategy. Who knew?
  • Thomas Dewey was nominated in 1944 to run against FDR - of course he lost by a large margin! He was, unlike the other three unfortunates who had to, renominated in 1948 because Roosevelt had died and he was up against the considerably less challenging Truman. Sensing victory, the Republicans were sure such a popular candidate would win - nope.
  • Henry Clay, considered by most historians to be one of the greatest Senators in US history, unsuccessfully ran for President three times in the general election (in 1824, 1832, and 1844). He also sought his party's nomination in 1840 and 1848, but was passed over both times in favor of popular war heroes. Clay once complained bitterly that his supporters kept nominating him against opponents he had no chance to beat, and passing him over in years where he would have been virtually guaranteed to win.
  1. played by Peyton Manning
  2. who basically paid off other drivers to let him win
  3. They haven't fared much better in regular season games against the SEC, recording only 1 win in school history against an SEC team other than eternal losers Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
  4. well, to everyone except Iowa fans, due the 37-6 beatdown that the Hawkeyes inflicted on the Spartans
  5. Alabama won 49-7.
  6. It is unlikely that anyone alive today saw their last World Series win.
  7. as in, 3 quarters
  8. Packers, Jets, and finally the Vikings
  9. Dropped the Game-Winning Touchdown that would've sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
  10. Missed the Game-tying Field Goal that would've sent the game into Overtime
  11. Failed to call an obvious pass interference penalty on the play between those epic failures.
  12. The last AFC Championship loss ended eerily similar to one of the Bills Super Bowl losses...
  13. Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg