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Bender: "Second place? That's a fancy word for losing!"

When people think Second Place Is for Losers, it basically means that if someone gets second place in a competition (that has more than two contestants), it's little better than coming in last. It doesn't matter if you've won a footrace with everyone on the planet, and bested 7 billion people. All that matters is you didn't beat the one.

Some athletes really do feel that way, coming so close and yet missing the mark. For example, one scientific study analyzed photographs of the facial expressions of many Olympians as they learned how they had placed. Bronze medalists seemed happy to have placed at all, but a Silver winner usually showed disappointment or dejection at coming in second best (Gold was of course almost always ecstatic).

In a narrative sense, this can be used to give an Aesop about sportsmanship, or at can be used to squeeze some extra Angst from a character, especially if the second placing character is a "Well Done, Son" Guy, hoping to use the competition to impress the parent.

Please note that, real or fictional, this attitude is almost never shown in a positive light, and most leagues (especially youth leagues) consider it very bad sportsmanship.

This trope is the prime reason Underdogs Never Lose.

Note this trope is only about characters getting second place, or at least placing highly enough to get a medal/trophy/etc., and then focusing on the fact that they still didn't win first. It's NOT about:

  • A genuinely mediocre-to-poor showing.
  • When there are actual consequences for getting second place (like some being threatens to destroy the world if not beaten).
  • When a Video Game requires you to win a competition to advance the story.
  • There really is no prize for second place.

Compare Unsportsmanlike Gloating, The "B" Grade.

Contrast The Runner Up Takes It All, Second Place Is for Winners.

Not to be confused with Tough Act to Follow.

Examples of Second Place Is for Losers include:

Anime and Manga

  • Happens in Paradise Kiss. While the other members take it better, winning the second prize in the School Festival contest is the catalyst that sends George into a life crisis, believing he can't connect with the public (and thus achieve success as a fashion designer) without compromising his personal artistic vision. Yukari also takes it rather dramatically. Angst ensues, they break up. It's not the only reason, but it sure creates a lot of drama.
  • Fans have criticized the Pokémon anime for never letting Ash win any of the various League tournaments he enters. Such complaints ignore the fact that hundreds of trainers enter each of these tournaments, and the lowest Ash has ever finished is 16th overall (an impressive feat on its own, since it was his first time entering an official Pokémon League competition). And then there's the fact that he's competed in special Run the Gauntlet challenges against groups of highly skilled trainers and won both times. The same has been said for Dawn, particularly after she placed second in the Grand Festival behind one of her best friends and sources of advice and encouragement.
  • Seto Kaiba's outlook on life. He lost his Duel Monsters Champion title to Yugi and he didn't manage to defeat Yugi in a fair duel in the Duelist Kingdom. He creates the Battle City tournament to gather all Egyptian God Cards and to defeat Yugi in his tournament. However, Kaiba loses to Yugi in the semi-finals, so after the end of the Battle City, Kaiba blows up Alcatraz and the whole island to kill Yugi with his friends, but they escape. After Battle City, Kaiba loses his goal of becoming number one in favor of focusing on his Kaiba Land project, but defeating Yugi still remains a symbolic goal in his eye, proven by the way he blows his top in the DOMA Arc (anime only) when he finds out his rival has lost to Rafael.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion takes this trope to the logical extreme. Initially, when Shinji first surpasses Asuka's synch ratio, she's just pissed at him. Later, after being curbstomped three times in a row with Shinji always scoring the kill instead of her, she becomes extremely distraught, due to her past: she always prided herself on being the best so that she won't need any kind of help from anyone. By not being the best anymore and her rival consistently having a stellar performance, she's afraid of being put to the sidelines and as a result, her synch ratio is plummeting; seeing this, she also becomes afraid that if she drops low enough, she will be relieved of her duties which to her would be equal to being publicly humiliated in the worst way possible for a human. And the best part in all of this? She knows what's wrong but her pride doesn't let her admit it to herself.
    • Oh, it gets even better. Right after her third defeat (technically second since she couldn't attack Leliel, much less harm it), she's sent into battle again, knowing that this is the last chance the NERV leadership is giving for her: if she screws up this time, it's game over. Not only she doesn't get a single shot off at Arael, she undergoes the Trope Namer for Mind Rape instead. And she gets saved by the person she hates the most. Next time she's sent up against Armisael, she can't even get her Eva to move anymore and is withdrawn; as an indirect result, Rei-II is killed by the Angel despite Shinji's intervention ("you didn't send him out for me... am I really that worthless?"). What do NERV does in this situation? Does they try to solve Asuka's psychological problems and cheer her up? Noooo, they send her into early retirement and fetch a replacement instead.
  • Invoked once in Eyeshield 21, but never really enforced except that every team do his best to win. It's even subverted once, with Deimon make it to Kantou tournament despite only can get 3rd place.
  • Sabertooth's guild master in Fairy Tail believes this to the point that the guild model is effectively "To be the strongest". To drive the point home, he expels anyone who loses during the Grand Magic Games in the most humiliating way possible.
  • In Dragon Ball Goku got second place at the 21st and the 22nd Martial Arts Tournaments. He was specifically told by Master Roshi not to expect to win since he was still inexperienced. Goku didn't care and went for the win and was visibly upset that he lost. The second time, he lost to Tien after having the bad luck of running into a truck. When Krillin tried to congratulate him Goku says, "A loss is a loss."
    • In fact, Goku's lost in the 21st Tournament was to Master Roshi himself (in the guise of Jackie Chun), specifically because he wanted to teach Goku and Krillin not to go through this trope since there's Always Someone Better. As demonstrated above, it didn't take, but years later Goku responds to the idea of stronger opponents with child-like enthusiasm.
  • In Bakuman。, Mashiro and Takagi are crushed to learn that they got third place with "The World is All About Money And Intelligence," (losing to Eiji and someone else) even though it surpasses all their previous efforts, since it means they will not be able to submit it for serialization. Otherwise, this trope is largely averted with a few exceptions (mainly Iwase), as when the main characters are starting out and want to get up past ninth place, Miura tells them that rather than try desperate tactics to go up, they should maintain their ranking, as anything above 10th place will not come up for cancellation.
  • Tiger and Bunny has Keith Goodman/Sky High struggling with this after Barnaby Brooks Jr. takes his place as the highest ranking superhero. However, being the Nice Guy to end all Nice Guys, he's not angry over no longer being the best so much as he's afraid that he can no longer live up to the expectations people have for him.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul :Re, this trope is discussed almost to the letter.

Takizawa:"Being second is just a consolation for the loser. Yes, a consolation for them not to think that, as long as there is someone above them, they're nothing but a loser. The gap between a perfect 100 mark and a 99 is not just one point."



  • "You don't win silver — you lose gold." was from a Nike commercial, featuring Andre Agassi that ran during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Nike was roundly criticized for the line, as it was totally against the Olympic spirit. They yanked the campaign after just a few days and never mentioned it again.


  • In The Karate Kid II, the bully from the last film seemed to be okay with his 2nd place trophy, but his teacher wasn't. In fact, that teacher smashes the trophy and physically attacks his student so viciously that Mr. Miyagi has to step in and teach the sensei some manners.
  • Mentioned in Top Gun.
  • Also subverted in Bring It On. After all the crazy stuff they went through, it was a miracle they did as well as they did.
  • In Gattaca, the (wheelchair-bound) Jerome is like this:

 Vincent: (looking at a medal) That's very nice.

Jerome: Are you colorblind, too? It's silver. Jerome Morrow was never meant to be second place.

  • Robert De Niro's character in the movie Meet the Fockers reacts this way to Greg's parents keeping all of his awards even though he never placed very high, derisively saying that he doesn't want to encourage mediocrity in his own family.
  • Played with in The Wild One: one of Johnny's gang steals the second-place trophy from a local motorcycle race and gives it to him; Johnny complains, "Why didn't you steal first?" "It was too big." Johnny displays the trophy prominently on his bike.
  • Talladega Nights "If you ain't first, you're last." Ricky Bobby bases his entire life on this one phrase his father told him, and earnestly believes it to the point that he can't deal with the idea of someone being better than him. He has a nervous breakdown when he wrecks in his first race against Jean Girard and needs training just to know how to go fast again.
    • Subverted later on in the movie when Ricky's Dad says "Oh hell, Son, I was high that day. That doesn't make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth... hell you can even be fifth."
  • The coach of the Hawks in the first Mighty Ducks movie gazes at the one second-place banner in a long-row of first-place banners and remarks, "I sure wish they'd take that one down." Apparently, being perceived as not even making the top 3 or 4 teams that year is better than getting second.
    • It's easier to overlook a missing year than it is to overlook a lone yellow banner in a sea of black first-place finishes.
  • Averted in Fired Up, in which a perpetually losing squad ends up thirteenth in a tournament, but the captain feels it's an accomplishment, because it's ten places better than the previous year.
  • The Social Network has the race where the Winklevoss twins, as well as the rest of the Harvard rowing team, lose against the opposition and place 2nd. They are clearly unpleased about it, and it becomes a Compliment Backfire when Prince Albert tells repeatedly how he "never saw a race so close!"
  • Dylan Chu's father in Akeelah and the Bee makes it clear that to him, getting 2nd for the 3rd time in this spelling bee will make him "2nd your whole life!"
  • Glengarry Glen Ross, both the film and play, deal with a struggling real estate sales agency. The head office sends a big shot who is certainly not afraid of flaunting his wealth and success to describe a change to the ongoing sales contest. First prize is a Cadillac. Second is a set of steak knives. Third is you're fired. By the way, there are four salesmen in the agency. The scene can be scene here, though it contains some profanity. It is well worth watching simply for its amazing cast.
  • Miranda Frost in Die Another Day betrayed her country solely because she got a silver medal in the Olympics, and the villain of the movie offered to make it look like the gold winner cheated.


  • In the Red Dwarf novel Better Than Life, a scene in Rimmer's childhood shows him nearly winning a race before another boy trips him up, and we're told his father's favourite phrase is "Winning isn't everything, but losing is nothing". But then we're shown Ace Rimmer in the same sports day, and he throws the race, because he realises another boy really needs to win it. While his mother stares in disbelief, he thinks "After all, losing isn't nothing."
  • Nanny Ogg in the Discworld series is perfectly aware of this, and prefers to come in second, because if you come in first, people are constantly trying to beat you and you're under pressure to keep coming in first. She likes coming second, because it's the runner-up that people pat on the back and say "It was a good try" and buy drinks for.
  • Subverted in the Kim Newman short story "The Germans Won", in which an alternative version of John Major lives life as a humble bus conductor.[1] During an argument about the World Cup, one of the characters brings up this trope in relation to Britain and how they always come second at everything and how that makes them losers. The normally shy Major finds himself moved to argue this point with surprising passion:

 "You're wrong, Jeffrey. There's nothing wrong with losing in a final. Being Second Best In The World means something. There's nothing wrong with being top of League Division Two. There's nothing wrong with being honestly Second-rate."

"Show me a good loser, John, and I'll show you a loser."

"Results don't matter, Jeffrey," said John. "Playing the game does. Life isn't results. When you die, they don't calculate your goal average and judge whether you should be promoted or relegated. Life is the game, the process of the game, moment to moment. If you do your best, no one can blame you. If you play fair, no one can argue with you. Better a successful dustbinman than a wash-out field marshall."


Live Action TV

  • It's a theme in the second season of Sports Night. An athlete sets a new world record during a long jump competition; five minutes later, another athlete breaks this new record and wins the gold. Dan tells his therapist that no one will ever remember the first guy because he lost.
  • Several people who came in second for reality TV shows such as Survivor and the American Big Brother have acted like they lost the game because they didn't win.
    • Notably averted on The Amazing Race, where second place teams rarely ever take it badly. Of course, there is the occasional racer like Boston Rob who accuses the producers of fixing the race against him. But then, considering what other reality show he finished second on...
      • When Reality TV contestants go on a show after they get kicked off/voted out etc. (like doing an appearance on David Letterman or Today) they'll have all of the losing contestants...until the Grand Finale where the winner is announced. Then they'll only have the winner on, nevermind the 2nd place (and possibly 3rd & 4th) who were established during the same show.
    • In Survivor, Russell Hantz won second place in Samoa, then third in Heroes vs. Villains. After Samoa, he acted like he was slapped in the face and practically murdered when he came in second out of twenty people, then third out of twenty people, all of which were former players and several of which were considered the best. however when he won the Sprint player of the year award, he immediately begun the typical Victory dance in Heroes vs. Villains.
    • Russell basically acted like a terrible sport in Heroes vs. Villains. Instead of congratulating Sandra in not angering potential votes, Russell began to attack the game itself saying that it was "Flawed" if someone who played differently than him could win, and immediately proposing an alternative rule(set) that would most definitely favour him. Basically, he came across as someone who played the game well and deserved more recognition from the fellow players...or a terrible sport who needs to learn that the game is not just played his way.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has it's famous Green With Evil storyline that introduced the very first Sixth Ranger. It begins with Jason facing Tommy, a new kid in town, in a martial arts contest which ultimately ends in a tie. As Jason returns to his friends, the first words that come out of his mouth are "I didn't win." Granted, he doesn't dwell on it anymore after this one moment, but it's still an odd thing for a character like Jason to be concerned about.
  • Played with on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Bashir was second in his class, and outwardly kicked himself for the simple blunder on the test that caused him to be such. However, he reveals shortly that's it's part of how he comes on to girls. Plus after The Reveal about his "enhancements," it may be that he deliberately made the mistake as to keep his cover.

Video Games

  • Related to this: Katamari Damacy has Royal Second Cousin Miki, who always tries to at least make the top three but tends to end up around sixth place.
    • Also featured in the story of We Love Katamari. As a child, The King of All Cosmos took second place in a boxing tournament - while walking home, his father pitches the silver trophy in the river to the King's dismay. Later, the King and his father get in a fight - when the King goes to apologize, he sees his father looking at the silver trophy, and realises that his father must have fished it out of the river. This may also explain the King's attitude towards the player if he turns in a small katamari.

 The King Of All Cosmos: "If We were doing it, it would be much, much bigger."

The King Of All Cosmos: "Is this all you want out of life? Mediocrity?"

  • In one mission in Elite Beat Agents, you are trying to get a runner with a cold back to health in order to win the big race. Depending on how well you do, he reacts with roughly equal enthusiasm to winning Gold or Silver, but is very distraught to have only won 3rd, even if that is pretty good for someone who just got over a cold.
  • At the end of Pokémon Red and Blue, Professor Oak gives Blue a speech on how disappointed he is in him, and how he needs to learn to treat Pokémon well like Red does, almost completely ignoring how Blue's methods got him past all the gyms and the Elite Four, and he'd still be Kanto's champion if Red hadn't shown up.
  • In the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory series, winning a contest gets you high praise and affection from the other villagers. Don't win, even finishing in second, and everyone (even your spouse, if present) reacts in the same "You lost? You suck!" manner, whether it was second place or dead last.
  • Battlefield 3 includes an achievement called "First Loser" for having the second highest point total in the match. Although this goes against a theme of the Battlefield series, which usually rewards teamwork and downplays individual skill. Also, get this achievement if you are the best player on the winning team but were bested by someone on the losers.
  • In Tales of Graces, this is what prompted Hubert to grow from whiny crybaby to freaking general badass.
  • In the racing minigames from Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, Mario must beat all the NPCs in a race first to obtain the Power Star. If he falls in second or below, then he will lose a life.
  • The Adventures of Willy Beamish actually averts this. The Tootsweet Frog Jump is considered a big deal where Horny must beat Turbofrog, but you can keep going in the game if you only make second place, as you still win enough money to enter the Nintari championship, plus the jet-ski you need to reach Humpford Manor.
  • In R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, the first two races require a 3rd place finish or better, the next two require 2nd or better, and the final four require first-place finishes. In the races where you can qualify without getting first, doing so will result in some pretty upset comments from your crew. (Failing to qualify will just take you to a retry/quit screen with no commentary.)
  • From Mario Kart: Double Dash!! until Mario Kart 7, it was absolutely necessary to win gold trophies in Grand Prix mode if one wanted to unlock new characters, karts, and cups (though since 7 forgoes pre-built karts for customizable karts, unlocking all but three parts comes down to collecting a certain amount of coins, a system that continues in Mario Kart 8). Mario Kart 8 averts this, though, as placing anywhere between 1st-3rd will unlock a random character, as well as unlocking cups and mirror mode (update 4.2, though, makes mirror mode a default engine class).

Web Original

  • One of the anecdotes on Acts of Gord deals with a fighting game tournament Gord ran, in which first prize was a set of expensive game controllers and $20, second prize was a can of Coke and an autographed photo of himself and third prize was $20. The author of the website justifies this by saying, "The Gord likes to remind people that second place is just the first loser."
  • A Downfall parody video showing World of Warcraft guild SK Gaming reacting to their rival Nihilum getting the World First defeat of the Eredar Twins in Sunwell Plateau has Hitler/bds yelling "Shut up Mackelina you faggot! Second place is for fucking losers".

Western Animation

  • Subverted in King of the Hill. Hank doesn't win a shooting competition, and his dad won a bet he wouldn't. But then Bobby walks up and says. "Wow, Dad. Second place in a real competition." It's worth noting that Hank was established throughout the episode as being a really crummy shot to begin with.
    • Happens in a later episode where Bobby takes to growing roses and fails in a flourist competition. He's disappointed and depressed about it, but shocked when he sees Hank (who he actively hid his roses from in the beginning) planting his flowers in the garden. When Bobby asks why he'd do this even if he didn't win, Hank explains, "Well, the Cowboys don't win every game, but I still cheer them on year after year."
  • Batman Beyond had an episode where, after scoring second highest on an exam, one character was told by his mother that that makes him "the winning loser." Said boy then strikes a vendetta against the top scorer, who happens to be Batman's best friend.
    • To point out how ridiculously high the standards of the guy's mom were, he got 2397 out of 2400. The only person above him got a perfect score.

 Mom: Almost doesn't get you anywhere in life. Almost gets you almost.

  • You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown shows Charlie Brown coming in second in the spelling bee and the rest of the kids giving him hell for it.
    • In A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown is a competitor in the National Spelling Bee Championship and ends up second and feels like a miserable failure. However, this is Fridge Logic considering that while misspelling a relatively easy word like "beagle" is embarrassing (especially when his pet Snoopy is one), the fact remains that Charlie Brown beat out almost all the top contenders in the entire country and that surely should count for something.
  • Mocked in The Simpsons, where the Olympics commissioner reaffirms the purpose of the Games: "giving out medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver, and shameful bronze."
    • Also in "Lisa's Rival" when she considers her predicament:

 Lisa: Hey, I am above average! So what if Alison's ahead of me? There's no shame in being second.

Announcer: And now, Avis Rent-A-Car is proud to present the second best band in America. Will you welcome Garfunkel, Messina, Oates, and Lisa singing their number two hit, "Born to Runner-up". [Audience boos]

Lisa: Why would they come to our concert just to boo us?

    • Inverted in I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can. Lisa gets second place in the Spellympics and is hailed as a winner in Springfield - after all, second place makes her "the biggest winner this town's ever produced".
  • An episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog had Katz attempting revenge on Muriel because he always come in second to her in Nowhere's cooking contests.
  • Played with on The Weekenders. Tino got 3rd place in a horseshoes competition, during a weekend sports meet, which he was pretty proud of, considering his took up the sport that weekend. His friends didn't see what the big deal was, since he didn't win. Probably had to do with the fact that they all won their competitions.
  • In an episode of Futurama, Bender enters Zoidberg in a pet show. When Zoidberg wins second place, Bender says the page quote.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Applejack is rather devastated during "The Last Roundup" when she fails to bring home first place in the rodeo championship, and the prize money to help fix town hall. Not helped by the fact that she had won the Ponyville rodeo ten times in a row but couldn't succeed when she tried to compete in Canterlot.

Applejack: Don't you get it? There's every color of ribbon down there. Every color... but... blue.

    • This is Rainbow Dash's general attitude, considering her cutie mark appeared when she was winning her first race.
    • In "Wonderbolts Academy", Rainbow Dash meets a fellow pegasus who believes this even more than she does... leading to the episode casting her as the voice of reason by comparison.

Outright subverted during the running of the leaves. Twilight is extremely proud of herself for coming in 5th place, which is highly respectable considering it's her first race ever. Even the competitive Applejack and Rainbow Dash don't berate her for it; they're too busy moping about tying... for dead last.

  • American Dad!:
    • American Dad shows Stan Smith as a living embodiment of the trope. Stan believes that when it comes to sports, you either win or you're just a pathetic loser. The episode "Every Which Way But Lose" has Stan constantly belittling his son, Steve, for not coming in 1st place in any sport. When Steve teams up with Roger and beats Stan's team in a football game, Stan takes the loss so badly that he almost commits suicide, believing he would rather die than to live life with a loss on his record.
    • Also played with in an episode where Stan goes with Francine to her high school reunion, happy that he's married to the homecoming queen. Francine points out that she only won by one vote, and the runner-up had gone on to be fat, unnattractive, and miserable since (she left the prom to eat at a Dunkin Donuts). But when the ballot box is shown, two uncounted votes for the runner-up are discovered. Francine happily gives her tiarra to her, while Stan is unhappy to learn that he didn't marry the homecoming queen after all.
    • The mother of Steve's Japanese friend Toshi, and his on-off-again romantic interest Akiko believes in this trope wholeheartedly, being a Tiger Mom Education Mama who relentlessly pressures her daughter to study and work on countless competitions. When Steve beats Akiko in a spelling bee, Steve ends up forfeiting the win to her when he sees her mother openly berate her and promising to be even stricter from now on. Strangely, this ONLY applies to Akiko, as the mother is never seen doing much parenting with Toshi.
  • Camp Lazlo: Subverted. Lazlo's team finished in the middle of the pack, while Edward's got first place. However, their 2nd place trophy was bigger than Edward's 1st place trophy. Even Chip and Skip, who got last place, have a bigger trophy than Edward.
  • Uncle Grandpa has Priscilla Jones, who got second-place in the science fair when she was a little girl because Uncle Grandpa accidentily chipped it, and instead of helping her fix it, took her on an adventure involving playing hackey-sack with Martians. Her reaction? She lost it and vowed to take Uncle Grandpa's job, taking on the alter ego "Aunt Grandma".
  • In the Ultimate Spider-Man version of Contest of Champions, the Grandmaster taunts the Collector with "Second place means first loser!"

Real Life

  • The unfortunate tendency for sports teams who keep getting to the championships and losing to be treated as failures, when in fact they must be pretty good to make it there so many times.
    • Prime example: The Buffalo Bills. They made it to the Super Bowl four straight years, only to lose all four times. Instead of being thought of as a team that dominated the American Conference by winning it four straight times, they're thought of as chokers.
    • 2007 New England Patriots were undefeated in regular season play and were expected to win the championship. Analysts were calling them the greatest team of all time. Then they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and suddenly an 18-1 season just wasn't good enough to be the best.
      • Particularly galling since the Patriots have won the Super Bowl three times. Perspective!
    • This especially applies in college football, since unlike pro football, an undefeated record is pretty much an absolute requirement to play for the national championship. Thus, at the end of the championship game, one undefeated team is going to have a huge blemish on an otherwise relatively spotless season.
  • The New York Yankees. If they don't win the World Series, their season is considered a failure. If it has been more than a couple of years since the Yankees last won, the New York sports media will often refer to them as having a "championship drought". When the team won the 2009 World Series, the occasion was treated as if it had been a long, long time since their previous one... which was actually just nine years prior. Over half the teams in Major League Baseball haven't won in the last 20.
  • Olympic bronze medalists are said to be happier with their lot than Olympic silver medalists: A bronze medalist was close to not medalling at all, while the silver medalist could have had gold.
    • Specifically to the tournament games (such as hockey and curling) in the Olympics. If you got silver, that means you just lost the gold-medal game, but if you got a bronze medal, that means you won the bronze medal game.
      • Averted by the Croatian basketball team in 1992; they talked about how happy they were to be winning silver before the gold medal game was even played. They were going up against the Dream Team (The USA Basketball team that year consisted of the best players in the NBA), and had no illusions about winning.
  • Dale Earnhardt was often quoted saying "Second place is just the first loser".
    • A slogan which appears on various T-shirts, and may have been adapted for Talladega Nights.
  • Nascar driver Cale Yarborough had said "If he crowded me on the track it would be ok but when they ran us down we lost it"
  • Blatantly averted in the 1987 Formula One season, though. Most of the points Nelson Piquet earned to get his third championship title came from earning second place in races.
    • Also inverted in F 1. Alain Prost won seven races in 1984, the most of anyone in that season, but lost the championship to Niki Lauda by half a point. Compare that to Mike Hawthorn and Keke Rosberg, both F1 champions who only won once in their respective championship years.
    • Then there's another aversion in Fernando Alonso's two championships in 2005 and 2006. Technically, he tied with his closest rival (Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher respectively) for most race wins those years, but Alonso had scored more second and third place finishes, giving him enough points to win the championships.
  • This applies to Canoe Racing in Canada - The Junior category is anyone who hasn't won 1st or 2nd in the last 4 years in Junior. So if you get second, you can't race for the same trophy for 4 years. Especially relevant in the case of the J.W. Black Trophy for Junior Mens Canoe 4s, which is the most coveted Canoeing trophy in Canada, if not the world (also holds 52 or so beers, which helps). Canoeists even have a word for this trope - being Blackwashed.
  • Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, for 20 years had been obsessed with the successes of his ex bandmates of Metallica, always making him the second most popular Thrash Metal band. He hardly realized his own achievements. More recently, he's past it, ever since he went into therapy with them.
  • Hong Jin-Ho has made it to the finals of many Starcraft tournaments just to lose...
  • UCLA Bruins football coach Red Sanders said:

 "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

  • In the professional mexican soccer league, the "Cruz Azul" team is infamous for almost always making it to the grand final but rarely winning the championship, the team got the nickname "regala campeonatos", it doesn't help that for some reason, the team usually (though, not always) performs poorly and well under the level they displayed on the rest of the championship.
  • The Bayer Leverkusen squad which finished second in in all three of the Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and the domestic German cup in the same season was nicknamed the Neverkusen by the media, even though it was probably the best season in the whole history of the team.
  • Vince Lombardi lived by this rule saying "Winning isnt everything its the only thing".
  1. The real John Major actually applied for a job as a bus conductor, but failed the exam, and went into politics instead.