This guy's in a sort of competition — let's say he ran for school president. When they start to announce the winner, he automatically assumes that he won; he'll stand up, get this smug look on his face and he might even start giving his acceptance speech. But he didn't win... it was his rival, some random underdog, a write-in vote, or a tie, or a mix and match of those things. The comparable Real Life example is the Award Snub.
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Anime & Manga
- Parodied in Azumanga Daioh. Yukari is announcing the highest scoring person in the class and, despite being the second-lowest scoring person in the class with no chance whatsoever, Tomo stands up just before the announcement. Similarly, earlier, when Chiyo is about to be called forward during the grad ceremony to be recognized for having the highest grades in the school, Yomi has to, repeatedly and with her usual growing irritation, tell Tomo "It's not you!"
- Penguin Musume Heart has a reversal of this: Penguin gives a heartfelt speech about how Etorufu would make a better student council president then her, and then proceeds to accidentally vote for herself instead.
- Gundam Build Fighters Try: In the Artistic Gunpla Cup at the end of the series, Minato Sakai is very confident that his entry, an MS Girl based on Fumina, is going to win. Everyone else is too (except Fumina herself, who is alternately wishing to either die of embarrassment or kill Minato), as it honestly is a very well-built model. When Meijin Kawaguchi announces the winner, he announces it's Entry #9, causing Minato to jump up in excitement... only for the Meijin to say "Oops, excuse me", turn the card over, and announce that Entry #6, Yuuma's Lightning Zeta Gundam, is the winner. Turns out building a model based on a real person without their permission is against the rules, and Minato was disqualified.
- There's a variant in the X-Wing Series comics. Two Rebels compete with two Imperial special forces troopers; whoever gets past the monster and grabs the golden sphere wins for their side. An Imperial got killed, a Rebel gave up his lead to save the other Rebel, and the Imperial got the sphere. Then a heat storm whipped up and killed them all. No, actually that was a virtual reality simulation, though they didn't know that going in. After they'd recovered, the Imperials congratulate the Rebels, smug in their victory. The judge says that maybe the Rebels won, since one saved the other, but when the Rebels are incredulous, he says no, the Imperials won, he was just impressed. It ends up moot anyway, since the Imperial trooper's commander stole the prize, a fugitive who knew something useful, and fled, leaving those troopers behind to be sold into slavery. Luckily for them the Rebels were happy to facilitate a Heel–Face Turn.
- In a flashback from Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin was suddenly proclaimed that year's International Man of Mystery instead of Dr. Evil, who was anticipating the award all along.
- Om Shanti Om: During the parody Filmfare award ceremony, Abhishek Bachchan gets up from his seat fully expecting to win Best Actor... and then the presentors say Om's name. Oops.
- In Cars: After the first race at the beginning of the movie:
Announcer: For the first time in Piston Cup history...Lightning: A rookie has won the Piston Cup. (leaps through paper partition)Announcer: We have a three-way tie!Lightning: (shocked expression)
- In Zoolander, Derek Zoolander has won Male Model of the Year three times in a row. When newcomer rival Hansel (he's so hot right now) is announced as the winner, Derek doesn't notice and assumes he won, going up to the podium and giving an acceptance speech only to be corrected and humiliated in front of the crowd and viewers.
- The final moment of The Oscar has the film's antagonist, Frankie Fane, up for a Best Actor Oscar (and having burned so many bridges that a win may be the only thing that keeps his career from plummeting to rock bottom). He is so confident in his victory that when presenter Merle Oberon reads the name "Frank..." he stands up, only for Oberon to continue (after an unnaturally long pause) with "... Sinatra!" Fane sinks back into his seat in shock.
- In the 2007 adaptation of Hairspray, Amber and Tracy are the two most likely to win the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray. As the winner is announced, Amber steps forward with a smile to accept the award, only to find that she lost to Little Inez.
- To clarify: Originally, Amber did win, until Tracy interrupted the ceremony. But then they keep the lines open during the final song, and Inez gets her chance to shine thanks to Link. Then it's also revealed that Amber's win was actually due to Velma manipulating the voting graph. Amber is amazingly humble about all this.
- At the end of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin throws a party to reward Pooh for his heroism during a recent flood. Due to the vagueness of his award speech ("This party [...] is a party because of what someone did, and we all know who it was, and it's his party, because of what he did, and I've got a present for him and here it is.") there is some confusion over who the guest of honour is, and Eeyore launches into an acceptance speech before things are straightened out. Something of an oddity, in that Eeyore is not normally the sort to assume that he's the winner; on the contrary, he's so incorrigibly pessimistic that he figures he must be the guest of honour because otherwise he wouldn't have been invited at all.
- In one of the Baby Sitters Club books, the members of the eponymous club each coach a regular babysitting charge to appear in a children's beauty contest. The rivalry between the girls is so intense that they can no longer babysit together, but all lose to a heavily made up child beauty queen with several other titles to her name.
- This also happens in the Little Sister Spin-Off starring Kristy's stepsister, Karen. Her gymnastics teacher is announcing who qualified for a special traveling team, and Karen stands up to greet the teacher and "accept" the invitation right before she reads the last name; one of her classmates grabbed her and yanked her back down before she could embarrass herself further.
- In A Week In December, R. Tranter thinks he's won the Pizza Palace book award for his biography of an obscure writer, to the point of hearing his own name being read out. His agent has to pull him back to his seat after it turns out that the author of a children's book rather surprisingly won.
- In All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, Sarah expects to win the History Prize being given for her graduating class, and her whole family expects it as well given how hard she's studied. Instead, she's crestfallen and humiliated when another girl is called as the winner.
- In New Moan, a parody of Twilight, Heffa Lump (the book's version of Bella) assumes she's won an award at the end of the book and gets up to accept it. The principal of the school gives her one just to get her off the stage so they can get on with the real awards.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Homecoming": Buffy and Cordelia spend the episode competing for the title of Homecoming Queen. At the Homecoming, it turns out there's a tie. Buffy and Cordelia immediately assume that it's the obvious heartwarming ending — but instead, it's a double Dark Horse Victory. Subverted in the later episode "The Prom," when Buffy's fellow classmates recognize her heroism, though she had expected to be eternally subject to Dude, Where's My Reward??
- Frasier used this trope at least twice.
- Ine one episode, Frasier has been nominated for an award for his radio show. Initially determined to win, he talks to another character who is due to retire later that year, and so will never again have an opportunity to win the award (having never won it before). Frasier realises that if he does win, he'll be racked with guilt for having prevented the other guy from winning, and so starts to hope that the other guy wins it instead. When it is announced that it is a tie, he is suddenly hopeful, thinking that they could share the award, but the tie turns out to actually be between the remaining two nominees, neither of whom have been seen before.
- In another episode, restaurant critic Gil Chesterton has received his first award nomination in a category with two other nominees. Once again, the verdict is announced as a tie, leading Gil to fume that he will have to share his award... and, as in the earlier episode, the tie turns out to be between the other two nominees.
- When The Daily Show gave out its Employee of the Year award for 1999, Stephen Colbert launched into his acceptance speech the second he was named as a nominee. The award goes to a researcher instead; Colbert throws his notes across the room and storms off.
- A queen of the high school reunion vote is held during an episode of Married... with Children. In it, Al Bundy distracts the entire banquet by getting into a fistfight outside, and comes back several minutes later victorious. The only one left in the room was Peggy... who then broke into the ballot box and removed every vote that wasn't for her. She still acted surprised when she won, while another woman was ready to give her acceptance speech before the winner was declared.
- Ted Baxter did this in at least one of the "Teddy Awards" episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary herself did it once as well, albeit at Rhoda's urging.
- On The Muppet Show, Fozzie once was beaten to the title of "Best Comic Bear", by an unknown bear never ever seen before.
- Top Gear:
- In the first Africa special, the presenters (having bought used cars and successfully crossed Botswana) sit down to decide whose car was ultimately the best. Richard Hammond clearly expects his 1963 Opel Kadett ("Oliver") to win, since "he" made the journey unmodified, though the car did develop some problems after an unsuccessful attempt to ford a river. The other two presenters give the award to a Volkswagen Beetle instead, as it followed them as the backup vehicle and had no problems at all.
- Another episode had a race across Liverpool to the Liver Building between James in a new Peugeot and a pair of traceurs. The trope came into play at the finish line.
James: And they're not here. They are not here. No sign of combat trousers about. That is a victory for beer guts over washboard stomachs, fashionable clothes from army surplus shops, stupid expensive trousers. Here I am in my tatty jeans and my old biff-about shoes with the broken laces and I've won!
(We see that the traceurs have scaled the tower of the Liver Building)
James: Oh, for Pete's sake!
- Inverted in an episode of Just Shoot Me!. Maya gets upset with Jack after she gets him to work for one of the charities she supports, he simply hires workers to do the work, and wins an award. The charity then goes to honor someone else. Convinced it's one of the models, Maya takes to the stage and verbally berates the charity for selling out. It's then revealed that the "someone else" is her.
- One episode of The Facts of Life played this twice...with the same election. The previous episode had Edna's Edibles holding an election among the girls and Mrs. Garrett. This is put on the back burner when Natalie's father dies. The results of the election are read and Blair starts to take a victory pose when it's announced that Jo actually won. However, Jo becomes overcome with the attention and turns it down, prompting Blair to state that if the winner cannot perform her duties, the title passes to the first runner up. Mrs. Garrett then reveals that she herself is the first runner up. (Blair asks how she did and is told You Don't Want to Know.)
- In The Golden Girls S6:E14 ("Sisters of the Bride"), Rose is so certain that she will be the winner of this year's Volunteer Vanguard Award that she spends most of the banquet practicing her acceptance speech and shouts YES! when she hears her name called. Unfortunately, Sophia, who's making the announcement, is only calling on Rose to bring her some water. It turns out that the winner is Agnes Bradshaw, whom Rose expected to beat since Agnes had recently passed away. Rose proceeds to have a meltdown:
Rose: "It's a fix! She's dead! She doesn't need that on her mantel! SHE'S ON HER MANTEL!"
- On an episode of Lizzie McGuire, the eponymous character and Claire are in the running for an election. As the results are announced, both of them stand up only for the winner to be the nerdy Tudgeman.
- One episode of Pair of Kings featured Lanny stuffing a ballot box with his name so he'd win the King For a Day contest. Lanny was so sure he'd win that, as soon as the winner had been announced, he started giving an order before realizing someone else had been announced as the winner.
- Kickin' It: The Wasabi Warriors once entered a dance contest. When the winner of individual category was to be announced, an arrogant cheater was readying himself to accept it. Then one of the warriors was announced the winner.
- An clip on America's Funniest Home Videos was taken during a high school ceremony of some sort, perhaps homecoming; one girl was crowned as queen before the announcers realised, oops, the girl next to her had actually won.
- A.N.T. Farm: Happens on the episode entitled "ClairvoyANT" to Cameron, Principal Skidmore even sets it up by saying this person has waited patiently through ceremony while everyone else won at least one trophy. But instead, it's Skidmore herself who wins the award.
- The Community episode "For A Few Paintballs More" does this twice in the space of a minute. After all of the Greendale and City College paintball players are eliminated, it's down to just Britta and two City College players. Britta takes them out and starts celebrating, only to be taken out by two more City College players who had remained hidden. The City College players and Dean Spreck start cheering over their victory when another City College player runs up to join in. The previous two realize they don't know him seconds before he shoots them both. He then removes his mask to reveal he's Pierce.
- In season six of Veep Jonah runs for congress against Judy Sherman, his former second grade teacher. Jonah is abrasive, highly gaffe-prone, and possesses zero ability to connect with voters, while his opponent Judy, the widow of the former congressman, is a widely loved sweet old lady. Jonah looks certain to lose, until he shoots himself in the foot (literally) while filming a campaign commercial, and Judy is caught on camera saying "guns can be dangerous", causing the NRA to buy attack ads against her. On election day, Jonah eeks out a narrow win.
Myths & Religion
- An ancient example: the Book of Esther in the Bible. King Ahasuerus asks his evil advisor Haman, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Thinking he is the man the king is referring to, Haman suggests an elaborate parade. But the man in question turns out to be Mordecai, the hero of the book and Haman's nemesis. And what's more, Haman himself is put in charge of carrying it out.
- In a Calvin and Hobbes series, Calvin competes in his school's traffic-safety PSA contest. After creating a gory Scare 'Em Straight poster, he spends most of the strips taking his victory for granted, culminating in a daydream about the newspaper articles written and statues built in his honor — rudely interrupted by Susie informing him that she won.
- An early 2010s story arc in Luann featured most of the primary female cast members entering a school beauty pageant, with resident Alpha Bitch (and former pageant winner, though she was stripped of her title for orchestrating a financial scam) Tiffany so certain that she will win that she berates the emcees into announcing her win, before correcting herself to "the winner". When the winner's name is read, Tiffany is halfway to the stage before she realises the emcees have announced Rosa Aragones (who was introduced into the comic in this arc) as the winner.
- While not exactly a contest, there's a point in the DVD version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats where Munkustrap gets ready to laud a particularly worthy cat through song, and Mistoffelees stands up with a flourish... only Munkustrap means Jennyanydots. Mistoffelees shrinks down again like a cat trying to pretend he wasn't after the mouse that got away, and some nearby cats bat at him a bit, grinning.
- In A Very Potter Musical, Snape is about to read aloud the Gryffindor representative for the House Cup Tournament. When he sees the name, a sly smile crosses his face as he remarks how unusual it is that the representative is a significant person against whom he holds a grudge. Neville starts to stand up to accept the position before Snape snaps at him to sit back down.
- For a Furcadia contest, creator Graphite made a dream called COLDFusion that turned Furcadia into a game of Atomica, which meant it didn't resemble Furcadia at all. He was absolutely sure he'd win first place—but the judges weren't sure how to rank it. Instead, they created a special category for that dream alone and Graphite was well-rewarded.
- Homestar Runner gets this during the belated awards ceremony for the best costume in The House That Gave Sucky Treats cartoon. Only this is Homestar we're talking about, so he fully expects that he's about to win even though the award had just been given to Strong Bad and the show is now over.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, when the choice for the court medium is announced, Annie's friends make sure to congratulate her on becoming the new court medium and Annie herself affects surprise at the choice. It takes them a while to realize that the name the court announced was not Annie's.
- In the first chapter of morphE Tyler dives in to his fight-to-the-death with Billy and assumes that he has the thing beat. Unfortunately he didn't understand the game was not about killing his opponent but about instigating a near death experience to trigger an awakening as a mage. Amical shoots him in the shoulder to even the fight out and try to keep Billy as a mage.
- As they were announcing the new #1 contender for the WWE Championship, John Cena stood up, assuming he won (justified as he had by far won the fan poll), only for Kurt Angle to say "John... Bradshaw Layfield!"
- Another time a feud started between Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice because Hogan was named #1 contender for Ric Flair's title, in a press conference where Justice stood up as the announcement was being made.
- Garfield and Friends, "Caped Avenger": A publisher Jon is trying to impress, seeing Garfield and Odie playing, is inspired with an idea for a comic book that he hires Jon on the spot to write. Garfield immediately starts thinking about royalties and star treatment — and then it turns out that the new comic book is to be about Odie.
- The finale of Clone High involves Principal Scudworth bemoaning at being beaten by actor John Stamos for position of Prom King during their high school days, so he sets out to rig the contest of his own school to have a second chance. When the results are finally about to be announced, John Stamos arrives and the rigged automatic voting machine instantly changes the results to the Full House vet.
- South Park:
- Inverted when the boys bring in Kyle's cousin, Kyle as a ringer to make sure they lose and thus no longer have to play baseball.
- Stan figures this when coaching pee wee hockey. Unfortunately he was Wrong Genre Savvy.
- In season 3 of Winx Club, Bloom has come to Sky's millenium party, expecting to hear Sky announce her as his girlfriend (as he had promised in the previous episode). Bloom starts to walk up while he's making his speech, but then it ends with him introducing Diaspro instead of her. It turns out that Diaspro has secretly given Sky a potion to make him love her instead.
- Family Guy:
- The Celebrity Star (the local news anchor) who was supposed to play Anna in a community production of "King and I" has just quit. Peter's all "We don't need her, we had who we needed all along", and the person who'd originally been cast sees this as Peter giving her the job back and says "Thank you, I'll take the role"... but then it turns out that Peter is playing a robot named A.N.N.A. instead.
- Also, in the episode where Joe becomes champion of the Special Olympics and starts neglecting Peter, who helped him, Joe starts naming people who helped him at an awards ceremony. Many times, Joe starts off by saying something that describes Peter, but ends up calling someone completely different.
- Nigel Uno suffers this indignity twice in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation Elections", first when the 4th grade secretary announces the Delightfuls as winners of the presidential election he was running for (he had already prepared a speech which referenced some previous episodes' events, and was walking out to the podium as soon as the secretary said "And now, meet your new president"), and then at the end when he's told (while he's making his speech) that Eggbert Eggelstein won (even though the secretary had told him earlier that Nigel did win: it turns out he only said that so Nigel could break him out of detention).
- In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Mr Krabs announces that the new manager of the Krusty Krab 2 has "a name you all know, it starts with an S!". SpongeBob assumes the best, but has to humiliate himself three times over microphone before realising that the new manager is actually Squidward.
- Played for laughs in The Simpsons episode "The Mansion Family", in which Homer is the only person who does not earn a Springfield Pride Award. He gasps in anticipation when it is said the next winner "brings laughter and joy to the children of Springfield", even though he is not known for anything like that. He still stands up and adjusts his tie when it is said the winner has a "red nose" and "baggy pants" and it is not until the winner's name is announced that he realises he has not won.
- The B-plot of "Lisa's Substitute" has Bart running for class president, and declaring where his victory party will be held at the moment the polls are opened. Unfortunately, everyone's so busy celebrating that they forget to vote, leading to Martin Prince's moment of triumph with a parody of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline mentioned above.
- When Miss Krabbaple has been nominated for a teacher's award, she is saying how this couldn't be possible without the support of just one person. This is in front of a group of people outside the school, and Principal Skinner walks up to the podium to acknowledge this, smiling, but once Bart's name is announced, he keeps walking and grinning to avoid embarrassment.
- At the beginning of "Deep Space Homer", he's expecting the "Worker of the Week" award because every other worker already received it — but instead, it goes to an inanimate carbon rod.
- In "Lisa's Rival", Lisa gets into an epic saxophone duel with Allison Taylor during an audition for First Chair in the school band, culminating with them blasting a long note until Lisa faints.
Mr. Largo: Oh! That was a close one, Lisa, but you made it.
Lisa: I won First Chair?
Mr. Largo: No, you regained consciousness. Alison got First Chair!
(Lisa screams, then finds herself waking up)
Lisa: Oh, it was just a dream...
(The exact previous scenario happens again... with one difference)
Mr. Largo: ...and believe me, this is not a dream!
- This also happens again at the end of the episode with the 2nd grade class's dioramas. Lisa hides Alison's of The Tell-Tale Heart because she's a shoo-in for first prize, but actually lives out the events due to her guilt and eventually reveals it... but Alison loses anyway. Lisa figures she'll get first prize now, but doesn't want to because of what she did... but she doesn't get it anyway. Nope, instead Ralph gets it for a simple diorama made up of old Star Wars figures.
- This occurs in CatDog twice in one episode. Cat, the intelligent and well read main character, auditions for a play about Abraham Lincoln, believing himself to be an incredible actor but ends up losing and humiliating himself when Dog, The Ditz, wins the part by a landslide. Cat, thoroughly incensed, sabotages Dog's health in order to win the part and ends up succeeding due to Dog being incapacitated by his illness. Thus, Cat stars as the leading role as Abraham Lincoln and ends up doing an amazing job, earning a standing ovation for his performance. Later at an award ceremony, Cat awaits his award for best actor, knowing that he deserved it because of his skill and finesse and thus, makes his speech before the award is even given out. The award goes to Dog instead, for his amazing performance as Abraham Lincoln's mute steed and it turns out that the standing ovation from before was all for Dog.
- Played for laughs in Futurama when Leela wins an intergalactic beauty pageant despite having nothing to do with the pageant only to find that the announcer, Zapp Brannigan, simply yelled her name in surprise while he was trying to open the winning envelope. "What are you people, idiots?" Of course, in another episode, Zapp declared her the winner of a limbo contest she didn't enter, so, y'know...
- From Jem and the Holograms, "Hollywood Jem: Part 2 - And The Winner Is..." has Kimber Benton assuming Jerrica "Jem" Benton is going to win an Oscar for Starbright, but an older, more experienced actress that had given Jem a hard time in the press wins the award — and her speech includes an apology for how badly she treated Jem.
- In one Kim Possible episode they were going to have an exchange student sent to Japan. Did the Japan fanboy who stood up get the place? No, it was Ron Stoppable, who essentially got A Day in the Limelight.
- The eponymous Kim Possible had this happen to herself, after Bonnie was implied to have rigged the homecoming Queen vote in her favour, or at least knew about it beforehand.
- Also during the Talent Show episode, Kim competed, and both she and Bonnie assumed they would win, when the prize went to Ron Stoppable, the judge citing quantity over quality.
- In the Recess episode 'Principal For A Day." When the faculty draws a sudents name out of a box to be principal for a day Randall stands up thinking he won (because he stuffed the box). The actual winner is TJ. (The principal had the drawing rigged.)
- Played for laughs on Arthur when George, whose performance we never actually saw, won the school talent show with some kind of pogo-stick act. Lampshaded seasons later when George won again (complete with Stock Footage of the award announcement).
Arthur (to Francine, who lost): "Maybe next year you should sing, play the drums, and hop on a pogo stick."
- Another episode had Michelle Kwan come to present an Athlete of the Year award. Everyone assumed Francine would win, including herself. To their surprise, Jenna won instead. The shock of the announcement took a while to sink in for Francine, who stood up and thanked everyone anyway.
- On Teacher's Pet, both Leonard and Scott are shocked when the class presidency goes to Ian.
- Bugs Bunny in the 1943 cartoon What's Cookin', Doc? He's so sure he's going to win the Academy Award that he's already up on stage next to the host (whose shadow we see as he delivers his spiel), who, to Bugs' shock, announces the winner is James Cagney (who actually did win Best Actor at the awards held in 1943).
- In This Is a Life?, Daffy Duck thinks the weekly testimonial will be about him when it turns out to be about Bugs.
- Daffy has a habit of this, owing to his ego. In Show Biz Bugs he brags to the cabbie dropping him off at the theatre that he's the star attraction, only to see that Bugs Bunny has top billing.
- Beetlejuice had an episode where Lydia's rival Claire Brewster is running for school president, so Beetlejuice—as his drag alter ego, Betty Juice—enters the race as well. After alienating the students with constant mudslinging (both literal and figurative), they both lose to a virtual unknown.
- In the Goof Troop episode, "Meanwhile, Back at the Ramp", Pete thinks that he will win an award for being the best father in the class. When it unsurprisingly turns out that Goofy wins instead, Pete's son PJ has to stifle his giggles.
- Sabrina: The Animated Series: In the Made-for-TV Movie "Sabrina: Friends Forever", the movie's Alpha Bitch assumed she'd win an award but Sabrina won.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Diamond Tiara's mother had a party for when her daughter won the school election. Diamond didn't win though, in fact only one foal voted for her. Herself. Even her Sidekick Silver Spoon voted against her
Real Life - Politics
- The 1948 presidential election between Harry S. Truman and Thomas Dewey is the king of real life election upsets. Truman, Franklin Roosevelt’s elevated vice president, was running for a fifth Democratic term against Dewey, the charismatic Governor of New York. Truman had a low approval rating, barely earned the nomination of his party, and opinion polls, then in their infancy, had Dewey winning the election in a landslide. Truman’s campaign was perpetually cash-short, and nearly all of his aides and even his wife Bess believed they were going to lose, while Dewey was coddled by the media, his campaign was a well-funded machine, and some of his staff were so confident in him winning they had already bought homes in D.C. in preparation for working in his administration. The Democratic Party appeared in shambles, with Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace leaving the party and running as third party candidates, siphoning off much of Truman’s support. 80% of newspapers and magazines endorsed Dewey and had prewritten their election coverage believing he would win, with the Chicago Tribune going to print with the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline on election night. Truman, with apparently nothing to lose, spent the final weeks of the election crisscrossing the country, making up to thirteen campaign stops a day, ridiculing Dewey and the Republican congress as "do nothing", while Dewey defaulted to a "run out the clock" strategy, avoiding controversial issues and speaking vaguely of his plans for his presidency. The major polls were so sure of Dewey's victory they stopped polling voters weeks before the election, missing a surge of Truman's support from his aggressive campaigning in the final days. On election night the returns skewed much more towards Truman than expected, with Dewey barely carrying New York, his home state where he was the sitting governor. Truman acquired an early lead that he never lost, and reached the electoral votes needed to win by the next morning. Complacency on Dewey's part also aided his defeat, he didn't bother to campaign in states like Ohio and Wisconsin where he had defeated President Roosevelt four years earlier, assuming he would easily win them again, and they ended up flipping to Truman. Truman famously posed with the incorrect Chicago Tribune, but we can assume that Dewey was not so enchanted.
- Funny how the lesson wasn't learned in 2000, when networks prematurely called the election for Bush and then Gore and then Bush again, and many newspapers had to scramble to reprint the front page headline.
- The 1916 presidential election: Republican challenger Charles Evans Hughes went to bed believing that he had won the election, but late returns from California showed that Woodrow Wilson had carried the state, and thereby the Electoral College. A reporter who called to ask Hughes for his reaction was told by a servant "The President-elect has retired and does not wish to be disturbed." The reporter replied, "When the President-elect is available, please tell him that he is not the President-elect." This incident is depicted in the 1944 film Wilson.
- Similarly, during the 1976 Democratic Presidential primary in Wisconsin, Arizona Congressman Mo Udall had been projected the winner of that primary over front-runner Jimmy Carter, with some newspapers printing that Udall had won in their headlines and Udall himself proclaiming "Oh, how sweet it is" (Udall was hoping that a win would slow Carter's momentum to the nomination down). Once the votes were counted, it was Carter that won that particular primary by 1% (roughly 7,500 votes) en route to the nomination and the Presidency; while Udall would finish a distant second at the Democratic Convention that year. (Udall rather memorably "accepted" defeat by saying, "The people have spoken - the bastards.")
- The forecast for the 2008 Democratic primaries up until the weeks before it began was an easy victory for Hillary Clinton, even though Illinois Senator Barack Obama had been gaining in the polls. Clinton’s campaign was so confident in its victory that it hadn’t made any preparations for a race going beyond early February (the final primaries were scheduled for June). The first contest in Iowa was won by Obama, with Clinton coming in third. The primaries turned into a protracted contest with Obama only reaching a majority on the final day.
- Though Hillary Clinton has a habit of ending up on the losing side of political upsets, one upset in her favor was the New Hampshire primary. On the day of the contest the polls indicated that Barack Obama was riding on a surge of momentum and would be in for a sizable win. Clinton’s campaign was so sure they were in for a loss that they wanted to leave the state early and campaign for future contests, but she insisted on campaigning until election day. Women and senior voters ended up heavily breaking for her, and during an event on election day Clinton nearly broke into tears, which apparently helped voters empathize with her. When the results came in Clinton eeked out a narrow win.
- In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney was apparently almost sure that he was going to defeat President Barack Obama. Polling for the most part indicated a close race, though Romney's much-hyped "Project Orca" computer system for tracking voters indicated he would win decisively. The Romney campaign was so sure of a win that they planned an election night fireworks display, had already designed a transition website, and Romney had written a victory speech but hadn't bothered with a concession speech. On election night, most of the major swing states were called early for Obama, and Ohio's call at 11 pm EST pushed him over the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
- The 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was one of the biggest upsets in history. Clinton ran an efficient campaign, out-raised Trump 2-to-1, blanketed swing states with TV ads, received nearly every major newspaper endorsement, and had a far larger ground operation. Trump, on the other hand, ran a disastrous campaign, verbally attacked everyone ranging from Gold Star families to Pope Francis, was constantly rearranging his campaign staff and fired several managers, was brutally mocked by the media on a regular basis, and a leaked video of him making lewd comments about women equating sexual assault and numerous allegations of sexual harassment caused many prominent Republicans to rescind their endorsements and call for him to drop out. Prior to the election, Clinton was considered to have handily won all three presidential debates, led in nearly all polls, and forecasters universally predicted she would win with an unbreakable 270-plus vote “firewall” and Trump never had a prayer of winning. Five Thirty Eight gave her a 71% chance of winning, The New York Times 85%, and Huffpost Pollster 98%. Signs point to Trump himself not expecting to win, as his campaign’s internal polling only had his chances at 30% and he cut short donations to his campaign in October. The Republican Party also seemed convinced Trump would lose, and diverted funding from his campaign to down-ballot races, and House Speaker and de-facto party leader Paul Ryan stated for the remainder of the election he would "spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress". Clinton’s campaign planned a massive victory rally at New York City’s Javits Convention Center and a fireworks display over the Hudson River on election night, while Trump had a modest election night event in the New York Hilton ballroom. Newsweek even printed and shipped to stores a commemorative issue celebrating Clinton’s victory as the first woman president. On election night Trump unexpectedly won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by narrow margins, states that Clinton had a comfortable polling lead and hadn’t voted Republican since the 1980s, with high turnout from non-college educated white voters and a decline in reliable Democratic demographics. Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency. While the polling industry was widely criticized for its overconfidence in Clinton winning, the one thing most polls did accurately predict was that Clinton would receive substantially more votes than Trump nationwide, with her winning the popular vote by 2.9 million and a margin of 48%-46%. (Ironically, four years earlier Trump called the electoral college "a disaster for a democracy" believing from early returns Mitt Romney had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college to President Obama.)
- The degree of upset largely played out like the famed Dewey vs. Truman for a number of reasons. Complacency on Clinton's part led to losses in crucial states that cost her the election, in a December post-mortem in Politico it was reported her campaign was expecting a blowout, despite running against history as political parties rarely win the presidency for three consecutive terms and the electorate usually shifts to the opposing party. While most election prognosticators said Clinton already had 272 likely electoral votes, her campaign invested heavily in advertising and get-out-the-vote operations in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, and some long-shot states like Georgia and Arizona, despite not needing to carry any of them to win the electoral college. Clinton used far fewer resources in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, assuming that since they had voted Democratic for so long they would again. Her campaign even invested millions driving up the vote in cities in non-competitive states to ensure that she won the national popular vote, which has no effect whatsoever on who wins the presidency. It also didn't help that Wikileaks was releasing embarrassing hacked internal campaign emails on a daily basis. In the weeks leading up to the election, Clinton defaulted to a "run out the clock" strategy while Trump ramped up his campaigning, especially in the Rust Belt. Clinton only returned to the trail as she was being hit by the one-two punch of increased co-pays stemming from the controversial Affordable Care Act and a revived FBI investigation into her e-mail scandal that had plagued her campaign and then some (It did not help that the evidence prompting the re-opened investigation was found in a separate investigation of former Congressman Anthony Wiener, who had been accused of sexting a minor) coming out two weeks before the election. Even with the FBI again clearing her days prior to the election, the whole incident did not have time to be reflected in the polls (if it had any effect at all) and when the first polls closed it was still assumed Clinton would win. Clinton ended up losing every major swing state she had invested heavily in, as well as in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by margins of less than 1% which cost her the electoral college, and barely won New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine, states considered safe.
- Michigan's polling failure must have given Clinton deja-vu, because just months earlier polls indicated she would win the state's primary election against Bernie Sanders in a landslide, while in the end Sanders won the state by a narrow margin.
- After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012, CNN and Fox News Channel incorrectly reported that the law had been repealed right as the news broke. Apparently they rushed through the court's text and did not realize the controversial mandate the court was reviewing had been upheld as a tax.
- During the elections for the new Pope in 2013, many of the Italian cardinals assumed Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola would be picked, and had already sent him letters of congratulation when it was revealed that Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio was picked instead.
- And on the subject of papal elections: "A man who enters the Conclave as Pope will often leave it as Cardinal".
- Tony Abbott's first attempt at a Federal election in Australia was this. Some time during the live count, the entire party was celebrating what looked like an insurmountable lead. As it turned out, both major parties tied for seats won — and the independents who won the remaining seats chose to favour Julia Gillard's party, giving her the win.
Real Life - Other
- An apocryphal Real Life story: After an 1883 chess tournament, a toast was proposed "to the best player in the world." Both Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort stood up to thank the toastmaster. In 1886, Steinitz defeated Zukertort to become the first World Champion.
- During the 1933 Academy Awards, both Frank Capra and Frank Lloyd were up for the award for Best Director (Capra for Lady for a Day, Lloyd for Calvacade). When presenter Will Rogers said, "Come up and get it, Frank", both Lloyd and Capra went up to accept the Oscar. Much to Capra's chagrin, Lloyd was the real winner. (The Oscar, see above, may be a reference to this.)
- The 2006 Country Music Awards saw Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood both nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year. As the nominations were being announced, a camera was trained on all five finalists, including Hill and Underwood. Then, as Underwood was announced the winner, Hill smiled and raised her arms, then apparently screamed "What?" and stormed away. All of this was caught on live television just before the nominee camera shots were pulled away. Faith Hill and her management insisted the act was a joke, but left many unconvinced. Her career nosedived not long after.
- This happened in the final round of the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil:
- Following emphatic wins over Sweden and Spain in the final round robin group of four, red-hot favourites Brazil merely had to avoid losing their final match against second-placed Uruguay to win the World Cup. An impromptu carnival was held in Rio de Janeiro, with revellers holding signs already proclaiming Brazil the champions, and some 200,000 people packed into the Maracana Stadium to watch the match. FIFA president Jules Rimet prepared a Portuguese-language speech for the trophy presentation, the Brazilian Football Confederation struck 22 gold medals for the players (at the time, individual players did not receive winner's medals from FIFA), and a celebratory song called "Brazil the Victors" was written to be performed after the win.
- Then came the game itself... Friaca opened the scoring for Brazil just after half time, and the mostly Brazilian crowd went wild. Uruguay's Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised twenty minutes later; the crowd spirit was dampened, but only temporarily as a draw still favoured Brazil. But then Alcides Ghiggia put Uruguay in front in the 79th minute, and the crowd went completely silent. Uruguay held on to win the match. Several Brazilian spectators either suffered heart attacks or jumped to their deaths from the top of the stadium, Rimet had to throw away his prepared speech and awkwardly hand over the trophy to Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela with no ceremony, the winners' medals were melted down, and "Brazil the Victors" was never performed. The match is nicknamed the "Maracanazo", or "Maracanã Blow", in Latin America.note
- Both Susan Flannery (from The Bold & The Beautiful and Susan Lucci (from All My Children) were nominated for the Best Actress Daytime Emmy in one ceremony. When the winner was announced, the presenters' voices were garbled and the band began playing All My Children's theme. With numerous people pointing at her, Susan Lucci assumed she was the winner and began to walk on stage. Problem is, it was FLANNERY who had won. Luckily, Lucci was able to back off the stage before appearing on-camera. And even luckier, she had finally won her elusive Emmy several years prior, otherwise the incident would have been much more embarrassing for all involved.
- Arena Football, 2005 playoffs: Chicago trails Colorado by 3 on the final play of the game. Colorado intercepts Chicago's pass, and the confetti flies... but there's a penalty on the play on Colorado, so crew have to clean up the confetti before Chicago kicks in a game tying-field goal. Colorado cleans up in overtime with a touchdown. Video.
- Australia's Next Top Model had a related incident when they actually announced the wrong person as the winner, and she'd already done her acceptance speech when the host revealed that in fact, the other finalist had won.
- The 1986 World Series. Red Sox vs. Mets. Going into Game Six, the Red Sox were leading the series three games to two. The Red Sox pulled ahead, 5-3, in the top of the tenth inning, and after Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flied out to left and center, respectively, it looked like they had it in the bag: the scoreboard at Shea Stadium briefly flashed "Congratulations, Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions", and TV announcers were remarking that Red Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst was about to be named Series MVP. And then, Gary Carter singled. Then pinch-hitter Kevin Mitchell also singled.note Next up, Ray Knight singled on an 0-2 count, Carter ran home and Mitchell moved to third. Pitcher Calvin Schiraldi was pulled off the mound and replaced with Bob Stanley, who faced Mookie Wilson. Stanley gets worked to a 2-2 count because Wilson kept fouling off pitches, then throws a fastball so far inside it nearly beans Wilson and goes by the catcher to the backstop, allowing Knight move to second and Mitchell to score, tying the game. All of this was bad enough for the Red Sox fans, but what happened next is the event on which all the blame is pinned: Wilson then hit a slow ground ball to first base, which went through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs. Knight scored, the Mets won 6-5, and the series gets tied 3-3, which forced a Game 7 (which the Mets won), turned Buckner's name into a curse word among Red Sox fans, and gave fuel to the idea that the Red Sox had been cursed.
- The 1978 Miracle at the Meadowlands. The New York Giants were up 17-12 with less than two minutes left in the game, the Philadelphia Eagles were out of timeouts, and the Giants just picked off a pass from Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski; the only thing the Giants had to do was run out the clock. Giants fans began streaming for the exits in a good mood, Eagles coach Dick Vermeil had a disgusted look on his face as he turned his attention to the post-game press conference (the team as a whole hadn't played that well that game), and (perhaps most strikingly) the CBS broadcast was already starting to having their announcers read off their list of "we thank this guy, this guy, that guy..." and rolling credits over the telecast. Then Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik fumbles the attempted handoff to Larry Csonka and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards picks up the fumble for a touchdown. Eagles win, 19-17.
- There's been more than one instance where fans of a home team who has fallen behind by a seemingly-insurmountable lead start leaving early in order to avoid get stuck in the inevitable post-game traffic jam in the parking lot, only to hear said team has come back and they try to get back into the stadium. Amusingly enough, they're forbidden from re-entering because of long-standing policies printed on tickets regarding re-entrance to a facility after some time cutoff (at least initially - in such extreme cases the building managers may waive that policy and allow fans to reenter if they can act fast enough in terms of crowd control). Three well-known cases:
- The Comeback, the 1993 NFL Wild Card win-or-go-home playoff game with the Houston Oilers visiting the Buffalo Bills. The Oilers dominated the first half, with quarterback Warren Moon going 19-for-22 for 218 yards and 4 touchdowns (excellent quarterback stats for a whole game, never mind half of one) en route to a 28-3 lead at halftime; then less than two minutes into the third quarter Bills quarterback Frank Reich threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, putting the Oilers up 35-3 and prompting Houston's radio announcer to remark, "The lights are on here at Rich Stadium, they've been on since this morning, you could pretty much turn them out on the Bills right now." Between having their top two offensive stars sidelined by injurynote , how feebly the healthy Bills players were playing, and the chilly Western New York weather, the fans largely agreed, throwing invectives at Bills General Manager Bill Polian as they streamed out of the stadium en masse. Then the Bills finally came to life, going touchdown, onside-kick en route to a touchdown, quick defensive stop then touchdown, and intercepting Moon followed by a touchdown - in less than seven minutes of play 35-3 became 35-31. It took until late in the fourth quarter for the Bills to finally take the lead at 38-35, but by then the previously-pissed patrons had received word of the rally via radio and came back for The Comeback, climbing over the fences to get back to their seats in many cases while suddenly singing praises about the team within earshot of Bill Polian. Oh, and the Bills won 41-38 in overtime.
- The 2000 Monday Night Miracle, the Miami Dolphins at the New York Jets. By the end of the 3rd quarter the Dolphins were up 30-7, Jets radio broadcaster Howard David stated, "And with a whole quarter to go, this game is over", and fans either began chanting "Let's go Yankees"/"Let's go Mets" (the game took place between Games 2 and 3 of the 2000 World Series between those two teams) or just left Giants Stadium early to beat traffic. Then the Jets scored 23 unanswered points to tie the game at 30 - the Dolphins scored another touchdown to go back up by seven, then the Jets scored again to tie it again at 37; fans who had left early began turning around and tried to get back into the stadium after hearing about the comeback on their car radio. The Jets won 40-37 in overtime.
- Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs visting the Miami Heat with the Spurs up 3 games to 2 in the series. With 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Spurs up 94-89, fans began streaming out of American Airlines Arena while league official began preparing the security tape for what seemed to be a Spurs championship. The Heat managed to tie the game and send it into overtime, at which point TV cameras outside the arena filmed fans trying to reenter after having left and being blocked by security from doing so. The Heat won the game 103-100 and eventually won the NBA championship two nights later.
- Inverted in an Airdrie, Alberta, Canada high school. A student, convinced he would not win a cash award for attendance, declined to attend the draw and stayed in class instead. Then the teacher got a call over the school phone network, and sent the student down to the stadium—the student had won a $1,000 draw.
- Heading into the 2015 awards season, Warner Bros. was so confident in The LEGO Movie's front-runner status that a day before the Oscar nominations were announced, it released an internet banner celebrating the movie's assumed best animated film nomination. Warner wasn't alone - most Oscar prognosticators had the film as the favorite to win. When the nominations were announced the next morning, The Lego Movie was not among them.
- The 2015 Miss Universe Pageant. At the end of the pageant host Steve Harvey accidentally labeled Ariadna Gutiérrez, Miss Columbia as the winner of the pageant. The real winner was Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines. The mistake was corrected but not before Steve Harvey had to apologize for his mistake, and Gutiérrez was de-crowned on camera, all while the credits were rolling.
- The 2016 World Series. The Cleveland Indians had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Chicago Cubs after the first four games. One overenthusiastic Indians fan chose to tattoo himself with both the Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers' logo with a caption proclaiming a 2016 victory for both of them. Then the Cubs won Game 5 at Wrigley Field, followed by Game 6 and 7 back in Cleveland to become the 2016 World Series Champions.
- Ironically, the Cavaliers themselves were on the opposite side of this trope as they were losing 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals until they managed a come-from-behind championship win with 3 straight victories.
- Prior to the 2017 Academy Awards, La La Land was the heavy favorite to win Best Picture, with Moonlight a distant second. Nearly all forecasts predicted La La Land would win, and most betting sites placed its odds of winning at over 80%. Vox stated, "If La La Land loses Best Picture, it will be the biggest Oscars upset ever." FiveThirtyEight placed its odd of winning at 82% and noted that with the Best Picture category's rank-choice voting system, "The Oscars are already rigged in favor of movies like La La Land." Earlier in the ceremony, Damien Chazelle won the Best Director award for La La Land, which statistically predicts the Best Picture winner 71% of the time. Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the winner as La La Land to the surprise of few, and the cast and crew had congregated on the stage and two of the producers had finished their acceptance speeches when it was discovered Beatty and Dunaway had mistakenly been given the envelope for Best Actress, which Emma Stone had won for La La Land, and Moonlight had in fact won Best Picture. The cast and crew of La La Land then had to clear off the stage as the producers of Moonlight accepted the award to a stunned audience.
- During the second round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico managed to defeat the United States in a narrow 6-5 game during their undefeated run to the championship game. With them set to play the USA again, the Puerto Ricans already began preparing for a championship win with customized t-shirts, a booked flight back to the island, and a parade in San Juan. Team USA caught wind of this and the players were not happy. They proceeded to embarrass Puerto Rico with a 8-0 win that included USA starter Marcus Stroman, who incidentally faced jeers from PR fans and players for choosing to play for the USA instead of themnote , pitching a no-hitter until the seventh inning.