Retcon / Real Life

  • In athletics it is common to strip an athlete or even an entire program of its honours and records retroactively if the subject is found guilty of a serious enough violation. The justification for this — especially in cases of doping, match-fixing, or bribery — is that an achievement which did not occur on a fair playing field was never an achievement to begin with.
    • All of cyclist Lance Armstrong's results from after August of 1998 were wiped from the official stats in 2012 when evidence that Armstrong had engaged in systematic doping came to light. Among the titles he lost were 7 Tour de France victories, an Olympic bronze medal, 2 Criterium du Dauphiné victories, and a victory at tour of Switzerland.
    • Amongst other punishments meted out by the NCAA, all 112 of Pennsylvania State University's football victories between 1998 and 2011 (including 5 bowl games) were scrubbed from the official records after it was revealed that university officials had helped cover up a former assistant coach's involvement in child sexual abuse. As a result, former head coach Joe Paterno lost his status as the winningest Division I head coach, dropping from 409 victories to 298. This decision was eventually reversed, however.
    • In both 2005 and 2006, Juventus won Serie A, the top football (soccer) league in Italy. Then the story broke that it was one of four teams involved in many instances of match-fixing. The 2005 season was simply wiped from the record books, and the 2006 title was awarded to third-place Inter Milan after Juventus and second-place AC Milan were disqualified due to the scandal.
    • Marseille won Ligue 1, the top French division, in 1993, but were subsequently stripped of the title after it was revealed that they had engaged in match-fixing, and their results were expunged from the record. Runners-up Paris Saint-Germain were now considered to have finished first, but bizarrely were not awarded the title, which was simply left unattributed.
    • In 2003, London-based English football team Wimbledon FC controversially relocated to Milton Keynes. After being told by the Football League that this would require them to change their name, they became "MK Dons" in 2004 (but legally and organisationally were still the same club). In the meantime, London-based Wimbledon fans, furious that their team had been moved, founded a new side, "AFC Wimbledon". After several legal cases, eventually the two teams came to a settlement in 2007, under which MK Dons was retconned as a new club formed in 2004, while AFC Wimbledon was declared to be simply a renamed version of Wimbledon FC.
  • Josef Stalin
    • Stalin was constantly re-writing the history of the Communist revolution and the early USSR to take credit for opponents' accomplishments or to ghost them out entirely, even when the resulting narrative made no sense. A few of his successors continued the practice. Stephen Jay Gould once reported reading a version of the Soviet Encyclopaedia that completely removed Stalin from history, which is kind of like trying to sell the Star Wars original trilogy as "The Jabba The Hutt Show!"
    • He's also known to have ordered the doctoring of images, although the manipulation now looks pretty crude. One can find photos where Trotsky and others Stalin had killed have been removed, and other photos where he is shown next to Lenin as the latter fell sick and died (even though at this time Lenin had started to dislike Stalin).
    • It was rumored during the space race that many Soviet cosmonauts had actually perished on failed missions, then were edited out of the group pictures taken with the equipment. In reality, there's no concrete proof of earlier, failed missions, but there IS proof of cosmonauts edited out of photos after public disgrace or loss of political favor.
    • He would also have children remove the faces of kids who had been killed or taken away by the regime. Nineteen Eighty-Four was NOT exaggerating.
    • After Stalin's death, a lot of accomplishments attributed to Stalin were erased.
    • Leonid Brezhnev in 1970s gave himself a lot of medals for alleged accomplishments that he probably had nothing to do with. He got 4 gold medals of the Hero of Soviet Union (more than anyone else and as many as Marshal Zhukov), supposedly for his accomplishments during World War 2, even though he would have been too junior to have done what he got the medals for.
  • The 2006 reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet retconned decades of science textbooks. It was starting to get embarrassing as more and more trans-Neptunian objects were discovered that were of a similar size (one of them, Eris, is larger) but were deemed too small to call planets. The main argument for keeping Pluto in the class of planets was "cultural" (read: sentimental), so the "dwarf planet" term was a cultural compromise with a scientific bonus. Culturally, Pluto's significance as the first Kuiper Belt Object discovered and as one of the largest was still recognized (it became the Trope Namer for a new sub-class of KBOs / dwarf planets, the plutoids). Scientifically, Pluto was no longer complicating the IAU's terrestrial planet definition and the "upgrade" of Ceres from asteroid to dwarf planet resolved the paradox of the latter being the only Asteroid Belt Object massive enough to have overcome hydrostatic equilibrium and taken on a spherical shape note . Like Pluto, Ceres was considered a planet when it was first discovered in 1801 but "downgraded" soon afterwards when other large objects were found in the same general orbit.
  • In 1660, the restored Royalist regime in England declared that the eleven years of republican rule had been "invalid" since no monarch had been there to give assent to the various laws parliament had enacted. A legal fiction was created where Charles II's reign was backdated to 1649 and the 1649-1660 Cromwellian era was described not as a republic but as an "interregnum" (i.e. a period where a kingdom has no sitting monarch). Very few modern historians accept 1649 as the beginning of Charles' rule, but the term "interregnum" is still often used to describe the Commonwealth period even though the monarchy did not technically exist during those years. Charles was proclaimed king by the Scottish parliament only a few days after his father's execution, and was even crowned at Scone before he had to flee to the Continent, so technically, his reign as King of Scotland could be dated to 1649. The throne of England was unambiguously vacant for eleven years, however.
  • Similarly, the Bourbon Restoration decided to ignore both the First French Republic and Napoleon's empire. They declared the son of Louis XVI (who had been executed in the Revolution) to have been King Louis XVII despite never having ruled or even been crowned, and Louis XVIII dated his own reign from Louis XVII's death in 1795, instead of 1814, when he actually came to power. And when Bonaparte's nephew Louis-Napoleon took over in 1852, he termed the Restoration the Second Empire, and his rule the Third. He also took the regnal name of Napoleon III, with Bonaparte's son termed Napoleon II despite never ruling.
  • In the early hours of April 1, 1964, the Brazilian military carried out a coup d'etát and began a 20-year dictatorship. Predictably, they retconned the date of the coup to March 31.
  • Henry VII officially dated his reign from the day before the Battle of Bosworth, i.e., the day before he finally became the last man standing in a decades-long game of Kingmaker. This was a very smart move as he could then strip the lands and titles of any lords who'd fought on the opposite side of the battle for treason against the King. It was also an incredibly unfair one, because it meant that people fighting to defend the crowned and anointed King of England (Richard III) against a rebel (Henry) were traitors.
  • Common practice in North Korea, especially with the details of the lives of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and of The Korean War. One story of Kim Jong Il's birth was that North Korean soldiers stationed in the mountains near his claimed birth-site had a premonition that something wonderful was happening at the time he was born. To mark the occasion, they carved the date into a tree. This tree was then shown to visiting foreigners... until a Japanese botanist pointed out there's no way anyone could have carved something in that tree on that date because the tree was not old enough to have existed at the time. The tree was silently cut down and never referred to again.
  • Some automobile magazines do not consider the Volkswagen Logus to be in continuity with the Ford Escort line, despite being related to it. Why say it's not related, when it uses an adaptation of the Ford Escort chassis?
  • After World War II, French President François Miterrand (a former member of the Resistance) declared that the Vichy Regime had never been more than a puppet government and Charles de Gaulle was to be recorded as the true and rightful head of state for the duration of the war, even though he spent four of those year in exile in England. This has not prevented many later historians from debating which city was functioning as the true wartime capital of France, London or Vichy.
  • Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the day after Thursday, 4 October 1582 would be not Friday, 5 October, but Friday, 15 October 1582. This was due to a miscalculation of days in the Julian calendar that had caused the Vernal Equinox to seemingly change from the traditional March 21 to March 11. Since the Church scheduled Easter based on the first day of Spring, the retcon was seen as necessary.
  • Commonwealth countries that recognize the British monarch as head of state, such as Australia and Canada, originally did so as colonies, as it was only natural for the ruler of the imperial power to also be the nominal head of all colonial governments. As the colonies became more autonomous and self-governing, imperial law became more complicated, and when Elizabeth II ascended to the throne, she was proclaimed to be the independent queen of over a dozen independent monarchies (i.e.; Queen of Australia of the Australian monarchy), rather than the imperial British queen. Commonwealth countries now frequently retcon old British monarchs in this way ("Former Kings of Canada") which further muddles the evolution of the relationship. Furthermore, the queen's regnal name in all the countries she reigns over is 'Elizabeth II'. With the possible exception of Canada (there was a tiny English settlement in Canada during Elizabeth I's reign), she is the first monarch called Elizabeth in all her countries except Britain itself (and even that doesn't hold true in Scotland).
  • In the 1990s, the Progressive Conservative Party of the Canadian territory of Yukon changed its name to the Yukon Party, to avoid association with the unpopular federal Progressive Conservative Party. In its official online history of itself, it avoids mentioning its old name, and refers instead refers to retconned events like the election of the "first Yukon Party government" in the 1970s.
  • When Seti I created the Abydos kinglist, which listed all of Egypt's pharaohs from King Menes, several were conspicuously missing: Hatshepsut, who had been retconned after her death by Thutmose III; Akhenaten, the Heretic King; and Tutankhamun and Ay, presumably because of association with Akhenaten. Instead, Horemheb's reign dates from the end of Amenhotep III's. 40 years after Hatshepsut's death, Thutmose III tried to erase all evidence that she had ever been pharaoh — we don't know why, but it may have been that a female pharaoh shook up the status quo too much.
  • The Brazilian football championship officially started in 1971. Then in 2010, the Football Confederation decided to turn winners of two previous tournaments Brazilian champions as well... even if it meant two winners in two years (as both those tournaments had editions in '67 and '68) and champions with only two games.
  • In 2006 Sun dropped the major version number on Java to better reflect the maturity, scalability, and security, of the Java platform. Java 1.5.0 became Java 5. In addition, Sun reverted the names of the run time environment and development kit. The Java Development kit went back to JDK from Java 2 SDK and the run time environment went back to JRE from J2RE.
  • Before World War I, "The Great War" referred to The Napoleonic Wars. Similarly, before 1991, the "Gulf War" referred to the 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran.
  • The United States Supreme Court sometimes admits it decided a case incorrectly and reverses a prior decision. That means the old decision no longer applies.
    • The 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson decided that having segregated facilities for blacks and whites was okay as long as they were equivalent, the "separate but equal" clause. (The facilities for Negroes were never equal; they were always substandard.) This lasted over 50 years until Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, finding segregation illegal.
    • The court originally ruled the first 8 amendments to the constitution (The Bill of Rigthts) only applied to the Federal Government, not to the states, and that the 14th Amendment didn't change this. Then later it was decided that the 14th Amendment did apply to the states, as did most of the Bill of Rights.
    • In 1976 in Doe v. Commonwealth's Attorney of Richmond, the Court upheld the sodomy law of the Commonwealth of Virginia as constitutional. In 1980, Bowers v. Hardwick said that a state could make sodomy (anal sex) illegal. In 2003, Lawrence v. Texas stated that Bowers was "wrongly decided" and that consensual non-commercial sodomy was legal for adults.
    • The 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges overturned a previous ruling in the 1972 case Baker v. Nelson which stated that two people of the same gender could not be legally married to each other.
  • There are also a few examples in major U.S. sports leagues...
    • NFL: In 1996, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore, renaming it the Ravens. The move proved so controversial that as part of a league-brokered settlement of a court case brought by the city of Cleveland, the Browns' history and records remained in that city, to be taken up by a "new" Browns team that began play in 1999. So, as far as the NFL is concerned, the Ravens are an expansion team that began play in 1996, even though it had the same ownership and management structure as the "old" Browns.
    • This precedent was followed by Major League Soccer, though without the rancor and legal action, when the San Jose Earthquakes moved to become the Houston Dynamo after the 2005 season. The Quakes' history and records were left behind for a new ownership group that emerged in 2007, with the team returning to MLS the next year.
    • After the 200102 season, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans, keeping the team name. A new Charlotte franchise, the Bobcats, joined the league in 2004. Eventually, the Hornets changed their name in 2013 to the more Louisiana-centric Pelicans. A year later, the Bobcats, now owned by Michael Jordan, reclaimed the Hornets name, along with the history of the 19882002 Charlotte Hornets.
    • In NASCAR, the various racing series have changed names several times due to changes in sponsorship; commentators discussing past races (until recently) pretty much always referred to them by the current names, no matter what the series was called at the time. For instance, it could be mentioned that Dale Earnhardt won seven Monster Energy Cup championships, even though when he won them they were called Winston Cup championships. Similarly, Richard Petty's seven Cup championships consist of two Grand National and five Winston Cup titles, and Jimmie Johnson's seven consist of two Nextel Cup and five Sprint Cup titles.
      • However, in recent years, an informal consensus has emerged in most media (especially those that don't televise NASCAR) to use just "Cup Series" when discussing past races in the top series. Similarly, the third-level Camping World Truck Series is typically known generically as the "Truck Series" (since all of that series' names have ended with those two words). The second-level series, however, holds to this trope, with the then-current name (now "Xfinity Series") typically used even in historic references.
  • In January 2001, Billboard magazine slashed its Hot Country Songs chart from 75 to 60 positions, and in doing so, retconned each song's tally for how many weeks it had been on by only counting weeks spent at #60 or higher. This created an interesting case with Gary Allan's "Right Where I Need to Be", which had been floating in the 61-75 range for several weeks in 2000; when it finally re-entered the now-smaller chart in early 2001, it had its number of weeks reset to 1, negating all of the time it spent on the charts in 2000... even though counting those weeks would have made it the longest-running country chart single of the 2000-2010 decade.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Retcon/RealLife