Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Unseen Academicals

Go To

"Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork – not the old fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go 'gloing' when you drop them. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood for trying everything else. The prospect of the Big Match draws in a likely lad with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt. (No one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too.) As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever. Because the thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football."

The 37th book in the Discworld series, Unseen Academicals is about football. Well, slightly about football. Mostly it's about people, but then, aren't they all?

Unseen Academicals tells the story of what happens when the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork tries to bring civilisation to the ancient and tradition-laden game of Foot-the-Ball. Since said traditions include a generous measure of mob violence both on and off the pitch, this proves a somewhat dicey project.

At the heart of the plot is the need for Unseen University to field a team (the eponymous Academicals), but as the story progresses this becomes almost academic as the emotional focus of the story shifts to the downstairs staff whose work makes the team possible.

Preceded by Making Money, followed by Snuff. Preceded in the Wizards series by The Last Continent (or The Science of Discworld 3, if you're counting those).

A Sky1 film adaptation has been in development since 2011 but has suffered repeated delays. In 2018, Audible released a full-cast dramatization by Dirk Maggs as a website exclusive.

Unseen Academicals features examples of:

    Tropes found in the book 
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Contains one of the only examples in the series of the Patrician laughing out loud:
    Lady Margolotta: I would like you to teach the orcs civilized behaviour.
    Mr. Nutt: I think that would be quite possible. And who would you send to teach the humans?
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Glenda mouthing off about Lady Margolotta to someone she thinks is her librarian. The woman she thought was Lady Margolotta was the librarian.
  • Ain't No Rule:
    • Since the rules are still being written and Ponder is in charge, there is not yet a rule regarding player species, as this would force the Academicals' best goalie off the team. It is implied an Obvious Rule Patch will be made as soon as the game is over.
    • Ponder doesn't realize he needs to establish a rule for acceptable footwear until star player Bengo is fouled with heavy iron cleats and nearly crippled.
    • The coaches spend almost as much time hammering out the complex offsides rules between plays as the players spend with the ball in motion.
  • Animals Hate Him: Specifically to horses, for whom Mr. Nutt's aroma is distressing; even the Horseman's Word only compels them to comply very, very unhappily.
  • The Alcoholic: Played for Laughs with Pepe, who declares that he'll drink water "when fish climb out of it to take a piss", but put him in a room with a bottle and watch it rapidly disappear. While visiting the Night Kitchen he helps himself to cider vinegar ("I'm only drinking the cider bit."), ketchup and even Wow-Wow Sauce.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Mr. Nutt's method of psychotherapy revolves around acknowledging repressed memories and emotions (especially vis-a-vis paternal/maternal conflict), and is based entirely on Uberwaldian philosophy which comes complete with nonsensical Germanesque names. He even adopts the stock gag-Austrian accent (with "ze" for "the"), explaining that it's "soothing". And afterwards, he asks for a cigar.
  • Always Camp: Pepe the fashionista, but only when he's working.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: A widely-held belief regarding orcs, ultimately proved false. Ankh-Morpork doesn't seem to hold this against Nutt all that much...mostly because Ankh-Morpork assumes everybody's a vicious murdering bastard deep down.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Pepe again. Word of God (Shrug Of Gay?) is "he's probably as gay as a treeful of monkeys, but you can never tell". This is especially complicated because Pepe's a "dwarf convert" who defies both dwarf and human notions about sexuality. It doesn't help that his lover is Sharn, who identifies as female but in a way that leaves her biological sex ambiguous.
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: Ain't No Rule saying an orangutan can't play football! Since the wizards are writing the rules of football themselves as they go along, obviously there wouldn't be ...until after the game.
    • Ain't no rule saying a sentient piece of luggage can't play football either. The only reason that it's scrapped from the team (although included on the cover art) is because it's absolutely horrible at it.
  • Anomalous Art: A nervous night watchman in Ankh-Morpork's Art Museum breaks an age-old Ephebian urn. It is put down as one of those things. It is inferred that this is the prison of Pedestriana, Goddess of Foot-The-Ball. Now freed into the world, she looks at what humans have made of her sport - originally a religious ritual in her honor but now degenerated to a day-long street brawl - and starts putting things to rights.
  • Anti-Magic: The (former) Dean, as referee, puts up such a field around the pitch, to ensure that the wizards don't cheat via magic. Trev notices with dismay that he included himself in this effect. It doesn't hinder ghostly or divine possession, which work on different principles.
  • Arc Words: "The leopard can change his shorts."
  • Armor of Invincibility: Micromail, which can No-Sell a sledgehammer blow to the nuts.
  • Asymmetric Dilemma: The footnote on the first page about the Ankh-Morporkian system of government notes that "Everyone was entitled to vote, unless disqualified by reason of age or not being Lord Vetinari."
  • Awesome by Analysis: Mr. Nutt knows exactly how much force it would take to tear your head off, and what muscles would give him trouble in the process. Fortunately for you, he'd much rather think about how to turn ragtag bunch of wizards into a credible football team.
  • Back from the Dead: Happens automatically to Nutt, thanks to the "little brother" incorporated into orcs by the Igors who created them.
  • Badass Boast: Ridcully has one near the end of the book about an assault on one of the wizards.
    "Because if anyone has poisoned our Librarian, then, although I am not, by nature, a vindictive man, I will see to it that this university hunts down the poisoner by every thaumic, mystic, and occult means available and makes the rest of their life not only as horrible as they can imagine it, but as horrible as I can imagine it. And you can depend on it, gentlemen, that I have already started work on it."
  • Badass Bookworm: Mr. Nutt, who doesn't let go of his Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness even when prodding serious buttock.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: Juliet struggles to make tea; usually the only tea-like characteristic her tea has is the color.
  • The Bard on Board: Trev and Juliet are Romeo and Juliet from rival football teams. A lot of references to the play ensue, including "two teams, alike in villainy!" (And Trev puts his own spin on "A plague on both your houses" with "I hope the gods shit thin shit on all of you!")
  • Beat the Curse Out of Him: Dr. Hix is the only one who dares to do this when Ridcully is under the control of a haunted artifact, which is exactly why he holds that job in the first place.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: When Juliet and Trev kiss at the end of the match, they float in the air and are lit with a golden glow. Other characters comment on this.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The fashion magazine that Juliet reads is Bu-Bubble or, more likely, Beau Beaux Belle - three different words for "beautiful" in French.
    • The lines from philosophical works Nutt quotes are infinitely more hilarious if you understand German. (One, for example mentions sweet, vanilla-flavoured desserts.)
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
    • Lady Margolotta's plans for Uberwald are far better than any of the alternatives but the means to the end are not necessarily nice. As evidenced by her Kick the Dog moments during Nutt's education.
    "One day I was a young boy... when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. Even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued... As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and the pink roes spilled out much to the delight of the baby otters. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior." — Lord Vetinari, in a rare moment of (tipsy) candor
  • The Blacksmith: Mr. Nutt shoes a horse for the carriage company and silvers Glenda's tins. No, not like that.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Happens when Angua tosses Juliet's pin-on Dolly badge on the table next to Trev's hand. Even the narrative isn't sure if it's deliberate or not.
  • Blatant Lies: Glenda tells Ottomy that she and Juliet missed the game because they were cleaning the ovens, causing him to look slowly around the kitchen at the lack of grime, cloths, soap, gloves, etc. She then adds that they just finished cleaning up.
  • Blood Sport: Street football is essentially this before Vetinari and UU get involved. Ponder mentions that in ancient times, losing teams could be throttled, and the painted urn that gets the story started depicts a player who's been brutally kicked by his opponent.
  • Brain Bleach: Glenda and those slightly-less-than-three seconds of orcs in combat.
  • Brain Drain: Pseudopolis' new Brazeneck College is trying to poach talent from Unseen University. Their Archchancellor used to be UU's Dean, and the head of their technomancy department was once Ponder Stibbons' best student. They even offered Ponder the post of Bursar, but he never even asked what the salary was. After all, even if they made him a professor, he'd probably have a lot less clout than as UU's Jack of All Trades.
  • Brainless Beauty: Juliet, although not nearly as brainless as Glenda thinks.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "The smell of pipe smoke and old socks, and since the wizards are lax about knocking out their pipes, smoking socks as well."
  • Brick Joke:
    • Back in Feet of Clay, Vimes had an affirmative action snit in response to a bigoted complaint and said he'd accept a gorgon in the Watch. Now a Noodle Incident reveals that the Watch recently recruited a Medusa who accidentally turned three people to stone when a gust of wind knocked off her sunglasses.
    • Mightily Oates' axe and unique style of spreading the light of Om reappear for the first time since Carpe Jugulum.
    • The longest-air-time bricks come from Sourcery, published 21 years earlier.
      • The only earlier reference to orcs existing on the Disc was a very oblique reference in Sourcery, in which one of the sword-flourishes Nigel cribs from his how-to-be-a-barbarian-hero booklet is named Orcthrust.
      • Rincewind asks to be excused from play with a note from his mother. Ridcully rejects this as Rincewind himself said his mother had abandoned him before birth (Discworld. Don't ask how). Rincewind then asks to be excused to go look for her.
      • And then there's the literal Brick Joke. After the heated meeting between Ridcully and Henry, Former Dean and Current Archchancellor of Brazeneck, Ponder sees Rincewind putting one of his socks back on. He once stopped an Eldrich Abomination by hitting it with half a brick in a sock. Ponder notes that it was probably the same sock.
    • Back in Reaper Man, there was a throw-away line about Ridcully wanting to get a team together for the 'Sity And Guild Match, described in the Discworld Companion as a slightly modernised version of Poor(e) Boys Fun.
    • Quoth tells Susan about the profession of candle dribbler in Soul Music. It's not until this book that we find out the raven wasn't pulling her leg.
    • Reaper Man describes "anti-crimes," and Hix can be said to be committing one: planting tickets for his amateur theater group's productions in people's pockets is the opposite of pickpocketing (especially since it's implied his group isn't very good).
    • Pepe poo-poos Glenda's insistence that Juliet should keep working in the kitchens with, "What is this? Emberella?" In Witches Abroad, even Embers herself noted the silliness of her own name and circumstances.
    • At the beginning of the book, the Faculty are congratulating themselves on the successful Hunt of the Megapode. At the end of the book, when discussing the rampage of the Blit-Chicken in Pseudopolis, Ponder and Ridcully agree that they don't need to hurry to help, as they have better things to do than run around after birds.
    • The Horseman's Word is evidently just as effective for Nutt as for Jason Ogg. Of course, Nutt demonstrated that he could handle anvils and big hammers at a very young age...
    • The race of Furies was obliquely mentioned in Eric, as one of many Classical Mythology-flavored creatures a Tsortean sergeant had fought in his military career. Granted, they may have been more common in the era of the Tsortean War.
    • During Ridcully's tirade about the Dean leaving Ponder mentions that at least one wizard has retired. Doctor Earwig left to get married.
    • The wizards initially practice with a cursed whistle that is possessed by a parody of a nightmare PE Teacher. This mostly goes forgotten until the (former) Dean referees the game and blows the whistle... then declares into the megaphone "ANYONE NOT IN KIT WILL PLAY IN THEIR PANTS".
  • Bring the Anchor Along: Nutt describes his early childhood labouring in a dark forge, where he built up his strength by working with larger and larger equipment until he could even carry the anvil. When his friend asks why that was so important to him, he clarifies that he was chained to the anvil.
  • Broad Strokes: It is possible to tie Ridcully's background here (father was a butcher, grandfather was an Ankh-Morporkian who made music boxes and played football) with his introduction in Moving Pictures as having spent several years running his family's country estate, but it takes a bit of work.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Andy and his followers taunting Nutt about his species, once they learn the truth (they had the initial excuse of not knowing).
    • To whomever poisoned the Librarian, congratulations. You have just angered a 300 pound ape and his boss, who not just a Boisterous Bruiser but also one of the most powerful wizards on the Disc. In a word: Run.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Professor Hix, by university statute. They need someone around who can ignore the rules a bit but still knows when to stop.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: Trev makes it clear that many of the amazing tricks he can do kicking a can don't work if he thinks about them. The Luggage also falls victim to this in a much more literal way, tripping over its own feet on the field (although usually able to walk.)
  • Chainmail Bikini: Micromail is implied to be used primarily for underlayers (given how everyone talks about the lack of chafing) and is modeled complete with a false beard.
  • Changing of the Guard: Between Ponder's ascent to the University Council (most of it, in fact; Ponder holds enough different positions to form both a quorum and a majority all by himself, so he can call meetings and hold binding votes without another soul present), Nutt's implied future as Mightily Oats's successor, Adrian Turnipseed's professorship, and the youth of the cast in general, this book builds upon other recent Discworld novels in bringing a fresh generation of characters to the fore.
  • Character Development:
    • Offscreen, Mightily Oats has become a Badass Preacher and ethnographer in some of the most remote and dangerous parts of Uberwald.
    • Ponder Stibbons is shedding his No-Respect Guy tag as he proves himself a very skilled researcher who is also capable of managing all of UU's day-to-day affairs, including deftly manipulating much older and more ruthless wizards.
    • Dr. Hix is considerably more confident and influential here than in Making Money. Insorcizing Professor Flead seems to have had the intended effect and let him move up in the department.
    • We even learn a little more about the Patrician's secretary, Drumknott, although he has changed very little as a character since he was introduced in Feet of Clay. For example, both Vimes and Vetinari take it as a price of doing business that all employees will steal small things from the workplace like leftover food or office supplies. Drumknott buys all his own paperclips. Vetinari believes a woman would have to dress up as a manila envelope to get his attention. Of course at the end, he bonds with a Librarian over 3-ring binders.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
  • Children Are Innocent: In this case, "innocent" can be taken in the legalistic sense of "innocent of being irredeemable psychopathic murderers until proven guilty". Even if you call them pups. Even if they are infant orcs.
  • Chubby Chef: Trev unromantically calls Glenda a fat girl who makes a good pie. The latter is an understatement, as her culinary feats impress even wizards. The former is a source of some well-hidden insecurity, especially where her slim, famously beautiful childhood friend Juliet is concerned.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Parodied with UU's late sports instructor, Evans the Striped. Presumably he wore some sort of striped rugby shirt, or even a referee's black and white striped jersey.
  • Continuity Porn: At least, by Discworld standards. The text is liberally decorated with Continuity Nods, including to some of the Early-Installment Weirdness books like Sourcery that are rarely acknowledged later in the series.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: After Nutt comes Back from the Dead (that's a simplification; see Our Orcs Are Different), the Igor attending him gives him a tuna, spaghetti and jam sandwich. With sprinkles.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • Vetinari sadly does not referee the game.
    • Glenda and Juliet are not dressed as cheerleaders, although they do watch the match.
    • The Luggage is implied to be part of the team. This was tried but failed because of the Centipede's Dilemma.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Pepe. And Nutt.
  • Crushing Handshake:
    • Subverted when Andy tries this on Nutt, and doesn't achieve anything but to make his own hand sore.
    • Played straight with Hoggett, who "to his credit, hardly winced when it was taken for a firm handshake" by Ridcully.
  • Demoted to Extra: Rincewind is not a key part of the team's strategy, much to his relief. Vimes, Haddock and Angua only show up as antagonists/background characters. William de Worde has a cameo as proto-announcer for the match. The Postmaster-General is mentioned as waiting to see Vetinari, but makes no actual appearance.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The United team's cheating does nothing but turn the crowd against them and give Trev his chance to shine. The team captain (who wanted to win fairly to prove a point) is furious at his out-of-control players for this.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Inverted when Trev insists Nutt punch his arm, then admits that he didn't know Nutt's own strength while favoring his bruised biceps.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Someone throwing a banana to the Librarian while on the field is reminiscent of real-world racist insults to black football players by throwing bananas at them.
  • Down to the Last Play: Played with. The big game between Unseen Academicals and Ankh-Morpork United comes down to a single goal — because it gets so chaotic that the referee pauses the game at a point when the scores are level and announces that he's going to end the game as soon as one more goal is scored, regardless of how much time is left on the clock.
  • Dramatic Irony: Anyone reading Discworld books in the first place is probably Genre Savvy enough to realize that Glenda is talking to Lady Margolotta in the coaching house — if not immediately, then certainly by the third paragraph.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The birds in question are the Sisters, whose species (Furies) was briefly mentioned in Eric.
  • Easily-Distracted Referee: Henry the Dean in the big game, who misses lots of blatant fouls despite his attempts to be as fair as possible.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Dr. Hix mentions that the Department of Post-Mortem Communications gets a pass from the "no female wizards" rule when he tries to recruit Glenda.
  • The Empire: This is the first book to go into any kind of detail about the fallen Evil Empire of Uberwald (also called the Unholy Empire and the Dark Empire in earlier books). According to Word of God, it's the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Soviet Union, combined with some fairly obvious nods to Mordor.
  • Everybody Lives: Unusually for a Discworld story, Death only shows up once to tell a character he's not dead yet. Then again... some things you don't want to live through.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": After years of calling the Dean “Dean”, Ridcully struggles to remember his actual name, even though they were friends at school. Most other wizards’ names still aren’t given in this book, but the Dean is a special case; Ridcully has to call him something because he’s left UU, but refuses to call him “Archchancellor.”
  • Everyone Has Standards: The United captain wants to knock the wizards down a peg as much as anyone, but the mob of cheating bullies he's saddled with disgusts him. He plays along with Glenda's gambit at the end just to deny Andy the victory, then lays him out once it's over.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: parodied by Dr Hix: "Evil Empire. It did what it said on the iron maiden."
  • Expospeak Gag: Nutt's erudite and verbose way of answering questions.
  • Expy: Glenda has rather a lot in common with Agnes Nitt, albeit with a less downtrodden main personality and a better integrated Perdita-analogue (which is also in her case released by large amounts of sherry, not innate magical ability). Her relationship with Juliet also echoes Agnes' relationship with Christine, though Juliet is a more sympathetic version of a Brainless Beauty.
    • Though there are some echoes of Christine in her character, Juliet has far more in common with Tawneee, being impossibly beautiful, somewhat dim, very sweet-natured, and with a tendency to make heterosexual men fall over themselves and get too nervous to approach her. The main difference is that Juliet is better-developed; she has more Hidden Depths and is less innocent than the wide-eyed Tawneee.
    • Bengo Marcaronah, meanwhile, is fairly blatantly an expy of (in)famous legendary Argentine football player Diego Maradona, though his intellectual pursuits also suggest the mercurial Eric Cantona, equally famous for his football skills, his unusually brilliant philosophical mind that netted him a successful acting career, and his explosive temper, which netted him a lengthy ban for karate kicking an opposing supporter.
  • Famed in Story: Trev's father, Dave Likely.
  • Fantastic Vermin: While Nutt explores Unseen University's cellars, he is intrigued to learn that they are home to "that very rare indoorovore, the Uncommon Sock Eater". (Presumably this indicates that the Eater of Socks from Hogfather survived the book's events, possibly to breed.)
  • Food Porn: Just read those descriptions of Glenda's pies.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Actually, That's My Assistant scene is hinted at early, when the woman Glenda identifies as Lady Margolotta who is actually her librarian complains that it's too noisy in the coaching house.
    • Ponder asks what Brazeneck is using to power Pex, and reacts with just a hint of unholy glee.
    • The Furies' incessant cry of "Awk! Awk!" turns out to have a significance which probably flies right over rhotic speakers' heads: "Orc! Orc!"
  • A Friend in Need: Glenda, Juliet, Mr Nutt, and Trev swap around bailing each other out in the course of the plot.
  • Genius Bruiser: Again, Mr. Nutt. He's a member of a race of specially-bred super soldiers, and also read and memorized most of Lady Margolotta's library. Which means he can tell you just how much force note  it will take to snap your neck, and which muscles will get in the way.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Even the three-eyed ones, who are more enlightened than the average bear.
  • Given Name Reveal: Because the Dean has left UU and can't be referred to by either title by Ridcully ("Archchancellor" was out of the question, but "Dean" too obvious an insult), Ridcully has to dig around in his memories for "the bastard's name", which turns out to be Henry.
  • Good Old Ways: Changing the rules of football? Unthinkable! Glenda's description of it has enough innate magic to cause false memories in every wizard listening.
  • Good Shepherd: Mightily Oats from Carpe Jugulum appears only in the Backstory, but he appears to have grown into this role, bringing Forgiveness with him wherever he travels.
  • Groin Attack: Andy tries this on Trev, but runs into Pepe's gift.
  • Hat of Authority: The Archchancellor's Hat, valued perhaps even more for its conferred status than its magical abilities, is hotly contested between the rival wizard universities.
  • Henchmen Race: The orcs were designed purely to serve as weapons, and most people assumed that they weren't capable of functioning without someone to give them orders.
  • Historical In-Joke: Many references are made to the origins of modern Association Football under the English FA (Football Association) in the 1870s, including the FA Cup, which originally included teams like the Old Etonians. At the same time, it also references the hooliganism that English football was infamous for in the 1980s, when wearing the wrong colours in the wrong place, at the wrong time, really could be a lethal mistake. Lord Vetinari's 'consultation with the Wizards' that produces the new form of Football on the Disc can likewise be equated with the Taylor Report. Unfortunately, unlike the Discworld equivalent, the Taylor Report was not driven by academics looking to keep their funding, but by the tragedy of the Hillsborough Disaster, when 96 people were killed in a human crush. The youngest of the victims, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, cousin of future Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard, was only 10 years old. This is itself unpleasantly reminiscent of the book's descriptions of the Shove.
  • Humans Are Bastards: People believe that orcs were created by magically and/or eugenically altering goblins. At the end, Margolotta reveals that, no, orcs are descended from humans. Vetinari reflects that it's obvious: Goblins aren't vicious enough (an assessment borne out by Snuff).
  • I Call It "Vera": We find out that the double-headed battle-axe carried by Mightily Oats at the end of Carpe Jugulum now has a name: Forgiveness.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: Smeems tells Mr. Nutt this. Unfortunately, when he gets stuck on top of the Emperor candle, he needs Nutt to figure out how to get him down. Nutt does it, but still says, "I thought I wasn't paid to think, sir."
  • I Gave My Word: Trev promised his Mum he'd never play football.
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: After the wizards catch the Megapode, one of the maids asks them what they want to eat. Ridcully gives an impressive list of food (including "cheese boards one through five") and then says "Anyone else want to add anything?"
  • I'm Melting!: Not shown, but Evans the Striped reportedly expired in a Type E example, i.e. he evaporated.
  • Implausible Deniability: The giant ever-burning candle known as the Emperor did not go out, even if Nutt's vision tricked him into thinking it did. This must be so, because Smeems insists as much... just like he did on the prior two occasions it's not gone out on his watch.
  • Indestructible Edible: Professor Macarona's dehydrated pasta, the equivalent of Roundworld ramen.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Gloing.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: Various bits of dwarfish fall victim to this here.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Professor Bengo Macarona, after scoring the first goal for the Academicals, insists that any chanting of his name also includes his full name and list of honours. Since this in its entirety is "Professor Macarona D.Thau (Bug), D.Maus (Chubb), Magistaludorum (QIS), Octavium (Hons), PHGK (Blit), DMSK, Mack, D.Thau (Bra), Visiting Professor in Chickens (Jahn the Conqueror University (Floor 2, Shrimp Packers Building, Genua)), Primo Octo (Deux), Visiting Professor of Blit/Slood Exchanges (Al Khali), KCbfJ, Reciprocating Professor of Blit Theory (Unki), D.Thau (Unki), Didimus Supremius (Unki), Emeritus Professor in Blit Substrate Determinations (Chubb), Chair of Blit and Music Studies (Quirm College for Young Ladies)" and the crowd actually agrees to go along with it, this turns the football chant "One Makaronah, there's only one Makaronah, there's only one Makaronah, one Makaro-naah" into an Overly-Long Gag of absolutely EPIC proportions.
    • Also, continuing a gag from Making Money, it's "Post-Mortem Communications", not "necromancy".
  • Instant Expert: Averted. Trev's skill with a can does not transfer to a football.
  • Interspecies Romance: Although Pepe and Madam Sharn are both dwarves, Pepe is technically a small human who converted to being a dwarf. Played straight with Glenda and Nutt... sort of. There's also the ambiguously romantic relationship between Lady Margolotta and Vetinari.
  • Ironic Echo: Andy Shank threatens Trev that if he plays in the big game he'll be carried out of the stadium, meaning to suggest that Trev will be too injured to walk. When Trev, and the rest of the victorious team, are carried out in triumph on the shoulders of the crowd, the narrator notes that Andy's prediction was technically correct.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: "There will be cake."
  • Just the First Citizen: Played with, as Ridcully, the Archchancellor of Unseen University, is traditionally considered the "first among equals", but he stresses the word first.
  • Kaiju: An accident at Brazeneck's Higher Energy Magic building unleashes a seventy-foot chicken onto the streets of Pseudopolis. And it's foreshadowed too. Early on, Ponder asks what Brazeneck is using to power their knockoff of Hex; the answer is chickens. Ponder's initial reaction is mildly alarm, and then smugness: he knows what will happen, and clearly has no interest in telling Adrian how to fix it. But then, they did steal the design for Hex (not to mention the Dean) - he isn't really fond of them.
  • Karma Houdini: Defied. It looks like Andy Shank is going to get away virtually unscathed, but then the Camp Gay Pepe decides to make sure he gets what's coming to him.
  • Kick the Dog: Nutt's upbringing combines this with Pet the Dog in the most warped way.
  • Large Ham: Ridcully, as always, feels the need to declare to no one in particular "Change and decay! I am surrounded by traitors! They thwart me at every turn" when he sees the housekeeper's raided all his secret food stashes.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: The long list of Professor Macarona's academic qualifications includes degrees from and faculty positions at pretty much every magical university on the Disc, including several never mentioned before... and a stint as a music teacher at an all-girls boarding school.
  • Layman's Terms: Inverted, played straight, and subverted with the love letter Trev asks Mr. Nutt to enhance from simply, "I think you are really fit, want to go out? No hanky-panky, promise." When the letter is delivered, the loquacious language is too hard for Juliet to understand and needs Glenda to translate it. Glenda ends up using the exact phrase Trev originally wanted enhanced. The subversion comes from Nutt had thought about his feelings for Glenda and what he would want to say to her to ask her out on a date with the same promises and she understood it without any issues.
  • Literalist Snarking: Tell Glenda that "Vetinari has ears everywhere" and you'll get the reply "I only see two."
  • Literal-Minded: Drumknott can't grasp the idea of kicking a football for fun and asks Vetinari exactly how the football would be "inviting" him to kick it. Would there be a note attached?
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: Part of Vetinari's attempt to control the game, as trying to outwit a game of complex rules is less likely to end in bloodshed. Like Round World soccer, the offsides rules in particular seem to be extremely complex and hotly disputed.
  • Long List: Examples below combined with Overly-Long Gag:
    • Professor Macarona's full list of titles and honors goes on for about a full hardcover page. In reality it's only about an eight-line paragraph, but repeated so many times that it covers nearly two softcover pages - and audiobook readers may start to wonder if their file is stuck in a loop.
    • Ridcully asks Ponder what the Academicals' problem is. The list of ways they are failing to grasp football takes up roughly the same space as the one above. Without repetition.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Many Discworld books have focused on the faculty of Unseen University and Equal Rites filled in several details about the household staff but this is the first book in which the staff become the main characters.
  • Mama Bear: Glenda. According to Vetinari, It Runs in the Family.
  • Meaningful Name: Juliet, obviously. There's also Andy Shank; "shank" can mean a stabbing weapon. Also see Stealth Pun below for Trev Likely.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • Vimes, in-universe; as discussed in Night Watch Discworld, coppers in Ankh-Morpork (and the surrounding cities) are called "Sammies" or "Old Sam" for a reason. (On Roundworld, it's why British cops are "bobbies," or "Old Bill.")
    • Mrs. Whitlow has an in-universe Memetic Domestic Badass reputation among the UU staff, which Glenda eventually sees through and subverts.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Orcs. The Evil Empire created a race of Genius Bruiser Super Soldiers capable of excelling in every field of warfare... and then drove them into battle in poorly-armed waves with men with whips to goad them on. Considering that Uberwald is the old and much-beloved home of Mad Science, they were probably built by Igors to drastically exceed their intended purpose. And that intended purpose seems to have been "an easy-to-breed humanoid lifeform with extremely rapid physical and mental development that allows for minimum time between birth and Zerg Rush use in battle". Most of them probably died long before their real potential began to show.
  • Mistaken for Foreigner: Glenda lampshades people's tendency to do this to dwarfs. When Juliet says that a dwarf who was rude should "go back where he came from," Glenda says "That'd be Treacle Mine Road, then. He was born in the city." Presumably, Glenda noticed his accent, while Juliet only noticed that he was a dwarf.
  • Mistaken for Spies: The line “I wish I knew exactly whom Vetinari was employing” from Ridcully implies he thinks Glenda is a spy for Vetinari. She isn’t; she’s just arranged to see what’s going on in the Uncommon Room because she’s curious about it.
  • Mistaken Identity: Courtesy of Glenda's total lack of useful cynicism in some areas.
  • Motivation on a Stick: There's a scene with the wizards riding on the backs of the university porters and motivating them with a bottle of beer on the end of a stick.
  • Mugging the Monster: Ponder recalls how his wizardry first manifested when he set fire to the trousers of a schoolyard bully who'd been giving him a wedgie.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Played with in several instances.
    • Nutt is an orc, but largely rejects violence. His Planet of Hats' hat get deconstructed by the end, though, showing that the orcs' bloodthirstiness had been an in-universe Dead Unicorn Trope.
    • Pepe and Madame Sharn are both exceptions to Our Dwarves Are All the Same. In fact, they bring up some very interesting questions about how dwarves think about sex, gender, and sexuality. All dwarves look male by human standards, even clearly feminine-gendered dwarfs wear so many layers of leather and metal that it's impossible to guess anatomical sex, and it's not polite to ask what sex another dwarf is unless you're engaged to them. So do dwarves have any concept of sexual orientation, or of gender arising from anatomical sex?
      • Also, Pepe is the second example of the fact that Discworld dwarves regard dwarfishness in a fashion closer to a religion than anything biological.
  • Nephewism: Ponder Stibbons was brought up by his aunts. He mentions this because, just after the wizards all remember their fathers taking them to football games, Ponder realizes he never met his.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Subverted by Lord Vetinari. He matches a hall full of heavy drinkers twice his size mug-for-mug and most of them end up passing out. Vetinari only appears slightly tipsy, but then he stubs his toe on a stair, takes an extra 50 seconds to solve the Times crossword the next morning (even resorting to the dictionary) and Drumknott notes that he seems unusually talkative, though no less cogent. For him, that's the equivalent of getting married in Vegas.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Ridcully and Lord Vetinari are both willing to hear and consider Glenda's thoughts on football and mob rule.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened on Tuesday. Ridcully's latest anti-Dean rant is still better than Tuesday.
  • No Social Skills: Nutt, initially. He's read a lot in books, but applying that to the real world is something else.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: For the first time since Moving Pictures, UU has been shaken up by the departure of the Dean - and, not coincidentally, we finally learn his name, or at least his first name.
  • Odd Job Gods: Pedestriana, the Goddess of Football.
  • Odd Name, Normal Nickname: One of Unseen University's bledlows goes by Al. A fellow bledlow is surprised to learn it's short for Alphonse (a Quirmian name) rather than Alfred but goes no further due to Al obviously being sensitive about it.
  • Offing the Mouth: The intellectual but totally unstreetwise Orc Mr Nutt gets this treatment from a gang of proto-football hooligans. His mistake was to try to engage them in debate on mob psychology and the sociopathology of overcrowded juvenile male rats, just as Trev was about to possibly get them out a messy situation. Nutt gets clubbed and left for dead by the gang.
  • On One Condition: The entire reason the wizards have to play football is that there is an important financial grant which will revert back to the other heirs if they don't enter a team "in the game of Foot-the-Ball or Poore Boys' Funne."
  • Oppose What You Suffered: Pepe stands up to the bully Andy when no-one else does both by providing the protagonists with protection against Andy's favoured Groin Attack and by actually cutting Andy with a knife, a treatment Andy is very keen on inflicting on others, and in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech Pepe states that he is very familiar with bullies, implicitly from having been bullied himself, potentially about his ambiguous species and sexuality, and will not allow bullies to get away with it any more.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: The wizards are adamant they can't wear shorts that expose their knees, for fear of the effect this might have on women. The one woman who hears this has trouble keeping a straight face.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Mr. Nutt. They were made from humans, not from elves or goblins, and they are not Always Chaotic Evil. They are effectively a race of perfect soldiers, which means that they're incredibly smart to adapt to the situation quickly, generally quite friendly with their friends/comrades, and have a Healing Factor that allows them to go from "Only Mostly Dead" to "fine" in day.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The Bengo Macarona chant goes on for over two pages due to Macarona's insistance that the chanting crowd use his complete list of titles and awards. Read in-full in the audiobook, going on for over 4 minutes.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: It's noted that high-ranking wizards cannot get into fights in public, because that could have dire magical consequences. Therefore Ridcully and Henry, former Dean of UU butt heads in a very masculine form of Politeness Judo.
  • Picked Last: Referenced several times. Ponder is explicitly described as having been picked last for every game he couldn't make up an excuse to avoid. He's thrilled that this time around he can appoint himself scorekeeper and stay out of the action.
    Ridcully: Now we all understand this! It's a boy thing! It's like little girls and the colour pink! You know how to do this! Pick the teams alternately so one of you ends up with the weird kid and the other with the fat kid. Some of the fastest mathematics of all time have been achieved by team captains trying not to end up with the weird kid - stay where you are, Rincewind!
  • Playing Cyrano: Amusingly subverted, as Nutt ghost-writes a love letter to Juliet for Trev, who can't think of anything better to say than "I think you are really fit, want to go out? No hanky-panky, promise." This is, word for word, exactly how Glenda summarizes Nutt's poetic missive when Juliet asks her what all "Trev's" fancy words mean.
  • Posthumous Character: Dave Likely. Trev lives forever in his father's shadow until he manages to outdo him with the final goal.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: The Shove. Always. Vetinari's willing to stake his reputation on rewriting the rules because The Shove is so likely to spill over into riot.
  • Prince Charming: Referenced; Glenda thinks Juliet deserves a handsome prince, which is why she disapproves of her hanging around with Trev Likely. Later Glenda realizes this isn't the whole truth: she's gotten too used to "crab-bucket" thinking to see the real potential in Trev...and in Juliet.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: A somewhat unusual version with Dr. Hix, of the Department of Necromancy... Er, Post-Mortem Communications, who is professionally obligated to be slightly evil from time to time, albeit within "acceptable levels" set by university regulations. Normally, he fulfills this obligation through minor mischief such as slipping people tickets to his community theater group. But it should also be noted that as the official Post-Mortem Communicator, Dr. Hix is also responsible for dealing with unofficial Post-Mortem Communicators. With fireballs, if necessary.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: The Dimwell colors are green and bright pink. Do you want to question a football hooligan's manhood? Didn't think so. Nutt theorizes that the pink was deliberately chosen to trick people into provoking the Dimwells.
  • Rescue Romance: Trev doesn't really get Juliet's interest until after he saves her from being beaned during a football match (the old-fashioned footballs are made of wood and very heavy).
    Juliet: He saved my life!
    Glenda: That's no basis for a relationship! A polite thank you would have sufficed.
  • Roboteching: Trev can do this with tin cans. It's all about the spin.
  • Rugby Is Slaughter: The state of football in the beginning of the book. Part of Trev's backstory was that his father died on the pitch.
  • Running Gag:
    • "It doesn't chafe!"
    • "Skull ring, remember?"
    • "Hanky panky".
    • "Bledlow Alf Nobbs (no relation)."
    • The whistle of former university sports master, Evans the Striped.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Much of Glenda's Character Development is unlearning all the rules she's been taught, consciously or not, about being helpful and "knowing her place", and learning to take advantage of the fact that people will not hit you with a hammer if you break these unspoken rules.
  • Second Verse Curse: Invoked; whoever wrote the Ankh-Morpork anthem knew nobody would remember the second verse so they just filled it with a bunch of "ner ner ner" to begin with.
  • Serious Business: Football. Starts out as a subversion, as the only thing on the line seems to be a large portion of the University's food budget, and the wizards don't even need to win the game to retain that. Then the Archchancellor's Hat is wagered on the result. And then Vetinari commits to reforming the rules and it becomes a fight for the spirit of the game and for reason containing the mob. A loss for the Academicals could actually damage the Patrician's authority.
  • Severed Head Sports: There is a rule explicitly stating that during a match any object that has been kicked by at least three players in succession is to be considered the ball. Guess what kind of impromptu ball created this rule...
  • Shameful Strip: Evans the Striped would shame students who hadn't brought their kit (gym uniform) by making them take their regular trousers off and play in their underpants.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "Mostly they're just pies, sir. Made of... pie."
    • Also, the first rule of football is "The ball shall be called the ball."
  • Shoot the Dog: It's important that Mr. Nutt does not harm anyone, and publicly refrains from harming Andy when he'd be quite justified in doing so. However it's also important that Andy gets his just desserts, so Pepe obliges.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Most of the early plot of the book is a direct copy of Romeo and Juliet, when it is not a Shout-Out to "Cinderella" or My Fair Lady. Lampshaded in one of the epilogues, when Glenda and Nutt go to see a play called "Starcrossed" by Discworld's Shakespeare-analogue and agree that the tragic ending was an Idiot Ball situation.
    • Juliet ("Jules"), a woman in dressed in golden-shining chainmail, is supported after the game by the whole Ankh-Morpork team in red shirts — this is clearly meant to resemble the Jules Rimet Trophy, awarded for the Football World Cup (up to 1970). [1]
    • Professor Bengo Macarona is evidently a nod to Diego Maradona, a famous football (soccer for Americans) player. There was also a player named Macarone in Genoa, which is the right city, give or take a letter.
      • On top of that, Maradona's fans would sing "Un Maradona, c'è solo un Maradona" ("One Maradona, there's only one Maradona") to the tune of "Guantanamera." This is directly lifted for the Discworld version ... well, at least until Macarona insists on including his full credentials.
    • The Running Gag of the celebrity press asking about "your favourite spoon" is from Private Eye.
    • The reference to Romeo and Juliet gets lampshaded near the end of the book, when Glenda comments about how an in-universe play (named Starcrossed) is unrealistic. (The play in question has been written by Hwel, a character from an earlier book who is the Disc's William Shakespeare.)
    • The first few pages are an extended Shout-Out/parody of Dan Brown.
      It occurred to new employee Rudolph Scattering...
    • And when Hex is asked to find a football, he responds by asking whether they meant a spherical or oval ball, a shout out to those other games.
    • Similarly, Hex now has a white mask through which he can be addressed, and from which his responses appear to come.
    • The epilogue, beginning "You think it's over?" and ending "It is now!", is a shout out to a famous piece of football commentary.
    • Glenda's private thoughts about how to deal with Ottomy — and how to dispose of the evidence — are a tip of the hat to Sweeney Todd.
    • BioShock: Beings called 'Little Sisters' who aren't seen at their best when eating.
    • Nutt's indecipherable philosophy of football recalls Eric Cantona at his most Dadaesque.
    • One of Juliet's brothers is named Algernon. Mr. Nutt describes to him a theory that football players were very similar to lab rats. He promptly attacks Mr. Nutt. Algernon still likes rats and dislikes experiments on them.
    • The fact that the Orcs make their debut in a football story is probably a nod to Games Workshop's famous characterization of them as a parody of rioting British football hooligans. Although physically, the Discworld version are more similar to Adeptus Astartes.
    • Believe it or not, the once-a-century tradition of Hunting the Megapode that the wizards perform at the start of the book, in which the faculty run around the University in pursuit of an imaginary bird, is based on the real-life All Souls' Mallard ceremony at All Souls' college, Oxford. The ceremony was last performed in 2001 and, with the substitution of a mallard duck on a stick for Rincewind-as-Megapode, is surprisingly similar to the Unseen University version.
  • Small Parent, Huge Child: Mrs. Atkinson is a vicious little old lady who is a particularly problematic presence in the Shove. She's able to be away with this because of her absolutely gargantuan son who threatens swift reprisal on his mother's behalf. This ultimately doesn't save her when she makes the mistake of poisoning the Librarian.
  • Smug Snake: Andy Shank. He's an evil-minded little git who carries himself like Carcer Dun. Pepe educates him in why this shouldn't be so.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Asked what makes a good football trainer, Nutt gives a long answer that takes in psychology, metaphysics and quantum physics, concluding with:
    It is my job to reduce this metaphysical overhead, as it were, and to give my lads some acceptable paradigm, such as, it might be, whack it right down the middle, my son, and at least if the goalie stops it you will have given him a hot handful he won't forget in a hurry.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Nutt. No S, two T's. Singular, not plural.
    "Do you think the second T helps?"
    "Probably not, sir."
  • Spock Speak: Nutt, most of the time.
  • Stealth Pun: Trev works in the university dribbling candles for wizardly pursuits. By the end of the book, he's dribbling footballs instead.
    • He's also "Dave Likely's son"... or Likely's lad; a "likely lad" being either a skilled sportsman or a known troublemaker - and Trev's both.
      • Un-stealthed in the back-cover copy, which calls him "a likely lad with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can". (The pre-release blurb had much the same phrase, but called him an "urchin".)
    • The three-eyed teddy, described as "more enlightened than the average bear" is an obvious reference to both the "third eye" of Eastern mysticism and Yogi Bear. Now think about where the title "yogi" comes from...
    • Hix is Unseen University's token Black Magician.
    • The team "Unseen Academicals" just happens to contain a number of not-seen-before staff of the Unseen University.
    • Buried in the list of previously unmentioned seats of learning where Macarona has degrees is "Chubb". In the UK, Chubb is the name of a well-known manufacturer of high-security locks; a stealth pun on Yale.
  • Straight Gay: Professor Bengo Macarona of Genua, star football player, with 13 doctorates from Unki, QIS, and Chubb and a visiting professorship at Bugarup, cited in two hundred and thirty-six papers... and one divorce petition.
    Ridcully: Angry husband?
    Stibbons: Angry wife, as I heard it.
    Ridcully: Oh, he was married, was he?
    Stibbons: Not to my knowledge, Archchancellor.
  • Super Soldier: Orcs. Super-strong, fast, can come Back from the Dead, super smart and with a natural teamwork instinct.
  • Supreme Chef: Glenda. Her grandmother was the cook at the Assassins' Guild when Vetinari was a student; he still remembers the pies fondly, and practically (for Vetinari) salivates when he learns that the recipes were passed down. He's also the one to realize that Glenda would never even think of poisoning a pie because of the almost religious importance she places on food. He mentions at the end that he had been planning on offering her a job if things had turned out differently.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Referred to here as the "crab bucket". (The analogy being that the market sellers keep crabs for sale in open-topped buckets. The crabs don't escape because, since they all grasp at each other all the time, no crab ever succeeds in climbing out of the open bucket because the others hold it back.) Not getting ideas above one's station is a huge part of the working class culture of Dolly Sisters, and much of Glenda's Character Development is learning to let go of the crab bucket mindset.
    • Trev's attempts to teach Nutt to use colloquial street-dialect rather than formal Morporkian could also be considered this trope, although he's even less conscious of what he's doing. Alternatively, he could be trying to protect Nutt from this attitude, and the concomitant mistrust of well-spoken people.
  • Tempting Banana: Ordinarily, of course, this is an apple's job. But in this case it was Schmuck Bait for the Librarian.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Dr. Hix, again. It's in his job description.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Juliet can often tear down Glenda's white lies or deceptions, because she's too unimaginative to fill in the gaps on her own.
  • Too Dumb to Live: UU's Mr. Floribunda apparently thought that using the Cabinet of Curiosity as a snack pantry was a good idea. Unfortunately for him, the rule that anything organic automatically returns to it within 14.14 hours did apply to bacon sandwiches ... even already-digested ones. Fortunately, he did live through whatever it was that happened to him.
  • The Trope Formerly Known as X: Vetinari repeatedly refers to the former Dean and current Archchancellor of Brazeneck University as "Archchancellor formerly known as Dean" in the gathering that happens halfway into the book. Later the narration starts using this form of address as well.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: The aforementioned Professor Macarona D.Thau (Bug), D.Maus (Chubb), Magistaludorum (QIS), Octavium (Hons), PHGK (Blit), DMSK, Mack, D.Thau (Bra), Visiting Professor in Chickens (Jahn the Conqueror University (Floor 2, Shrimp Packers Building, Genua)), Primo Octo (Deux), Visiting Professor of Blit/Slood Exchanges (Al Khali), KCbfJ, Reciprocating Professor of Blit Theory (Unki), D.Thau (Unki), Didimus Supremius (Unki), Emeritus Professor in Blit Substrate Determinations (Chubb), Chair of Blit and Music Studies (Quirm College for Young Ladies)
  • Turn Out Like His Father: A touching version, once Trev comes to grips with pride in his father's achievements versus anger over his ignoble death.
    Juliet: They said Dave Likely was your father.
    Trev: Well, yes, that's true.
    Juliet: Yes, but they used to say you were his son.
  • Tyop on the Cover: One dust jacket has a synopsis that spells Vetinari as "Ventinari."
  • Unseen No More: Seafood purveyor Verity Pushpram, hitherto only ever mentioned in passing as Nobby Nobbs' not-quite-girlfriend, actually makes a brief appearance here (and, unbeknown to herself, demonstrates to Glenda what Pepe meant by "crab bucket").
  • Verbal Tic: Juliet's habit of ending every sentence with "Din't it?" or "Didn't I?" or something similar, innit.
  • Visual Innuendo: Glenda points out that the proposed uniform design with "UU" on the front resembles breasts. (Especially since wizards are usually rather fat to begin with.) Used again when Dibler's bootleg memorabilia uses the original design, which actually had been the uniform for University teams in the past.
  • Wham Line: Wham Word, in fact. A word most Discworld readers never expected to see in the books: ORC.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: Not a major part of the book (Nutt knows Whodunnit To Him, but wasn't actually brought back by the Igor so is allowed to walk out of hospital), but it's implied that this is a part of Watch procedure, given that there's an actual rule where "if it took an Igor to bring you back, you were dead." I.E. your case would be pursued as a murder.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Juliet is described as pretty enough to make goddesses weep with jealousy.
  • Worthy Opponent: Mr. Hoggett, captain of Ankh-Morpork United. Despite the fact that his team contains a number of jerks, cheats, and Andy Shank, he tries to play a fair game, apologizes to the ref for his team's illegal moves, and punches out Andy Shank for mucking up what would otherwise have been a fair and square game in a personal Moment of Awesome.
  • Written by the Winners: The war against the Evil Empire is often referred to as this. For a start, calling it the "Evil Empire" implies that there were any good guys in that particular conflict. Snuff demonstrates that even the universally-maligned goblins are subject to this trope, as they're always at the losing end of history.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Glenda knows trashy romance novel tropes backwards and forwards, and doesn't really get a handle on events until she stops thinking in those terms and starts working with Earn Your Happy Ending instead.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Dr. Hix was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Hicks, but "any man who wears a black robe and a skull ring isn't going to pass up the chance to have an X in his name".
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: "You think it's over?" Done three times. A reference to a famous remark by the commentator at the end of the 1966 World Cup final: "They think it's all over..." (player shoots) "It is now!" (GOAL!)

    Tropes found in the Audible radio drama 
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Noticable on several levels.
    • Nutt has some more serious angst issues than in the book. He's terrified of the Sisters, whose mere presence reduces him to screams of panic.
    • Dave Likely's death haunts Trev to a bigger degree, with several instances where we get a Flashback Cut to the event. He also suffers far more hardships and goes completely to pieces in a way he never did in the book.
    • Juliet's family are openly abusive and her home life pretty miserable.
    • Both the Trev/Juliet and the Glenda/Nutt relationships have had their angst levels taken up to eleven, with lots of drama, tears, Poor Communication Kills and external forces getting in their way.
    • Inverted, however, with Pepe, who's notably less cynical and more of an Adaptational Nice Guy.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Juliet, while still far from an intellectual, is notably less of The Ditz here than in the book.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • Trev. In the book he's an amicable and friendly guy, who treats Mr Nutt with kindness from the start. Here, he's a total jerk towards him for much of the audio drama, though he does go through a bit of Character Development and changes for the better.
    • Dean Henry. In the book, despite the rivalry between Brazeneck and UU, he was the neutral party and trusted to be the referee in the big game. Here, he's actively against UU, and is the main force that unites the Dimmers and the Dollies in order to get the most brutal team to take them down. The role of referee in the game instead goes to Vimes.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Street football has been renamed "mob ball." The name "football" or "foot-the-ball" is revealed to be the game's original name.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Rincewind's incredible speed is mentioned early on when he plays the Megapode in the traditional Megapode hunt. During the big game, after the ball has been destroyed by Old Man Stollop who's trying to stop the Academicals from scoring more goals, Rincewind is the only one fast enough to run and fetch a new ball.
  • Composite Character: One of the main reasons for Trev's Adaptational Jerkass status is that his character and role has been combined with that of Smeems.
  • Darker and Edgier: The audio drama is far more dramatic and violent than the book. The stakes are far higher; while in the books the mob ball riots were violent enough, they were kept contained to certain parts of the city where the Watch turned a blind eye. Here, the riots are threatening to ruin the city and have become so dangerous that even Vimes is considering resigning from the Watch in despair.
    • The stakes are higher for the University as well; in the book they merely had to participate in a game in order to avoid a sizeable, but manageable budget cut. Here, they have to win a game, or suffer budget cuts so severe that they might have to close down the University altogether.
    • Overall, everything is a lot more tense and on the brink of violence than in the book. Even Lord Vetinari and Lady Margolotta have a more tense relationship that borders on pseudo-antagonistic.
  • Demoted to Extra: The radio drama focuses more clearly on Nutt, Glenda, Trev and Juliet, with Vetinari and (to an extent) Lady Margolotta as the most important secondary characters. Ridcully, the UU faculty, Madame Sharn and Pepe are still there, and all of them get a number of scenes to shine, but they still have less focus than they did in the book.
  • Fashion Designer: Juliet's Fashionista traits have been taken to this extreme, as she has an interest in (and surprising talent for) fashion designing.
  • Flashback Cut: Several times during the audio drama, whenever Trev talks about not being able to play mob ball, we get a brief flashback to his father's death.