Follow TV Tropes


Every Year They Fizzle Out

Go To

Mandy Jensen: Um... ["Peyton Manning" is] like — how do I put this? When someone has this great reputation, but you always wonder why, because, when it really counts, they can't deliver?
Ted Trimble: Yeah, fine, but... still — why a Peyton Manning? I don't get it!
Chris Graham: I think you're missing the point! Uh — basically, the point is: like the rest of us, you bought the Arizona hype, and, when they did their usual Peyton Manning, you got burned!
Saturday Night Live, ESPN's NCAA Tournament Pool Party

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

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

Compare Fake Ultimate Hero, where most people seem to realize they are not that great, and Small Name, Big Ego, when it's the person himself who has a bloated self-esteem. May overlap with Crutch Character, depending on how long they hold out before this trope comes into play: they can still make important gains for their team early on, even when they lose their steam by the time they reach the climatic matches.

The Trope Namer is the SNL sketch quoted above, which Manning, the former Trope Namer, was hosting after he won the Super Bowl. Manning himself was playing Ted Trimble with Jason Sudeikis as Chris Graham.


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


    open/close all folders 

    Auto Racing 
Due to the large fields, this trope can occur many times in auto racing, whether in NASCAR, Formula One or the Indy Car Series:
  • In the NASCAR ranks, Mark Martin was a walking version of this trope. He was a perennial crowd and statistical favorite through his career (even into his early 50s), but never won a Cup Series championship nor a Daytona 500; many fans think he's been ripped off of at least one of each (the best known of each being the dastardly 46-point penalty that wasn't his fault and cost him a championship to Dale Earnhardt in 1990, and the infamous finish of the 2007 Daytona 500 regarding NASCAR allowing him and race winner Kevin Harvick to fight to the checkers while a last-lap Big One occurred behind them in a situation where NASCAR would throw the caution flag in other scenarios; it has been debated that Martin was ahead of Harvick when the crash happened).
  • Before the title got passed over to Martin, Dale Earnhardt was best known as the driver that just couldn't win a Harley J. Earl Trophy: wrecks, blown engines, flat tires, being outraced by other drivers (in 1993 and 1996, he got passed late race by Dale Jarrett and had to settle for second), Dale just couldn't win it until his 20th try, in 1998; even then, that race ended under caution, so who knows whether or not he or Bobby Labonte would have led that final lap had it been green. And, in a tragic note, his final race happened to be the Daytona 500...
    • Earnhardt's not alone here: Buddy Baker only won the Daytona 500 on his 18th try, while Darrell Waltrip only won it on his 17th try, and Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Michael Waltrip on their 15th tries.
    • To add to the irony, it took Dale Earnhardt 20 attempts to win the Daytona 500, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to win the 500 twice in 15 starts, and those were on his fifth try (2004) and 15th try (2014).
  • As a driver, Tony Stewart had three Cup Series championships and won 48 races, but he was shut out in the Daytona 500 every time it looked like he had a shot. The closest he got was in 2004. He led 98 laps, or almost half of the race, but Dale Jr. overtook him with 20 laps to go after the last pit stop cycle and he couldn't get around him. In 2008, Stewart led coming to the white flag, but he and his then-Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch got outdrafted by the Penske duo of Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, and Newman took the flag. Ironically, Newman would join Stewart's new team in 2009.
    • On another degree, the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver that has won the 500 while with the team (Newman's Daytona 500 win was with Roger Penske and Harvick's was with Richard Childress) was Kurt Busch in 2017, although Stewart has won the Coke Zero 400 four times between Gibbs and SHR (2005, 2006, 2009, 2012). This makes Stewart the only multiple-time winner of that race who has never won the Daytona 500.note 
  • Can easily be said about Dale Earnhardt Jr. when you consider that after that 2004 season, he had single wins in 2005 and 2006, then a 76 race winless streak from the spring Richmond race to the 2008 Lifelock 400 at Michigan, followed by a 143 race winless streak to the June 2012 Michigan race. A concussion that put him out for two races after Talladega made the last part of the season mediocre for him. Fortunately, Junior showed evidence of significant recovery, as he scored eight top tens in the 2013 Chase and scored the second-most points of all the Chase drivers behind Jimmie Johnson. He then broke a 55 race winless streak by winning the Daytona 500 again in 2014 and then proceeded to sweep both Pocono races.
  • Carl Edwards has the misfortune to be one of the best non-Hendrick drivers in an era dominated by Hendrick drivers (the most heartbreaking example being losing in 2011 to the Hendrick-affiliated Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker, he led by three points going into the race - however, the fact that Stewart had more wins than Edwards contributed; for the record, every championship from 2005-2011 was won by Chevrolet - two with Stewart and five with Jimmie Johnson). Likely, if Edwards had been able to pass Regan Smith at Darlington in the spring on the last restart, he would have won the championship. In the 2009 Aaron's 499, where, approaching the finish line, Edwards spun backwards after contact from Brad Keselowski, causing Edwards to go airborne, and bounce off Ryan Newman's hood into the catch fence.
  • Kyle Busch was long notorious for flaming out once the Chase begins, no matter how well he does in the regular season. The most dramatic example of this is 2008, where he won eight regular season races and led by over 400 points just before the Chase reset - then crapped out immediately after, failing to win a single Chase race on his way to a 10th place finish (out of 12 Chasers). Then he went out and finally won the title in 2015 despite missing the first eleven races.note 
  • It's been a recent trend that the runner-up in the Chase one year gets massive hype as the series' potential next champion, but not only do they fail to win the Sprint Cup the next year, more often than not their stats fall way off and they find themselves struggling just to make the next Chase, let alone do anything once they get there. Every driver who finished runner up to Jimmie Johnson during his streak of five consecutive championships from 2006 to 2010 was subjected to this trope.
    • Carl Edwards is the defining example of this, as part of his larger tendency to fizzle out. After finishing third on a tiebreaker in 2005 (same points as Greg Biffle, but Biffle won six times to Edwards' four), he ultimately missed the 2006 Chase and wouldn't win another race until 2007. In 2008, he won nine times but finished second to Jimmie Johnson after Johnson basically blew away the other Chasers, with even Edwards' three wins in the last four races not being enough to overcome Johnson's lead. He then limped into the 2009 Chase and again went nearly two years without a win. 2011's heartbreak was followed by a series of cascading disasters over the summer of 2012, which took him completely out of the Chase, and he once again went nearly two years without a race win.
    • For that matter, Biffle also missed the 2006 Chase, and even defending champion Tony Stewart couldn't manage to back up his regular season performance well enough to get in - although he ended up winning three Chase races anyway.note 
    • 2006 runner-up Matt Kenseth didn't fall off as dramatically as the rest of these, but he still failed to follow up his impressive run in 2007, dropping from four wins to two, and from second to fourth in final points.
    • 2007 runner-up Jeff Gordon went from six wins and a modern-era record thirty top tens to zero wins, nineteen top tens and about the same "we'll just be taking up Chase space" sentiment that Tony Stewart expressed in 2011, only this time it was a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
    • 2009 runner-up Mark Martin actually went into what may or may not be his swansong after he missed the Chase and failed to win in 2010.
    • 2010 runner-up Denny Hamlin is legendary in this regard - everyone thought he would put it all together in 2011 and deliver Toyota its first championship, but the self-destruct that cost him the 2010 championship carried into 2011, as he had only one win, limped into the Chase on the Wildcard, and ultimately parted ways with crew chief Mike Ford after it became clear that the two no longer trusted each other.
    • Initially, it looked like 2012 runner-up Clint Bowyer was going to avert this for 2013, as he was second in points for a big chunk of the regular season. However, his central role in Spingate and the subsequent media hounding got him out of sorts enough that his driving suffered in the Chase - although he got six top tens in the Chase, only two of those (third at Martinsville, fifth at Homestead) were better than ninth, and that was enough to keep him from seriously contending for the Cup, ultimately finishing seventh. It also didn't help that, much like Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and all three of Carl Edwards' letdown seasons before him, he failed to win a single race.
    • Also an inversion with the 2012 runners-up. Brad Keselowski won five races in 2012 to win the championship title, while Jimmie Johnson finished third in the final points. In 2013, Johnson won the Daytona 500 and five more races, led the points for 28 of 36 weeks, and won his sixth championship title. Keselowski, on the other hand, struggled greatly, and ultimately missed the Chase. His only win of 2013 was playing "spoiler" at Charlotte in October.
    • Matt Kenseth in 2014 once again played it straight: after seven wins and a runner up finish to Jimmie Johnson in the points in 2013, he had no wins in 2014. However, as a result of the new Chase elimination format, he advanced farther than Johnson, who had three wins prior to the Chase plus one more after his elimination but didn't advance past the Contender Round due to crashes and poor finishes at Kansas and Talladega. Nonetheless, though, Kenseth was eliminated in the Eliminator Round.
    • Ryan Newman scored no wins and was fairly pedestrian in the 2014 regular season, but made it into the Chase on points and from there ran the gauntlet before finishing second behind Kevin Harvick in the Championship race at Homestead-Miami. In 2015 he still had no wins but once again made the Chase on points - only to be bounced from championship contention after the Contender Round, and eventually fell short of the top ten in points.
    • 2015 runner-up Kevin Harvick plays with this in 2016: He's still one of the fastest drivers on the grid, but he couldn't find the same level of consistency that he had in 2014 or 2015 to allow him to make it to the Championship race at Homestead.
    • 2016 runner-up Joey Logano got hit with this pretty hard, as he failed to make it to the Playoffs (the renamed Chase) in 2017. He actually got a win during the season at Richmond, but that win got encumberednote  and Logano got his playoff berth stripped away thanks to the encumbered finish, which is vital as that was his only race win all-season long. Logano would ultimately finish the season as the best of the rest among those that failed to make the playoffs. However, Logano would rebound and go on to win the Championship in 2018, beating defending champion Martin Truex Jr. by just under 7 seconds.
  • Jamie McMurray first raced in the Sprint Cup Series in 2002, turned full time in 2003, and has a trophy collection many stock car drivers would envy: a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400 and two wins at Charlotte are among his seven Cup Series wins, plus he has an all-star race victory in 2014. He has five top 15 points finishes but has never cracked the top 10...mostly because 2004 was the first year the Chase system was adopted, and he had never made the Chase until 2015. But in 2015, he still only finished 13th in points.
  • It's rare to see someone win back-to-back Daytona 500s. After Sterling Marlin won the 1994 and 1995 races, it took until Denny Hamlin in 2020 for there to be a driver who defended their Daytona 500 win with a second Harley J. Earl Trophy.
  • Although there are a fair number of Daytona 500 winners who've also won Daytona's summer race, the Coke Zero 400, only five of them managed to win both races in the same year. This has been attributed to the fact that the two races have different lengths, and the summer race is more or less a standard Cup race whereas the 500 is a prestige event. The biggest gap between Daytona sweeps was 31 years, as after Bobby Allison swept the races in 1982, no one else managed to repeat this feat until Jimmie Johnson did it in 2013.

  • No winless drought in auto racing might be better documented than the entire Andretti family at the Indianapolis 500. Sure, Mario won the race in 1969, two years after winning the Daytona 500 (even that is part of the "curse", as Mario is one of the top Indy Car drivers ever, and most of the rest have 2, 3, or even 4 wins at Indianapolis), but in the 40 years since then, nobody from the clan has won it as a driver, often having it snatched away in bizarre and mind-numbing scenarios, such as Danny Sullivan's spin and win over Mario in '85, mechanical problems in '87, Michael's own problems in '92 (he led 160 of 200 laps), and Marco losing it to Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 despite leading on lap 199 (the first driver ever to lead lap 199 and not win; critics say Marco lost it due to taking the wrong line into turn 3 which cost him too much speed). Having Michael win the race as a car owner for Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, and Ryan Hunter-Reay doesn't take away all of the sting...
  • In Indy Car racing on a championship scale, Hélio Castroneves best embodies this trope - despite racing for Roger Penske (always one of the top teams in the series), winning multiple races most seasons, and being in an elite category as a three-time Indy 500 winner (nobody has more than 4), he has never won a series championship.
    • Roger Penske's whole team suffered this once the reunification happened in 2008. Castroneves was the first in 2008, coming up short to Scott Dixon, then Ryan Briscoe to Dixon and Franchitti in 2009, Will Power to Franchitti in 2010 and 2011, Power to Hunter-Reay in 2012, and Castroneves to Dixon again in 2013. Finally broken in 2014 with a Power championship, but Castroneves was still runner-up in his own right. Castroneves' loss in 2013 was especially painful when having held nearly a one-race lead on Scott Dixon with three races to go, Castroneves suffered gearbox issues in both legs of the Houston doubleheader, while Dixon finished 1st and 2nd to take a lead he wouldn't relinquish at Fontana. Even worse, Castroneves was sponsored at Houston by Shell & Pennzoil who were the sponsors of those two races.
    • Incidentally, Penske's NASCAR teams also had trouble winning both the championship and the Daytona 500 for much of their early existence, despite fielding former champions Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch in the flagship #2 car. Busch himself was widely considered the best restrictor plate racer to have never actually won a restrictor plate race (at Daytona or Talladega) until breaking through the 2017 Daytona 500 with Stewart-Haas; however, at least one of his close calls came because he was helping Penske's second team, the #12 of Ryan Newman, break through to win the 2008 Daytona 500. Later, they'd shed the championship curse after Brad Keselowski was put in the #2, with Bad Brad winning the Sprint Cup in 2012, and then scored another Daytona 500 in 2015 with the second car, now numbered 22 and driven by Joey Logano; he would bring home Penske's second Cup championship in 2018 despite being regarded as a long shot compared to the other finalists at Homestead.

  • This trope is also pretty common in Formula One. Victories are largely determined by the quality of the car; the driver himself can only do so much. If his car is a driving wreck even the most skilled pilot will struggle to even secure some points, not even talking about winning a race here. As such most races are won by drivers from the top two or three teams, with the occasional underdog winning one every once in a while. Now-retired German driver Nico Rosberg, for example, was considered an exceptionally good driver with lots of experience despite his young age, but it took him over 100 races to secure his first win, despite everyone expecting him to be able to this much earlier.
    • Heck, it took Jenson Button 114 tries to win his first race, and even that was a fluke. It was unknown whether he'd even win again, especially after his team (the aforementioned Honda) becoming backmarkers. It can be argued that his career was saved when Ross Brawn bought the Honda cars after they withdrew from the sport. Jenson and the newly-renamed Brawn GP dominated the first half of the 2009 season, and while he didn't win again that year, he finally won his first title, a whole 9 years after receiving all the hype in the world.
  • Applies to Japanese manufacturers at Le Mans and as constructors in Formula One. Honda had great success as an engine manufacturer to McLaren and others but the Honda factory team only has three wins (one each in 1965, 1967 and 2006). The Toyota F1 team raced from 2002 to 2009 in F1 and won nothing despite their huge budget. Toyota has tried the 24 Hours of Le Mans several times in different decades and has never cracked the top step of the podium, with probably the most heartbreaking loss occurring in 2016 when, with three minutes to go, the Toyota leading the race basically died due to a hose coming loose from the turbo, letting Porsche take the win. In fact, the only Japanese win at Le Mans was Mazda in 1991, up until 2018 where Toyota finally broke through in the Le Mans 24 Hours with a one-two finish. Nissan tried Le Mans but also never won it.

    College Sports 
  • The University of Michigan football team was well known for most of the '00s to have an exceptional season, and then lose both The Game versus Ohio State (the biggest rivalry in college football) and their Bowl game. The worst was in 2006, when Michigan went into The Game after a perfect season ranked #2 to OSU's #1 and suffered a heartbreaking 42-39 loss, and then proceeded to go to the Rose Bowl and get thoroughly thrashed by the University of Southern California 32-18 after getting denied a shot at a rematch in the BCS National Championship game. Their only consolation was that OSU was itself thrashed even worse by Florida 41-14 in the title game. Go Blue.
    • Making this a real Kick the Dog moment was that just the day prior to the now-famous edition of The Game, legendary Michigan coach and former Ohio State assistant Bo Schembechler died.
    • Schembechler himself also seemed to embody this trope. In his 20+ year career at Michigan, he dominated the Big Ten, won conference titles almost every other year, and has been hailed as one of the greatest head coaches in college football history... and yet he was never able to win a national championship and was notorious for losing bowl games.note 
    • In The New '10s, Schembechler's legacy continued in the worst way as Brady Hoke, and then Jim Harbaugh after him, have lost to Ohio State every season they coached the team. Harbaugh's cases are particularly rage-inducing as Michigan came in ranked just below Ohio State in 2016 and above the Buckeyes 2018 and still lost both games, with the former being a controversial double overtime loss and the latter being a 62-39 blowout, in both instances knocking them out of consideration for the College Football Playoff. The 2019 season also counts as this, as despite being slight preseason favorites over Ohio State in the East Division and were considered by some to be a contender in the College Football Playoff , they ultimately finished third in the East Division while Ohio State would not only win the Big Ten but also make the Playoff with an undefeated record.
  • Some times the roles were reversed. In fact, ever since the "Ten Year War" (the period from 1969-78 when Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler coached against one another), Michigan and Ohio State have alternated between periods of potentially great seasons ruined by losing to the other school. It started with Michigan's 24-12 win in '69 against an OSU team that many thought was the greatest college football team ever. After that, the only regular season games Michigan lost from 1970-75 were to the Buckeyes. The Wolverines rebounded by winning the last three games of the Ten Year War. The John Cooper years (1988-2000) were especially frustrating for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes went 2-11 against the Wolverines; the biggest loss there was probably 1995, when a 31-23 loss to Michigan cost OSU the Big Ten championship, allowing Northwestern to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 46 years.
  • Ohio State is a perennial powerhouse and generally acknowledged by everybody except Michigan fans as the top team in the Big Ten. But they also have a well-earned reputation for postseason futility against the Southeastern Conferencenote  - highlighted by the aforementioned 41-14 loss to Florida in the 2006-07 national title game - with their only bowl win against an SEC team being in the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas...which was officially vacated (along with all of their other wins for the 2010-2011 season) due to OSU putting 5 ineligible players on the field. The losing streak against the SEC includes two years in a row in which a #1 ranked Ohio State met an SEC team in the national championship game and proceeded to lose in embarrassing fashion (once to Florida and once to LSU). The losing streak was finally broken in the 2015 Sugar Bowl when the Buckeyes beat #1 ranked Alabama 42-35.
  • While we're still on the subject of Big Ten teams, let's not forget Michigan State. Often times they would always get off to a flying start only to end with late season collapses and embarrassing losses, leading to the nickname "Same Old State". For the 2010-2011 season, it seemed that they may have finally proven themselves to be a real contendernote , sharing the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and Ohio State. Then came the Capital One Bowl against Alabama, which was a loss deemed so bad by many (Alabama won 49-7.) that people wondered why they even bothered to show up to the game, let alone continue to play after halftime. In turn, the team lost the credibility they built up that year, as people just chalked up the loss to Michigan State "holding their illusion up longer than usual".
    • They finally shed the label in 2011-12 by beating an SEC opponent (Georgia) in the Outback Bowl. In double overtime. The fact that it came down to hoping for Georgia's kicker to miss a chip-shot field goal in the first overtime and blocking a field goal in the second overtime did not make the win any more impressive.
    • And then, in 2013-14, Michigan State won its division and a #10 ranking by going 11-1 (with the sole loss being a nail-biter against Notre Dame), and then roundly beat until-then-undefeated (indeed, two-seasons undefeated) national #2 Ohio State 24-34, sending MSU to the Rose Bowl at the #4 slot as a slight favorite over Stanford. The Spartans won 24–20.
  • The "Big Least" in general, especially after Miami (FL) bolted, eventually leading to their status as a power conference (at least in football) being stripped... and also to the death of the original Big East, with the football side regrouping as the (non-power) American Athletic Conference and the non-FBS schools rebooting the Big East as a non-football conference. In the first five years of the BCS era, the Big East champion made the title game three times, though only Miami in 2001-02 actually won (with Miami's stunning loss to Ohio State the following year far more remembered). Shortly after that, however, Miami and Virginia Tech (who was responsible for the other title game appearance) bolted for the ACC, with Boston College following a year later, and the conference became a running joke, unable to get out of its own way.
    • In 2006, West Virginia was #3 at the end of October, behind only the aforementioned Michigan and Ohio State (which would naturally sort itself out, all but assuring that the Mountaineers would get into the top 2 if they kept winning), until they ran into Louisville. However, the Cardinals themselves were all the way up at #5 when they knocked out the Mountaineers, elevating them to the #3 spot...which they held for one week before losing a heartbreaker to Rutgers in which a Louisville defensive lineman jumped offsides on what would've been an overtime-forcing missed field goal by Rutgers' kicker, allowing him to retry from 5 yards closer to clinch the victory. Only, the thing was...Rutgers, while not nearly as highly regarded as WVU or Louisville, hadn't lost a game yet at this point, either, and moved up to #7, at which point, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, the Football Gods glanced sharply in their direction and demanded to know what the hell they were doing up there. The Scarlet Knights lost to unranked Cincinnati the very next week, and while both WVU and Rutgers would lose again (the latter to the former in a triple-overtime heartbreaker), Louisville's close loss to Rutgers was their only loss of the season, and without it, they'd have probably faced Ohio State in the Championship Game that year.
    • The following year was defined by chaos all over the place, with the #2 ranking in particular being passed around like a hot potato (LSU went 7-0 as the #2 team in the country, including winning the national championship game from that ranking, but other teams went just 1-7), and two Big East teams were among the casualties. The University of South Florida, a relative newcomer to the FBS in general, surprised early with an upset of #17 Auburn, and after knocking off #5 West Virginia to run their record to 4-0, they were off to the races, eventually peaking at #2 when they ran their record to 6-0. Then they lost a Thursday night game to Rutgers that began a three-game losing streak and careened out of the top 25 entirely. Meanwhile, West Virginia bounced back from the loss to USF, and by the final week of the season, with so many teams having multiple losses, the Mountaineers and their 10-1 record found themselves holding the hot potato. They dropped it by the score of 13-9 to their 4-7 rival, the University of Pittsburgh, allowing LSU, which had just lost as the #1 team the previous week to fall to #7, to climb all the way back up to #2.
      • Just to show that the curse of the Big East is inescapable, LSU made that climb from #7 to #2 by beating the #14 team by a single touchdown in the SEC Championship Game, while the #6 team, over in the ACC, had a more convincing win over the #11 team, yet only rose to #3. Said team? Virginia Tech, former Big East member.
      • Said #11 team was also a victim of the #2 curse and was in fact the only one other than LSU to win a game as the #2 team (over VaTech, oddly enough). That would be Boston College, of course, another Big East expat.
    • In 2009, it looked like maybe the Big East had finally thrown off the mantle of chokers when 11-0 Cincinnati rallied from a 21-point deficit to narrowly beat #15 Pittsburgh, preserving their perfect season. Yes, it was a longshot, with the Bearcats only ranked #5 entering the game, but #4 TCU didn't even have a game that week and was close enough that Cincinnati could pass them and #1 Alabama and #2 Florida were set to face each other in the SEC Championship Game, assuring that one of them would lose. All they need was one... second... less. For one brief, shining moment, it honestly looked as though #3 Texas had lost the Big 12 Championship Game, 12-10 when quarterback Colt McCoy held the ball for too long before throwing it away. The refs reviewed it, and they ruled that the ball had gone out of bounds before time expired and that the incompletion had officially occurred with one second left. The Longhorns brought out their kicker, and he drilled a field goal to give them a 13-12 win that left the Bearcats stuck at #3. (Incidentally, TCU fans are equally convinced that they were the ones robbed by this extra second, as many of the BCS computers that determined one-third of the rankings formula had Texas ranked ahead of TCU but behind Cincinnati; had the Longhorns actually lost, the margin in the computer rankings would've grown close enough that the Horned Frogs' advantage in the human polls would've pushed them up to #2. Whether this is true or not is a moot point, because both teams lost their perfect seasons by losing their bowl games, rather lopsidedly in Cincinnati's case.)
    • In 2010, on the other hand, the Big East found a far more unusual way to be a complete embarrassment: by sending a team from outside the top 25 to a BCS bowl game. While West Virginia was #22 in the final BCS rankings, preventing the conference from being completely shut out of the rankings, it was Connecticut that officially won the bid (though UConn, WVU, and Pitt were all deemed co-champions). The ensuing bowl game wasn't pretty.
    • 2011 was no better, with the soon-departing Mountaineers actually landing one spot lower, at #23, while earning the bid. They actually pulled the upset in the bowl game, though, crushing Clemson (oh, hey, another team with a reputation for choking!) by the score of 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.
    • 2012, on the other hand, displayed that even in a conference of chokers, nobody out-chokes the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. After a 7-0 start, they dropped a non-conference home game to Kent State, but as a non-conference game, this didn't affect their chances of winning their conference. With two weeks to go, the Knights were 5-0 in conference and ranked #18, with Louisville at 4-1 in conference and also ranked, at #20, and all other teams already having two conference losses. Since their rise from longtime losers began, the Knights had never lost to a ranked team at home on a Thursday night (including the aforementioned wins over Louisville in 2006 and South Florida in 2007), and their season finale was at home, against Louisville, on a Thursday. Care to guess what happened? Yep, Rutgers and Louisville both lost that Saturday, thereby removing the Cardinals from the top 25 without allowing the Scarlet Knights to clinch the BCS bid, and Louisville beat them five days later to take the BCS bid. Rutgers at least managed to get credited as conference co-champions, the first time they'd even managed that (Cincinnati and Syracuse also ended up at 5-2, a 4-way tie for the conference championship), but it was cold comfort as Rutgers had by this point managed to parlay their premium media market location into an invitation to join a far stronger conference—one where they'd be hard-pressed just to finish seasons at .500, much less contend for conference titles. This was their last real chance to get to a major bowl game, and they'd thrown it away.
  • Things weren't much better elsewhere in the Garden State. After missing the NCAA tournament entirely for five straight years, the Seton Hall men's basketball team got off to a blazing start, rising into the top 25 in early January with a 14-2 record. They then closed the regular season 6-10 and lost in the second round of the Big East tournament, narrowly missing out on the NCAA tourney. Three years later, they again got off to a hot start at 12-2, giving them a #19 ranking. They split two games the week they entered the top 25 and only fell to #21. Then they lost one more, dropping them to 13-4, and were still #24. Then they lost again...and again...and by the time the season ended, they barely even had a winning record.
    • The following year, they finally discovered the key to success: avoid the top 25. At roughly the same juncture that they'd received the #19 ranking the previous year, they were again 12-2 but missed out on the top 25, and then ran into the best team in the conference, followed by suffering an upset loss. They pulled a big upset the following week, but then ran into the top two teams and suffered two more losses, dropping to 13-6...and then started rolling. By the end of the regular season, they were 22-8 and had neatly managed to avoid ever actually reaching the top 25, allowing them to take down the Big East Tournament. This gave them their first top 25 appearance of the, of course, they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
  • In college basketball, the NCAA men's and women's tournaments are a subversion of this trope, given that besides the usual powerhouses, different teams tend to appear every other year. One exception is Arizona, one of the recent men's teams with a notable tournament streak; 25 straight appearances (until 2010). In fact, one of the attractions to March Madness is that it's incredibly, exceedingly difficult for one team to make it to the Final Four two years in a row. On the women's side, however, that is not exactly the case with UConn, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Baylor, and Stanford. Any one of the five (if not two or three) is a safe bet to reach the Final Four year in and year out.
    • University of North Carolina has been a long-dominant team, but had a nasty reputation between 1976 and 2005 as the University Noted for Choking, because they only won three championships in thirty years despite regularly making the top 8 or the Final Four.
    • Villanova University had this reputation in the 2010s. 2009 saw Villanova return to the Final Four, then from 2010 to 2015, didn't even make it to the Sweet 16. Then 2016 came along, and with one buzzer-beater, Villanova won its second national title over... the University of North Carolina. The Wildcats likely shed this reputation permanently with their third national title in 2018, winning every tournament game by double digits.
  • The University of New Hampshire Wildcats football team consistently defeats higher-ranked teams, NCAA Division I FBSnote  teams (they're FCSnote ), and, from 2005 to 2008, lost in the I-AA/FCS semifinals four years in a row. They lost in the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2010, and the round of 16 in 2011.
  • Oklahoma football almost always has a winning season, but ever since head coach Bob Stoops' brother and defensive coordinator Mike left to become the Arizona head coach, neither has had the success alone that they achieved together, and Oklahoma's reputation for winning big games (To the point where Bob Stoops was referred to as "Big Game Bob") has given way to a reputation for choking in them (Texas and Oklahoma State fans in particular have taken to branding them Chokelahoma), especially after the Boise State game.
    • Since the beginning of the playoff era, the issues has only been exacerbated. Between 2015-2019, Oklahoma has had two Heisman winners, 5 consecutive conference titles, four Playoff appearances, and have yet to win a single playoff game. Their Playoff losses run the full gamut from nailbiting double overtime thrillers to uncompetitive slaughters.
  • The University of Missouri Tigers have been playing basketball since the early 1900s and still have never appeared in a Final Four, making them the Butt-Monkey of border state rival (and Invincible Hero) the University of Kansas. This is despite the fact that Missouri has dominated Kansas in nearly everything else. Kansas could also qualify, as they have just three championships to show for their near semi-annual Final Four appearances.
    • Missouri has made 25 NCAA tournament appearances without a Final Four, but BYU is the leader with 27.
  • Clemson in everything. It's to the point where among college football fans, this trope is called "Clemsoning".
    • In the 2013 football season, Clemson was undefeated, ranked #3 in the country and seen as a serious national championship contender...until suffering a 51-14 annihilation at the hands of Florida State.
    • Continued in 2014, when Clemson was repeatedly handed the chance to upset #1 Florida State - starting with FSU's Heisman-winning QB being suspended for the game for yelling "Fuck her right in the pussy" in the student union (seriously) and ending with FSU serving up a turnover inside their end of the field with less than 2 minutes left of a tied game. Clemson denied all these offers and lost in overtime.
    • In 2015, the Clemson Tigers rode a top-ranked undefeated record all the way to their first National Championship Game appearance since 1981, and fought a valiant battle against the Alabama Crimson Tide, only for defensive breakdowns to do them in the final quarter as the Tigers lost 45-40.
    • In 2016, the Tigers come back to the Playoffs, shutting out Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and in the National Championship against Alabama, won 34-31 by overcoming an early 14-point deficit and scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, with a last-minute touchdown drive to take the win.
    • The next season saw Clemson return to its Clemsoning ways. While the Tigers returned to the College Football Playoff, they had no answer for Bama in the Sugar Bowl, losing 24–6.
    • But no Clemsoning in 2018, with the Tigers going unbeaten, with only two close calls during the season, heading into the CFP. This time around, they were utterly dominant, manhandling Notre Dame 30–3 in the Cotton Bowl and then turning a 16-13 second-quarter deficit against Alabama in the title game into a 44–16 laugher. It looked like this one would end the "Clemsoning" era once and for all...
    • ...until the next season, when Clemson again got to the CFP, scoring a hard-fought 29–23 win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl before running into a buzzsaw in the form of Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers, ending in a 42–25 loss.
    • And the Tigers returned to the CFP in 2020, but got blasted 49–28 by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • The Georgia Southern Eagles football team was a powerhouse within the FCS, winning 6 national titles. However, in their final three playoff appearances, the Eagles came up short in the semifinals each time, losing to the University of Delaware Blue Hens in 2010 and the North Dakota State Bison in 2011 and 2012.note  In 2013, Georgia Southern announced that its football program would move up to the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
    • Fortunately, in their first season in the Sun Belt Conference, they led an undefeated conference season and ended up winning the Sun Belt title outright; however, due to a transition period, GSU was unable to compete in a bowl game.
  • The Pitt Panthers Men's Basketball Team managed to reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2009. Only once in that span did they make the Elite 8, and they never made the Final Four.
  • The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team in the '80s and early '90s under coach Tom Osborne never lost more than three games a year and were in contention for a national title every year, but choked against the speedy, athletic southern teams (most notably Florida State and Miami, who clinched 3 combined national titles in bowl games against Nebraska). The most painful of these was in the 1983-84 season, when undefeated #1 Nebraska tried and failed a two-point conversion against Miami (in the Orange Bowl, held at Miami's home stadium) that would have won the national championship, when a standard PAT kick would have tied the game (there was no overtime in college football until 1996) and STILL kept them at #1 in the rankings. This infamously gut-wrenching moment can be viewed here: [1]
    • This has carried over to the more recent seasons. The Bo Pelini era was infamous for having the Huskers ranked only for them to be on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle, with the 2012 Big Ten Championship loss against Wisconsin, a team they had beaten earlier that season, in a 70-31 blowout. In every year that Bo Pelini has coached Nebraska, the team has finished with every four losses, while only a few of the wins came against teams that finished ranked. This trope is the biggest reason for his dismissal from the team alongside his notoriously Hot-Blooded attitude.
    • His successor, Mike Riley, who seemed to be hired because he was the polar opposite to Pelini personality-wise, finished 6-7 his first season but every single loss has been by ten points or less, many of them being heart-breakers. His second season had the team be ranked as high as #6 after a 7-0 start, but the team would finish 9-4 and unranked. His last season was a complete dud, with the team finishing 4-8 and led to his firing.
    • Riley's successor Scott Frost, who is an alumni of the program and whose hiring was well-received by fans, wasn't immune to this despite being hired after going 13-0 in his second season with UCF. While his first season had him finish 4-8, the team did finish the second half on a 4-2 run. His second season at the helm, however, was considered a big disappointment and serves as the reason why pollsters shouldn't rank a team in the preseason after finishing 4-8 in the previous season. The team finished 5-7 as a result of a regression of the offense and poorly-made play calls by Frost. One notorious call in particular was against Iowa near the end of that game, where instead of going for the win, he sent in the punting team which allowed the Hawkeyes to make a last-second game-winning field goal, which is also how Iowa won the previous year.
  • Speaking of Nebraska, the Big 12 Championship Game might as well have been called "Chokes 'R' Us".
    • The very first Big 12 Championship Game pitted #3 Nebraska against unranked Texas. This was in the pre-BCS era, where the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-10 were still bound to go to the Rose Bowl, so a win would've allowed the Huskers to face #1 Florida State for the National Title (sort of; it probably would've been a "split title" if #2 Ohio State won the Rose Bowl, which they did.) The Huskers were trailing the Longhorns 30–27 with a about 2:30 left, but had the Horns facing fourth-and-1 from their own 28. Texas went for it... and a Huskers defensive breakdown left a receiver 10 yards clear, resulting in a 61-yard catch-and-run. Texas ran it in on the next play and won 37-27.
    • The 1998 game was the dawn of the BCS era, and #3 Kansas State faced #8 Texas A&M. The #2 UCLA Bruins had already lost earlier in the day, so a win would've sent K-State to the inaugural BCS National Championship Game. KSU led 27-12 after three quarters, but A&M rallied to send the game to overtime and won 36-33 in double-OT to knock the Wildcats out.
    • The 2001 game pitted #7 Colorado against #3 Texas, while elsewhere, #6 Tennessee was facing #2 Florida. The Volunteers knocked off the Gators, but Texas couldn't capitalize, putting the Volunteers in prime position to go to the national title game. Bizarrely, when they squandered that the following week (for some reason, the Big 12 Championship Game was a week earlier than the SEC Championship Game that year), the #2 spot went to...Nebraska, a Big 12 team that hadn't even played in the conference championship game after suffering their lone loss of the year against... Colorado. (Colorado had incurred a non-conference loss, as well as losing a conference game—to Texas, ironically—which was why they were still behind Nebraska even after winning the conference title and beating the Huskers for the division.)
    • In 2003, #15 Kansas State faced undefeated, #1 Oklahoma and embarrassed them by the score of 35-7, giving the two spots in the national title game to USC and LSU...or so the human pollsters would've had it. Despite the humans having USC #1, the computers thought little enough of them that they didn't even make the top 2, and Oklahoma's choke didn't cost them a shot at the National Championship...that year. It might've contributed a little bit to the lopsided 55-19 score that USC beat them by in the following year's National Championship Game.
    • As mentioned above, 2007 was a year in which nobody seemed to want to stay atop the rankings for very long. Kansas, who briefly might have entered this trope in basketball a few years earlier when their normally dynastic team suffered back-to-back first-round upsets but had generally been the conference punching bag in football, had entered the final week of the season at #2 but lost to #4 Missouri, but this along with #1 LSU's loss that week allowed Mizzou to reach the #1 spot entering the conference championship game. Their opponent? The only team to beat them in the regular season, #9 Oklahoma. The rematch went the same way, and the Big 12 wasn't represented in the national title game yet again.
    • Also noted above, 2009 very narrowly missed turning into another example, with Nebraska almost avenging their 1996 loss.
  • The Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball team was good ... in the 70s and early 80s. They had an improbable ACC championship in 1976 (starting the tournament ranked 6th out of 7 teams!). They had two Final Four trips in 1981 and 1984 and last entered the Elite Eight in 1995. For the next eighteen seasons, they won a grand total of four ACC tournament games and one NCAA tournament game (Albany in 2007). Then 2014 happened. They went 16–2 in the ACC regular season that year, only losing by four to Duke and in overtime to Maryland. Ranked #12 nationally, they beat #4 Syracuse (who a week before had been #1) to win the ACC regular season title outright for the first time since 1981. Then they went to the tournament championship, and who else would they play but Duke? Then they got to the Sweet Sixteen, losing by two to Michigan State. Yes, technically fizzling out again, but perhaps they'll start to avert this trope...
    • Not in 2015, which was the very definition of fizzling out. Through February, their record was 28–1, the best in school history. March 2, they came from behind to beat Syracuse to win a second outright ACC regular season championship, the first team from outside of North Carolina in conference history to do so back-to-back. They doubled the score against four teams, held three teams to under thirty points in an entire game, and nearly tripled the score against Harvard, who they held to a single field goal in the first half. Statistically, the 2015 Cavaliers were one of the best defensive teams since the shot clock was instituted. Then they lost three of their last five by an average of four points. Including a Round of 32 loss to Michigan State.
    • 2018 added what will probably be the most remembered chapter in Cavalier history, and the fact that it's on this trope page can already tell you that it's not for a good reason. With their stingy defense, the Hoos dominated all season with a nation-best 31-2 record, cruised through the ACC tournament and easily locked up a #1 seed in the tournament in what was the best season of the program's history. Unfortunately for the Virginia faithful, all those accomplishments appeared to set the stage for tragedy in the first round, as they were promptly beaten by #16-seeded UMBCnote  — the first-ever instance of a #16 seed doing so since the NCAA men's tournament expanded in 1985 (#1 seeds were 135-0 prior to this). Thus a great season became lost in the narrative of being the ignominious recipient of the biggest upset in the tournament's history, and one of the biggest upsets in all of sports.
      • Perhaps even more infamous was the way the Cavaliers lost. UMBC didn't just win in a close, hotly contested game with an overtime thriller or a last-second shot; they won by 20 in a game that was never really close past halftime. There have been some close calls before that would suggest that eventually history would be kind to a #16 seed — Georgetown escaped Princeton by a point in 1989 while coincidentally, Oklahoma edged East Tennessee State by a point in that same tournament — but a blowout happening seemed even far less likely.
      • Though the Wahoos, with most of the key players from the UMBC embarrassment returning, spectacularly averted this trope the next season, winning the national title.
  • Mississippi State in everything. If it ever looks like they're doing exceptionally well, no matter the sport, expect them to fizzle out at the end of the season, often embarrassingly so. The most recent example was the 2014 football season, where they went 9-0 to start the season and were ranked #1 only to get shut down by Alabama (in a game where the Crimson Tide threw three interceptions and the Bulldogs still never once led), and then lose to arch-rival Ole Miss two weeks later before getting dominated by Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The worst part of it all? State fans never see it coming. Ever.
    • An aversion from the same school: In 2017, the Bulldogs women's basketball team made the NCAA finals, only to lose to SEC rival South Carolina. However, State's fans will undoubtedly look back fondly at this team, considering that in the semifinals, the Bulldogs beat UConn... the same UConn that had won the last four national titles and was riding a 111-game winning streak.
    • Though the next year, this same team, with most of its stars back, lost the title game on a buzzer-beater to Notre Dame.
  • Florida State's baseball team has made the NCAA baseball tournament 42 consecutive times (as of 2019) and has made the College World Series 23 times in program history (the third-most of any school), including three trips to the finals. How many national championships have they won? Zero. To make matters worse, their in-state and ACC rival Miami has four national championships in baseball, and their other in-state rival Florida won their first baseball national championship in 2017.

    Figure Skating 
  • Michelle Kwan is the most decorated figure skater in US history and is justifiably considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time. In her career she earned:
    • More perfect (6.0) scores than any skater in history — a record that will stand indefinitely, now that the 6.0 scoring system has been abolished.
    • Twelve US championship medals, nine of them (1996, 1998–2005)gold note . This is the all-time record, achieved by only one other skater, Maribel Vinson Owen.
    • Nine world championship medals, five of them (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003) gold (tying Carol Heiss' record) note .
    • Is one of only a handful of skaters to win two Olympic medals — but neither of them is gold. Because both times (1998 note & 2002note ) the gold medal was hers for the taking, she succumbed to nerves and turned in mediocre performances.
  • Canadian figure skaters in general seem to be cursed by this trope. Canadian men who won the world championships but continually fell short at the Olympics are:Brian Orser,Elvis Stojko, and most recently Patrick Chan.
  • At least they won a medal. Kurt Browning, four-time World and Canadian Champion skater and the first figure skater to land a quadruple jump, never earned a medal of any color during his three appearances at the Olympics note  despite being the projected winner at the '92 and '94 Games, Josée Chouinard could only manage 9th place finishes in both of her ventures, and Emanuel Sandhu had a disastrous 13th-place showing in 2006.
  • Nancy Kerrigan was a lovely skater who would skate beautifully during the short program, only to crack under pressure and fall apart in the long (the 1993 World Championships were the worst example of this tendency). As such, she never earned the gold at any major international competition—even when she finally got her act together and turned in the best performance of her life at the 1994 Olympics, she still couldn't win gold, being edged out by 1/10 of a point by Oksana Baiul.
  • The queen of this trope would be Sasha Cohen. While certainly an admirable skater, she only ever won one major competition, the 2006 US Championship, settling for silver and bronze, respectively, at the Olympics and World Championships later that year. In both instances, much like Kerrigan, she was in first place after the short program before costing herself the gold with faulty performances in the long.
  • The runner-up, fittingly, would be France's Surya Bonaly, an excellent jumper and spinner with a respectable slew of titles—three-time World silver medalist (1993–1995), a five-time European champion (1991–1995), the 1991 World Junior Champion, and a nine-time French national champion (1989–1997)—who almost inevitably made a mistake that left her short of an Olympic medal (she failed to make the podium in any of three appearances), or of a World Championship.
  • Nicole Bobek was a terrific jumper who suffered from poor training discipline and this was reflected in her results. She was on her way to being the 1995 World Champion before a faulty long program dropped her to third place, and was the projected bronze medalist at the 1998 Olympics until disastrous performances left her in 17th place (to be fair, she was suffering from a hip injury).
  • American women in general have been cursed by this trope since 2006. Whereas they once dominated with 1-2 medalists at nearly every Olympics for a total of 23 medals, including 7 golds, statistics no other country can boast, they haven't earned a medal since Sasha Cohen's silver in Turin and had their worst results ever in Pyeongchang with 9, 10, 11 place finishes. It's even worse in the World Championships, where 72 medals have been earned—including 5 consecutive golds by Carol Heiss and an unprecedented sweep in 1991 note  but there's been a similar drought, with one medal earned since 2006, a disappointing silver in 2016.

  • Paul Dickson's Baseball Dictionary uses the term "morning glory" for a hitter who shines early in the season but then cools off.
  • For over a century, the Chicago Cubs were the favorite example of this in American sports, and they have a very long-standing reputation as "lovable losers". It is unlikely that anyone alive today saw their World Series win in 1908, the final time they won the Series in the 20th century, and most people in the stands at their last World Series loss (1945) are probably also dead. Nevertheless, they've still fielded some good teams that by all rights should have been contenders. Despite that, no matter how good they seemed to be in a given season, you knew that they'll choke somewhere short of the World Series....
    • The Cubs' reputation for fizzling is so entrenched that it has led to the supposed Curse of the Billy Goat being blamed. Cubs lore has it that a bar ownernote  was told to leave Wrigley Field (the Cubs' home field since 1914) during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series because his goat was bothering other fans, so the the owner put a curse on the Cubs ("Them Cubs, they aren't gonna win no more.") - the Cubs lost that game, lost the series, and didn't make it to the World Series again until 2016. Superstitious fans have even tried to break the curse through elaborate, usually goat-related means.
    • Finally averted with their victory in the 2016 World Series on November 3, 2016, 108 years after their 1908 World Series championship. Though several times in looked like another Cubs collapse was imminent (losing 2 games in a row at home to go down 3-1, blowing a 6-3 lead with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th of Game 7), but for the first time in 108 years the Cubs were World Series Champions. Thus ends the longest championship drought in American sports history (taking the goat curse with it), and one of the longest in world sports history (the drought title immediately shifted to the team they defeated, the Cleveland Indians). Game 7 is now effectively being considered one of the best games in the history of baseball.
  • The 00's New York Yankees were known for this. They were coming off of their unbelievable run of 4 World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000. However, between 2001 and 2008, they achieved the top seed in the AL 3 times and made the World Series twice, and didn't win a single title, one of the longest stretches in the history of the club. They had three particularly notable years in that stretch. First was in 2001, when they fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team in only its 4th year, in the World Series, making the D-backs the youngest team in modern American professional sports to win their sport's title—and to add insult to injury, the World Series loss happened shortly after 9/11, and—for once—most of the baseball-watching public was actually rooting for the (usually-reviled) Yankees. The second was 2004, when they became the first team in MLB history and only the third team in the history of American sports to lose a best-of-7 series after racing out to a 3-0 lead, falling in the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox. The third time was in 2008, when they missed the postseason for the first time since the early 90s.
    • The ultimate humbling, however, may have been 2010: The defending champion Yankees, the team with the most World Series appearances in history, lost the pennant to the Texas Rangers - the oldest MLB franchise to never reach the Series before then. Extra points for Alex Rodriguez - not just the supposed best player in the game, but one the Yanks poached from the Rangers six years earlier - striking out looking to end the ALCS.
    • There was also Dave Winfield, whom George Steinbrenner called "Mr. May" due to his failure to perform in October when it mattered. Alex Rodriguez seems to hold this role now (former Yankees manager Joe Torre has revealed that Rodriguez's nickname "A-Rod" was altered in the locker room to "A-Fraud" for his poor postseason performances), though his clutch performance in the 2009 Yankees series win might shake that a bit.
  • The Atlanta Braves won a record-setting 14 consecutive division titles (or 14 in 15 seasons, depending on whether you believe the 1994 season, which ended in a players' strike, counts). They took home the World Series trophy once (the strike-shortened 1995 season). The streak ended with four consecutive first-round exits, and every subsequent postseason appearance since the streak's end also ended with a first-round exit, including the inaugural NL Wild Card Game in 2012. This despite having three future Hall of Fame pitchers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz all in their prime (one of those three won the Cy Young Award in a stretch of seven out of eight years in the 1990s, although one belonged to Maddux when he was with the Chicago Cubs), forming one of the greatest rotations in baseball history.
  • The 2011 Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves will forever be linked for one miraculous, baffling and unbelievable 2 hours and 10 minutes: Game 162 on September 28-September 29. Both teams were and still are considered codifiers even after the Braves won the World Series in 1995 (as previously mentioned) and until the Red Sox won in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018. Anyway, "Game 162" for 2011 does not refer to one game, but four that would determine the wild card seeds for the playoffs. In 2 hours and 9 minutes, the Red Sox and Braves were out of the playoffs, and the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays were in. A short timeline is below:
    • 9:56 pm Eastern in Atlanta: Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th inning, tying the game at 3-3.
    • 10:23 pm Eastern in Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria hits a home run in the bottom of the 8th; the score is Yankees 7, Rays 6. The Rays began the inning down 7-0.
    • 10:26 pm Eastern in Houston: Cardinals defeat Astros 8-0. At this point, they'd need the Braves to lose to have the wildcard outright. If the Braves won, they'd have to play an additional game to determine the National League wildcard seed.
    • 10:47 pm Eastern in Tampa Bay: Dan Johnson hits a home run to tie the Yankees-Rays game. That was Johnson's first hit since the first month of the season.
    • 10:58 pm Eastern in Baltimore: Play resumes after a rain delay of 1 hour 24 minutes, with the Red Sox leading 3-2 at the seventh-inning stretch.
    • 11:28 pm Eastern in Atlanta: Hunter Pence scores in the 13th inning for the Philadelphia Phillies to take a 4-3 lead.
    • 11:40 pm Eastern in Atlanta: Game over. Braves are out, Cardinals are in.
    • 11:45 pm Eastern in Tampa Bay: Sox get knocked on defense. Bill Simmons needs another drink.
    • 11:59 pm Eastern in Baltimore: The Orioles' Nolan Reimold ties their respective game versus the Red Sox at 3-3.
    • 12:02 am Eastern in Baltimore: Robert Andino hits a game-winning single; Orioles win 4-3; it's the backup SS's 7th RBI against Boston in the last eight days. The Red Sox now need the Rays to lose to force an additional game for the American League wildcard seed.
    • Just three minutes later... 12:05 am Eastern in Tampa Bay: Longoria hits a game-winning home run: Rays 8, Yankees 7. Rays are in, the Red Sox are out.
    • Remember: Tampa Bay was losing 7-0 with six outs to go in Game 162 against the juggernaut Yanks. They had to pull a Miracle Rally just to pull off their September Miracle Rally! It was like a Major League movie come to life (and no team had ever rallied from such a deficit in the final game of the season to get into the playoffs).
    • The Sox, meanwhile, were 89-0 when leading after 8 innings that year, with closer Jonathan Papelbon facing the bottom of the hapless O's lineup with two outs and no one on.
    • This whole ordeal is now Harsher in Hindsight for the Rays and Yankees. Both teams lost in the AL Division Series to the Rangers and Tigers, respectively. "Game 162" was meaningless for the Yankees; they had already won the AL East and were in the playoffs win or lose. It's also this for the Braves when you remember that the Cardinals ended up winning the 2011 title. In 2012, the Braves averted this trope in shocking fashion when an infield fly call went the Cardinals' way. In the newly established Wild Card Playoff Game. Where Atlanta had Home Field. Due to having an 8-game advantage on the defending Cards, who themselves were only 2 up on the 6th place Dodgers at the end of the Season.
    • And the historical capper: Both teams set the mark for biggest blown September leads in baseball history. The Red Sox led the Rays for the AL Wild Card by 9 games on September 3rd (the full "September swoon" can't be measured by wild card lead since the Sox ended August as a division leader), the Braves led the Cardinals for the NL wild card by 8.5, and no team had ever squandered such a commanding lead in September, with their mathematical odds of reaching the playoffs each being over 99%. Since the Red Sox are the more signature franchise and were the favorites to win it all after adding superstar Carl Crawford, they grabbed most of the headlines, much to the small consolation of the Braves, who are basically the MLB leader in this trope over the last 20 years.
    • Needless to say, probably the greatest day of baseball ever. Except for the fans of the two losersnote .
  • The New York Mets have gotten this in the past few years. Oftentimes, they'll start the year playing fairly well, but by August or September, things will go wrong enough for them to be out. The worst of these were their epic collapses in both 2007 and 2008. They seemed to finally be averting this with a trip to the World Series in the fall of 2015 (their first since 2000), only to win only 1 game out of 5 and be soundly defeated—at home, no less—exactly as they lost in 2000.
  • The Moneyball-era Oakland Athletics were one of the best teams in baseball from 2000 to 2003, making the playoffs every year, and every year they found creative ways to lose in five games in the ALDS. In 2001, they seemed to have the best team in MLB, winning 102 games, playing better than the 116-win Seattle Mariners... but lost in the first round when Jeremy Giambi failed to slide.
  • The Houston Astros have been this any time they field a good team. Of particular note is their late-90's run, where they won the NL Central three years in a row, but not once made it past the Division Series. They later won the Division Series in 2005, defeating the Atlanta Braves 3-1, and winning the NLCS by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2. Then they would face the AL champions Chicago White Sox, and the Astros were favored to win the Series (their first ever), especially since Roger Clemens was among the notable players in the team. Instead, the White Sox swept them 4-0. To further twist the knife in this ordeal, Clemens had a hamstring tear one month prior to the World Series. While the injury didn't hamper much of his performance in the Division and NL Championship Series, it finally did him in during Game 1 of the World Series (he lasted only two innings), which contributed to the Astros getting swept by the Sox.
    • In 2017, after beating the New York Yankees in the American League championship, by winning four of the seven games they played, including the final seventh game, the Astros went on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was in the final game, played in Dodger Stadium, that the Houston Astros finally won their first World Series championship since the franchise was established in 1962, by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1. However, this glory would be short-lived, after former Astro Mike Fiers blew the whistle in 2019 that the Astros cheated that season through various video-related means, using spotters and cameras to signal to the dugout what pitches were signaled by the opposing catcher, which were relayed to the hitter by banging on the dugout roof and trash cans. An internal investigation confirmed this, which cost the general manager and manager their jobs. Although the title was not stripped and no players were punished in exchange for their testimony, the players and organization now bear a scarlet letter in regards to 2017 as an on-the-record sham.
  • In both 2011 and 2012, the Cleveland Indians (you'll see teams from this city mentioned a lot) were the #1 team in their division early on in the season (In 2011, they were the #1 team in all of baseball for a short time). In both instances, however, they had a dismal second half and failed to make the playoffs. In 2012, they actually finished the season in last place in their division due to how terrible the second half of their season was.
    • In the '90s, they made it to the World Series twice and lost both times: in 1995 to the aforementioned Braves, and in 1997 to the Florida Marlins.note 
    • The Indians now hold the longest World Series victory drought, and longest in the American League since 2005 - their last World Series win was in 1948. This used to be only the second-longest, but in 2016 the Chicago Cubs broke their epic 108-year World Series championship beating the Indians. With the final game of that Series being played in Cleveland (and going into overtime, because it seems a confrontation between two tortured teams needs to be as long as possible). This was most remarkable for the Indians getting to a 3-1 game lead, but having the Cubs surge to win the final 3 games of the Series in a row to take the championship. With the Cubs' century-plus-long curse and their "goat curse" out the window in November 2016, the Indians now have the drought weight on them.
  • The Texas Rangers, sad to say, entered this territory from 2010 to 2012. Consecutive American League pennants (2010 and 2011) and no World Series title. In 2012, they were forced to play in a wild-card play-in game after losing the American League West division chase to a team that took over first place for the last day of the regular season-the Oakland Athletics. And then, the Rangers lost *that* wild-card game to the Baltimore Orioles.
    • And after missing two postseasons (losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2013 tiebreaker, finishing third worst in the league in 2014), 2015 and 2016 had the Rangers falling to the Toronto Blue Jays - giving in after opening 2-0 in 2015 and a sweep the following season.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates ended up getting this reputation in the first half of the 2010s. At one time the Pirates were one of the top contending teams in MLB, with historic players and World Series titles to match. However, after respected coach Jim Leyland left the Pirates in the 90s, they went on a losing streak that would last for two decades, the longest such streak in North American professional sports. But even when things looked like they were starting to get better...
    • The last two years of the losing streak would give a taste for what was ahead. In 2011, the Pirates shocked the baseball world by suddenly having a winning record going into the All-Star break. However, after a marathon game with the Atlanta Braves that lasted 20-innings, the Pirates lost over a suspect call. From that moment onward, they went on a losing streak and finished the year with a losing record. 2012 would even be more painful for them. The Pirates carried a winning record all the way until September, only for them to suddenly start losing series to some of the worst teams like the Chicago Cubs, and ended their season with another losing record.
    • In 2013, the Pirates finally reestablished themselves as one of baseball's best teams, but were eliminated in the playoffs by their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2014, they finished second in their division to the Cardinals by only two games and were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card game. 2015 was particularly galling; they had the second best record in all of baseball, but ended up finishing second to the Cardinals (again) and had to settle for a Wild Card spot (again), where they proceeded to get eliminated by their other division rival, the third place Chicago Cubs.
    • In 2016, the team started to go back to its old ways; they started out hot and fought hard to stay above .500 for most of the season despite a June swoon, but they would fizzle out in September and finish below .500. In 2017, they stumbled out of the gate and never really had a chance. In the meantime, the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs would snap their infamously long championship droughts in 2015 and 2016 respectively, leaving the Pirates with the longest championship appearance drought, having not played in the World Series since 1979 (in fact, they haven't even been to the League Championship series since 1992). Despite the Hope Spot provided by the 2011-2016 Pirates, the "loser" label remains with them.
  • This, in a nutshell, is what the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" upon the Boston Red Sox consisted of. (For the record, most Sox fans didn't think of their team as "cursed"—just subject to repeated misfortunes.) From 1918 to 2004, the thing with the Red Sox—unlike the other famous "cursed" team of baseball, the Chicago Cubs (who are hardly ever contenders)—was that they were usually very good. It's just that they could never...quite...make it. In a typical year, they would be a very good team—but they often had difficulty assembling the best record in the American League (which was how the pennant was determined until 1969). Even when they made it to the World Series—or in later years, to the postseason playoffs—they kept not quite being able to clinch that last win (see, e.g., their spectacular twelfth-inning victory in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, widely considered one of the best if not the best baseball game ever played, quickly followed by a hair's-breadth defeat in Game 7, losing by a single run scored in the ninth). If you're looking for the definition of Every Year They Fizzle Out in baseball, it's pretty much the Red Sox for that whole period of their history.
    • In 1948, the Red Sox were in control of the American League pennant race in the last month only to drop it to the Indians. Boston came back to tie it up and force the first-ever A.L. playoff game. Thanks to the poor choice of pitcher Danny Galehouse (8-7), Boston lost the game and the pennant to the Indians.
    • Then there's the horror of 1978: In July, the Red Sox owned a 14-game lead in the A.L. East. Then, the Yankees began an astounding comeback while Boston slumps and they end the season tied; in fact, the Bosox had to win their final eight games just to get to the tie. In the winner-take-all playoff game, Bucky Dent's infamous three-run homer allows the Yankees to win and Red Sox fans stunned at the total collapse.
    • Even more than the 1975 World Series (though that one had a suspect call go against them in Game 3), the 1986 World Series stands out as an example of the Red Sox fizzling when it mattered most. With the Red Sox up three games to 2 and leading 5-3 with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the tenth inning of Game 6, Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi allowed three straight hits and was replaced with Bob Stanley. Stanley then threw a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score and the winning run to go to second and then failed to cover first base when speedy Mookie Wilson hit a grounder to aging first baseman Bill Buckner, a lapse that probably would've given Wilson an infield single if the ball hadn't famously gone through Buckner's legs to allow the winning run to score from second. The Sox then blew a 3-0 lead in Game 7.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers:
    • From 2013 to the end of that decade, they got this reputation in the postseason. Despite a rich ownership group willing to spend, an excellent and forward-thinking front office, and immense player talent throughout their entire system, they hadn't been able to end a championship drought that had lasted since 1988. This is perhaps exemplified by the performance of their ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who since 2011 has been widely considered the best pitcher in baseball. He has the achievements to make a strong case: 3-time Cy Young winner, 5-time ERA title winner (2011-2014, 2017), has thrown one of the best no-hitters in MLB history, and has led the league in strikeouts multiple seasons. And he's had 2 seasons where he won over 20 games (2011 and 2014). Yet, if someone only looked at his postseason record, they'll be shocked if they were told this, as he has a postseason ERA of 4.19 (significantly worse than league average) and (almost) always brings out his worst performances whenever his team needs him the most. To go into more detail:
      • In 2013 and 2014, after pitching very well against the Atlanta Braves in the 2013 NLDS, he went on to lose four straight postseason starts against the same team (the St. Louis Cardinals), becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to do so. While his first loss in the 2013 NLCS was a well-pitched game where he only gave up one unearned run, his second loss was a complete blowout (with Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter opening the floodgates) that eliminated the Dodgers from the playoffs. In Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals, Kershaw had a 6-2 lead to work with at the beginning of the 7th inning, but proceeded to blow the game (perhaps not surprisingly, it was Matt Carpenter who drove in the go-ahead runs). In the final game of the 2014 NLDS (St. Louis led the series 2-1), Kershaw once again blew a 7th inning lead (2-0 this time) when he threw perhaps his worst curveball ever and gave up a three-run homer to Matt Adams, once against eliminating the Dodgers from the playoffs; to add insult to injury, it was the first home run Kershaw had ever given up to a left-handed batter, and Matt Adams happened to be one of the worst at hitting against left-handed pitchers like Kershaw.
      • 2015 had Kershaw managing 300 strikeouts in the regular season, and while he pitched well and won in his second game of the 2015 NLDS against the New York Mets, the Dodgers were eliminated in five games anyways, in part because Kershaw lost his first game of the series.
      • 2016 (where Kershaw pitched well but missed many games to injury) had the Dodgers finally winning an NLDS again (against the Washington Nationals, though Kershaw himself didn't pitch particularly well), and Kershaw pitching a winning gem against the Chicago Cubs in his first start of the NLCS. But you know how this story goes; the Dodgers end up one game from elimination and relying on Kershaw to keep their hopes alive, and Kershaw proceeds to disappoint.
      • In 2017, the Dodgers have one of their best regular seasons ever and proceed to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1988, and as the favorites against the Houston Astros (who had never won a championship since their establishment in 1962) to boot. Kershaw's own fortunes were looking up too; sure, the Arizona Diamondbacks hit four home runs against him in his sole start of the NLDS (with the Dodgers only winning that game because their own offense performed even better), but he proceeded to pitch well (though not necessarily his best) against the Cubs in both of his NLCS starts, and his first World Series start was an absolute gem of a victory. However, Kershaw would once against fizzle out right at the moment when his team needed him the most; in a crucial Game 5 start when the series was tied 2-2, Kershaw gave up a three-run lead twice (4-1 and 7-4) via home run to the Astros, leading to an epic back-and-forth game. When it finally ended in extra innings, the Astros had won and Kershaw had set a new record for home runs given up in the postseason. The Dodgers would go on to tie the series the very next game, but the final game ended with the Astros hoisting the championship trophy.note 
      • In 2018, the Dodgers had a strong regular season, and won the National League Championship against a very strong Milwaukee Brewers who extended the series to the seventh game where the Dodgers won by scoring a three run homer that got them the 5-1 victory. Next came the World Series, where the Dodgers faced off against the Boston Red Sox, who had just come off a very strong regular season, and record setting season for the franchise loosing only one game out of four against the New York Yankees, and one out of five against the Houston Astros. The Dodgers lost the first two games against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, back in Dodger Stadium, the dodgers eked out a 3-2 victory after a grueling 7 hour, 18 inning game. In Game four, thanks to a three run homer by Yusiel Puig, the Dodgers were up 4-0 on the sixth inning, where pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was retired for the night on the seventh inning. His replacements, Ryan Madson and Kenley Jansen, allowed the Red Sox to score an incredible nine runs in three innings, and though the Dodgers scored again, the final score was Dodgers 6, Red Sox 9. In game five, the Red Sox got off to a good start scoring a two run homer at the top of the first inning, the Dodgers scored one run in the bottom of the first, but Kershaw allowed four runs, and Pedro Baez allowed another single home run on the eight inning, leading to a score of 5-1. At the bottom of the ninth inning, Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado, leading to the Red Sox to claim their fifth World Series Championship since 2004, while the Dodgers, for the second year in a row, lost in their home turf. And once again, when Clayton Kershaw was trusted to pitch big, he failed, losing Game 1 and crucial Game 5, which gave Red Sox the World Series. This makes his record 9-10 in the post season with an ERA over 4.30. He has also become the only pitcher to give up the most home runs during the World Series.
      • 2019 saw the Dodgers once again post a strong record—this time, they finished 106-56, their best record since moving to L.A. Once again, they were division champions and faced the Nationals in the NLDS. After going back and forth in the first four games (Dodgers taking games 1 and 3 and the Nats taking games 2 and 4), they were in a decisive Game 5. With the Nationals never advancing past the NLDS, it was easy to assume that history would repeat itself...until Clayton Kershaw (who came on in a relief appearance) gave up two home runs back-to-back in the 8th inning, and then Howie Kendrick (an ex-Dodger) put the nail in the coffin by belting a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning to send the Dodgers packing, preventing them from making the NLCS for the fourth year in a row.
      • However, in 2020, both Kershaw and the Dodgers defied their postseason reputation. As for Kershaw, he threw 8 innings of shutout ball in his only appearance against the Brewers in the wild-card round, with the Dodgers advancing. In the Division Series against the Padres, he only threw once, giving up 3 runs in 6 innings but still getting the win. Next was the NLCS against the Braves, who shelled him for 4 runs in 5 innings in his only start in that series; fortunately for him, the Dodgers made it to the World Series against the Rays. Kershaw proceeded to have two solid outings, getting the win in both and posting a 2.31 ERA for the Series, which the Dodgers won to end a 32-year championship drought.
    • The Dodgers were famous for this before—in the 1940s and 50s, when they were still in Brooklyn. They had come out of a long stretch of absolute futility, but they always ran into two problems: the New York Giants and the New York Yankees. The Giants, their in-town, in-league rivals, frequently beat them in the pennant race, and even when they won the NL Pennant, the dominant Yankees would always shut the Dodgers down in the World Series. Except for once—in 1955. And two years later, the Dodgers would leave Brooklyn for LA—where they would win the World Series three more times in the next eight years (1959, 1963, and 1965). This trope was the basis for a famous city-wide rallying cry for Dodger fans: "Wait till next year!"
  • Before their 2010 championship, the San Francisco Giants had not won a championship since 1954, back when they were the New York Giants. They seemingly inherited this from their rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, who won their first championship in 1955.
    • They would return to the World Series in 1962 after another best-of-three playoff win against the now Los Angeles Dodgers, only to lose to the Yankees in the World Series in 7 games, then failed to reach the postseason again until 1971, when they lost to Pittsburgh in the NLCS.
    • They led their division for most of 1978 before the Dodgers caught them late and won the pennant, and in 1982, they were in the division race down to the wire before getting knocked out by, of course, the Dodgers. (They returned the favor the next day, however, giving the division to the third team in their three-team race.)
    • They finally returned to the World Series in 1989, facing the cross-bridge Oakland Athletics in a World Series that was famously interrupted by an earthquake striking the Bay Area just before the scheduled start of Game 3. The extra time didn't keep the Giants from getting swept.
    • In 1993, the last season of the two-division, 0-wildcard format, the Giants had a phenomenal season, leading their division by as many as 10 games on July 22; a month later, the lead was still 7.5 games and they'd not had a losing streak of more than 2 games since late May (and no losing streak of more than three games all season). Then came 6 games against the Atlanta Braves, the team chasing them, in a 9-game span. They went 1-5. Less than a week later, they began an 8-game losing streak that dropped them from 3.5 up to 3.5 back. Not content to let it end there, they proceeded to win 14 of their next 16 to enter the final day of the season tied with the Braves at 103-58; no team had ever won 100 games and failed to make the playoffs, but one of them would—and after a 12-1 loss to (who else?) the Dodgers, that team was the 103-59 San Francisco Giants.
    • In 1998, they again got hot late, going 9-1 to enter the final day of the season tied with the Chicago Cubs for the NL Wild Card. They lost, but so did the Cubs, forcing a 1-game playoff, which the Cubs won.
    • In 2000, the Giants made the playoffs but lost in the first round to the wild card Mets, 3 games to 1. The following year, the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention on the second-to-last day of the season.
    • In 2002, the Giants finally returned to the World Series for the first time since 1989, facing the Anaheim Angels. After taking Game 1, they fell into a 2 games to 1 hole, but took Games 4 and 5 at home to take a 3-2 lead and got off to a 5-0 lead in Game 6. With just 8 outs to go, starter Russ Ortiz gave up back-to-back singles and the Angels' Scott Spiezio greeted the first San Fran reliever with a 3-run homer; the following inning the Angels scored three more to take a 6-5 lead and won the series in 7 games.
    • In 2003, the Giants went wire to wire in first place, winning 100 games, only to lose to the wild card Marlins 3 games to 1 in the first round of the playoffs.
    • Finally, in 2010, the Giants won their first World Series since 1954 and their first in San Francisco, and they quickly followed with two more in 2012 and 2014. The 56-year drought was nonetheless one of the longest in the sport's history (tied for ninth-longest with the Houston Astros, who entered their 56th year of existence and won their first championship since they were established in 1962).
  • The Detroit Tigers were this in the late 2000s and early 2010s, arguably the same territory as the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox. After spending the 1990s and early 2000s in the doldrums (with an American League record 119 losses in the 2003 season), they turned things around enough that by 2005 they were playoff contenders and in 2006 they won the pennant, only to fall to the incredibly underdog St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. From 2007 to 2010 they kept just missing the postseason (except the rather weak 2008 season) on account of choking in August and September. Then they consistently made the postseason from 2011-2014, during which time they won the AL Central each year, and managed to win the AL pennant in 2012 (only to lose in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants). Despite this, they still kept falling in the playoffs, and some in Detroit began to note—with alarm—that it was now over 30 years since the Tigers last won a championship (with 1984's "Bless You Boys"), and that the team had never gone more than 24 seasons without a World Series win since first winning in 1935. Then the window began to close; 2015 was a lost year due to injuries to key players, the 2016 Tigers paid tribute to their 2007-2010 selves by being eliminated from the playoff race on the very last day of the regular season, and in 2017, management finally decided to enact a perhaps long-overdue rebuild. Adding to the misery of Tigers fans, the team inaugurated said rebuild by trading their long-time ace pitcher Justin Verlander (who had spend all of his career up to that point in Detroit and was a pivotal part of their multiple division championships and playoff runs) to the Houston Astrosnote . Perhaps as a fitting metaphor for his former team, Verlander's trade precipitated a total collapse of the Tigers, who proceeded to only win six of their final thirty games and finish with one of the two worst records of the 2017 season (tied with the San Francisco Giants).
  • The Seattle Mariners deserve a place on this list as well. In the 1990s, they were one of the premier teams in the American League, with stars such as Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martínez... one of the premier regular season teams, that is. Even after winning a Major League record 116 games in 2001 (after Rodriguez, Johnson, and Griffey had all left, but with newly imported Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki), the Mariners couldn't win the American League pennant. They were one of only two teams (the other being the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals) that has never even been in a World Series. But with the Nats reaching their first ever World Series in 2019, the Mariners are now the only team that has never played in the Fall Classic.
  • The Washington Nationals had problems with this both on the season and individual game level. They have won their division four times (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017), only to bow out in the NLDS. After missing the postseason in 2018 and losing star player Bryce Harper to free agency in the offseason, the Nats were picked by some to miss the postseason in 2019, and they were headed down that route in the first two months of the season. However, they managed to turn it around and clinch a Wild Card spot. In the NL Wild Card game, they were trailing the Brewers 3-1 until some clutch hits (coupled with a Milwaukee error) gave them the lead and then the win. However, they went on to face the juggernaut known as the Dodgers in the NLDS. Despite the odds being against them, the Nats managed to win two of the first four games, forcing a win-or-go home Game 5 in Los Angeles. Trailing 3-1, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto homered back-to-back off of Clayton Kershaw (who's known for struggling in the postseason) in the 8th inning to tie the game. Two innings later, Howie Kendrick hits a go-ahead grand slam, which would prove to be the difference, sending the Nats to their first ever NLCS.note  The Nats then proceeded to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals and pull off late-game, on the road heroics against the similarly dominant Houston Astros to earn their first World Series championship in franchise history.
  • The Minnesota Twins have fallen into this trope as of recent years. After winning their second and most recent World Series in 1991, they wouldn't reach the postseason again until 2002, when they reached the ALCS and lost to the eventual World Series champion Angels. 2003 and 2004 saw them getting eliminated by the Yankees in the ALDS. After 2004 is where things started to get bad:
    • 2006: The Twins win the American League Central Division crown, but get ousted by the A's in 3 games in the ALDS.
    • 2008: The Twins are engaged in a season-long battle with the White Sox for the AL Central Division title. It comes down to a Game 163 in Chicago, with Jim Thome (who would play for Minnesota later in his career) belting the go-ahead home run in the 7th inning, giving the White Sox the division and the Twins were sent packing.
    • 2009: In their last season in the Metrodome, the Twins once again find themselves playing in a Game 163 for the AL Central crown, this time against the Tigers. The Twins would win the game in 12 innings to get to the postseason, but they were knocked out by the Yankees, who would go on to win the World Series.
    • 2010: In their first year at Target Field, the Twins are division champs once more. Once again, they are ousted by the Yankees in the postseason.
    • 2017: The Twins return to the postseason for the first time in 7 years, and they're in the Wild Card game against the Yankees. You know how this ends...
    • 2019: The Twins get their second 100-win season in franchise history. They face the Yankees once again in the postseason. They lose to the Yankees once again.
    • 2020: The Twins win the AL Central for the first time in 10 years and this time, they face the now-reviled Astrosnote  in a best-of-3 Wild Card series. The Twins get swept, now having lost 18 postseason games in a row, dating back to 2004. It's the longest such streak for any team in either of the four major North American sports leagues.

  • The Utah Jazz in The '90s. Their power forward Karl Malone had a tendency to shoot worse and be less assertive in the playoffs. Also, there was some guy named Jordan who consistently screwed up their postseason hopes.
    • The New York Knicks from the The '90s say hello. Made even worse by actually facing Jordan before the finals (before he briefly retired and the Knicks defeated the Bulls in '94, New York spent three years in a row losing!).
    • In fact, any good NBA team during the The '90s that wasn't the Bulls or the Rockets was this, thanks to Jordan's (and Olajuwon's, during Jordan's temporary retirement) reign. Examples aside from Utah and New York include Charles Barkley's Phoenix Suns, Gary Payton's Seattle SuperSonics, the underrated Charlotte Hornets with Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, the Shaq-and-Penny Orlando Magic, and Reggie Miller's Pacers, to name a few of the more prominent examples.
  • The Golden State Warriors during the brief Run TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin) era were among the NBA's best offensive teams, yet they never succeeded in the playoffs due to their so-so defense.
  • In the '60s, the Los Angeles Lakers were this. Led by Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, the Lakers were often expected to dethrone the Boston Celtics, yet even when they jumped to leads in Finals series and later on added Wilt Chamberlain, they could not overcome Bill Russell and Boston.
    • Part of the reason for this was that Elgin Baylor was getting starter minutes despite playing on destroyed knees and generally shooting poorly (the only thing he was still capable of).
  • After a certain point, you get to believe that God simply hates the Indiana Pacers. Take for instance the infamous 2004-05 season, when some of the Pacers' most valuable players were suspended for different parts of the season, but in Ron Artest's (later Metta World Peace, now Metta Sandiford-Artest) case, he assaulted a fan and caused a huge melee, which got Artest suspended for the remainder of the season. This would also be team legend Reggie Miller's last season before retirement. If you thought that was bad, go back to the season before, when the Pacers went 61-21, their best record in franchise history. They reached the East Finals, and it was clearly a golden opportunity for the franchise to finally be champions... Until their playoff series against the Detroit Pistons (the very team that they would face in the notorious "Malice at the Palace"), where an out of nowhere shot block at the very last second sent the Pacers home with their tails between their legs. They've yet to recover, really.
    • Reggie Miller in general was a phenomenal talent who could never seal the deal. This is the man who scored 8 points in 9 seconds, who posted game-winning threes over Michael Jordan, whom ESPN's 30 for 30 described as "the reason [New York] never slept", but all he ever led his team to were late-season collapses and finals blowouts.
    • In The New '10s, the Pacers saw a full resurgence under coach Frank Vogel and swingman Paul George, that still fizzles out in a sad way. Their best so far was in 2013, when the Pacers nearly upset eventual champions Heat. The next season the Pacers got the top seed in the East... while regressing terribly in the final month of the regular season, and afterwards, barely beat the 8-seeded Atlanta Hawks (who were without their top player). Another struggling series against the Washington Wizards ensued. In the Conference finals, the Pacers that begun the season as favorites finally started to show beating the Heat in Game 1... only for two straight and close losses afterwards. And after a close win in Game 5, getting crushed by 25 points in the sixth to end Indiana's series. The Pacers then proceeded to enter 2014-15 on their left foot, losing George to an almost season-long injury and Lance Stephenson to free agency, and despite a late season surge fell out of the playoffs. Come 2015-16, the team resurges, returns to the playoffs, forces a Game 7 against the 2 seed, and the Pacers still became the first team to lose a series to the Toronto Raptors in 15 years. And one year later, their experience with the 2 seed goes even worse, a sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers, that possibly helped George leave town for the Oklahoma City Thunder. 2018 had the Pacers pushing the Cavs to seven but still losing (add three defeats to the Heat, and LeBron James has killed Indiana five times!) Their luck did not improve any in the following two years, as Indiana got swept out of the first round by the Celtics in 2019 and the Heat in 2020.
  • From the 2006-07 to 2014-15 NBA seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James were a major example:
    • Advanced to the 2007 NBA Finals only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs (final game in Cleveland!).
    • Lost in the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals to eventual NBA Finals champion Boston Celtics
    • Lost the Eastern Conference finals in 2009 to the Orlando Magic.
    • Lost the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals to the Celtics in 6 games. Also contained a horrible moment when, with just over a minute and a half to go in Game 6, Cleveland (trailing by a far-from-insurmountable nine-point deficit) seemingly gave up, showing no urgency in trying to score or play defense. This last one is particularly notable because many analysts were of the opinion that LeBron wasn't even trying for whatever reason.
    • And then LeBron himself added insult to injury when he left Cleveland in 2010 for the Miami Heat. Although they were upset by the Mavericks, they avenged it in the 2012 season. LeBron won the regular season MVP, a championship (against the favored Oklahoma City Thunder team) and the finals MVP, while leading his team in points, assists, rebounds, and steals. He did it again in 2013. Meanwhile, the year LeBron left, Cleveland had a 26-game losing streak (a single-season record among American pro sports).
    • LeBron returned in 2014, even attracting Kevin Love to Cleveland and providing a Hope Spot for fans. Despite irregular play, the Cavs still finished as the second-best team of the East, and on the playoffs got their second Finals appearance. Then, against the equally unlucky Golden State Warriors, it was proven Cleveland always gets it worse: having already lost Anderson Varejão in the regular season and Kevin Love in round 1, Kyrie Irving went down after the first game of the decision (where the Cavs scored only two points during overtime), LeBron tried to do things by himself... and a somewhat hopeful 2-1 lead was soon negated by the Warriors winning three-straight (thanks to the efforts of Andre Iguodala who started ZERO games in the regular season yet somehow managed to win the Finals MVP), thus leading to the Dubs breaking a 40-year drought at Cleveland in Game 6. As if Cleveland sports fans hadn't suffered enough already.
    • The Cavs finally averted this in the 2015-16 season, when they finally won a championship by beating the heavily favored Warriors in seven games, becoming the first team ever to overcome a 3–1 series deficit in the NBA Finals. (2016-17 was kind of a return to form: the Cavs easily wrecked the East, only losing one game before a third straight final against the Warriors... where they only won one match, though it at least prevented the Cleveland crowd from seeing an adversary win a title in their home yet again. 2018 had LBJ heroically bringing an underwhelming Cavs team to the final, and then got swept by the Warriors, after which he skedaddled to the Lakers.)
  • NBA cousins Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter are widely considered individual-player versions of this trope, to such an extent that nearly EVERY team they play on (they've both played for 4+ teams EACH) happen to find limited success in the post-season. Tracy McGrady's Houston Rockets eventually ended a drought of not winning a Playoff series since acquiring him— as SOON as he was sidelined by injury and unable to play. Maybe this trope should be named after McGrady. The curse was finally broken when McGrady won a playoff series in 2013, while healthy... by only playing the last few minutes of game 4 in a sweep of Los Angeles by the San Antonio Spurs. He also reached his first finals - only for the Spurs to lose to the Heat despite almost clinching the title in Game 6.
  • The Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s. Fans of every NBA team not named the Lakers could rally around them. They became the NBA's Woobie at that time. They are one of a handful of franchises in any sport to have played in FIVE different cities with only one championship to their name. 2019 marks their 58th year since winning a title. Even worse, the Kings at their peak were a victim of what likely appears to be a fix, swinging the crucial Game 6 of the 2002 conference finals back in the Lakers' favor when the Kings had a commanding lead and a ticket to the NBA Finals in hand.
  • The LA Clippers. After decades of losing, the Clippers became NBA contenders thanks to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Despite their skill, the Clippers' playoff appearances ended early:
    • During the 2011/2012 season, the Clippers eased past the Memphis Grizzlies in the 1st round, only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2nd round.
    • The Clippers became considered as championship contenders during the 2012/2013 season, won their first-ever division title, but they ended up losing in THE FIRST ROUND to the Memphis Grizzlies, the team they beat a year before.
    • In 2013-14, playoff-seasoned coach Doc Rivers arrived, and another Pacific title ensued, as would a Round 1 victory over in-state rival Golden State Warriors. But then despite much effort into upsetting the Oklahoma City Thunder, OKC still beat them. Apart from the playoff choke, the tail end of the 2013-14 season was rough for the Clippers as controversial owner Donald Sterling was involved in a scandal caused by some racist comments he made about blacks watching his games. Thankfully, Adam Silver quickly ended the Clips' misery by banning Donald Sterling from the NBA for life.
    • Before the 2014-15 season started, former incompetent owner and notable bigot Donald Sterling was banned and stripped of the team. There was hope for the Clippers, as they were now owned by billionaire Steve Ballmer (a former CEO of Microsoft), who had the passion (and budget) to improve the team. Likewise, the Clippers were in a better situation compared to their division rivals (The Warriors, despite their talent, were going through a turbulent coaching change, the Suns and Kings weren't exactly elite teams, and the Lakers, who were the Clips' usually successful crosstown-rival, were headed for perhaps their worst season of all time.) Some even thought that the Clips would surprise everyone by winning the NBA Championship. Unfortunately for the Clippers, the Warriors not only stole the Pacific Division crown: they also ended up with the best record in the NBA. Nevertheless, the Clippers (as a 3rd seed) managed to eliminate the Spurs (who were the defending champions) in a hard-fought 7 game series. Round 2 was going well for the Clippers, who built a 3-1 lead on the Houston Rockets. Then they got trounced on game 5, blew a series-winning match at home which the Clips were leading by 19 points after the third quarter, and were crushed by Houston on game 7. To make matters worse: the Atlanta Hawks going to the Eastern Finals made the Clippers the only team that failed to get to the Conference Finals in every season since their adoption in 1971 (which coincidentally was the year the franchise begun as the Buffalo Braves), and the Warriors broke a 40-year title drought (overcoming 1-2 deficits in both the first round and the finals). The 2014-15 season was a CRAPPY time to be a Clippers fan.
    • In the 2015-16 postseason, the Clippers didn't wait until the Semifinals to do their fizzling out this time. This time they blew an early 2-0 series lead to lose to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games, losing both Paul and Griffin on the way.
    • In the 2016-17 playoffs, the Clippers would outdo the previous year's choke by losing in the first round to the Jazz (who had missed four straight postseasons, and had last won a round seven years prior) in seven games. Unlike last year, the Clips were pretty much on the back-seat throughout the series, despite leading 2-1 at one point and having higher-profile star players (although Griffin again injured himself halfway through) than the small-town Jazz. Some even speculated that this loss would signal the end of "Lob City", with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin potentially becoming free agents in the upcoming offseason, which ended up to be true when the former forced a trade to the Rockets during the offseason, while the latter was dealt to the Pistons midway through the next season (the Clippers went on to miss the playoffs by a few games).
    • In 2019-20, having reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard along with Paul George raised the hopes that the Clippers could finally win the big one. And then again the team couldn't get to the Conference Finals, opening 3-1 on the oft-underperfoming Denver Nuggets and managing to suffer a horrific collapse in which they had a double-digit lead in each of the last three games yet managed to blow it for a lopsided Game 7 elimination. Perhaps The Sports Guy was right to claim the team had a Native American curse put on them?
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder are a twofer:
    • First, they're a relocation of the equally unlucky Seattle SuperSonics, who after the 1979 title had big names such as Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, but struggled to bypass some better teams (only finals appearance was in 1996... against the Chicago Bulls team that finished 72-10 and only lost one playoff game before the Sonics pushed them to game 6), was the first 1 seed to lose to an 8th, and then got swindled by a new owner who lied that would keep the team while planning the Oklahoma move.
    • Then, the Thunder begun a slow climb towards a dominant team that just can't win the big one: losing the Conference Finals to the Mavs (who would win it all), the Finals to the Heat, trading away rising star James Harden while also losing Russell Westbrook in the playoffs en route to the Grizzlies beating them to the Western finals, and in the season Kevin Durant finally got his MVP award, struggling against the Grizzlies and Clippers before the Spurs outed them in the Conference finals. The following season Westbrook did his best to compensate Durant being the one sidelined by injuries, but the Thunder ended out of the playoffs. 2015-16 had OKC returning to form, beating a strong Spurs team and going up 3-1 on a Warriors team some deemed an Invincible Hero. Then they lost game 5, led game 6 the entire time until losing in the closing minutes, and despite starting ahead on game 7 letting Golden State take it all. And then Durant signed with the Warriors in free agency. Russell Westbrook had an outstanding 2016-17 season that kept OKC in the postseason, but he alone couldn't help against a much better Houston Rockets squad (led by the previously mentioned James Harden), and even as Paul George joined the Thunder the following season, they were beaten by a surging Utah Jazz in 2018 and a good Portland Trail Blazers squad in 2019 (5 games finished on a buzzer-beater). The jinx put on the Thunder by resentful Seattle fans is undeniably powerful!
    • The Thunder's era as contenders ended during the 2019 offseason. First, PG requested a trade to the Clippers to join his fellow L.A.-area native Kawhi Leonard; the Thunder obliged, getting two players and a record five future first-round draft picks in exchange. Shortly thereafter, they dealt Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul and two more future first-rounders. CP3 kept the boat afloat in 2020 and sent the team to the playoffs... against those Rockets with two former Thunder stars, who beat them in 7. Paul then got sent to the Suns in a deal that netted the Thunder several players and yet another future first-round pick.
  • The New York Knicks have been to the Finals 8 times yet have only won the Championship twice: in 1970 and 1973. In 1994, they blew a 3-2 series lead in the Finals and lost the last 2 games to the Houston Rockets. They have also not been to the finals since 1999. After a terrible stretch where incompetent GM Isiah Thomas ran the Knicks to the ground, in 2011-12 the team saw a resurgence that still fell short as rising star Jeremy Lin had to sit out the rest of the season and the playoffs due to a knee injury in late March 2012. A month later, the Knicks would lose to the Heat in their first playoff round in 5 games. When they took 54 wins in 2013, and their first division championship in over ten years, they were knocked out in spectacular fashion by the Pacers in the Semifinals. The following season, despite stellar performances by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks lost frequently, and a late-season resurgence fell short as they still got one game behind the final playoff spot. In 2014, the Knicks finally hit rock bottom by going on a losing streak that ended up being the longest in franchise history and finishing last overall.
    • Or, to put it all in a nutshell, the Knicks are the Buffalo Bills of the NBA. (Though they have 2 NBA titles to their name.)
  • The last few seasons have seen the Chicago Bulls fall into this rut. After a 2010-11 season that saw the Bulls advance to the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing 4-1 to the Miami Heat; the 2011-12 team finished the strike-shortened season with a 50-16 record and the top-seed in the Eastern Conference; only for point guard Derrick Rose to tear his ACL in the opening game of their first-round series with the Philadelphia 76ers; a series that the 76ers won in a 4-2 upset. The next season saw the Bulls advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals even though Rose would not play a single game despite having been cleared to play in March 2013 and again losing to the Heat. The 2013-14 season saw the Bulls finish 48-34 and 4th in the East only to be upset by the Washington Wizards in the first round 4-1 in a season where Rose returned at the beginning of that season, only to suffer yet another season-ending injury a month later. 2014-15 finally had Rose returning to health, Joakim Noah still at peak form, and the arrival of Pau Gasol. Chicago was third in the East, advanced to the semi-finals, and then were beaten by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the fourth time LeBron James outed the Bulls in six years (before the two Heat wins, he lead the Cavs past them in 2010). 2015-16 saw the Bulls barely miss the playoffs, the first non-postseason in 8 years. 2016-17 had a rejuvenated (if with older stars) Chicago barely scrape into the post-season, steal two games from the top-seeded Celtics in Boston, and then lose four straight, with the decisive game in Chicago. And another bad season followed, as people departed or got injured.
  • Whenever the Toronto Raptors seem to have become a contender instead of The Chew Toy, they are hit with this. The Raptors only won a playoff round twice in 8 attempts: after the first in 2001, five Round 1 losses in 14 years, thrice having won the Atlantic Division (the last in 2015 being particularly painful as the Washington Wizards swept Toronto); then 2016 had the Raptors finally getting their dues (compensation to Canada having all teams missing the NHL postseason?) with a fourth Atlantic title in 2016, and not only winning their first playoff series in 15 years (against the equally suffering Indiana Pacers) but a second one to reach the Eastern final - both with Toronto being pushed to 7 games, as it seems the fandom will never get it easy. To the point the third finished with the Raptors losing in 6, at home, to Cleveland. And the next two years, the Raptors were swept by the same Cavs (the first at home, the second as the 1 seed), to the point people said the city should be renamed LeBronto after the one who slaughters it in the postseason. That, of course, was before LeBron skedaddled to LA. And the Raptors brought in Kawhi Leonard, making them both win the East without LeBron (though it wasn't easy, given the Conference Finals had Milwaukee opening 2-0 before Toronto won four straight) and then beat the Golden State Warriors who dreamed of a "three-peat", Canada's first Big Four title since the Blue Jays and Canadiens in 1993. But even that would prove a short-lived high, as Leonard left for his native LA in free agency that offseason, joining the Clippers. (The Raptors kept the boat floating, but fell in the Conference Semifinals in 7.)
  • The Portland Trail Blazers, who even have the problem of being the only major league team in Oregon,note  making a dedicated/massive following suffer a lot. Their first playoff appearance after six terrible first years led right to the title. Four seasons falling in round 1 ensued, then a missed postseason... followed by an impressive 21-year streak in the playoffs, which unfortunately led to plenty of first-round crashes and two lost NBA finals (to the Bad Boy Pistons and the Michael Jordan Bulls). The end of it coincided with a Dork Age where the team had so many troublesome players that they got the nickname Jail Blazers. Since 2008-09, Portland went to the playoffs 10 times, winning a round only thrice. Not helping the Blazers retrospect is having drafted many injury-prone guys who when good don't last enough (Bill Walton, Brandon Roy) and when underwhelming are picked before better choices (Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan, Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant).
  • In 2011, the Memphis Grizzlies finally ended a long run as The Chew Toy that started back in Vancouver, returning to the playoffs after four seasons and miraculously beating the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Unfortunately, the "Grit-and-Grind" era is successful and consistently qualifies for the postseason, but has been unable to go very far - their trip to the Conference Finals in 2013 ended in a sweep by the same Spurs they upset two years prior. The only other time the Grizzlies won a round, in 2015, had them stopped afterwards by the Golden State Warriors who would eventually win it all. And both 2016 and 2017 had Memphis sacrificed right away by... the Spurs! 2018 had the Grizzlies hitting Rock Bottom as their stars ran away and plenty of losing ensued (including a massive 140-79 loss to a so-so Charlotte team).
  • Take away the Finals, and the Houston Rockets have fallen short pretty often. Moses Malone won two MVPs in his six years there, but only got as far as a surprise Finals run in 1981, lost to the Celtics. Hakeem Olajuwon brought the Rockets to the finals in his second season (also lost to the Celtics!), and then suffered until 1994, when Houston won the first of two championships during Michael Jordan's brief retirement. After two more strong seasons losing to the team MJ would trounce in the final (Seattle and Utah), came 12 years without winning a round, even if good players such as Yao Ming and the above mentioned Tracy McGrady were in the roster. James Harden arrived from OKC in 2012, and the team soon became a contender that never missed the postseason... and fell thrice in the first round, along with having serious problems overcoming the Golden State Warriors. Most painfully, in 2017-18 the Rockets, reinforced by Chris Paul, finished with the best result in the league, easily won the first two rounds, and once they had a 3-2 advantage on the Warriors in the Conference Finals, Paul got injured and Houston suffered comebacks in the final two games. The 2018-2019 season added to the misery. After hanging with the Warriors toe-to-toe during the playoff western conference semi-finals, they bring it to a deciding Game 7. On top of this, Kevin Durant, who usually performs big for the Warriors during the playoffs was injured, giving Houston their best chance to win and make it to the western conference finals and possibly win a championship in the finals... only for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to put on one of their classic Splash Brother performances and win the game. Even worse, Curry barely scored during the 1st quarter but ended the game with 30 points. In 2020, despite the addition of Russell Westbrook, Houston fared even worse against another star-studded team, the Lakers led by LeBron James, falling in just 5 games.
  • Once the Milwaukee Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo, he bloomed into a superstar and turned the team into a contender. Which also meant intense heartbreak in the postseason, particularly in two seasons as the top seed, 2019 (where the "Greek Freak" was MVP, the Bucks got to the conference finals, and after opening 2-0 on the Raptors lost four in a row, the last on a buzzer-beater) and 2020 (with Giannis winning both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors, but falling 4–1 in the semifinals to the Miami Heat).

  • Peyton Manning, the former Trope Namer; historic regular seasons throughout his NFL career, heartbreaking losses in the playoffs, yet he was always near the top of the best quarterback list and received a ton of endorsements.
    • The rep began to cling to him in his career with the University of Tennessee. He was forced into action in his freshman year, and no fair-minded fan thinks his one loss as starter (to #10 Alabama) that year was a disappointment. But after that, he lost every year to a certain team in Gainesville, Florida, and their Evil Genius coach.
    • Before 2007, this reputation was certainly not helped by Tennessee winning the national championship in 1998, one year after Manning graduated, behind unheralded quarterback Tee Martin. Who's Tee Martin? Exactly.
    • After winning his first Super Bowl, though, he slowly gained that reputation back, having made the playoffs every year since, winning 12+ games in all but one of those seasons, nabbing 2 NFL MVP awards, and even making it to Super Bowl XLIV, where his Colts were favored against the New Orleans Saints. And yet, during that streak from 2007-2010, the Colts went one-and-done in the playoffs 3 out of 4 years and lost in the Super Bowl the one year they won any playoff games.
    • Moving on to the Denver Broncos, he continued that reputation in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, when he threw an interception that sealed the Ravens' comeback.
    • He finally won a playoff game with Denver in 2014 against the San Diego Chargers, and then won the conference against the New England Patriots, but his number one offense was not good enough to beat the Seattle Seahawks' number one defense in Super Bowl XLVIII. This overwhelming loss triggered a lot of talk about Manning's legacy and his reputation as a choker in key postseason games.
    • In the 2014-15 playoffs, Manning went one-and-done in the playoffs for the ninth time in his career, losing 24-13 to his former team in Denver with a very pedestrian performance, stretching his postseason record to a mediocre 11-13.
    • Manning finally managed to erase the past with the 2015-16 season. Although hampered by injuries during the entire season, Manning and the Broncos' highly touted defense ground their way into the playoffs. They then beat the legendary-franchise Steelers and their multiple-Super Bowl-winning and future HOF QB Ben Roethlisberger; beat the legendary-franchise Patriots and their multiple-Super Bowl-winning and future HOF QB Tom Brady; and, in Super Bowl 50 beat the favored Panthers and their MVP QB Cam Newton 24-10 to capture Manning's second Super Bowl win and bring his playoff record to 14-13. He officially retired from the NFL a few weeks after as the first, and until 2021 only, QB ever to win Super Bowls with two different teams as a starternote , ensuring that his legacy is more than intact.
  • Since Manning won his Super Bowls, the "Perennial Choker" label has had several contenders. Brett Favre seems infamous for this. Despite breaking darn near every major NFL passing record, as well as actually winning a Super Bowl, it seems that whenever the season is on the line (such as the 2007 and 2009 NFC Championships), it's almost certain that Favre is going to throw a game-ending interception. While he's not the only quarterback that's had this problem, none have been as viciously mocked or criticized for this as Favre. That last bit may be due to his holding the record for interceptions, as well. Not to mention the detractors (who increased greatly in number after his repeated "retirements") finding it hilarious for his career at three different teamsnote  to end with an interception. Still, Favre does have a Super Bowl win. Unlike the four other major contenders noted below....
  • First, Donovan McNabb was a top contender, who lost 4 NFC title games and his only Super Bowl. McNabb's losing streak was so bad that fans started calling him "McChoke". Despite his seven losses in the post-season, though, he at least has a winning record of 9-7.
  • Second, Dan Marino holds or has held almost every major NFL passing record, but only won the AFC Championship once in 1984 (his second season), and like McNabb he lost his only Super Bowl. His 8-10, .444 record in the postseason is the worst winning percentage of any QB with more than ten playoff appearances.
    • Again in fairness, that one SB appearance was against the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. Marino never stood a chance.
    • Triskaidekaphobes note another contributing factor to why he never won a Super Bowl title: he wore No. 13 his entire career — his number was retired by the Dolphins after his career was over.
  • Third, Philip Rivers seems doomed to claim Marino's title of "The Best QB to Never Win It All". He finished his 17 year career with a 5-7 record, only making the AFC championship once and lost. This trope seemed to follow Rivers when he got traded to the Indianapolis Colts, as he would lose a playoff game in his only season with the team.
  • Fourth and finally, Matt Ryan. His 4-6 record is as ignominious as Rivers' (worse percentage, fewer appearances); most infamously, he and his Atlanta Falcons committed the worst choke in NFL history (and probably in sports history) in his only SB appearance.


  • The Dallas Cowboys, despite being one of the most successful teams in NFL history, had not won a playoff game for years until their home win in the 2010 wildcard round. This has become increasingly worse for Cowboy fans in the last two years with the Cowboys being easily one of the most dominant teams in the league, but choking in the first round (first time was against the Seahawks with a gimme field goal being botched and the second time they lost outright to the heavy underdog Giants). The Cowboys finally got a postseason win over Philadelphia in the NFC wild-card round.
    • That playoff win had Cowboy fans licking their chops at thoughts of a Super Bowl the next year, since Cowboys Stadium was scheduled to host the event. Instead, they got the ultimate humiliation: not only did the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs altogether, but in October, while they saw a head coach fired midseason for the first time in franchise history, the Texas Rangers - long ridiculed by Cowboy fans for their losing ways - went to the World Series for the first time ever.
    • And this isn't the first time that could apply for the Cowboys. During a stretch between 1966 and 1970, the Cowboys were one win away from advancing to the NFL (pre-merger) Championship game (losing to Cleveland in the divisional playoffs in 1968 and 1969), after narrowly losing to Green Bay the two preceding years in surprisingly close matches that cost Dallas a shot at appearing in the first two Super Bowls. The year they finally broke through, 1970, they lost the exceptionally sloppy Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts with kicker Jim O'Brien's game-winning field goal; resulting in the Cowboys' being dubbed "Next Year's Champions" (a moniker they would finally shed in Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphins).
    • One more instance of this trope hitting the Cowboys was the early 1980s. Between the 1980 and 1982 seasons, Danny White (replacing the retired Roger Staubach) led Dallas to 3 straight NFC Championship appearances only to lose all three, first to Philadelphia, then San Francisco following a thrilling conclusion with young quarterback Joe Montana throwing the winning pass to a leaping Dwight Clark, and finally arch-rival Washington in a game where Danny was knocked out early. These games, combined with the Cowboys' decline soon after, relegated Danny White to the status as being known as the Dallas quarterback between Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, despite having stats that surpassed Aikman and rivaled Roger's.
      • Another instance of this trope in regards to Cowboys QBs has to be Tony Romo, who was the team's starter from 2006 to 2015. After a series of HORRIBLE starting quarterbacks after the injury-induced retirement of legend Troy Aikman (Chad Hutchinson, Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, and a washed-up Drew Bledsoe), Tony Romo burst onto the scene in 2006, showing incredible talent and drive and reigniting a fizzled interest in the Cowboys franchise, with a decent ability to scramble, a Favre-like gunslinging style of play, and a strong arm capable of deep passing plays. However, the crucial moments of each of his starting seasons (sans 2010, which he missed most of due to a broken clavicle), ended with heartbreaking losses due mostly to blunders on the part of Romo himself. The first time Tony Romo won a playoff game was 2009; he wouldn't lead the team to another playoff win until 2014, when the Cowboys won in the wild card round but lost in the divisional round. That proved to be his last playoff win; he missed most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons to injury. In the latter season, rookie Dak Prescott emerged as a potential franchise QB, and Romo decided to hang up his cleats and head for the broadcast booth.
      • This trope has seen more use with the Cowboys since 2010. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, they faced a division opponent in the final game of the season, with the division on the line. In each year ('11- New York, '12- Washington, '13 Philadelphia) the opponent won the game and the division, with the '11 Giants going on to win the Super Bowl that year.
  • The Minnesota Vikings are one of two teams that have made it to the Super Bowl four times... and lost all four. They haven't gone back to the Super Bowl since 1977. Since the '70s, they've picked up a reputation for hiring other teams' castoffs, which hasn't helped them any (most notoriously, they hired Brett Favre for his last two years). The New '10s had three playoff appearances ending terribly (2012: slaughtered by the Packers; 2015: losing to the Seahawks on a field goal that was compared to Ace Ventura; 2017: with the chance of playing the Super Bowl at home, trounced by the Eagles in the Conference Finals).
  • The early-90s Buffalo Bills make every other entry on this page look like clutch players. They won 4 straight AFC Championships and attending 4 straight Super Bowls (the only NFL team to ever make it to the Super Bowl four years in a row), the only four in their history. To this day, they're 0-4 in Super Bowls. And they later went on a 17-year playoff drought, after being eliminated by the "Music City Miracle". Most notably, in 2004 they entered the last week of the season needing to beat Pittsburgh to get in to the playoffs, with Pittsburgh having already locked up their seed and resting their starters. They lost at home to Pittsburgh's 2nd and 3rd string by a touchdown.
    • A common Fun with Acronyms joke: "Boy I Lose Lots of Superbowls" or "Boy I Love Losing Superbowls".
    • When they finally got back to the playoffs in 2017, they basically stumbled in after multiple other AFC teams more-or-less forfeited their spots through poor play and/or bad decision-making at the coach or executive levels, despite their own best efforts to piss the spot away.note  Once they get in, they face the Jacksonville Jaguars in what can only be described as one of the worst games of January football ever played, and despite the Jags desperately trying to lose, the Bills wilt first and get eliminated 10-3.note  In 2019, a stalwart defense and great strides by second-year quarterback Josh Allen helped the Bills make a surprise run at their second playoff berth in three years—but they promptly blew a 16-point lead to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Game and lost in overtime. They did perform somewhat better in the 2020 playoffs, winning their Wild Card (vs. Indianapolis Colts) and Divisional (vs. Baltimore Ravens) matches, but ultimately fell short of the Super Bowl, losing the AFC Championship to the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals are perhaps the clearest current example. They famously hold the longest postseason victory drought in the league, but have been perpetual contenders for a while now. Since drafting Andy Dalton and AJ Green in 2011, they managed to make the playoffs for an impressive four years in a row- leading to four less impressive postseason defeats.
    • The fifth loss is surreal. The Bengals started 8-0, finished 12-4 and in the Wild Card Playoff game hosted against their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals rally from a 15-0 deficit to take a 16-15 lead, then proceed to intercept the ball on the Steelers' next possession. It looked like the Bengals were well on their way to their first postseason win since 1990, only for Bengals halfback Jeremy Hill to fumble the ball on the next play. The Steelers get the ball back, but with less than 90 seconds to go and the Steelers starting from their own 11-yard line, the Bengals look like they're going to hold the Steelers off... that is, until the Bengals defense gives up thirty yards on personal foul penalties, bringing the Steelers offense into easy field goal range, where they won 18-16, extending the Bengals long playoff drought while making them the first NFL team ever to lose five straight in the opening round. They have yet to return to the playoffs.
  • The Houston Oilers. Ever wonder why they were nicknamed "Choke City"? It's because they made the postseason during a seven year stretch between 1987 and 1993, but had three exceptional collapses during the postseason between 1991 and 1993.
    • First, the 1991 Divisional playoff game against Denver. The high-powered offense of the Oilers shot out to a 21-13 halftime lead, and late in the game a punt pinned the Broncos back to their 2-yard line, where trailing 24-23, John Elway led a late-game drive punctuated by two fourth-down conversions to set up the winning field-goal in what some dubbed "The Drive II" (same spot on field, and almost five years after "the Drive").
    • The second would be the most infamous. The Oilers raced to a 35-3 lead over the two-time AFC champion Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild-card game, when backup quarterback Frank Reich led a succession of drives culminating in five unanswered touchdowns. The Bills would go on to win 41-38 in overtime.
    • The last one came in the Astrodome after the Oilers had gone on to clinch the #2 seed and a first-round bye. They went on to face the Kansas City Chiefs where, after starting the fourth quarter holding on to a slim 10-7 lead, the Oilers became the victim of another comeback, this time orchestrated by Joe Montana that culminated in a 28-20 loss.
    • Their current incarnation, the Tennessee Titans, isn't much better, losing a Super Bowl (after the tying touchdown came up one yard short) and having short stretches in the playoffs ever since. Except in the 2019 season, when they lost in the conference finals to the Chiefs.
  • The Houston Texans took ten seasons and four quarterbacks in the same year to make their first playoffs. When they first started, it was expected they would be terrible because of their expansion status. But after awhile, they put together talented players and their finishes in the late 2000's were disappointing.
    • The fact that ESPN analysts often picked them as "a team to watch out for" and "playoff-bound" did not help matters, as their disappointing finishes rewarded them with nicknames such as "Forever 8-8" and "Next Year's Divisional Champions", a combination of an insult and a reference to the Cowboys' years of being this trope in the 60s.
    • Furthermore, two seasons before they finally made the playoffs, they had gotten themselves into a great position for a wild card berth with an upset win in the final week of the season, only to be pushed out by the final game of the night when, for the second consecutive week (having faced and beaten the top overall seed in the AFC the previous week), the New York Jets defeated a team that had already clinched its best possible playoff position and was resting starters.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers between 1994 and 2004 (all under Bill Cowher) advanced to the AFC Championship game five times and lost four of those (and would have lost the 1995 game against Indianapolis had receiver Aaron Bailey not dropped a last-second Hail Mary). The really frustrating fact about this? All five of those games, the Steelers were the home team. Which makes it all the more ironic that the one Cowher-era Super Bowl win (XL) came after the Steelers swept the top three AFC seeds on the road.
    • One major factor is that, prior to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers never found the right quarterback after Terry Bradshaw retired, cycling through mediocrities like Neil O'Donnell (still loathed in Pittsburgh for his Super Bowl XXX performance), Mike Tomczak, Kent Graham and Tommy Maddox on an almost-yearly basis. Kordell Stewart had two solid seasons in 1997 and 2001 but was otherwise erratic, with a tendency to throw interceptions at crucial points (he threw three interceptions in the '97 AFC title game against Denver, and did so again in 2001 against the Patriots). Despite having solid running backs in Bam Morris and Jerome Bettis, and a consistently good defense, the lack of a consistent quarterback under Cowher proved a fatal handicap.
    • The modern day rendition of the Steelers, Led by "The Killer B's", Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Chris Boswell (oh, and Martavis Bryant on his good days), the Steelers consistently boast one of the strongest teams in the NFL, with a dynamic offense and a capable defense, they have been considered strong contenders in the AFC title, if not the Super Bowl title. Unfortunately, they've been bumping their heads against the AFC elite who would go on to win their respective Super Bowls or suddenly upset by dark horses.
      • First, losing to the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, The eventual champion Denver Broncos in 2015, and their longtime postseason nemesis the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots the following year in 2016. Injuries have played a heavy part in this - in 2014, Bell was injured in the last week of the regular season vs. Cincinnati; in 2015, Bell landed on IR halfway through the season and Brown suffered a concussion in the Wild-Card Round, also against Cincy; and 2016, Big Ben spent the second half of the year nursing a shoulder injury and Bell injured his groin in the Wild-Card Round and aggravated it in the AFC Title contest; the latter would wind up benched in the first quarter of that game. Bryant was also suspended for this season, and with Roethlisberger's injury and a cobbled-together collection of second-tier wideouts opposite Brown, his numbers dropped by over 30% from the year before, which led to the team basically going back to a run-first scheme after two years of pass-heavy playcalling.
      • The Steelers have been able to advance further and further in the postseason each year they made it and 2017 had their best team and season yet. Most of their pieces in place, two dazzling rookie sensations in JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt, An impressive 13-3 record... but a horrifically poor defensive performance caused them to bow out early to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars in the Divisional Round note 
      • Things got worse in 2018, which saw Bryant Put on a Bus, Bell effectively leave the Steelers for the year (no injury, just left), and replaced by newcomer James Conner. Despite a overall shaky performance early, the Steelers sprinted out to a 7-2-1 record...only for years of team baggage and locker room distractions taking a toll, creating a late season collapse. Pittsburgh proceeded to lose four of their final six games, culminating in a final crash at 9-6-1, losing the AFC North division, and the playoffs entirely. The Steelers have failed to make the postseason for the first time in five years. The subsequent 2019 offseason has Bell signing with the New York Jets, and Antonio Brown being traded to the Oakland Raiders, officially bringing an end to the Killer B's in Pittsburgh without a championship. Then for one final boot to the nuts, the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the 2019 season with an elbow injury.
      • The 2020 season started off better for the Steelers, as they began the season 11-0 thanks to strong defensive play and a promising rookie wide receiver in Chase Claypool and the return of longtime starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, resulting in the best start in franchise history. This did not go without criticism from outside fans, as the team was accused of being helped by officiating and having a somewhat weak schedule, as well as not being considered a good team, some calling the Steelers the "worst 11-0 team ever", especially after almost losing to a very shorthanded Baltimore Ravens team. However, the Steelers would face a disastrous collapse, starting with a loss to the Washington Football Team, followed by a loss to a Bills team who was having its best season in a long time, and then lost unexpectedly to struggling division rival Cincinnati, costing the Steelers the top seed in the AFC. And despite being favored in their Wild Card game against the Browns, who they had just barely lost to the previous week while playing backups at several key positions in order to give their starters a break (since the results of that game wouldn't affect their playoff standings), they would end up on the wrong side of a double-digit loss with Roethlisberger, at home, to the team they had previously dominated for years, culminating in yet another postseason disappointment under Mike Tomlin.
  • The Cleveland Browns went to three conference championships in four years (1986-87, 1989) and lost every time. To the same team. Who went on to lose the Super Bowl every time. (And the fans know a good season is an exception, given the Browns are one of two teams who managed to get a 0-16 season.)
    • Before LeBron came back and willed the Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016, the City of Cleveland itself could qualify. The Cavs' title was the city's first professional sports title since 1964. During that time, it seemed like the city's primary role was to provide a Moment of Awesome for another team before that team fizzled out.
    • Joke: Do you know why Toledo, Ohio doesn't have a professional football team? Because then Cleveland would want one too.
    • There was the 2007 season where they reversed the trend, went 10-6, and STILL didn't make the playoffs thanks to one Vince Young, quarterback of the Tennessee Titans at the time, along with the fact that the AFC's crop of teams was just that good that year.
    • In 2019, the Browns had high expectations and opened as the favorites to win the AFC North and had high odds to win the Super Bowl, thanks to a promising rookie season from quarterback Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. being traded from the Giants, and a brand new head coach in Freddie Kitchens. However, they did not meet expectations, due to Baker Mayfield regressing, the offensive line having more holes than a chunk of Swiss cheese, the inexperience of Freddie Kitchens, the team being undisciplined, injuries to key contributors, and both sides of the ball regressing overall. After a disappointing 6-10 season that ended with a loss to the Bengals (who had already clinched the worst record in the league), Freddie Kitchens was fired after only one season and was replaced by former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
    • Stefanski's tenure, however, got off to a promising start, surprising many people by not only clinching their first winning season since 2007, but also earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2002 (in a field that was arguably even more stacked than the 2007 field) and then winning their first playoff game since 1994, the latter of which was done with a shorthanded roster and coaching staff plus a limited amount of practice days due to COVID-19. They went out in the divisional round in a competitive loss to the Chiefs.
  • The San Diego Chargers. At least they're not as bad as they were in 1997-2003.
    • It's not just the Chargers. Every professional sports franchise in San Diego suffers through this. In forty-plus years of playing, the city has claimed only one championship, the 1963 AFL Championship by the Chargers. The Padres are 0-2 in the World Series and all Basketball teams that come to this town (Rockets, Conquistadors, and Clippers) have had short lives. It's so bad in San Diego, that someone made a wiki page detailing their misery.
    • And then the Chargers left town after the 2016 season to return to their original home of L.A., where their fortunes haven't improved: the Chargers spent their first three seasons playing in a soccer stadium that was typically either half-empty or filled with the opposing team's fans and have been treated as a red-headed stepchild compared to the Rams, L.A.'s other football team (and the one with a greater claim to the local fanbase, having spent well over three decades in Southern California before decamping to St. Louis, and then returning in 2015). While the Chargers have accrued a marginally respectable .577 winning percentage since the move, they've only managed one playoff appearance and, in 2020, gained the dubious honor of being the first team in NFL history to lose three consecutive games in which they had held a lead of 17 points or greater.
  • It was basically this trope that led Barry Sanders to retire from the game, even though he was within one good season of passing Walter Payton, and barring injury, could've put the all-time rushing record out of even Emmitt Smith's reach. The Lions followed up two of their best seasons, 1991 (going 12-4 and getting their only playoff win since 1957 to date, over an up-and-coming Dallas squad) and 1995 (in which Herman Moore and Brett Perriman became the first teammates to finish 1-2 in total receptions) with 5-11 records the following year. Barry didn't walk away because of any issues with coach Bobby Ross, as was speculated at the time, but because the front office absolutely failed to make the necessary moves to improve the team (especially on defense), and the lack of a winning culture that drained him of his love for the game. Needless to say, it went From Bad to Worse under the Matt Millen administration, which saw the Lions' Butt-Monkey status not only cemented, but fellow perennial cellar-dweller Arizona make the Super Bowl for the first time (a feat the Lions have yet to accomplish).
    • And it just keeps getting worse. With a healthy Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions made the 2011 Playoffs, only to get curb-stomped by the Saints in New Orleans. They followed up with a 4-4 first half in 2012, followed by an 0-8 second half. In 2013 things seemed to be back on track, with a 6-3 start and control of the NFC North race... only for the Lions to drop five of their next six and eliminate themselves from playoff contention with one week to go.note  The only thing Lions fans hate worse than the constant losing is getting teased with the possibility of winning only to see the team fall short.
    • In 2014, the Lions had a defense, a new coach, and finally a proper #2 receiver to take some heat off of Calvin Johnson. They made the playoffs with an 11-5 record, their best in decades, and found themselves behind four against the Cowboys in the Wild Card round driving down the field. A deep pass results in a a defensive Pass Interference call that would put the Lions at the 30-yard line with a good shot at a touchdown - and then the flag was picked up and the penalty called back. The Lions would lose the game. Johnson would retire after the 2015 season, at the time citing health issues but later admitting his frustration with the Lions' competitive woes also played a role in his decision.
    • Entering Week 14 of the 2016 season, the Lions were 9-4, in position to take the NFC North for the first time in decades. The Packers and Vikings were both 7-6, and seemingly in no position to challenge them. Naturally, they lost their next three games, including a for-the-division regular season finale against the Packers, and limped into the playoffs as a 9-7 Wild Card team. Getting clobbered by the Seahawks was basically inevitable at that point.
    • 2017 had the Lions finishing with the same 9-7 from the previous season, but this time it wasn't enough for playoff contention - had they not lost to the already eliminated Bengals in their 15th game, they could have a shot at the postseason.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the Philadelphia Eagles advanced to the playoffs eight times. During that span, they advanced to the NFC Championship game five times, but lost four of those, and lost their only Super Bowl appearance. The worst part was that three of those years happened in a row, including two years where they were the number 1 seed. A particularly painful example was the 2002 season, when the top-seeded Eagles hosted the NFC Championship game against longtime league punching bag Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team whom the Eagles had defeated many times before, including eliminating the Bucs in the postseason two years running in 2000 and 2001 pretty handily. Philly raced out to a quick 7-0 lead, only to be outscored 27-3 the rest of the game as the Bucs won 27-10 in a absolute stunner that broke the hearts of Eagles faithful. To make matters worse, the Buccaneers went on to win their first Super Bowl, something the Eagles have waited on for years. After losing Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots in 2005, they made the playoffs twice more, and their win in 2009 against the Giants would be their last victory in any playoff gamenote  until 2018, which ended in their victory over those same Patriots that beat them the last time.
    • The Philadelphia Eagles had picked up something of a reputation, along with a mild AFC counterpart the New York Jets, for a team that is, almost every season, picked to go deep in the playoffs if not win the title, no matter how they finished the season before, but only left with the trophy once, in Super Bowl III in 1969.note 
    • However, after said Super Bowl they haven't given that same output. Predicted to pick up in 2018 right where they left off and be one of the best teams in the league, Wentz entered after Foles split the first two games of the season. But things weren't going the way they planned, injuries were derailing them, and despite many thinking they'd get it together, the losses just didn't stop. And after what was looking to be a franchise redefining loss, 48-7 at the hands of the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome, they were on the brink of becoming the worst defending Super Bowl champions in NFL history. And facing the hardest remaining strength of schedule in the NFL following that, they were heavily predicted to complete said collapse. After Week 14, the Eagles were facing a Rams team in LA twice as scary as the one that ended Wentz's MVP caliber season a year prior. Before that, Wentz was sidelined yet again with a stress fracture in his back, and it was revealed this had been prior and players were aware of the situation. Foles came in to face the Rams, who were 13.5 point favorites against Philly. And yet, they handed LA their first home loss of the season and that changed everything. They rallied back and made the playoffs, got lucky to beat the Chicago Bears in their place and were back in the Superdome against that same Saints team...except this time just falling short. Afterwards, Foles left in free agency to join the Jacksonville Jaguars. Only time will tell if Wentz will ever see his 2017 level of success again or not.
  • Under head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons have had five straight winning seasons and playoff appearances in four of them. In the first three of those playoff appearances (two wild cards, one divisional) a first appearance loss. The fact that in each loss, the team that beat them would go on to the Super Bowl, probably doesn't help, nor does the fact that they were the favored team in each of their losses.
    • In the 2012 playoffs, the Falcons just narrowly subverted the trope by winning the Divisional Playoffs with a field goal after the Seahawks overcame a 20-point deficit with less than a minute left in the game. However, the Falcons ended up double subverting the trope by falling short in the NFC Championship against the 49ers.
    • This has lead to Matt Ryan receiving the "overrated" and "choker" label by his detractors: A common response used in any response to people talking about Matt Ryan being one of the league's top quarterbacks on Image Boards is "Playoff wins: 0". Kind of ironic, when you remember his days at Boston College, where he was known as a clutch QB (Hence the nickname, Matty Ice).
    • After an awful 4-12 2013 season, the Falcons were back in the playoff hunt in 2014...technically speaking. A Week 16 win over the New Orleans Saints gave them the season sweep and thus, the tiebreaker over the Saints should the teams and their now-identical records both win in the final week—thus eliminating the Saints, since Atlanta's opponent, the Carolina Panthers, had a record half a game better than the Saints and Falcons (due to a tie earlier in the season) and would also have the tiebreaker over the Saints; thus, no outcome of the Falcons-Panthers game could possibly result in the Saints making the playoffs with a win even though they could pass either one of those teams. Of course, the Panthers won, and coach Mike Smith was fired after the disappointing 6-10 season and third-place finish. Yes, that's right, the Falcons' division-winning record had they won that game would've been 7-9.
    • Perhaps most painfully in 2015. After firing Mike Smith in favor of Dan Quinn, the Falcons raced out to a 6-1 start on a series of nail-biting wins... only to blow five straight games in a similarly nail-biting fashion.
    • In 2016, things seemed to really be looking up for the Falcons, finishing 11-5 and coasting through the NFC Playoffs to advance to their second Super Bowl, where they were on the wrong side of history again, as they became the first team ever to hold a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl and lose. They led the New England Patriots 28-3 in Super Bowl LI, before New England exploded for 25 unanswered points late in the second half to force overtime, and then added a touchdown to win the game 34-28 in an incredible stunner.
    • After that, in 2017, they managed to put together a 10-6 season that got them a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. They advanced to the Divisional Round by knocking off the Los Angeles Rams, but would end up losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, who were en route to their first Super Bowl win ever.
    • In 2018 and 2019, the Falcons were anemic at best, finishing both seasons with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs.
    • In 2020, the Falcons found themselves on the wrong side of history again as they became the first team in recorded history to score 39 points in a game while not committing any turnovers and lose the game. As a result, following an 0-5 start, team owner Arthur Blank decided he had seen enough and fired both head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. This did little to help the Falcons' fortunes, as they stumbled their way to a 4-12 record, finishing last in their division. Four of those losses came when they went into the fourth quarter with the lead.
  • The 2000's Baltimore Ravens. Since their first Super Bowl win in 2001, it became nothing but seasons of "almosts" in the Charm City. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the Ravens made the playoffs NINE TIMES, including five consecutive appearances, while consistently fielding one of the league's most prolific defenses led by stars Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The last postseason collapse (2011-12 AFC Championship Game) perhaps being the most painful chapter yet, thanks to Lee Evansnote  and Billy Cundiff note , with an assist from the officialsnote . Baltimore finally had the breakthrough in 2012, going on a crazy playoff run to win Super Bowl XLVII (47).
    • The four straight AFC Championship losses have caused the Ravens to be labelled as the Spiritual Successor to the early 90s Buffalo Bills mentioned above note . Some consider it an Buffalo, that is. At least the Bills made the Super Bowl... As did the Ravens the following year. The difference there is the Ravens got the job done.
    • Following their Super Bowl XLVII win, the Ravens missed the playoffs the next year with an 8-8 record. They rebounded a bit the following year, claiming the last Wild Card spot, but lost to the Patriots in the divisional round. The Ravens then proceeded to miss the playoffs for three straight years (their longest streak since the 2000 season) largely floundering until the arrival of Lamar Jackson in 2018. Jackson, the 2019 league MVP, got the Ravens back to the playoffs, but the Ravens went one-and-done in 2018 and 2019 before Jackson finally got his first playoff victory in the 2020 Wild Card... only for the Ravens to promptly get crushed 17-3 in the Divisional one week later.
    • Given the fact that the Ravens were the '95 Browns transplanted, every victory or close call for Baltimore only twists the knife for Cleveland that much more.
  • The Denver Broncos (and their longtime quarterback John Elway) were former examples of this trope, having been to and lost 4 Super Bowls in the 1970s and 80s. Elway, to his credit, endured and persevered despite these setbacks (as well as a period of struggling in the 90s) and was finally able to lead his team to back-to-back Super Bowl championships at the tail end of his career. Unfortunately, they made it back to the Super Bowl for the 2013-2014 season, only to lose the game and become the first team in NFL history to lose 5 Super Bowls. (Though they bounced back in 2015, winning their third title in what proved to be Peyton Manning's final NFL game.)
    • The Broncos are particularly notable in that they have been absolutely annihilated in every Super Bowl they've lost, never losing by less than 17 points. This includes the largest margin of defeat in any Super Bowl, a 55-10 creaming by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
  • Don Shula was an NFL coach from 1963-95 and retired with the most wins by a head coach in NFL history; to go with two Super Bowl titles (the first of which famously concluded the Miami Dolphins' perfect season). However, his first decade as a head coach was this in spades.
    • Following his 2nd season, the Baltimore Colts (the team he coached first) was expected to easily defeated a Cleveland Browns team that was two years removed from owner Art Modell firing original head coach and namesake Paul Brown. Instead, the Colts were shut out by Cleveland 27-0 in the last championship that city celebrated until 2016.
    • The next season, the Colts finished tied for the Western Conference crown with Green Bay and had to play a special tie-breaker playoff without star quarterback Johnny Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo; forcing Baltimore to use Tom Matte, one of their running backs, at quarterback. During regulation, the Colts held a 10-0 halftime lead; while managing to knock out Green Bay's star quarterback, Bart Starr. However, the game went into overtime following a controversial field goal ruling (video footage showed the ball going wide of the right upright).note  The Packers would win 13-10 in overtime on a field goal that left no doubt as to its success.
    • In 1967, the Colts would finish tied for the best record in the NFL at 11-1-2 but still managed to miss the playoffs due to two games with the divisional rival Los Angeles Rams. Following a Week 5 game at Baltimore that ended in a 24-24 deadlock; the teams played again on the last week of the season in Los Angeles for the Coastal Division crown and lone spot left to be settled. The Rams would end up blasting the Colts 34-10 to leave Baltimore the odd team out in the postseason.
    • The following year, the Colts advanced to a 13-1 record under journeyman quarterback Earl Morrall (replacing Johnny Unitas, who missed most of the year with an elbow injury). They then advanced to Super Bowl III as the heavy favorites over the AFL's New York Jets. Unfortunately, Morrall ended up playing the worst game of his career; throwing 3 2nd quarter interceptions (topped by a flea-flicker pass in which Morrall missed wide-open receiver Jimmy Orr). By the time Shula yanked Morrall in favor of the ailing Unitas, the score was 13-0 in favor of the Jets — who ultimately upset Baltimore 16-7.
    • Shula left the Colts after 1969, and took the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs for the first time in their short history in his first season. The next year, the Dolphins advanced to Super Bowl VI against the Dallas Cowboys (themselves seeking to shed the "Next Year's Champions" nickname). Dallas would humiliate Miami 24-3, leaving the Dolphins as the first team to not score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
  • For most of Jim Harbaugh's tenure, the San Francisco 49ers were extremely dominant, going to at least the conference championship every year note . They lost the championship in 2012 against the New York Giants note , the Super Bowl in 2013 against the Baltimore Ravens note , and another championship in 2014 against the Seattle Seahawks note . It's better than how terrible they were before 2011, but it's still disappointing, especially because all three of these losses were extremely close.
  • The New York Jets have been something of a case throughout their history. Their only title win came in Super Bowl III, and they haven't made it back to the Super Bowl since then, no matter what kind of team they field. This has resulted in their being dubbed the "New York Jest".note  In recent memory, their stretch from 2008 to 2011:
    • In 2008, they were led by Brett Favre, started 8-3, they were considered a favorite to win the Super Bowl that year, and were doing things like scoring 56 points against the Cardinals, beating the Rams 47-3, and stomping the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans 34-13. Unfortunately, Favre suffered an injury, didn't tell anyone, and decided to play through the injury. Therefore, his performance suffered, the Jets lost four of their last five games, and floundered their way out of playoff contention.
    • In 2009, the Jets got all the way to the AFC Championship Game, where they got out to a 17-6 lead over the Colts. They were outscored 24-0 from there and lost 30-17.
    • In 2010, the Jets started out 9-2 and actually had one of their best seasons in years, barring a 45-3 loss to the Patriots. How did they cap this off? By practically no-showing the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers, going into halftime down 24-0. They outscored Pittsburgh 19-0 in the second half, but they still managed to find another way to lose.
    • In 2011, the Jets stood at 8-5 and had winnable games left on their schedule. What did they do? They were destroyed by the Eagles 45-19, got embarrassed by the Giants 29-14 in a game they had practically staked their entire season on, then were eliminated from playoff contention by losing 19-17 to the Dolphins, a team they could have beaten. The Giants loss was particularly nasty, as the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year, the same thing the Jets kept swearing they'd do all season.
    • In 2015, the Jets stood at 10-5 in the final week of the season, in a "win-and-in" scenario facing former head coach Rex Ryan and the 7-8 Bills in Buffalo. Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was having a Cinderella season at Quarterback, turned into a pumpkin in the final stretches of the game, throwing three consecutive interceptions on the Jets' last drives of the game, resulting in a 22-17 loss, knocking the Jets out of the postseason. Predictable cries of "Same Old Jets" rung out across the NFL scape, and adding another chapter to the Jets history of futility.
    • As a bonus, the long-suffering fans know team management will do something to crush their hopes, most notably bad draft choices.
  • The coaching career of Chuck Knox plays out as this; with some fans blaming his ultra-conservative, run-oriented offensive philosophy (nicknamed Ground Chuck) for much of Knox's post-season struggles; along with (particularly in his first stint with the Los Angeles Rams) a revolving door at quarterback:
    • After winning NFL Coach of the Year honors in his first year as a head coach in leading the Rams to a 12-2 mark and NFC West crown while getting the last good season out of former San Diego Chargers quarterback John Hadlnote ; the Rams (now led by one of the few black quarterbacks of The '70s in James "Shack" Harris after Hadl was traded to Green Bay) advanced to the NFC Championship game vs. the defending NFC champion Minnesota Vikings only to lose that title game and a trip to Super Bowl IX 14-10; aided by a potential game-tying 3rd quarter drive derailed by a controversial illegal procedure flag on guard Tom Mack (Minnesota intercepted the ball two plays later).
    • 1975 saw the Rams return to the NFC Championship game led by a strong defense that gave up 9.6 points per game (2nd fewest in NFL history) and solid quarterback play from a young Ron Jaworskinote ; this time playing at home vs. the wild-card Dallas Cowboys (who had eliminated the Vikings on the famous "Hail Mary" pass). However, the Cowboys' momentum showed up in full force in a 37-7 blowout to punch Dallas' ticket to Super Bowl X.
    • 1976 saw the Rams survive a quarterback controversy between Harris; Jaworski and rookie Pat Haden; clinching their 4th consecutive NFC West title and for the 3rd year in a row playing in the NFC Championship game, only to be defeated by the Minnesota Vikings yet again 24-13
    • 1977 was thought by many to be the Rams' best shot at a Super Bowl. With Haden replacing an aging Joe Namath early in the year the Rams finished the season with their 5th consecutive division title and hosting an NFC Divisional playoff game. However, this time they went one-and-done in the Divisional round vs. the aging Vikings in a game known as the "Mud Bowl" 14-7; culminating in owner Carroll Rosenbloom firing Knoxnote 
    • Knox left for Buffalo after his ouster in Los Angeles; and after two mediocre seasons the Bills returned to the playoffs with an 11-5 record and AFC East crown in 1980; only for the Bills to lose the AFC Divisional playoff to a team that was a polar opposite in offensive philosophy: the high-scoring San Diego Chargers, who edged Buffalo 20-14 off a late touchdown pass from Dan Fouts that bounced off Buffalo defender Charley Romes into the hands of Ron Smith. Romes atoned for his error the following post-season by recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff of 1981's AFC wild-card game vs. the New York Jets and returned it for a touchdown; but after the Bills won that game, Buffalo was knocked out by the Cincinnati Bengals 28-21 after a desperation Joe Ferguson pass fell incomplete on 4th down late in the game.
    • Knox left Buffalo after the 1982 season when he couldn't come to an agreement on a new contract; taking the helm in Seattle for the 1983 campaign, a season which saw the Seahawks make the playoffs for the first time in team history; followed by defeating Denver and Miami to advance to the AFC Championship game vs. the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Coliseum that had been the site of much post-season disasters for Knox's Rams teams. Los Angeles would trounce Seattle 30-14 en route to winning Super Bowl XVIII while Knox would never advance that far again (Knox's Seahawks advanced to the post-season in 1984, 1987 and 1988 but the 1984 AFC wild-card game vs. the same Raiders marked Seattle's last playoff win until 2005; and Knox left in 1991 to return to the Rams but suffered three sub-par seasons before being fired as the Rams departed for St. Louis following the 1994 season).
  • After their Super Bowl victory in the 1983 season, the Los Angeles and then Oakland Raiders fell headlong into this trope. It took eight playoff berths for them to reach the Super Bowl again, in large part due to a revolving cast of mostly mediocre quarterbacks. Along the way, they made two conference championships and lost both in embarrassing fashion (a 51-3 shellacking in 1990 at the hands of the Bills, and a 16-3 snoozer against the Ravens in 2000). And then there's the Tuck Rule Game. The cherry on top was their Super Bowl appearance in 2002. After putting together the best team they'd had since their Super Bowl victories, and finally finding a proper quarterback in Rich Gannon, the Raiders finally got over the hump - and proceeded to get demolished by the sad sack Buccaneers, led by the coach they'd traded away that offseason, who brought the scheme for their high-powered offense with him. Afterwards, they've avoided this trope by the interesting strategy of not making the playoffs at all.
  • Marty Schottenheimer finished his NFL coaching career with 205 wins and a Coach of the Year award in 2004 with the then-San Diego Chargers. However, of those 205 wins, only five have come in the playoffs. Over the years, Schottenheimer built up a reputation for leading teams to great success in the regular season, only to bottom out in the playoffs:
    • In his first playoff appearance in 1985 as head coach of the Browns, Cleveland built up a 21-3 first half lead over the Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff game. Miami would come back and win the game 24-21.
    • The following season saw the Browns post a 12-4 record and home-field advantage through the playoffs. Sadly, they didn't make it past the AFC Championship Game, thanks to "The Drive:" The Browns were leading 20-13 when the John Elway lead the Broncos to a game-tying 98-yard touchdown drive. Denver would win in overtime on a field goal.
    • 1987 saw the Broncos and Browns meet once more in the AFC Championship Game. This time in the 4th quarter, the Broncos were winning, and the Browns managed to get to Denver's eight-yard line. Ernest Byner proceeded to fumble the ball, sealing the game for the Broncos.
    • After one more playoff loss in 1988, Schottenheimer was fired by the Browns and later hired by the Chiefs. From 1990-1993, the Chiefs made the playoffs, but never advanced past the AFC Championship Game. After missing the playoffs in 1994, the Chiefs made it back to the playoffs in 1995 and 1997, only to bow out to the Colts and upstart Jaguars, respectively.
    • After getting fired by the Chiefs in 1998, Schottenheimer resurfaced in Washington in 2001. The team finished 8-8 in what would be Schottenhemier's only season with the team; he was let go in favor of University of Florida head coach Steve Spurrier.
    • Schottenheimer would soon take up head coaching duties with the Chargers in 2002. San Diego made the playoffs under him for the first time in 2004. They would lose to the Jets on a missed field goal from Nate Kaeding. In 2006, the Chargers finished the season at 14-2...and then lost to the Patriots in an AFC Divisional game. What made this loss really sting was that the Chargers had an eight-point lead when safety Marlon McCree intercepted Tom Brady...and then proceeded to fumble the ball while attempting to return it. The Pats would get a new set of downs, eventually take the lead and win the game after Nate Kaeding once again missed a field goal that would've tied the game. After the season, issues between Schottenheimer and the Chargers front office led to the former getting fired. It would turn out to be Schottenheimer's last job in the NFL. In 2011, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and in 2021, he passed away at the age of 77.
  • After losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, the St. Louis Rams sunk into mediocrity for over a decade, but when Stan Kroenke took control of the team and moved it back to Los Angeles, he began to beef it up considerably, and in 2017 the Rams had their first winning season since 2003, and landed in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Their 2018 season would turn out even better, tying with the New Orleans Saints for the best win-loss record in the league, and they even landed in the Super Bowl... where they failed to score a single touchdown (or anything beyond a single field goal) in a pathetically low-scoring game (13-3, a Super Bowl record) against the Patriots, the very same team that beat them 17 years earlier. The following season, they finished 9-7, but missed the playoffs.
  • For that matter, the New England Patriots had two flavors of this. The first was in the Drew Bledsoe period (1993-2001), where despite playing five winning seasons in eight years, better than any period in the franchise's history up until that point, the Pats were frequently eliminated early in the playoffs, and their one trip to the Super Bowl in the 1996 season earned them a lopsided confrontation with Brett Favre's Packers. This period ended with the emergence of Tom Brady, who led the team to three Super Bowl victories in four years. The ten years between their victories in Super Bowls XXXIX and XLIX, however, featured a lot of missed opportunities, despite the team's superb play and immensely talented roster. The 2005 and 2006 seasons featured a divisional loss and an AFC championship loss, the 2007 season ended in a tremendous upset by the underdog Giants over a hitherto undefeated Patriots team, the 2008 season saw Brady out with an ACL injury, and in 2009, the Pats were again eliminated early. In 2010, Brady had the best season, statistically, of his career with a third NFL MVP award, but the team was eliminated in the divisional by the Jets. 2012 and 2013 featured AFC championship losses to the Ravens and Broncos, respectively, so when the 2014 season rolled around, the Pats, led by the now 37 year-old Brady, were hungry for a win. In a Cool vs. Awesome matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, the Pats prevailed on a last-minute interception at the goal line by Malcolm Butler, and the dynasty was given a new lease on life. The Patriots reached the Super Bowl in the 2016 through the 2018 seasons, winning two, and Brady was decorated as Super Bowl MVP twice more and NFL MVP for the third time at age 40.
  • The Green Bay Packers aren't the first name one might associate with this trope given that they have made three Super Bowl appearances in the past 30 years, and won two of them... but they've also had 17 additional seasons where they made the playoffs but failed to advance to the Super Bowl, including a few pretty bizarre post-season losses. While no team can be expected to make the Super Bowl every time, 17 misses in 30 years is a lot, especially given the kinds of records they've had in the regular season some of those years. Brett Favre's penchant for throwing interceptions at the worst possible time is no doubt part of this (see his entry under "Quarterbacks"), but this tendency didn't end with Favre's departure.
    • Since they won Super Bowl XLV, Aaron Rodgers' Packers would go the NFC Championship four times (2014, 2016, 2019, 2020), and lose every timenote . The most painful loss came in the 2014 game, where, thanks to Mike McCarthy's conservative playcalling and special teams miscues, they blew a 19-7 lead and lost to the defending champion, the Seahawks, in overtime.

  • The Ottawa Senators had been perennial division leaders in the mid-'90s through the middle of the 2000s, with two conference #1 seeds and a President's Trophy (awarded to the team that finishes with the most points). They're only second to the Detroit Red Wings in regular season wins for a decade. No Stanley Cup has been won by Ottawa as of yetnote . They also boast the dubious distinction of winning the most playoff rounds for a team without a Stanley Cup for a decade.
    • And when the Senators did make it to a Stanley Cup Final in 2007, the game-winning goal in the cup-losing game was booted into their own net by the goalie. Even more embarrassing, after winning the first three rounds that year in five games they were beaten by the Anaheim five games.
    • The 2000-01 post-season was an extreme example; after winning every single regular season game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and ending up 2nd overall in the conference, the two teams faced off in the first round of elimination, with Ottawa heavily favoured to win. Instead, they were swept 4-0.
    • The Senators made tremendous strides in the 2016-17 season, finishing with 98 points and advancing all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, and pushing the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins to a Game 7, but the Senators' dreams were dashed in double-overtime as they lost 3-2. And somehow, the Senators followed that by becoming the worst team in the league for two seasons in a row (and for bonus humiliation, both times the ensuing draft lottery pushed them down to the fourth pick! Then again, their 2019 draft pick got traded to Colorado...for a player that they traded to the Blue Jackets).
  • The St. Louis Blues went to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first three seasons (largely due to the fact that from 1967-68 to 1969-70, the playoff format forced one of the Finals opponents to be one of the six 1967 expansion teams), only to be swept all three times (most famously in 1970, when Bobby Orr scored the game-winner in overtime). The Blues then had a consecutive playoff appearance streak of 25 seasons (1979-80 to 2003-04), but never made it back to the Finals in that time period, getting closest in 1985-86 (lost to the Calgary Flames in 7). Then the streak was broken in the post-lockout season of 2006, with the Blues having the league's worst result. Years of futility aside from a quick playoff run in 2009 (sweep by the Canucks' hands) later, the team was finally rebuilt into a contender in 2011 under coach Ken Hitchcock. A contender that couldn't beat the two strongest teams of the west, the Kings and Blackhawks (or in 2015, a surging Minnesota Wild team that prevented a Blackhawks rematch; and in 2016 the San Jose Sharks, as the Blues beat the 'Hawks in round 1, and then returned to the Conference Finals after 15 years). Hitchcock was fired following struggles in 2016-17 - and the Blues still fell in round 2, this time to the Nashville Predators. After Hitchcock's replacement Mike Yeo was axed in November 2018 in favor of assistant coach Craig Berube, the Blues were last in the NHL in early January... then rebounded to not only make the playoffs, but return to the Finals for the first time in 49 years (in some historic resonance, against those same Bruins from last time) and downright win their first title ever!
  • Canadian teams in the playoffs since 1993 also qualify. The Senators, Flames, Oilers, and Canucks have all made it to the final round, (and as far as Game Seven for the Flames, Oilers, and Canucksnote ) and promptly lost, breaking the hearts of a nation. Rock Bottom was in 2016, when all seven Canadian teams missed the postseason.note 
    • 2017 was a fizzling out in the opposite direction of 2016's shutout. Five of the sixteen seeded teams (out of seven Canadian teams, with only the Canucks and Jets missing out) were Canadian, and with the Canadiens, Senators, and Oilers coming into the playoffs hot (2nd or better in their respective divisions, with the top three of the Atlantic Division only narrowly avoiding being an all-Canadian sweepnote ) many Canadian fans thought this would be the year that the drought would end. However, three of the teams (the Canadiens, Leafs, and Flames) bowed out in the first round, with the Oilers losing to the Ducks in round 2 after a Game 7 that nearly went to Overtime, leaving the Senators as the only Canadian team to reach the Conference Finals. Despite a valiant effort, the Sens would lose Game 7 to the Penguins in a double OT heartbreaker, leaving Canada without a Cup yet again.
    • Despite 2017's strong pre-playoff showing, 2018 was not kind to Canadian teams. The aforementioned Canadiens, Senators, and Oilers suffered abysmal seasons despite their wild successes the previous year and all ended up near the bottom of their respective Conferences, while the struggling Canucks (see below) continued imploding like they had the previous few years. With the Flames also falling short of the playoffs by a considerable margin, only the Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets (both of whom, to their credits, were comfortably near the top of the Easternnote  and Western Conferencesnote  respectively) would make the playoffs in 2018. The Leafs would bow out in the first round to the Bruins in 7 games, while the Jets would ultimately fall to the white-hot Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games during the Western Conference Finals.
    • 2019 had three strong Canadian teams entering, only to outright fail in Round 1: the Flames who had the best results in the Western Conference fell in just 5 games to the Colorado Avalanche, the Jets only lasted one more game against the Blues, and the Leafs were downed yet again by the Bruins in Game 7 (a poor showing that ended 4-1).
    • 2020, which for COVID-19 reasons had the whole postseason in Canada, had all teams but Ottawa qualifying; three fell in the preliminary roundnote , two in Round 1, and then a resurgent Canucks team fell in seven to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round.
  • The San Jose Sharks weren't always like this. In fact, they were pulling off upsets to top seeds throughout the 90s and early 2000s like the Red Wings and the Blues. Although the Sharks only missed the playoff thrice since 1993-94 season but had many years failing to make it to the Stanley Cup Final, along with only thrice reaching the conference finals. They, too, won a President's Trophy, in the 2008-2009 season...and promptly lost to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks. The absolute nadir may have come in 2014, as the Sharks became only the fourth team in league history to lose a playoff series after leading 3-0. Even worse, they lost to the in-state rival Los Angeles Kings, who went on to win it all. The Sharks then proceeded to fail to make the playoffs the following year, marking the first time in over a decade that they missed the postseason. They got their revenge in knocking out the Kings in 2016's First Round 4 games to 1, and managed to finally get to the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately for them, they got defeated by the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, continuing their streak as playoff bridesmaids. 2017 saw the Sharks reverting back to their usual fizzling ways, getting bounced in the first round by the young Edmonton Oilers in six games. 2018 had them beaten in round 2 by the surprisingly good Vegas Golden Knights after beating Anaheim, while 2019 had the Sharks getting their revenge on Vegas in the first round and returning to the conference finals... only to lose to the Blues, who hadn't been to the finals in almost fifty years. Things would crash in 2019-20, as the Sharks finished dead last in the Western Conference, third last overall, and had already traded their first round pick to Ottawa, who will pick third overall with it.
  • On the other side of California there are the Anaheim Ducks, who have won the Stanley Cup, but ever since the 2007 title have been frustratingly inconsistent. Before the 2012 lockout, 2 non-qualifications, 2 first-round defeats, and a round 2 defeat (but in a series so aggressive Anaheim and Detroit fans feel it cost the Red Wings the 2009 title). After the lockout, three straight Pacific Division titles, the last two with the West's best result, and thrice losing in seven games after building a 3-2 lead (one further every playoff: Round 1 to Detroit, Round 2 to Los Angeles, and Round 3 to Chicago). The fourth year, despite a bad start they finished atop the Pacific, and again fell in seven games, this time in Round 1 (to Nashville, the team who beat them in the last pre-lockout appearance...). It just seems Anaheim can't handle game 7s (only won 3, the last in 2006 when they were still the Mighty Ducks). 2017 had the Ducks finally winning a game 7, beating the Oilers who had just kicked the Sharks out... only to lose the conference finals in six, again to the Nashville Predators. After overcoming an injury-riddled season, 2018 had them suffer a sweep against the Sharks, the lowest point being an 8-1 loss in Game 3. The Ducks finally bottomed out in 2019, which included a 12-game losing streak, and missed the postseason.
  • The Washington Capitals have an unfortunate legacy of crashing and burning that has plagued them ever since their first puck dropped in 1974. They hadn't even made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for 20 years, from 1998 through 2018 (where they not only made it past the second round but ultimately won the Cup), with an ugly tendency to lose to teams they were fully expected to beat - especially their arch-nemeses, the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they have faced eleven times in the playoffs and beaten twice. They are three-time President's Trophy winners,note  but that was little comfort to fans who continued to see them drop out of the playoffs almost every single year they made it.
    • Caps fans whose first heartbreaks have come in the Ovechkin era have suffered nowhere near older Caps fans who remember the futility of the 80s Caps teams to reach the third round (the most crushing loss being the infamous Easter Epic in 1987) or the 90s Caps teams' inability to get past the Lemieux-led Pittsburgh Penguins (including a few blown 3-1 series leads). And when they managed to get to the Cup Finals in 1998? Ran into the buzzsaw of the Detroit Red Wings juggernaut.
    • 2018 finally saw the Capitals win a Stanley Cup after a whopping 44 years in the league. For bonus points, they beat the Vegas Golden Knights, a team that made it to the finals in their inaugural year when the rest of the teams in this list are lucky to get to the playoffs in most of their existences.
    • However, 2019 marked a return to heartbreak as they proceeded to be eliminated in the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that hadn't been in the playoffs in a decade. On the bright side, however, their elimination did help complete a historic moment... that being the first time in over 50 years that every single division leader was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. 2020 had the Capitals beat by the New York Islanders in an easy 4-1.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers. Since joining the NHL as part of the 1967 expansion, they have only missed the playoffs eight times (and just twice since 1995) and reached the final eight times, but have only won the Stanley Cup twice, in 1974 and 1975. Part of the problem is that unbelievable consistency prevents them from bottoming out and having the ability to select a slur of high draft picks; their arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins are built on the first overall pick in 2003 (Marc-Andre Fleury), second overall in 2004 (Evgeni Malkin), first overall in 2005 (Sidney Crosby), and second overall in 2006 (Jordan Staal). Not to mention how the Penguins had a meteoric rise in the 1980s after drafting a young Mario Lemieux...
    • The Flyers "bottomed out" in the mid-1990s, with 5 years straight out of the postseason, and spending heavily to acquire the rights to Eric Lindros from Quebec (which was the first of a series of trades that built the Nordiques into the Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche). They did eventually build back up, led by the "Legion of Doom" linenote , but after being swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1997 Finals, they settled back into the Eastern Conference pack. They got a bit lucky in 2010, having Montreal knock off the heavily favored Capitals and Penguins, before losing to Chicago in the Finals.
  • The Detroit Red Wings were this for about a decade, having rebuilt from the "Dead Things era" to make back-to-back Conference Finals and making the playoffs in 9 of 10 seasons (the 1989-90 season was rife with internal strife, resulting in management trading away several young stars for washed-up veterans), but never getting over (swept by the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 Finals, nearly trading away captain and star Steve Yzerman to Ottawa). Finally, in 1997, the team got over on new arch-rival Colorado and then swept the Flyers to win their first Cup in 42 seasons, and the first of four Cups in 11 seasons. Still, it seemed to be feast or famine for the Wings; prior to 2006-07, they either won the Cup or ended in the first or second round.
    • The Red Wings were consistent contenders despite their playoff struggles, appearing in 25 consecutive post-seasons starting in the aforementioned '89-90 season— a record that was the longest streak in North American sports history at the time. This, however, came crashing down in '16-'17, where the Wings ended up placing third-last in their Conference and missing the playoffs by a large margin. 2018 would prove that this was not a short-lived hiccup, as they would place fourth-last in their Conference, falling a whopping 24 points short of playoff contention, and 2019 saw them miss out on the playoffs by the same margin (while dropping to third-last in the East again, with Buffalo edging them out by two points).
    • 2020 saw them bottom out completely, finishing with only 39 points in a season that was ultimately cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.For context  To add insult to injury, they were only given the fourth overall pick in the draft lottery, with the number one pick going to a team that made that year's expanded playoffs.
  • Another "Original Six" team, the Boston Bruins, were this for even longer in a slightly shorter drought of 37 seasons. While on the longest playoff streak ever (29 seasons, 1968-96), after winning the 1972 title, the team had legends such as Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Cam Neely reach 5 Stanley Cup finals and lose them all. Then after the streak was broken in 1996, the Bruins started a decay that even made The Sports Guy give up on them. Luckily, a rejuvenation under coach Claude Julien starting in 2007 turned the Bruins back into contenders, including a Stanley Cup in 2011 and two more finals in 2013 and 2019.
  • The Vancouver Canucks have fairly consistently made the playoffs, usually by winning their division, from 2000-01 onwards, but always fall short in the playoffs. Even getting Roberto Luongo, a guy many consider to be the best goaltender in the world, didn't improve their efforts.
    • Luongo himself is a perfect example of this: a dominant goaltender during the regular season, yet crumbles in the playoffs, earning himself the Fan Nickname of "LeBrongo". Part of this is because Luongo infamously runs hot or cold, with very little in between— when he's on his game, which is most of the time (hence his mostly positive reputation), he's considered one of the best goalies of all time, and with good reason. When he's off his game, which has a bad tendency to happen when his team needs him most (see: the playoffs), he stops pucks about as well as a block of Swiss cheese.
    • In 2011, it Went Horribly Wrong when the Canucks won the President's Trophy but lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins and riots ensued in Vancouver. The following year, they retained the President's Trophy only to lose 4-1 in the first round to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.note 
      • 2011 deserves special mention in terms of the sheer magnitude of the Canucks' flaming out. While the Cup Finals did go to Game 7, this doesn't quite tell the full story. The Canucks were simply unable to score, to the point where they broke the record for lowest number of goals scored in a seven-game Cup Final, and actually scored less than the record holder for a six game Final, scoring a horrific eight goals over the course of the series and averaging just over a single goal per game (to put this in perspective, the Bruins scored as much in Game 3 alone than the Canucks scored over the course of the entire 7 game series), winning two of the games by a score of 1-0 purely on the back of Luongo managing a shutout after stopping more than 30 shots each. But Luongo himself (see above) proved wildly inconsistent as well, with Boston averaging more than 3 goals a game (the aforementioned Game 3? An 8-1 rout, where Vancouver still managed to outshoot Boston despite only scoring once. Vancouver decided not to pull Luongo the entire game, even after the Bruins scored four times in 15 minutes). In games where the Bruins scored, they averaged nearly five goals per game, almost all against Luongo (Game 6 being a prime example, where the Bruins scored against Luongo three times in the first nine minutes, forcing a goalie switch after just eight shots. And then they scored against the backup goalie a minute later). Overall the Canucks were outscored by a total of 23-8, a wild departure from the rest of their playoff run.
    • Then in 2013 they won their division and finished third in the West... only to be swept by another team on this page, the Sharks.
    • In 2014, the team that was once Cup favorites had pretty much self-destructed, trading away both of their starting-caliber goalies for a draft pick and an AHL goaltender, firing their GM, and failing to so much as make the playoffs in the juggernaut Pacific Division. It paid off in a way, as in 2015 they returned to be contenders and finished second in the Pacific... until they were defeated in the first round by the Calgary Flames, who had made the playoffs for the first time in six years. 2016 had them bottom out again, and in 2017 they not only bottomed out with the second-worst record in the league (avoiding the bottom spot by virtue of an utterly disastrous season from the Colorado Avalanche), they were one of only two Canadian teams to miss the playoffs (the other, the Winnipeg Jets, were one position away from qualifying). By 2018, the implosion was complete, ended up second-worst in the Western Conference (this time, spared the bottom spot, just barely, by the Arizona Coyotes) and 26th overall, and with the Sedin twins retiring at the end of the season it now seems likely that they'll stay there for the foreseeable future, with only a mild improvement in 2019. Though 2020 had the Canucks resurging in the extended playoffs, winning two rounds before bowing to Vegas in 7.
  • Player version: Brian Savage, most notably of the Montreal Canadiens. Savage always went on an early season tear, only to disappear throughout the season. As the NHL season typically began in October, he earned the nickname "Mr. October" because of it.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs are quite possibly the league's most infamous example. The Leafs are the only Original Six team to have never won a Cup since the NHL first expanded in 1967 (despite being the winners of the final Stanley Cup awarded in the Original Six era), and have never even returned to the Cup Finals since (the longest Cup Finals drought in NHL history, with a 12-year lead over the Arizona Coyotes who also have an active drought). With the Blues quenching their Cup drought in 2019 (the last of the original expansion teams to win the championship, meaning that until they won, they were tied with the Leafs), the Leafs now have the longest active drought in the League, and, as of 2019, are only two years behind the longest drought in League history, that belonging to the New York Rangers (see below).
    • The Leafs had several chances to make the Cup Finals in The '90s, reaching the Conference Finals in 1993, 1994, and 1999 as well as an appearance in 2002. Despite this, they failed to advance (losing to the Kings in 7, Canucks in 5, Sabres in 5, and Hurricanes in 6 respectively).
    • Following the lockout in 2005, the Leafs collapsed spectacularly, failing to make the playoffs for the following seven seasons, during which they had an uncanny tendency to either have a strong start to their season before collapsing in the final months before the playoffs, or come back from a poor start to the season to ultimately fall short:
      • 2006: After a strong start to the season, the Leafs suffered two lengthy losing streaks in January and February, falling two points short of contention.
      • 2007: In a reversal of fortune, the Leafs had a rough start to the season before surging towards the end, eventually falling one point short when the New York Islanders won a shootout in their final game against the New Jersey Devils to move past them for the final playoff spot.
      • 2008: The Leafs had an overall poor season, ending up at the bottom of the Northeast Division on the back of having the second-worst penalty-kill in the league for the season (as well as allowing the most powerplay goals)note  and one of the worst overtime/shootout records in the league.
      • 2009: The Leafs had another overall poor season, allowing the most goals and having the worst penalty-kill in the league. Despite this, the Leafs were technically among the last teams to be eliminated from playoff contention before a sub-.500 March put an end to their playoff hopes.
      • 2010: The Leafs bottomed out, finishing last in the Eastern Conferencenote  on the back of a league-worst power play and penalty kill and setting a franchise-worst start to a season by losing their first eight games (and winning only once in all of October).
      • 2011: The Leafs battled back from a poor November and December to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot, but ultimately fell short when the Sabres had a wildly successful March and April to claim the final spot in the Northeast.
      • 2012: The Leafs led the Northeast Division for some time and looked like they were finally going to break their playoff drought. Then they had a spectacularly bad February, including a stretch of losing 10 out of 11 games before two more losing streaks in March dashed their playoff hopes, ultimately finishing 13th in the East. The coach was fired, the owners issued an apology letter, and disgruntled fans started chanting "LET'S GO BLUE JAYS!" at home games.note 
    • In 2013, the playoff drought finally ended. Despite no one counting on the Leafs passing Round 1, they still pushed it to Game 7, and were leading the final game 4-1 halfway into the third period. The Bruins then proceeded to score three times in less than ten minutes (two of which, including the game-tying goal, happened within 31 seconds of play, and both occurred with less than a minute and a half left in the game) to force overtime, before scoring the series-ending goal a few minutes into the first overtime period, leaving the Leafs as the first-ever team to lose a Game 7 after having a three-goal lead in the third period.
    • In 2014, the Leafs peaked at 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, and despite a mediocre November were performing well... until March and April, where they went 2-12 in their final 14 games, finishing 12th in the East and missing the playoffs again.
    • 2015 may have set a new low. After a fairly solid first few months, Toronto completely fell apart after the start of the New Year, winning only nine games in the second half of the season (and won only once away from home, as well as only once in the entirety of January), eventually going from near the top of the Eastern Conference to second-worst by the time the season ended. The Leafs tied their franchise-worst point total since the league expanded to a 82-game season, the Leafs broke a 13-season streak of consistently selling out for their home games, and team President Brendan Shanahan decided to "scorch the earth", firing most of the team's staff to rebuild for future seasons.
    • 2016, to no one's surprise, saw the Leafs bottom out, finishing last overall. For once, this made the fanbase optimistic for a change since there was nowhere to go but up, and the Leafs ended up winning the draft lottery.
    • 2017 saw the Leafs squeaking into the playoffs for only the second time since 2004, and defying expectations by standing toe-to-toe with the President's Trophy winning Capitals before ultimately falling in 6 games in a series where every game was decided by only a single goal and five of the six games went to overtime. With a young team with plenty of room to grow already proving capable of pushing a top-seeded team to their limits, Leafs fans grew cautiously optimistic about their team's long-term prospects.
    • 2018 and 2019 saw the Leafs make the playoffs, placing third in the Atlantic Division. Both seasons would end the same way, however, with a Game 7 loss in the first round against the Bruins. The Leafs are generally agreed to have shed their regular season choking ways... only to be right back to fizzling out in the postseason. This was neatly demonstrated in 2020, where the Leafs twice tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round but then were trounced 3-0 in the decisive fifth game.
    • The Leafs have the dubiously desired title of "The most profitable losing team in sports": despite the fact that they haven't won the Stanley Cup, or even gotten close to it, in 50+ years, home games are always sold out, and the wait time for season tickets in the worst seats in their home of Scotiabank Arena is 7-10 years, with longer wait times for better seats. Scotiabank Arena (originally Air Canada Centre) was built to try to accommodate more fans due to the previous Maple Leaf Gardens being considered too small for the huge fanbase the Leafs enjoy.
  • The New York Rangers appear to be suffering from this; since the 2005 lockout, they've only missed the playoffs twice. The problem is that each time into the postseason there always seems to be something to trip them up. 2006: Well, they just got back into the playoffs for the first time since 1997 - takes some of the sting out of a 4-game sweep by the Devils. 2007: Swept the Atlanta Thrashers, fought well against the President's Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres before bowing out in 6. 2008: Knocked the Devils out in 5, knocked out by the Penguins in 5 (would have been a sweep if goalie Henrik Lundqvist didn't put up a shutout in Game 4). 2009: Was up 3-1 in the 1st round series against the Capitals, then coach John Tortorella lost his cool in Game 5 because some fan heckled him too much and he squirted a water bottle over the glass, netting him a suspension for Game 6 and the Rangers lose the series. 2010: Missed out on the playoffs by one point. 2011: Lost to the Caps again, this time in 5, though as an 8-seed with an anemic offense (8 goals total in those five games) that's a tall order. 2012: Finally started to get it together with a division title and the #1 seed in the East, needing 7 games to beat each of the Senators and Capitals, lost to the Devils in 6 on an overtime goal. 2013: Went 7 against the Capitals before winning, lost to Boston in the second round (would have been a sweep if Chris Kreider didn't score an overtime winner in Game 4). 2014: Entered the Eastern Conference playoffs as the #2 Seed, needed 7 to beat the Flyers in the First Round, needed 7 again to edge the Penguins in the Second Round, got past the Montreal Canadiens in 6 for the Eastern Conference title...drop the Finals against the LA Kings in 5 games (it would have been a sweep if the Rangers hadn't gotten some "puck luck" in the 3rd period of Game 4 to preserve a 2-1 lead). 2015: Got the President's Trophy, dispatched the Penguins in 5, edge the Capitals on a Game 7 overtime goal, get to Game 7 again in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning where they had home ice and had never lost a Game 7 at home- oh, wait, forget it, Tampa beats them 2-0. 2016: Things start to backslide with a first-round exit in just five games to the Penguins where the Rangers never seemed to have it. 2017: Beats a strong Canadiens team in 6, falls to the Ottawa Senators also in 6 with the decisive game at home. 2018: Despite placing near the middle of their Conference (though this was due to a terrible season for the bottom half of the Atlantic Division more so than on their own merits), missed the playoffs by a wide margin in a losing season and placed dead last in the Metropolitan Division. Another bad season in 2019 made fans and analysts sad that Lundqvist will probably retire without winning the Cup or jump ship seeking it. (even a return to the playoffs in the extended 2020 postseason went bad, given the Rangers were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes)
    • Since they share ownership with the above mentioned Knicks, with both teams choking frequently despite good players and "an unlimited budget", owner James Dolan is usually listed among the worst of his kind.
    • In the past, it was the Curse of 1940. The Rangers won the Cup that year, which was also when the mortgage on their home Madison Square Gardennote  was paid off so management celebrated by burning the mortgage document in the Cup itself. The Rangers would not win the Cup again for 54 years. Fans of the New York Islanders (who won the Cup four straight times in the early 1980s), the New Jersey Devils (whose home arena seated 19,040 at the time), the Philadelphia Flyers (who just hate New York teams as a matter of course), and any other team could and would taunt Rangers fans with chants of "19-40!"
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins were this between the 2009 and 2016 Stanley Cup titles, despite a deep roster led by superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Every year the Pens would have steamrolled through the regular season, only to die in the playoffs to a lower seed. First, losing to the 8-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the Semis in 2010, blowing a 3-1 series lead to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011, losing to the 5th-seeded Flyers in 2012. Things seemed to be looking up for the Pens for the 2013 playoffs, as the Conference's top seed advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2009, only to completely no-show the series as the 4th-seeded Boston Bruins utterly demolished them in four games. The final straw, however was the 2014 playoffs. After acing the regular season (again), in the Quarterfinals they struggled greatly against the heavy underdog Columbus Blue Jackets in six games, then yet again blew a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers in the Semifinals to lose. The fans (and the organization, apparently) were so fed up with the disappointments, and Head Coach Dan Bylsma, despite being the most successful coach in Penguins history and also coached the Pens to their 2009 title, was fired. The following year, the Penguins begun well only for injuries and bad luck to take its toll, and the team entered the final round threatened to miss the postseason for the first time since 2006 (luckily, a win over an abysmal Buffalo Sabres team earned the Penguins the final Eastern spot, with the Boston Bruins breaking a playoff streak instead). They barely managed to squeak into the playoffs only to bow out to the same team that had eliminated them a year prior: the Rangers (only this time, it was in five games during the first round and the Rangers won the President's Trophy in the 2014-2015 season). Then 2016 broke the underwhelming years, with a half-way coach change leading to a Penguins surge and an eventual second title to Crosby and Geno, with 2017 leading to another Cup win. They would fail to secure a triple-crown in 2018, however, bowing out with a second-round exit after 6 games against their arch-rival, the aforementioned Capitals (who would ultimately win the Cup for themselves), and the following year saw them get swept in the first round by the Islanders.
  • The Montreal Canadiens, in the years following the 2004-05 lockout, have become a team that's infamous for frequently dominating their division in the regular season but falling apart in the playoffs. In fact, despite frequently being a top-seeded team, they've only reached the Conference Finals twice since they last won the Cup in 1993 (losing to the Flyers in 2010 in a 4-1 rout after beating the Capitals and Penguins in a pair of seven-game series, and again to the Rangers in 2014), and are one of only three Canadian teams to not reach the Cup Finals since 1993 (the others being the aforementioned Leafs, and the Winnipeg Jets who only just moved back to Canada in 2011-2012). More often than not, the Canadiens have bowed out to bottom-seeded teams in the quarter- or semi-finals.
  • Ever since drafting Steven Stamkos in 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a while to get their footing, which happened around 2014 (the only playoff run before was quite deep, losing in the 2011 Eastern Finals to the eventual champions Boston Bruins). There, the absence of goalie Ben Bishop led them to be swept by the above mentioned Canadiens. In 2015, the Bolts finally went all in and got to their second ever Cup finals, only unlike the 2004 title, Tampa built a 2-1 lead before the Blackhawks won three and got the Cup. It was then followed by a conference final, missing the playoffs by one point, and another conference final which saw them blow a 3-2 series lead to the Capitals (who then went on to win the Cup).
    • However, all of this pales in comparison to the Bolts' infamous postseason collapse in 2019. Tampa went into the playoffs looking practically invincible, having convincingly tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings' regular season win record at 62 and only falling shy of the all-time point record by a measly 3 points.note  All signs pointed to the Lightning being a 20-man wrecking crew come the postseason, with practically everyone predicting that they'd steamroll their way to an easy Stanley Cup. Game 1 arrives, and the Bolts take a convincing 3-0 lead in the first period, seemingly proving everyone right. But then what happens? They choke hard, blowing said lead and ultimately losing Game 1 by a score of 4-3. It would prove to be the last time the Bolts would ever hold a lead throughout the rest of the series, and as a result they ended up becoming the first-ever President's Trophy winner to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs. Even worse, this utter humiliation came at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who, up until that moment, had never won a playoff series in their nearly 20-year existence. Many have called it the single biggest collapse not just in NHL history, but quite possibly in any professional sport ever. Regardless of how well the Bolts may do going forward, it's already quite clear that this spectacular failure will haunt the team for the rest of its existence. Fortunately for the Bolts, they bounced back in the best way possible, by returning the Stanley Cup finals, even avenging themselves against the Jackets, and finally winning the Stanley Cup after beating the Dallas Stars four games to two. And surprisingly, they did this with barely any help from Stamkos, who operated on a turn muscle early in the year and only returned for a few minutes halfway through the Finals.
  • The Calgary Flames are notoriously a "feast or famine" team in the regular season. They either dominate their Division and/or Conference, or (with few exceptions) they miss the playoffs entirely. They are, however, very consistent in performing poorly in the playoffs, especially after their Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2004. Since then, the Flames have bowed out in the first round in all but one of their playoff appearances (the exception being 2015, where they defeated the Canucks before the Ducks comfortably defeated them in 5 games). 2006 saw them place first in the Northwestern Division before being eliminated by the Ducks in Game 7, while 2019 saw them place first in the entire Western Conference (and second in the League behind the aforementioned Lightning) before being upset by the Colorado Avalanche (who only barely made the playoffs and were expected to be eliminated with little fanfare) in five games. In 2020, the Flames would win their qualifying round series against the Winnipeg Jets only to lose in the first round to the Dallas Stars, punctuated by the final game in which they led 3-0 and lost 7-3.
    • Back when the Flames were based in Atlanta, the team made the playoffs in six out of their eight years in that city, but failed to advance past the first round in each appearance.

    Professional Gaming 
  • In Dota 2, when it comes to The International, in terms of professional organizations, Team Secret is possibly the biggest example in its pro scene. Its first iteration consisted of Puppey, Fly (then known as Simba), N0tail (then known as BigDaddy), KuroKy, and s4. They had some good success but wasn't enough for Puppey, who would kick Fly and N0tail for Evil Geniuses's zai and Arteezy. They were considered to be the most star-studded roster ever made in Europe and had shown it, having won the last four LANs before The International 2015. They only finished 7th-8th after being beaten by, a disappointing showing for the all-star team.
    • So, in the post-TI5 shuffle, Puppey restarted his team, acquiring pubstar w33ha, and longtime veterans MiSeRy, pieliedie, and EternaLEnVy to make another star-studded roster. This iteration had even more mixed success, apart from a 2nd place finish at The Frankfurt Major and a victory at The Shanghai Major. Unfortunately, Puppey once again kicked two players, this time in w33ha and MiSeRy for Arteezy to once again return and bring Universe this time. This went as abysmal as one would've expected, with Secret finishing last both at The Manila Major and at TI6. What's more embarrassing was that Universe left the team before The Manila Major even ended, returning to EG. For added humor and irony, w33ha, MiSeRy, both on Digital Chaos, and Universe managed to make it to the top 3 with their teams, with DC triumphing over EG in the Lower Bracket Finals to finish 2nd.
    • Post-TI6, Puppey restarted his team once more, making a final roster for TI7 of MP, KheZu, MidOne, and YapzOr, the latter two of which would form a core trio alongside himself. This was a quiet time for the team, and had mixed results as well overall, having to qualify for TI7 through the qualifiers. They finished 9th-12th, eliminated by eventual winners Team Liquid.
    • For the 2017-18 DPC, MP and KheZu left, with Ace and Fata joining in. They would win both seasons of Dreamleague held during the season and finished 4th overall in the standings. They had a much better showing at TI8 but ultimately lost to Team Liquid once again, finishing 5th-6th.
    • 2018-19 DPC: zai returns to Secret, and Nisha joins. They managed to finish 2nd at The Kuala Lumpur Major, and 1st at The Chongqing Major, along with wins at ESL One Hamburg 2018 and Katowice 2019. They have qualified for Dreamleague Season 11, and are looked on right now as the best team in the world, surpassing Time will tell if this transitions to a dominant performance at TI9.
  • are dangerously becoming this when it comes to TI. While they finished 5th-6th at TI5, they weren't considered to be favorites, and actually had a good underdog run, culminating in their upset of Team Secret. They didn't qualify for TI6, dropped their roster after that, had an absolute resurgence in the Fall season by signing Lil, Solo, RAMZES666, 9pasha, and No[o]ne in the lead-up to TI7, now considered as favorites, would only finish 5th-6th, falling to eventual winners Team Liquid, were considered the best team in the world in the 2017-18 DPC after swapping Lil for Na'Vi's RodjER, were considered to be the shoe-in to win it all, and would finish 5th-6th once again, this time at the hands of Evil Geniuses.
  • For CS:GO from 2015 to the start of 2018, it was the Danish team of Astralis (then once known as Team Dignitas/Team SoloMid). Let's see: 3rd-4th at ESL One Katowice 2014, 3rd-4th at ESL One Cologne 2014, 5th-8th at Dreamhack Winter 2014, 5th-8th at ESL One Katowice 2015, 3rd-4th at ESL One Cologne 2015, 5th-8th at Dreamhack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015, 3rd-4th at MLG Major Columbus 2016, and 5th-8th at ESL One Cologne 2016. See a pattern? They were once infamously known for performing very well in the Majors...until they reach the semifinals, where they always lose. Fans have called this "The Semifinal Curse" for their constant tendency to just choke when they make it to the semifinals. This was averted for a time when they made the pioneering decision to hire a sports psychologist to help with their issue of mentality and won the Atlanta Major, but would be played straight for the rest of the year, where they would once again fall to eventual winners Gambit Esports at the Krakow Major, finishing 3rd-4th. This was eventually (and finally) averted for the second and possibly last time after the Boston Major, where after Kjaerbye's sudden departure and the acquisition of Magisk, would go on an absolute tear for the rest of the year, culminating in a dominant performance at the FACEIT London Major, where in the Champions Stage would go undefeated all the way to their 2nd Major victory, cementing their era. It would be further cemented with their win at the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals, where they not only won the event itself but with this their fourth ESL/Dreamhack victory, won the $1 million prize of Intel Grand Slam Season 1 as well. One hell of an aversion right there.

  • In the 1990s, British player Tim Henman was the one all home fans followed and cheered for at Wimbledon, even going so far as to have a massive seating area for his fans (Henman Hill), despite being knocked out in the quarter- or semi-finals of every Wimbledon he entered. He admittedly wasn't helped by having to compete during the heyday of Pete Sampras, considered by many to be the greatest tennis player who ever lived, but even after Sampras retired, things didn't much improve for Henman.
  • After Henman retired, Andy Murray took up the baton for British tennis fans, being known for years as the best tennis player to never have won a Grand Slam title; he reached four Grand Slam finals, including Wimbledon which no male British player had reached the finals of since 1938, only to lose all of them. He finally put an end to this by winning the 2012 US Open, and two Wimbledon titles after that.
  • In a somewhat Hilarious in Hindsight example, Roger Federer used to be considered this. Tipped to be a future Slam winner as young as 16, he proved himself able to regularly beat the best in the world... in the small tournaments. At Grand Slams he lost in the first round as often as not and hadn't even reached a semi-final before his maiden title. With other young guys such as Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin proving that they could succeed where he failed, many people speculated that he was destined to be the talent who could never come good.
  • In another Hilarious in Hindsight example, Novak Djokovic was also considered this when he followed up his maiden Grand Slam title in 2008 with a string of disappointing performances and even retiring halfway through matches with claims of being ill or fatigued. People began calling him "Choke-ovic" and saying that he lacked the mental fortitude to challenge the top players on the big stages. Then 2011 came around and, well, it's safe to say that no one's going to be using that nickname for him anytime soon.
  • Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and Grigor Dimitrov were all touted as the "Next Generation" of ATP players in the 2010s who would go on to become the next dominant top players. However, while these players had some success at the Grand Slam level (with Nishikori and Raonic each making a Slam final, and Dimitrov making two Slam semifinals) and could occasionally beat the long-dominant "Big Four" of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, they ultimately fell short of breaking through the Big Four's monopoly of the Slams due to a combination of injuries (especially for Nishikori and Raonic) and inconsistent performances (especially for Dimitrov) and are now called the "Lost Generation" instead.
    • This trope is also starting to creep into the new crop of "Next Gen" young players. Nick Kyrgios used to be hyped up as the most promising of these players after beating Rafael Nadal to make the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals as a teenager but hasn't made another Slam quarterfinal after the 2015 Australian Open or even broken into the top 10 rankings since then. Even Alexander Zverev, the most successful Next Gen player with 3 Masters and a year-end championship title to his name, has struggled to translate his Masters success to the major stage with only two Slam quarterfinals and one Slam semifinal reached so far. Lesson of the day: it sucks to be a hyped young prospect in the Big Four era.
  • On the women's side, Caroline Wozniacki used to be this, failing to win a Grand Slam singles title despite winning numerous titles and being ranked No. 1 for over a year. Then in 2018, she returned to No. 1 after a six-year absence from the top spot by winning the Australian Open over another former example of this trope: Simona Halep. At the time, she too had yet to win a Grand Slam in spite of making multiple Grand Slam finals, winning many other titles, and being ranked No. 1. But then came that year's French Open, by which time Halep had returned to No. 1, and this time she cashed in, claiming her first Slam title.Postscript 
  • Speaking of Simona Halep, she spent over four years as a consistent top 5 player who won many titles but just couldn't seem to break through to win her maiden Grand Slam title. She lost from a break up in the final set of her first Slam final (to Maria Sharapova at the 2014 French Open) and then from a set and break up in her second and third Slam finals (to Jeļena Ostapenko at the 2017 French Open and the aforementioned Wozniacki at the 2018 Australian Open), leading several people to accuse her of being too mentally weak to win big, until she reversed the script by winning from a set and break down against Sloane Stephens in the 2018 French Open final.
  • Anna Kournikova was considered by many to be the surprise package at the 1997 Wimbledon tournament, getting through to the semi-finals despite not being seeded. Afterwards, while she did not too badly as part of a doubles team with Martina Hingis, her solo career was almost without exception a complete disaster until her eventual retirement in 2003. While she remains one of the most publicly well-known female tennis players of the modern era, among serious fans of the sport she's at best considered to be to Maria Sharapova what Tim Henman was to Andy Murray.

  • The Chicago Sky of the WNBA were founded in 2005 and used to get into the playoff race every year and trip at the finish line. This happened again in 2011, despite an accomplished coach and several great players. In 2013, they finally got their first playoff berth, only to get swept by the defending championship team, the Indiana Fever. In 2014 they surprised with a finals run, that still resulted in a sweep by the Phoenix Mercury.
  • The Atlanta Dream are the youngest team in the league but are a good example nevertheless. In 2010, they made it to the WNBA Finals and got swept. In 2011 they made the Finals again and got swept again.note  They were prevented from making a three-peat by losing to eventual champion Indiana in the first round. They made it back to the Finals in 2013, only to get swept by the Minnesota Lynx who beat them in 2011. One more finals loss and the Atlanta Dream will become the Buffalo Bills of the WNBA.
  • Before Atlanta, there was the New York Liberty. Six years, four Finals, one miracle shot deemed best playoff moment in league history, no championships.

    Association Football (Soccer) 
  • Men's national team examples:
    • Everyone on the England national team, who, despite containing some of the best and most famous players in the world (former Captain Steven Gerrard was, in his prime, quite literally dubbed 'the best player in the world' by legendary former Galáctico Zinedine Zidane) as part of the so-called 'Golden Generation' of the Noughties and often blitzing the qualifiers, haven't won a major tournament since they won The World Cup in 1966. Indeed, despite often high pre-tournament expectations, they are proverbial for exiting in the quarter-finals on Penalties. The 2014 World Cup hit a new low when they failed to even get out of the group stage - and Euro 2016 wasn't much better when they went out in the Round of 16 to Iceland. Then, once pretty much all optimism (beyond hopes that the inevitable humiliation wouldn't be too bad) was gone, a young and relatively untalented team under inexperienced manager Gareth Southgate promptly subverted this trope by fighting its way to the Semi-Finals of the 2018 World Cup, and the 2019 UEFA Nations League (designed to be an in-between competition/lead-in to the European Championship) - though it probably helped that Southgate had previously been the England U-21 manager, coaching most of the players in the squad from junior level, and the resultant team spirit and discipline.
    • Scotland, as relayed by George MacDonald Fraser in McAuslan.
    • Wales, until the 2016 European Championships. While not expected to win anything, with players of the calibre of Neville Southall, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs, and Gareth Bale, they were at least expected to qualify for a tournament - however, until they qualified for the 2016 Euros, the last time they'd been at a major championships, it was 1958 and they'd been knocked out by a young fellow called Pelé. Then they promptly took the footballing world by storm, swaggering to the Semi-Finals in style, thrashing Russia 3-0 and a much-fancied Belgium side 3-1, before apparently running out of steam and losing 2-0 to eventual champions Portugal.
    • Before the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup titles, the Spanish football team would also qualify - like their English counterparts, they were infamous for superbly talented players fizzling out at international level.
    • The Dutch team has been described as "the best team that never won anything". The "Clockwork Orange" lost two straight World Cups; Ruud Gullit/Marco van Basten won the European Championship, but bombed in the WC they went to; the generation of Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert never went past the semifinals of either the World Cup or European Championships (they even didn't qualify for a WC after being eliminated by Ireland); and the next generation (Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie) lost the 2010 finals, turning the Netherlands into the only team to qualify for three World Cup finals and lose them all (though the Dutch's Unnecessary Roughness, in the latter case, gained them very little sympathy, especially when compared to the stylish Spaniards). NFL fans could say they're the Buffalo Bills of soccer.
    • The Portugal team has been this recently, with players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, and teams like Porto running the Champions League. The national side especially failed to win the 2004 European Championships, at home in the final, and against Greece, but still lost. This may count as a Moment of Awesome for the Greek side though. In the 2016 European Championships, they managed to avenge the loss as they beat France 1-0 in the final, winning their first-ever trophy.
    • The Egyptian team has a similar story to Portugal's, with the national team dominating Africa and Al-Ahly and Zamalek running the African club-play scene (to say nothing of Al-Ahly's 3rd-place finish at the '06 Club World Cup). Nevertheless, they have qualified for the World Cup just three times (1934, 1990, 2018), never getting past the first round. Egyptians suspect that the good Egyptian players are intentionally not playing up to their usual best, in hopes of better European club contracts.
      • And now the Egyptian team having won the past 2 or 3 African Nations Cup championships have fizzled out of the qualifying stage, finishing bottom of their group and the team which topped their group, Niger.
      • Particularly damning was Egypt's performance in the 2014 World Cup qualifications, in which Egypt dominated until it reached the final round against Ghana, when it lost by an all-but-insurmountable 6-1 in the first leg of the two-game playoff—which included an own goal by Ali Gomaa. Granted, the Black Stars are good, but considering Egypt managed to win 2-1 in the second leg pretty handily... (And of course, Ghana ended up in the "Group of Death" with Germany, Portugal, and the United States, so perhaps another Cup appearance wouldn't have done much for Egypt...).
    • Peru. Despite great players like Claudio Pizarro, Jefferson Farfan, Paolo Guerrero, Roberto Palacios, and Nolberto Solano, they didn't qualify for The World Cup for 36 years, finishing near last position every single time, except for France 98 when they finished sixth and got eliminated on goal difference, and 2018 when they finally qualified, with Guerrero and Farfan the only players who are recognizable outside the country. And even with that, they got eliminated at the end of the two matches into the group stage after single-goal defeats to France and Denmark.
    • Poor Australia just could not get over the final hurdle of the World Cup qualifiers (apart from a one-off appearance in 1974) until they finally swapped from Oceania to Asia. According to former Australian captain Johnny Warren's autobiography, the Australian team, prior to a match against Rhodesia, got a witch-doctor to curse the opposition goalie, and then failed to pay him, causing him to reverse the curse. Australia then suffered a string of failures in World Cup qualifiers, most famously 1998, where they were leading 2-0 late in the game against Iran, only for Iran to score two late goals, and qualify for the World Cup on away goals. In 2004, television personality John Safran paid another witch doctor to remove the curse, and Australia hasn't missed the World Cup since (even making it to the second round in 2006).
    • South Korea in the AFC Asian Cup. A major football power in Asia and historically the most successful Asian football team, having participated in nine consecutive and ten overall FIFA World Cup tournaments, the most for any Asian country. They even once reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, being the only Asian (and by extension the only team outside of Europe and the Americas) team to do so. With their successes in the World Cup one might think South Korea may have been the most success in the AFC Asian Cup. They did win it twice but the last time they won was in 1960, when it was contested by only 4 teams.
    • Indonesia in the ASEAN Football Championship. They are consistently one of the favorites to win the cup but they have yet to do so despite numerous times being the runners-up or reaching the semifinals. Things got worse for them as they were suspended from 2015 to 2016 and dropped like a stone in the FIFA rankings (the only Southeast Asian nations lower than them in the rankings were minnows Cambodia, Brunei, and Timor Leste).
    • The Philippines Took a Level in Badass during The New '10s, but developed a reputation as a talented team that just can't win the big one. Not helping is the fact that The Philippines has one of the highest FIFA rankings in the region (behind only Australia and ahead of traditional powerhouses Thailand and Vietnam), is one of very few Southeast Asian nations to have a recent representative in Europe's "Big 5" Leagues (specifically, Cardiff City's Neil Etheridge), and has a lot of fans who consider the Pinoys as Southeast Asia's next big thing.
    • Mexico is infamous in The World Cup as, between 1994 and 2018, they have been knocked out in the Round of 16 seven times in a row. Seeing as the national teenager team is world champion and the under-23 team is Olympic gold, people usually attribute this to the increasing cynicism of professional football players as they grow older and care more about money than winning.
    • The Argentina national football team is historically one of the most powerful association football teams, and outside of a decade or two, they have been powerhouses of the sport practically since its inception. However, this doesn't translate particularly well to silverware, as they have not won any major title since 1993. They have appeared in four Copa América, one World Cup and one Confederations Cup finals since then, but they lost them all (two Copa América to Brazil and Chile each, the latter of which had never won the cup before, a World Cup to Germany, and a Confederations Cup to Brazil). The generation commandeered by Lionel Messi, which has been major part of four of those six finals, has become so infamous for this that many football fans simply no longer wonder where Argentina will end in a competition, but who they will lose the final against.
  • In women's soccer there's Brazil, which has a team as strong as the male one (one of their players, Marta, was chosen five years in a row and six times in all as the best female footballer by FIFA), but not as victorious, fizzling in both the Olympic Games (two straight 4th places followed by two straight runner-ups... losing both finals to the US team! and it got worse in 2012, when they didn't even reach the semifinals; 2016 at home was a huge Anti-Climax, with the team that won the first two games handily only getting to fourth place) and the Women's World Cup (runner-ups in 2007, 3rd place in 1999, two quarterfinals, two round of 16, and two group stages). Brazil's case is also subverted by the fact that they might have had the best female player in the world, but compared to nations like the United States and the European powers, the amount of funding Brazil puts into their women's soccer program is on an amateur level. The Brazilian women's team is underfunded to the point that they're routinely forced to wear old men's jerseys and cleats, even while representing their country at the Olympics and World Cup. Their women's national team is understaffed to the point that the United States routinely brings more team cooks to International tournaments than Brazil will bring an entire staff combined. The Brazilian team simply eats whatever the local cuisine is, and hope it doesn't make them sick. And lastly, while the USWNT will spend a year prior to the World Cup playing dozens and dozens of international friendlies as preparation, the Brazil team will play 2 or 3 games. If anything, the Brazilian Women's Soccer team are more of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits than anything else.
  • English Premier League examples:
    • Liverpool FC, until 2010 the team most likely to come third in any competition you care to name. Thanks to prior glory days, they're still a close second in the 'most successful English team of all time' stakes, just make it worse. In some parts of the UK, "Liverpool supporter" is considered roughly synonymous with "masochist". They may have managed a spectacular win in the 2005 Champions League, coming back from 3-0 down against AC Milan (hence the final being dubbed 'the Miracle of Istanbul'. To this day, no-one has a clue how it happened), but not much else. There was a Champions League final appearance in 2007 (also against Milan, who got their revenge), FA Cup and Charity Shield wins in 2006, and a League Cup win in 2012, but the main title Liverpool want right now is the League, having not won it since 1990. Whenever they do look like winning it, via dazzling attacking football spearheaded by a spectacularly talented striker making up for a deficient defence (Michael Owen, Fernando Torres, Luis Suárez), their form invariably collapses the following season, usually because their striker has moved on to bigger and better things (respectively: Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Barcelona). And it's not always just the strikers, either. Even their 2005 Champions League win came at the expense of their domestic season; UEFA had to re-write the rule books to guarantee the previous year's champion a chance to defend their title.

      However, a mixture of charismatic manager Jürgen 'the Normal One' Klopp and canny financial work/Moneyball based transfer policies (albeit combined with a willingness to cough up massive transfer fees to get their man) instituted by the owners, FSG (who also own the Red Sox), has revitalised the club. Klopp's appointment in October 2015 restored their swagger, taking a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to the League Cup and the Europa League finals in his first season. The latter was particularly remarkable: they brushed aside arch-rivals Manchester United and pulled off an astonishing 4-3 home victory over Borussia Dortmund who went 2-0 up in 8 minutes and were 3-1 up with less than half an hour to go before Liverpool hauled them down. They got back into the Champions League places in 2016-17, then to the Champions League final which they ultimately lost to Real Madrid in 2017-18, before stepping up and winning the damn thing in 2018-19 against fellow Premier League underachievers Tottenham Hotspur, having beaten European giants PSG, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona on the way there. Their domestic season was pretty impressive too: while they lost the Premier League to Manchester City, it was by only a single point - moreover, their tally of 97 would have won them the league any season before 2017-18, and the nearest team to them were Chelsea, a full 25 points behind. At long last ended in the next season, however, comfortably winning the title with seven games still to play.
    • Chelsea and Manchester City both received massive (if controversial) cash injections in the 2000s and 2010s respectively that suddenly made them contenders for massive silverware hauls, yet the former seemed to keep fizzling out in their attempts to win the UEFA Champions League (twice losing to Liverpool in the semi-finals and once losing to Manchester United in the final), while the latter never quite seemed to get a league championship run together. Then in 2012, Manchester City won the Premier League for the first time since 1968, and Chelsea conquered the Champions League for the first time ever (leading to many jokes regarding this as proof of the Mayan Apocalypse... or maybe just a Man United Apocalypse, given their implosion in the 2013-14 season after Ferguson retired and Moyes took over). City has yet to master the art of succeeding in the Champions League, however, a trend continuing in 2015/16 despite their reaching the semi-finals.
    • Arsenal FC. Despite always being in contention for the League title, they haven't won one since the legendary "Invincibles" season of 2003-2004, consistently finishing either 4th or 3rd in the League, complete with impressive wins at times when it didn't matter...and frustrating losses and draws at times when it did matter. Nowadays, Arsenal has the rather derisive moniker of being "strong against the weak and weak against the strong". Unlike Liverpool, they don't have a rich Champions League history; before they reached the 2006 final against Barcelona, Arsenal had never progressed beyond the quarter-finals. This lack of Champions' League pedigree is a source of frustration to both the fans and manager Arsène Wenger, who could probably win another double armload of Premier League titles and still consider himself a failure if they didn't add a Champions' League championship.
    • Manchester United may have had a reputation as a juggernaut in the Alex Ferguson era, but it wasn't always that way, and even the Ferguson era wasn't exactly smooth sailing:
      • During the late '70s and the '80s (several years removed from the glory years of Matt Busby and the holy trinity of Best, Law and Charlton), they fielded talented squads yet never won a single Football League First Division (England's top flight before the Premier League) title thanks to Liverpool's dominance, which was occasionally challenged by local rivals Everton. Then came the '90s, Eric Cantona, Alex Ferguson and Fergie's Fledglings (Beckham, Giggs, Neville, Scholes, etc.); suddenly, United became the Premier League juggernaut football fans now either love or hate. The power of that juggernaut has faded somewhat following Ferguson's retirement, with United finishing outside the Champions League places in the 2 of the 3 seasons that followed. To add insult to injury, when they did qualify from the Champions League, they promptly failed to get out of the group stage, dropped down into the Europa League and were then swept aside with almost insulting ease by resurgent arch-rivals Liverpool. Nowadays, Man United are commonly seen as a big-spending club (86 million quid for Paul Pogba, anyone?) that flatters to deceive in major competitions (with the exception of 2016 FA Cup and 2017 Europa League wins).
      • As for the Ferguson era, they developed a nasty reputation for fizzling out in the Champions League; despite being a domestic powerhouse and a near-constant Championship presence, the Red Devils only came away with UCL silverware in 1999 and 2008 while losing the finals in 2009 and 2011 (both times to Barcelona). Then again, winning the Champions League is pretty tough; not that it prevents Liverpool fans from mockingly chanting "Five Times" in response to United fans' chants of "20>18"
    • Newcastle United during the late '90s. Despite constantly staying near the top of the table and having excellent goalscorer Alan Shearer, the Magpies never won a Premier League title thanks to powerhouses Manchester United and Arsenal. In particular, manager Kevin Keegan's rant in 1995 - when Newcastle once comfortably led the league table - has achieved memetic status among English football fans.
      "I would love it if we beat them! Absolutely love it!"
    • Tottenham Hotspur are probably England's most infamous example, in some ways being an exaggerated (and worse) version of Liverpool - every year is 'their year', when they would break into the Champions League places, dominated for most of a decade by the so-called 'Big Four' of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. They general play attacking football that is delightful to watch, but leaves them with the defense of a colander. They finally managed to do this in 2010/11, following Liverpool's spectacular collapse the previous year, going on a decent run in the Champions League. Then Manchester City happened and Real Madrid bought their star player, making this a case of Bait the Dog. And then came the 2018-19 season, in which they barely qualified for next season's Champions League by finishing fourth, and after a surprising Champions League run (beating Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, and fellow surprise team Ajax), they lost the final to fellow Premier League underachiever Liverpool.
    • Aston Villa in the Martin O'Neill era is an excellent example. They would look like they were going to challenge for the Champions League places, and every year, specifically in March, they would go on a bad run of results and drop out of the challenge. They were in the Championship - English football's second tier - for a couple of seasons, but they returned to the Premier League in 2019.
  • German soccer has Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04, two top teams who just can't win a championship despite often best conditions (or in Schalke's case waiting for over 50 years since the last one). Leverkusen even managed to be only second place in three different contests in 2002: the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup, and the Champions League. They're nicknamed Neverkusen for a reason... And for many of Leverkusen's players, the story does not end there: They formed the core of the 2002 German national team, which went all the way to the final - only to lose 2:0 against Brazil in the first-ever World Cup match between those two. However, poster-child of this trope Michael Ballack (then with Leverkusen) did not actually play in the final as he had gotten his second yellow card in the semifinal and was thus barred from participating (the rule was later changed explicitly to allow finals to include all stars healthy enough to play).
  • Thierry Henry was accused of this at Arsenal. Despite being their record goalscorer and voted by the fans as one of Arsenal's greatest ever players, he was still thought of as being unable to perform in the big games like Cup Finals. Most notable was in the 2006 Champions League Final where the Gunners were leading 1-0 with ten men against Barcelona, Henry failed to score from a one-on-one with the keeper when usually it would have been no problem. Arsenal eventually lost 2-1, and that's the closest they have come to securing that European trophy they most desire.
  • Brazilian examples:
    • Vasco da Gama, Botafogo, Palmeiras and Internacional became infamous in the 2000s for going far but tanking in at least one championship per year (Vasco was runner-up 14 times in 12 years, and Inter managed to finish second thrice in five Brazilian championships - a runner-up campaign a decade later, in 2020, was arguably even more painful: in the last round, Flamengo lost their match yet still won the title because Inter just couldn't break a 0-0 tie - plus losing to an African team in the FIFA Clubs World Cup!).
    • Atlético-MG had 30 years as this following the first official Brazilian championship in 1971note . The team were national runner-ups thrice - one of those undefeated, given the finals were lost on penalties - and reached the semifinal seven times, while also underperforming in the Brazilian Cup and continental tournaments. Then came over a decade of intense suffering, with Rock Bottom being a relegation in 2005. Since 2012, Atlético has returned to contending, but luck only struck their way in 2013 (won the Copa Libertadores) and 2014 (won the Brazilian Cup over Arch-Enemy Cruzeiro) - specially as many decisive games were nail-biters - highlighted by two second place campaigns in the national tournament.
    • Grêmio had this reputation for a period of time going from the late 90s into the 2010s. The last relevant title was a very hard-fought Série B title (in one of the most infamous matches in Brazil's football history, winning with only 7 players and 20 minutes overtime) in 2005 to return to the first division, the team would have a good squad, but would have mediocre standings in the Brazilian Championship table and frequently qualify to Copa do Brasil and Libertadores and reach far in the competition only to lose. The team would later recover by signing ex-player Renato "Gaúcho" Portaluppi as a coach and would win the Brazilian Cup in 2016 and Libertadores in 2017.
  • Major League Soccer:
    • The best example is the New York Red Bulls, or the MetroStars, as they were once called. They're one of the founding teams of the league when it started in 1996 and have fielded some very good squads, have one of the most advanced academies in US Soccer, developing a lot young talentnote , and had Thierry Henry, one of the league's biggest stars, on the roster for the last years of his career, yet they have almost no hardware whatsoever: they didn't win the Supporters' Shieldnote  until 2013 (and proceeded to get bounced out of their first round of the playoffs on late goals by Houston that year), have attended only one MLS Cup Final (2008, which they lost to Columbus), and both times they made the CONCACAF Champions League (2009-10 and 2014-15) they were eliminated in the preliminaries. The one championship they have won was the 2004 La Manga, a pretty minor international designed so cold countries can play a winter tourney.
    • The New England Revolution have been just as unlucky. They lost five MLS Cup Finals (including three in a row), and despite winning the 2007 U.S. Open Cup (coincidentally, both closing the three-year slump... and when the NFL's Patriots, who play in the same stadium, lost the Super Bowl after a nearly perfect season!), took seven years to reach another championship game, which they lost to the LA Galaxy in extra time.
  • Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg had a legendary reputation for failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. For the first decade-plus after Red Bull bought Austria Salzburg in 2005, Salzburg failed to qualify for the group stage, at times under bizarre circumstances, such as losing against F91 Dudelange from Luxembourg in 2012 and conceding two late goals at home against Red Star Belgrade in 2018. However, they vindicated themselves with an incredible Europa League run in the 2017-18 season, only going out in the semifinals at extra time against Olympique de Marseille. That run played a big role in elevating Austria in the UEFA club rankings high enough to get the country an automatic place in the 2019–20 Champions League group stage, with Red Bull themselves being the first beneficiary. In the 2020–21 CL, Red Bull (having won the Austrian title yet again) found themselves in their old nemesis of the final qualifying round, since Austria had dropped a few spots in the UEFA club rankings. This time, they didn't fizzle out.
  • Liga MX examples:
    • Atlas, one of Guadalajara's top two teams, not only tend to lose the derby against the local Chivas, but also have never won a single championship since 1951.
    • Cruz Azul are one of the "Big Four" teams note  yet they have not won the league since 1997. As of December 2018, they have reached the final six times and lost them all (although they won a CONCACAF Champions League and Copa MX in between). On the final match of the Clausura 2013 tournament, they lost against rivals América in penalty shoot-out despite dominating most of the match. Because of that match, Cruz Azul is viewed as a Butt-Monkey, and as a result, the term "cruzazulear" note  was coined as a way of really screwing up what was otherwise a guaranteed victory.
  • In Colombia, there's América de Cali. During the eighties, it was one of the strongest teams in South America and managed to prove that... by being the only team to lose three Copa Libertadores finals in a row between 1985 and 1987 - two of them (Argentinos Juniors and River Plate) being teams that had never won the competition before. Yet another defeat in the 1996 finals (again against River Plate) makes it the team that has reached the Copa Libertadores finals the most times while winning none of them. In three of those lost finals, club legend Antony de Ávila was part of them, only missing the 1987 finals... only to compensate it by also reaching four lost finals in 1998, playing for Barcelona de Guayaquil.
  • Argentine outfit Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata is often mocked in its country due to never winning a top-flight league ever since argentine football became professional in 1931. This is despite the fact it is tied with Newell's Old Boys as the fifth team with the most seasons in the division at 75. Its silverware during that time only contains three second-tier championships, an anniversary cup and a league containing only mid-table teams.
  • French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain has exemplified this trope since they Took a Level in Badass after being acquired by the Qatar Sports Group. On one hand, they are practically The Juggernaut in the French Ligue 1, winning the title almost every year by huge margins. On the other hand, they haven't exactly translated their success to the UEFA Champions League, qualifying to the knockout rounds in almost every year, but never quite reaching the finals (at least until 2020). To make matters worse, post-takeover PSG has boasted phenomenal talents like Zlatan Ibrahimović, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé, which makes their UCL ineptitude even more embarrassing.

    Three painful UCL Tournaments stand out for PSG. In the 2017 UCL first round, PSG led Barcelona 4-0 on aggregate after winning the first leg in Paris, despite Barça boasting of the feared Messi-Suárez-Neymar frontline. Unfortunately, they would go on to lose the second leg 6-1 (conceding three goals in the last seven minutes), thanks to a masterclass performance by Neymar and a last-minute goal by Sergi Roberto. Fast forward 2 years later, and PSG (now with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé in the fold) would find themselves in a much more favorable first-round matchup against a struggling Manchester United side. PSG would win the first leg 2-0 at Old Trafford, and held a seemingly insurmountable advantage due to their two away goals and the subsequent suspension of United talisman Paul Pogba. To the dismay of their fans, PSG would proceed to shit themselves in the second leg, losing 3-1 in Paris and getting knocked out on away goals. If the fact that they lost 3-1 at home to an injury-ravaged United side wasn't embarrassing enough, then the fact that United's series-winning goal was a last-minute penalty kick pretty much seals PSG's memetic reputation as the Buffalo Bills of the UEFA Champions League. And then came 2020. PSG were well on their way to another Ligue 1 title when COVID-19 hit, stopping the French season dead (they would be awarded that title). They would have one match in the next five months (the Coupe de la Ligue final, which they won) before the Champions League resumed, with the eight quarterfinalists going into a "bubble" in Lisbon. They were on the verge of elimination by Atalanta, only to score two goals in added time. Then came a 3–0 semifinal win over RB Leipzig, giving them their first trip to the final... against a Bayern Munich side that hadn't lost a game in that season's CL, and were on a 21-game winning streak in all competitions. PSG ended up losing a 1–0 heartbreaker.

    Other Sports 
  • In men's gymnastics at the Olympics, the Americans have a trend of performing very well in qualifications only to crumble in the final; in spite of finishing in 1st place during the 2012 London qualifications and 2nd place during the 2016 Rio qualifications, they turned in error-riddled routines in both finals to end in 5th place.
  • On the women's gymnastics side, it's rare enough to be noteworthy for a female gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title after winning a World Championships title the year before, and while women's gymnastics is known in many cases for short careers, this frequently holds true even if the gymnast in question seems to be in a position to win. In the history of the sport, it's happened only twice: Lilia Podkopayeva (Ukraine) won the world title in 1995 and the Olympic title in 1996, and Simone Biles (USA) did the same for 2015 and 2016.note 
  • Until he won the Masters in 2004, Phil Mickelson was known as the best player never to win a golf major. That mantle was passed on to Sergio García until Sergio also won his first major at Augusta, this one in 2017. However, Mickelson has still struggled to win the US Open, finishing second a record six times (solo and shared) and yet to win it. Since Sergio's victory, most would point to former world #1 Lee Westwood as the best active player to never win a major altogether.
    • The only under-50 tour majors Greg Norman won were two Open Championships, contested in Great Britain. He was a long-time contender on American soil majors (The Masters, US Open, PGA Championship) but either through his own bad play or miracle shots from other players, he's had an 0-for in those three tournaments. Norman was ranked #1 in the world for over six years, which would be comparable to saying Tiger Woods still has his five Masters victories while erasing away his other 10 major wins and any more in those three he may win in the future.
    • Amusingly, Colin Montgomerie also fit the bill as someone who could never win a major despite several near misses...until he claimed two majors on the over-50 Champions Tour (now PGA Tour Champions) in 2014. note 
  • Phil Gordon. Wrote several books teaching poker. Color-comments several poker tournaments. Has never won a World Series of Poker bracelet, and has in fact never finished higher than third in one (though he does have a high finish of 4th in the main event and has a World Poker Tour title). Most importantly, he got rich playing.
    • This is fairly common among well-known poker players/writers, such as Mike Caro or Doyle Brunson (who singlehandedly popularized no-limit Texas Hold'em and the WSOP and hasn't won a tournament in the big-money days). Generally speaking, they honed their skills in ring (live cash) games, which have a very different pace from Tournament Play. Because of the randomness of casino games, it's very easy for one or two bad breaks to ruin an otherwise stellar performance. This is especially common at the WSOP in the post-Moneymaker era, where the sheer number of amateurs means that the winner is basically the player with the most luck that happens to be just good enough to take maximum advantage of it (which, conversely, means that WSOP winners tend not to have nearly as much success before or after).
  • Raymond Poulidor finished second three times in the Tour de France, and third five times. Unfortunately, not only did he never win, he never even wore the yellow jersey. Because of this, he became known as the "Eternal Second".note 
    • Another example is Gilberto Simoni, who won Giro d'Italia twice during his career and never finished higher than 17th in Le Tour, usually dropping off in the early stages.
  • Take a look at the top seeds in Ninja Warrior. There are ten or so competitors (among them Bunpei Shiratori) that consistently pass the second stage. Then recall that only three men have ever won (and one of them, Kazuhiko Akiyama, has had about a 50/50 record of clearing Stage One since - though to be fair, he's suffered chronic injuries). Pretty much all of them fit the trope.
    • This is slightly hard to say for sure because every time someone wins the producers go and change the whole course. They may scale it back if no one wins after so many seasons, but the difficulty is upped constantly.
  • The United States men's and women's Curling teams. Every match they have played so far has been decided by the very last rock in the 10th and 11th ends, and always not in their favor.
    • Until the 2018 Olympics, when the men stunned pretty much everyone by winning gold.
  • In Rugby Union:
    • The French club Clermont Auvergne. Despite reaching the final of the French Top 14 championship ten times, including three times in the 2000s, and having a squad that many consider being the best in Europe, they never actually won the competition until 2010.
    • The New Zealand national team, the All Blacks, had not won the Rugby World Cup since the first tournament in 1987 despite going into every tournament as favourite, usually when ranked at number 1. They finally won in the 2011 World Cup which was hosted in their home country, but they struggled in the final against their opponent France, winning by just 1 point, even though they easily won when the two sides met in the pool stages. To put into perspective how strange New Zealand's lack of success in world cups is, New Zealand has a positive win/loss record against every other Rugby team they ever played - no team has ever dominated any sport as much and not won world cups as the All Blacks have in Rugby. However, the ABs have since made this trope a thing of the past, successfully defending their World Cup crown in England in 2015.
    • As for France, they hold the record for most losses in World Cup finals (three) and ties with New Zealand for most losses in semifinals (also three). They have yet to win a World Cup.
    • The Crusaders, a team out of Christchurch, New Zealand in the southern hemisphere Super Rugby competition, gained this reputation under two successive coaches, Todd Blackadder and Mark Hammett. They had a squad full of star players and made it to the knock-out stage without fail, but they always fell just short of actually winning the title. Then Scott Robertson replaced Hammett in 2017... and they didn't fizzle out any more, winning the title in 2017, 2018, and 2019. And winning Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2020, a one-off NZ-only league created on the fly amid COVID-19.
  • Every professional sports franchise in Seattle. In the forty-plus years of the modern sports era, the city has claimed exactly five championships in the Big Four, four in basketball (one by the SuperSonics, who then did the ultimate fizzle and moved to Oklahoma City, and three by the WNBA's Storm) and one in football (when the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, after 38 years of existence and 34 since the Sonics' title in 1979!).note 
    • The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied an all-time Major League record with 116 regular season victories. They didn't even reach the World Series.
  • South Africa in the Cricket World Cup. A team that has always been highly-ranked since they were allowed back into international cricket in 1992, but has never made it past the semi-finals due to a string of amusing (not to them) failures. Highlights include:
    • In 1992, they looked to be heading to victory in the semi-final against England, until a rain interruption, which by the rules of the time left them needing to make 22 runs of one delivery to win. This was the impetus for the introduction of the Duckworth-Lewis method, which we'll see below.
    • In 1999, their semi-final against Australia ended in a tie. Australia advanced to the final due to finishing higher in the super sixes stage of the tournament.
    • In 2003, their group stage match against Sri Lanka was affected by rain. A miscommunication caused the batsmen to leave the field with the scores tied under the Duckworth-Lewis method, causing them to miss out on a spot in the super sixes.
    • It happened again in 2015, with New Zealand beating them on the second-last ball in the semi-final.
  • Also in cricket, the Melbourne Stars in Australia's Big Bash League, who have made the semi-finals in all seasons since the league was established (and finished on top in 2013-14). They lost in the semis in the first four seasons. In BBL5, they finally made the final but lost to Sydney Thunder (who had finished last or second-last in every previous season). Fans blame this on key players getting called up to the Australian national near the end of the season.
  • In Australian Rules Football, Collingwood were this from 1958 to 1990, much to the delight of their Hatedom. After Essendon lost to them in the 1990 grand final, the Carlton cheer squad (their team being a major rival of both Essendon and Collingwood) rubbed salt into the wound, with their banner for their first match the next year riffing on Essendon sponsor TAC's slogan: "If you lose to Collingwood in a grand final, you're a bloody idiot." Collingwood haters called the Magpies' tendency to choke in the finals the "Colliwobbles", and even post-1990, the fact that they have won only two premierships since 1958 (the aforementioned 1990 and 2010) means the term is still in use.
    • After 1990, Geelong took over the mantle (although that began in 1989 with their grand final loss to Hawthorn). This lasted until they won the 2007 premiership.
    • The Western Bulldogs had won only one premiership in their history (1954), made the Grand Final only one other time (1961) and lost seven Preliminary Finals between 1985 and 2010 before finally breaking through for their second premiership in 2016.
    • As the page quote suggests, Port Power was this during the 2000s. Despite being minor premiers two years in a row, they choked during the finals both times, before finally winning the Grand Final in 2004. They also reached the Grand Final in 2007 but lost it to the aforementioned Geelong. On the other hand, Port Adelaide is the only team in AFL history that never won a wooden spoon.
    • The Richmond Tigers were basically this for the early part of the new millennium. After eleven consecutive seasons out of the finals (2002 to 2012) and only making them twice since 1982, Richmond had its long-awaited return to finals action in 2013, only to be eliminated in ignominious fashion by Carlton, who had been promoted from ninth place to replace Essendon, who was punished by the AFL due to their involvement in a controversial supplements program. Although they made the finals again in 2014 and 2015, they were eliminated in the first round both times, by Port Adelaide and North Melbourne respectively. They missed out on the finals completely in 2016. Then in 2017, they made the finals again... and smashed this trope into oblivion, annihilating their three finals opponents by an average of over 40 points to claim their first premiership since 1980, winning against heavy contenders Adelaide. They would win again in 2019 and 2020, beating out Greater Western Sydney and Geelong respectively.
    • Essendon hasn't won a finals match since 2004, and in most of their finals matches since have lost by large margins.
  • In Australia's National Basketball League, the Sydney Kings got the nickname "Violet Crumbles" due to (1) their colors of purple and yellow resembling the packaging for the chocolate bar of that name, and (2) their tendency to disintegrate in the playoffs.
  • Mixed Martial Arts
    • David "Tank" Abbott finished second and third twice in his four tournament outings, in spite of plenty of fanfare, due to being an out-of-shape and one-dimensional brawler.
    • Kenny Florian fought at the top level in four different weight classes. He finished second in the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter tournament and challenged four times for various UFC titles, losing each time. He retired without ever winning a belt.
    • Chael Sonnen has lost three championship fights that he was in the process of winning, once in the WEC against Paulo Filho and twice in the UFC against Anderson Silva.
    • Uriah Faber. Between losing his featherweight title to Jose Aldo and being beaten by Frankie Edgar at featherweight he was 10-0 in non-title fights and 0-6 in title fights.
  • British marathoner Paula Radcliffe. Current world-record holder. 3-time winner of the London & New York marathons, winner of the Chicago marathon. Numerous accolades, including the English Athletics Hall of Fame. But she has failed to win a medal of any color in the FOUR times she has represented her country at the Olympics, to the point of outright failing to finish in 2004, despite being the overwhelming favorite—she was even well in the lead in 2004 before dropping out.
  • Boxing:
    • David Tua picked up wins over four former champions during his career in The '90s and The Aughts, and during his heyday was one of the most famous people, period, in his homeland of New Zealand. He held several regional belts and main evented cards on US television, but he only challenged for a world title once in 2000 and lost. Despite fan clamor for him to be given another shot, another ten years went by without another world title match before he decided to call it quits.
    • Lucas Matthysse for the most of The Aughts was one of the most feared punchers in the light welterweight division. While he did capture an interim championship, a WBA "regular" championshipnote  and a host of regional titles, and put on a Fight of the Year winner in 2014, but both times he stepped up to challenge for a world title, he was knocked out, with Danny Garcia in particular embarrassing him. He retired in 2018 never having tasted world championship gold.
    • Martin Murray, one of the United Kingdom's top middleweights, has won many domestic titles and headlined cards, but always had the reputation of never being able to beat other top fighters; he's had four world title shots and lost them all. However, two of those are particularly sore, as according to many boxing journalists he should have been a two-time champion, but got robbed on the scorecards in Germany both times.
  • The Brazilian women's volleyball team. While they did break the choking in the Olympic Games (1996, 2000: bronze, after losing the semifinals to rival/usual destroyer Cuba; 2004: fell in the semifinal to Russia after losing five straight match points, then again to Cuba in the bronze match) with two straight gold medals and are still the biggest winners of the annual Grand Prix, the girls still struggle in both the World Championship and the World Cup, only getting as high as a silver medal. The 2016 Olympics even broke the good streak by having the girls suffer a heartbreaking comeback by China in the quarterfinals, Brazil's first time out of the semifinals since 1988.
  • Men's volleyball has Italy in the Olympics. They dominated the '90s, with 3 straight World Championships, a World Cup, and eight of the 10 annual World League. Olympics results starting with 1992? 5th, Silver (losing to the Netherlands, who they beat in the World Cup and Championship finals), Bronze, Silver (losing to Brazil, who had taken over as the strongest volleyball team), 4th, Bronze and Silver (after winning the semifinal on an heroic comeback, only to again lose to hosts Brazil - who had lost to Italy in the group stage, but rolled over in the finals with a 3-0).
  • The German Football League (Germany's premier American Football competition and one of the toughest American Football leagues in Europe) has seen its fair share of this. First Head Coach Troy Tomlin of the Braunschweig Lions (now known as "New Yorker Lions" for sponsorship reasons but still often referred to as Braunschweig) went to five consecutive German Bowls with his team only to lose all of them and quit shortly thereafter. Then, when he returned for the 2013 season, he handed the curse on to other teams. The Dresden Monarchs managed their first-ever appearance in the final after 2011 and 2012 champions Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns had fallen in the quarter-finals to Berlin Adler, the perpetual rival of Dresden. Dresden had a dominant run offense in that year around RB Trevar Deed, and it was he who committed the only turnover in the 34-35 loss in the final on the very last drive sealing Tomlin's first championship. The next three years would all see the same pattern: Braunschweig would handily win its division with Dresden a close second. Dresden, Hall, and Braunschweig would dispatch of overmatched competition in the quarterfinals so that Dresden was to play their semifinal at the Unicorns - only to fall in dramatic and tragic fashion in close games before Braunschweig would dispose of the Unicorns in the final. While Dresden now holds the longest consecutive playoff streak in the North, they have yet to appear in their second German Bowl and yet to win their first one. Meanwhile, Hall seems to have perfected "First in the South, done in the final" into an art form. Oh and that Running Back mentioned above? Yeah, he's been retiring and unretiring from European Football every season since 2013 and despite an earlier stint with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes (in which he lost the final to Hall), and decent 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Dresden Monarchs (now on Defense more often than not) he has yet to win the championship he so wants.
  • The Philippine Basketball Association has Rain Or Shine, which was a constant contender in The New '10s with the likes of Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, and Gabe Norwood headlining a talented roster which was formerly coached by team-oriented tactician Yeng Guiao, but had only 2 championships to show for during their glory days (relatively paltry compared to the trophy-laden hauls of San Miguel, Purefoods, and TnT).
    • A newer example is Global Port, a talented team (led by the likes of Terrence Romeo (a renowned player in FIBA Asia tournaments) and Stanley Pringle) which rarely ends up making the playoffs. When they do, they often fail to get past the Quarterfinals.
  • Lindsey Jacobellis is the most decorated female snowboard-cross athlete ever — 10 X Games championships, five world championships — except when it comes to the Olympics, where she may be the biggest case of Laser-Guided Karma in the history of either Olympics. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, the then-20-year-old had a commanding lead down the final stretch and decided to celebrate with a simple method grab off the final jump, only to crash, allowing Tanja Frieden to pass her for the gold and sending Jacobellis to silver. It only got worse from there: she went off course while trying to avoid a collision and was disqualified from the 2010 Olympic semi-final heat, she crashed in the 2014 Olympic semi-final heat, and after making the finals in the 2018 Olympics, she lost her lead halfway through and finished off the podium in part due to a poorly waxed board. Despite winning nearly every title in sight in the Olympic interim, all she has to show for her four Olympic appearances is one of the most bittersweet silver medals ever awarded.
  • American hurdler and bobsledder Lolo Jones. Despite two world championships in the 60m hurdles and various indoor records, her career has been stamped as this trope due to her high-profile shortcomings at the Olympics. In 2008, after winning the national and world indoor championships, she was leading the 100m hurdle finals at the Beijing Olympics until she clipped and stumbled over the penultimate hurdle, plummeting her to a 7th-place finish. In 2012, expectations were higher due to not just continued success, but becoming a celebrity due to various photoshoots and endorsements taking advantage of her attractive appearance, and a well-publicized interview in which Jones admitted she was still a virgin. Jones finished 4th, missing a medal, and had salt poured in the wound when two of her teammates (who won silver and bronze, on top of a gold in 2008) criticized the media and Jones on national TV the next day over Jones being a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. Jones also transitioned to being a bobsled brakeman, and was selected to represent the U.S. in the 2014 Winter Olympics. This was met with public criticism by various bobsledders for the perception of Jones making it on name recognition alone, including one teammate who was left off the Olympic squad stating "I guess I should've been working on gathering more Twitter followers". Jones's sled team finished 11th at the Olympics, the only one of the three American teams not to finish on the podium.
  • Welsh hurdler Colin Jackson - whose specialized in the 110m hurdles - was, at one stage, the world indoor and outdoor, European and Commonwealth champion and held the world record for more than a decade. His results in the Olympics: silver (1988), 7th (1992), 4th (1996) and 5th (2000).
  • Professional bass fishermen Roland Martin, Shaw Grigsby, Bill Dance, and Jimmy Houston all enjoyed great careers on the BASS circuit and became hosts of their own fishing shows. But they never won the Bassmaster Classic, with a best finish of 2nd by Dance, Grigsby and Martin and a 7th y Jimmy Houston

    Professional Wrestling 
  • As it stands, most would probably go with either The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase or "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig as the greatest competitor to have not been granted the world title. (Never mind Curt Hennig was AWA World Champion in 1987-88, before he went to the WWF). Ironically, DiBiase was promised by the then-WWF to win the WWF Title at WrestleMania IV. However, politics occurred (that didn't even involve him!). WWF wanted The Honky Tonk Man to drop the Intercontinental title to Randy Savage, but Honky refused and threatened to leave WWF with the belt, so WWF caved in and allowed Honky to keep the belt, and gave Randy Savage the WWF title at WrestleMania IV to make up for it.
  • Another good contender could be Rowdy Roddy Piper, especially since he got quite a few title matches against Hulk Hogan in the 80s. Hot Rod didn't just lose to the Hulkster every time, he got disqualified every time.
  • Then, there's Lex Luger. He choked against Ric Flair (multiple times), Yokozuna (twice), and Hollywood Hulk Hogan... all for either the NWA/WCW or WWF Title belts.
  • In ECW, Tommy Dreamer had a long feud with Raven in which he continually ended up losing to him. Dreamer finally won on Raven's last night with the company.
  • Chris Benoit's angle going into WrestleMania XX, where both Triple H and Shawn Michaels made a huge deal over the fact that, despite receiving numerous opportunities, he always seemed to choke in world title matches, and thus both felt he was not in their league. Guess who won?
  • The Road Of Homicide, part revenge, redemption quest over his frustration at not being able to win a single title belt of any kind in Ring of Honor. So he shot for the big one and at the end of the road was Bryan Danielson.
  • WWE's angle for the revival of ECW was based on this - Rob Van Dam was built up as, in Joey Styles' words, the greatest competitor to never win a World Title, heading into his battle with WWE Champion John Cena in the main event of the revival show One Night Stand. By the time the show was over, he wasn't without one anymore.
  • In New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Toru Yano developed a reputation for being a "spoiler", in that he could somewhat reliably beat many of the promotion's top wrestlers but for whatever reason was continuously unsuccessful when it came to winning title belts, tournaments, wager matches or really anything with a tangible or long-lasting symbolic prize. He mainly existed to make all better wrestlers wait for their success, or "spoil" their good runs. It had a clear effect on his psyche, as Yano began as a somewhat serious and clean technical wrestler but degenerated into an alcoholic who was best known for trying to cheat his way to the quickest victories possible. After seven years his bad luck finally came to an end when he and Togi Makabe of Great Bash Heel won the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. Individual success continued to elude him though.
  • Another New Japan case was Katsuyori Shibata. Despite being groomed as one of the company's "Three Musketeers" it took him precisely seven years to win a title belt in the company, or anywhere else in pro wrestling for that matter, a whopping sixteen years of failing to win when something was on the line if his other pro wrestling and mixed martial arts ventures are to be included. Meanwhile the other two, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi, racked up title belts constantly when they weren't simply enjoying long reigns. Even after Hirooki Goto helped Shibata to win the IWGP Tag Team Titles in 2015 it would be another year before he finally gained a singles belt in the NEVER Openweight Title. A year earlier Goto also helped end Shibata's tournament drought via the World Tag League but he continued to falter in singles tournaments while the other two already had several under their belt with Nakamura winning the New Japan cup that year and Tanahashi going on to win the notoriously difficult G-1 Climax for the second time the next year.
  • Hirooki Goto is a bigger fizzler than his friend. Despite receiving eight opportunities at the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, Goto has lost all of them. Made more egregious in 2016. Goto failed in his eighth challenge for the World Championship and proceeded to finish second in both the New Japan Cup and G1 Climax!
  • Ring of Honor pulled this with Tyler Black and Roderick Strong; the latter was 0-15 in World Title matches at one point. Ironically, Strong would defeat Black to win the title at Glory By Honor IX.
    • Even more ironically, Black would go on to win what most fans consider a far more prestigious World title at WrestleMania 31.
  • When Pro Wrestling Wave was founded in 2007, Yumi Ohka quickly shot her way into the main event, consistently winning tournaments and multiple bout of the year awards, yet she consistently failed to win a title belt of any kind, with her own Black Dahlia stablemate Misaki Ohata bringing younger wrestlers into the faction to offset Ohka's age and "The World Famous" Kana proclaiming Yumi Ohka had lost the right to call herself Wave's Ace in November of 2012. Ohka's tournament wins made her eligible for another to decide Wave's first singles champion in February of 2013 however and she capitalized by knocking off Ohata and beating Kana in the finals, which she then followed up by finally defeating Kana's Triple Tails to win Wave's Tag Team Titles alongside Ice Ribbon's Hikaru Shida.
  • When EVOLVE started, each wrestler's wins and losses were recorded in order to determine who would become champions or get title shots. Chuck Taylor of Ronin proved to be very successful, ending up with the best record in the company, but time and time again he failed to win the belt while his Ronin partners Rich Swann and Johnny Gargano were racking up title belts in EVOLVE's partner promotions FIP and Dragon Gate USA. He eventually abandoned Ronin to form The Gentleman's Club, a group dedicated to his own success, and it led to none as far as winning any title belts in EVOLVE or the rest of the WWN while Gargano would become the inaugural EVOLVE Tag Team winner with Drew Galloway, who was substituting for Swann.
  • Cheerleader Melissa had been on every volume of SHIMMER, and for seven years she had come up short in every last title opportunity she had until 2012 when she managed to beat Madison Eagles for the singles title belt.
  • Jay Briscoe had been in Ring of Honor from day one and before he challenged Kevin Steen for the ROH World Title, a video montage was shown of all his prior failures to win an individual ROH title belt.
  • WWE tried to do this with John Cena in the lead-up to WrestleMania 29, where he even compared himself to Donovan McNabb as a guy who couldn't win the big one should he lose to The Rock again. Tried being the key word, because Cena was already a 10-time champion going into the match, meaning he not only could win the big one, but had done so ten times already.
  • Christie Ricci had one of the best records of any PGWA wrestler and earned the most title shots in history. Come her planned retirement in 2015 and still no reigns to her name. Her legacy will be kept intact there because Ricci did win a belt in LLF, another company that worked with Special Events.
  • On WWE NXT, Sami Zayn had a reputation as the guy who couldn't win "the big one," losing all of his important matches, which included all his matches at the TakeOver events. In what was an 18-month climb to the top, Zayn finally won the championship at TakeOver: R Evolution.
  • Hania The Howling Huntress challenged for different titles and competed in tournaments without ever winning.
  • Big Show was known for his poor singles record and constant jobs at WrestleMania, having lost seven single matches. This became part of the build for WrestleMania XXVIII, where Cody Rhodes would constantly mock The Big Show for his inability to "win the big one". This would end up being the WrestleMania where The Big Show finally broke his singles losing streak by defeating Rhodes to win the Intercontinental Championship and joined the list of Grand Slam Champions.
  • Sasha Banks at WrestleMania. As of April 2021, she is 0-6 at WrestleMania; although only of those matches was a singles match, said singles match was a SmackDown women's title match that was the main event of Night 1. Sasha, the champion, was unable to defend her title, losing to the newly-crowned Bianca Belair. Although she climbed the mountain to win five RAW women's titles from 2016-2020, she also added to her "choker" label by never successfully defending any of them.

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

Anime and Manga

  • Surprisingly, the main character of Dragon Ball Son Goku is one of these. He has only won one tournament, the 23rd budokai vs Piccolo, and all others come up short in some, disqualified by technical ringout or quite literal gods getting in the way. Even anime filler and Super doesn't have him win although by this stage in his training, Goku tends to try to avoid winning so as not to attract too much attention.
  • As much is said about Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, he actually hardly ever won a fight on his own, and only ever mostly succeed when fighting with Simon. Granted when they are fighting, Kamina appears to be doing most of the work. Also, he was able to get Simon to stop being such a wimp, basically get the whole story and rise of man thing started yet is mortally wounded when facing and bringing down the series' first extremely powerful foe, but manages to have a lasting impact and come back from the dead as a ghost or something to get everyone out of a Lotus-Eater Machine, which makes him something else entirely. The supplemental material explains why this is. For all his bravado, Kamina never truly believed in his own abilities, which meant he had the lowest Spiral Power levels of anyone in the series. Meanwhile, it's clearly established that Simon ends up having the highest. While Kamina does the work, he needs Simon to back him up, or he is - quite literally - powerless.
  • Mai Valentine/Kujaku from Yu-Gi-Oh!. Her duelist cred is often accused of being an Informed Ability, but it's really this. She has displayed great skills at times, but never manages to deliver when it comes to the big duels. Of course, much of the blame for this is due to Plot Demanded Losses (of course Mai's not going to be able to beat The Hero or the Big Bad, no matter what her skills are — too bad she's only ever fighting them onscreen).
  • In the Pokémon anime, Ash Ketchum is turning out to be Mai's Spear Counterpart, only rising above the Elite Eight once with that tournament only having 64 contenders (the others had over 100, involving 1 or 2 extra rounds)note . The fact that he is The Hero makes it worse. At least we get to see his skills in Badge Battles. As well as his adventures with Olympus Mons.note note  The one exception is when he played in the Orange League, which wasn't a tournament but a single battle against the league's other top-ranked trainer, and won. However, since that was a filler arc, nobody cares.
    • He was very close to averting this in the Kalos Pokemon League, as he reached the finals of that tournament and was VERY close to finishing it off with Ash-Greninja. Unfortunately, Alain and his Mega Charizard X would have other ideas. Ash thus remains the LA Clippers/Liverpool FC/Donovan McNabb of the Pokemon World.
    • Though Ash is a somewhat downplayed example. Most trainers never win eight badges in the first place. Right before the Kalos league, one of these trainers tries to challenge Ash, to prove he has what it takes to compete. He doesn't, and it's really quite sad.
    • The losing streak finally came to an end after 22 years in Alola, where he beat Gladion and won the League. Ash was even shocked that he had won.
  • Saki (specifically, the Achiga-hen spinoff) presents Shindouji All-Girls' High School from Fukuoka, which had a long history of qualifying for the National high-school mahjong tournament... and getting no farther than the second round. For the current season, they fielded as Vanguard the incredibly lucky Kirame Hanada, hoping to at least survive through the five phases of each round. Alas, they still came up short, though at least they made it as high as the semifinals.


  • In The Game Plan, The Rock plays one of these before he meets his long-lost daughter.
  • Played with in By the Sword. Alex Villard believes his father was this because his father was a famous modern-day fencing champion who died in a duel with a student of his after finding out that the student was having an affair with Villard Senior's wife. This leads the younger Villard to muse "He spent half his life winning fencing tournaments, but the only time in his life that he was in a fight that mattered he got himself killed". This fuels Villard's win at any cost, no matter how dirty your tactics approach to both fencing and life. Later that student, now out of prison for killing Villard Sr, sets Villard Jr straight. Villard's father had given the student a live rapier while arming himself with only a blunt practice sword and beat the student within an inch of his life with the practice sword. In the end, humiliated by his defeat, (in part because the student had been an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy back in the day) the student had stabbed Villard Senior In the Back when senior was ready to show him mercy.
  • One of the reasons why Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore was such a Jerkass and grew into the villain of the film. Despite his reputation as a great player he was never able to win the championship and get the Golden Jacket. As his strongest competition weren't playing in the tournament this year he seemed like a shoe-in, only his thunder kept being stolen by Happy's violent antics while playing so nobody cared that he was on his way to the championship.

Live-Action TV

  • Cowboys Jet & Cord ran The Amazing Race three times, and, due to their ability to blaze through physically or technically based tasks and their huge popularity, were huge favorites to win all three times. However, they lost all three times due to making several small mental or navigational mistakes, all of which accumulated to cost them the win.
  • All My Children's Susan Lucci turned in enough magnificent performances to be nominated for an Emmy a whopping 19 times (this is a record). And every one of those times, she was beaten out by another actress before finally winning in 1999.


Web Original

  • Byzantium in AH World Cup is meant to be an Expy of the Netherlands in The World Cup, always one of the favorites to win it all but never actually does. Even in the actual simulations, Byzantium struggled against teams they were expected to win against, drawing all their matches before they were finally defeated when facing another favorite.
  • Since 2007, GameFAQs' Contests Board has run a "Video Game Music Contest". 256 songsnote , single-elimination bracket, vote for which song you like more. To prevent the same songs from dominating year after year, any song that makes it to Round 5 is immediately "retired" from appearing in any future edition of the main bracket and can only return for the occasional Tournament of Champions, which means that making the field year after year requires a certain level of popularity during the nomination phase without ever actually being able to go on a prolonged run. Reach for the Moon, Immortal Smoke and The Best Is Yet to Come have managed to make the field in all 10 contests.
  • Urinating Tree has an entire series of videos, dubbed "A Legacy Of Failure", devoted to analyzing this trope in professional sports. Unsurprisingly, several teams highlighted in the folders above are featured. His own rules for featuring a team in this series are notably stricter than the trope's own definition, specifically:
    1. The team has to have been active in their current league for at least 40 years.
    2. They usually have to qualify for their sport's postseason on a fairly consistent basis.
    3. They have never won their sport's top prize despite all their postseason participation.
The series was expanded in 2018 to begin covering coaches with a reputation for playoff futility, with coaches being required to participate for at least 10 years without a championship to receive an entry.

Real Life

  • The Rafale fighter plane. Consistently touted by French aviation fans and a few others as close, equal or better than the F-22 despite the disagreements of the foremost authorities on the matter and even a number of French politicians and defense experts. Has been the focus of a major PR campaign in weapons sales by Sarkozy after no foreign sales ten years after going into production to no result, and looks to see either no sales ever or half a squadron's worth of planes. In early 2009 France itself cut production, amidst governmental backroom beatings of the Dassault Thales' managerial staff. Contrast with the highly successful Mirage series, compare with LeClerc.
    • It does, however, easily match or surpass performance of its actual competitors on the export market: the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (American), Eurofighter Typhoon (British/German/Italian), Saab JAS 39 Gripen (Swedish), and Mikoyan MiG-29M and MiG-29K (Russian). The F-16 has been exported to 25 nations, the F/A-18 to 7, the Typhoon to 3, the Gripen to 4, the MiG-29M to 2, and the MiG-29K to 1. The Rafale, as of October 2011, has yet to secure a single export contract. Then in 2015 Dassault suddenly received a flurry of orders from Egypt, India, and Qatar, with Kuwait, the UAE and Canada considering orders of their own.
    • Interestingly, one of the potential buyers for the Rafale was the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi...which France took a leading role in overthrowing by using their own Rafales to bomb the hell out of his military. Perhaps the new government formed by the rebels, which both saw the Rafale in action and has considerable reason to be grateful to France, will finally provide Dassault the opening they need?
  • The Dreadnought line of battleships and all the modern BBs that followed. A fleet confrontation between them never made a decisive contribution to a war. In fact, only once did post-Dreadnought battleships engage each other in a truly significant battle at all, World War I's Battle of Jutland, which was fought to a completely inconclusive result in which both sides withdrew after inflicting relatively slight losses on each other given the size of the fleets involved (28 battleships and 9 battlecruisers for Britain vs 16 battleships and 5 battlecruisers for Germany, plus nearly 200 supporting ships between them).
  • William Jennings Bryan electrified the Democratic National Convention with his famous cry of "you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." and at the tender age of 36 (only one year older than the Constitutional minimum of 35), he became the youngest major-party nominee in history, and he put his dazzling oratorical power to good use, traveling 18,000 miles in three months, giving 500 speeches in 100 days - he lost by a huge landslide in the Electoral College. He was nominated again in 1900 - and lost by another huge landslide. He sat out the 1904 election, quite rightly realizing that he had no hope of beating popular incumbent Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt stepped down in 1908, Bryan jumped back in and proceeded to lose by his biggest margin ever.
  • Similarly, Adlai Stevenson had a reputation as a campaigning orator and suffered two landslide defeats in a row against Dwight D. Eisenhower. In fairness, he was campaigning against the hero of World War II in Europe in a time of unprecedented prosperity. Stevenson seemed to be quite aware of how little chance of victory he had. When a supporter told him that every intelligent American would vote for him, he responded, "That's not enough. I need a majority."
  • Thomas Dewey was nominated in 1944 to run against FDR - of course, he lost by a large margin! He was, unlike the other three unfortunates who had to, renominated in 1948 because Roosevelt had died and he was up against the considerably less challenging Truman. Sensing victory, the Republicans were sure such a popular candidate would win - nope.
  • Henry Clay, considered by most historians to be one of the greatest Senators in US history, unsuccessfully ran for President three times in the general election (in 1824, 1832, and 1844). He also sought his party's nomination in 1840 and 1848 but was passed over both times in favor of popular war heroes. Clay once complained bitterly that his supporters kept nominating him against opponents he had no chance to beat, and passing him over in years where he would have been virtually guaranteed to win.
  • Wayne Owens (D-Utah) served four non-consecutive terms in the US House of Representatives in a relatively safe (by Utah standards) Democratic seat but went 0 for 4 in statewide elections: three Senate races and a run for governor.
  • Both of Hillary Clinton's runs for president in 2008 and 2016 ended in failure, despite wide acclaim from political leaders and celebrities. At least in 2016, she made it all the way to the nomination despite a fierce battle with Senator Bernie Sanders, and won the popular vote.
  • The Australian Labor Party lost two supposedly certain federal elections in the 21st century. The first was in 2004, with John Howard's popularity fading due to his sychophantic attitude towards George Bush during the War on Terror. The second was in 2019 when the Liberal Party - noticing they'd been losing every poll for nearly 6 years - stacked the deck by making a preference deal with Clive Palmer's party, wherein Palmer gave up any votes his party received to the Liberals in exchange for approvals for his next mining project. The latter proved to be so shocking that the Labor Party abandoned their principles and started pandering to the Liberal demographic.


Video Example(s):


The Caps' Legacy of Failure

An excerpt from "The Washington Capitals: A Legacy of Failure" covering the 2011 to 2015 postseasons. Note that, after the video was released, the Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / EveryYearTheyFizzleOut

Media sources:

Main / EveryYearTheyFizzleOut