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Glory Days

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Joe: You're Norma Desmond! You used to be in silent pictures; you used to be big!
Norma: I am big! It's the pictures that got small!

You have a Crowning Moment of Awesome in your past. It haunts you. Either your life went downhill, or you continually fail to match or top that moment, or you try coasting on that glory for the rest of your life.

One of the classic examples is the stereotypical high school jock who won the big game, and spends the rest of his life in an unsatisfying job. Either he did not make it in college, or he is treated as a rank-and-file Office Drone in the business world. Later he may inform his miserable children that these are the Best Years of Your Life.

Compare I Coulda Been a Contender!, Nostalgia Filter (when a character looks back on the past with rose-tinted glasses), Tough Act to Follow, White-Dwarf Starlet, Jaded Washout (spends his time wishing he was still back there), Loser Protagonist, and Trade Your Passion for Glory.

When a character had to leave a dangerous life for a more mundane one, and spends it longing for his glory days, he is in love with being In Harm's Way. If the character is using her children as a vector through which to either achieve what she never did or relive her glory days (instead of letting the kids be who they are), she may become an Education Mama or a Stage Mom. See also Jock Dad, Nerd Son.

Contrast While You Were in Diapers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop has a trio of old men (possibly former cowboys) which keep talking of the great days back in their youth.
  • The old men from GUN×SWORD. They keep drinking and talking about the glory days in a deceased member's granddaughter's tavern and are chewed out by the other people who don't even believe them. They prove themselves again when an armor attacks their town and they get to show off the El Dorado V. They trump their glory days with more epic moments in the quest to stop the Claw.
  • Many nations who were former empires in Hetalia: Axis Powers get moments reminiscing about the glory days. The Hot-Blooded Blood Knight Prussia, who spends the entirety of one strip retelling the story of how he became The Leader of the Germanic states and unified Germany, bragging about his awesomeness the entire time. France thinks wistfully about how powerful he was when Napoleon was in charge. England's got a powerful Nostalgia Filter for the days of The British Empire. The Princely Young Man Austria clearly misses his days as a great empire, to the point that he continues acting like one in the present day.
  • In Hozuki's Coolheadedness, Momotarō has become like this. His companions only go along with him because they like him but complain amongst themselves. Hozuki fixes Momotaro up with a job caring for celestial peaches, and his animal companions find work punishing the spirits of those who were cruel to animals.
  • The three main characters of Mei Company were Magical Girl Warriors who were forced to retire from that life when their powers started to wane. Now they run a cleaning service and sometimes reminisce about the days when they were badasses.
  • Rumbling Hearts: Hayase Mitsuki, a once-in-a-generation swimming prodigy had the makings of an Olympic-Grade Champion. She leaves it behind to look after her best friend Haruka's boyfriend Takayuki. He is unable to complete high school because of his suicidal depression over Haruka's car-accident induced coma. An accident inadvertently caused by Mitsuki. Three years on, when Haruka awakens, Takayuki leaves Mitsuki behind to restart life where he left it. Mitsuki, now a mere office lady, meets an old-rival who is now an olympic grade champion-swimmer doubly reminding her of the meaninglessness of her sacrifice.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Simon and the rest of the Gurren Brigade find themselves bored out of their minds after the Time Skip. Averted in the Distant Finale, where Simon seems content Walking the Earth.
  • Tiger & Bunny has a dark example in Mr. Legend, who after losing his powers became a drunk and an abusive husband and father.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • In "Lovers Quarrel", Crackerjack and Quarrel are haunted by the growing realization that this might be happening to them, as their age makes it more and more difficult to keep up with their superheroics.
    • Played with in "Old Times"; retired hero Supersonic is abruptly dragged into action by his civilian partner Ed Robbins because Ed is having a hard time admitting that he is past his prime. Ed is hoping that the two of them can continue their adventures together.
  • Most Chick Tracts portray the Protestant Reformation as the peak of human civilization, with the Gilded Age (the period between The American Civil War and World War I) as a close second, and an endless downhill slide after that. Writer Jack Chick is a fundamentalist Protestant Christian.
  • In Flashpoint (1999), Barry lived the good life up until the mid-60s and frequently reminisces on his past handiwork and adoration.
  • Hector "Heck" Hammarskjold, protagonist of the graphic novel Heck, used to be the high school quarterback, and when he returns home for his father's funeral that's all that people remember about him.
    Heck: I'm not that guy any more. And I'm not exactly thrilled that I'm not a star any more, and that I'll never be as interesting or exciting or happy as I was in high school. So stop reminding me of old days and better times.
  • Most of the depowered heroes in JLA: Act of God seemed to not be able to get past the days when they were superheroes. Even Supergirl called the past 'The Glory Days'.
  • In Nextwave, Monica Rambeau can hardly start a sentence without mentioning how she once led The Avengers.
  • In Watchmen, Silk Spectre sums up her comrades' feelings: "I was a hero, goddamn it!".

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Inverted regarding Penny's mom in "The Walk," given what her daughter says. She rightly has given Penny advice that secondary school will only be the high water mark for a certain subset of people.
    Penny: It's funny. I wish I fit in better at school, but mom says that doesn't matter any. Someone with big dreams and big plans like me will blossom out in the real world, she says, while for the cheerleaders and football jocks, this is as good as it'll get. Their lives will just head downhill after this. I hope that's right about me, at least. It's no fun feeling like a freak, darn it.
  • Codex Equus: Generally deconstructed, as one of the themes covered by the Codexverse is that looking back at the past with a Nostalgia Filter can be detrimental for everyone. This actually forms the basis of Moon Ray Vaughoof's character development — he never really got over how his music career and life were cut short by a helicopter accident, especially after he got sober, and working as a Reaper reminded him of all the things he left behind. Moon Ray's strong nostalgia causes him to shirk his duties in favor of hanging around places he used to frequent in life, and during the "Big Comeback Tour" he preferred to let the revived souls enjoy their second chance rather than take it away from them. However, participating in the "Applewood Rescue" makes Moon Ray realize the hard way that his yearning for the past nearly put him down the same dark path of depravity that his foalhood idol, Double Helix, took. He comes to term with this while visiting his own grave in Gallas, allowing him to Ascend to true godhood. Ironically, it's his letting go of his past and doing good deeds in the present that gradually turns Moon Ray into the Living Legend he originally wanted to be.
  • Contraptionology!: Applejack's realization that her Glory Days are ending, while Twilight's are just starting, is what caused her to flee to Dodge Junction in "The Last Roundup". She prides herself on her athletic skill, but athleticism is a young mare's game and she's just now starting to age out of her prime; additionally, her status as Ponyville's go-to dependable person and problem fixer also ended when Twilight moved in and huge magical crises became the order of the day. Twilight, by contrast, has chosen a life of research and academia where she will thrive until senility sets in, and is only just starting out on what is shaping up to be a long and successful career.
  • Sins of the Past: Fifteen years after Hawkmoth and Lila triumphed, Chloe's family has fallen upon hard times, and she's eking out a living as a librarian while her former friend/sycophant Sabrina has long replaced her as the Bee Heroine. Seeing a comic featuring the original Miraculous team, including her former alter ego, nearly brings her to tears.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles:
    • After a forced retirement from his career as a super-hero, Mr. Incredible settles down and becomes a typical cubicle dweller. While his wife has adapted to their new circumstances, he is stuck re-living his past glories, a fact which the villain exploits to get Mr. Incredible to unknowingly help him. He is even on the cover of a "Glory Days" magazine.
    Helen: Risking our family again so you can relive the glory days is a very bad thing!
    Bob: Well, reliving the glory days is better than acting like they didn't happen!
    • The soundtrack's track for the flashback opener of the film is even named "Glory Days".
    • Edna is disdainful of her current job as a fashion designer and is clearly delighted at the prospect of doing more work for Supers:
    Edna: I used to design for gods!
  • Before he was upstaged by penguins, Dave the octopus from Penguins of Madagascar used to be a star attraction at the Central Park zoo, entertaining crowds with his dexterous antics.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were going through this in TMNT, which is odd, since there was no indication from the last movie that things would turn out this way.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 17 Again (2009): Unemployed, on the verge of divorce, and with kids who don't respect him, Mike views his high school days as this; he was a star basketball player about to get a scholarship, but gave it all up to be with his pregnant girlfriend. When he is magically returned to his 17 year old body, he sees it as a chance to Set Right What Once Went Wrong; however, he eventually realizes that he doesn't regret the choices he made.
  • Sam Rothstein laments the old Vegas at the end of Casino.
  • "Fast" Eddie Felson in The Color of Money. We saw his Glory Days in The Hustler (1961) but when The Color Of Money opens, he's a bitter burnout selling booze and ends up working as a stakehorse to a younger player. Subverted when he makes a comeback towards the end of the film.
  • Robert De Niro's character in The Fan, to an Axe-Crazy degree.
  • In The Fighter, Dickie Eklund constantly replays his boxing match where he managed to score a knockdown against Sugar Ray Leonard, despite the fact that Leonard eventually won the match. Everybody gets tired of Dickie constantly talking about the fight and later, he runs into Leonard and Leonard can barely recognize him.
  • From Beyond the Grave: In "An Act of Kindness", Lowe longs for his army days, which he regards as his personal high point (possibly because he wasn't married). However, his attempts to invoke this drag him into Phony Veteran territory, and that leads him down a very dark path.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the main character suffers from a brief Heroic BSoD at the beginning, when he overhears someone laughing at the fact that he and his colleagues haven't had an acting role since the titular Star Trek Fictional Counterpart a decade or two earlier.
  • The end of Goodfellas has Henry lament his boring life in witness protection and flashing to a montage of his glory days as a gangster. It ends with a homage to The Great Train Robbery, implying an association to America's glory days of The Wild West.
  • Velma Von Tussle from Hairspray will not hesitate to remind you of her supermodel days when she won Miss Baltimore Crabs.
  • Parodied in Hamlet 2; Elizabeth Shue plays herself as a survivor of the Hollywood Hype Machine having decided to quit acting and become a nurse instead. The main character is a huge fan of hers and invites her to the school to give a talk about acting to his drama class — which ends up embarrassing for all concerned, as the kids have no idea who she is.
  • In The Hollow, Ian's father Carl is the high school football coach who is determined that Ian will have exactly the same high school experience as him, including being a football hero. He ignores the fact that Ian is more interested in drama than athletics.
  • Most Likely to Murder (2018): In the early 2000s, Billy Green was a high school football player so popular he was known as the King of Valley Stream. Now he works a shitty job as a restroom attendant at a Las Vegas nightclub and is so out of shape he gets winded from running across the street.
  • Downplayed in Music and Lyrics; whilst former pop-star and professional has-been Alex Fletcher's glory days are well and truly behind him at the beginning of the movie, he is, if not exactly ecstatic with his lot, comfortably resigned to it. Having found some measure of contentment in the low-rent theme-park gigs he does to support himself, he doesn't demonstrate a burning desire to get back to the old days, and seems to have accepted the fact that his glory days are behind him. His main motivation throughout the movie is not getting back on the charts, but ensuring he has a sufficient profile to secure a lucrative contract singing at Disneyland.
  • Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite is a particularly sorry example of this trope, as he looks back on a football game that he spent warming the bench. He spends all his free time practicing his throw and lamenting that he could have won the game and gone pro if the coach had put him in. He even buys a "time machine" on the Internet so he can go back and change his life.
  • In Pixels, Sam used to be world vice-champion of arcade games. Today, he's fixing electronic installations and still regrets not doing anything with his talents.
  • In The Prowler (1951), Webb was a star high school basketball player who got a college scholarship but lost it after a violent argument with his coach. He has been stewing in a sea of bitter resentment ever since.
  • Rocky Balboa was also meant to remedy such a situation caused by Rocky V.
  • The Documentary Special When Lit features Rick Stetta, the 1991 Pinball World Champion who struggles to cope with his place in a world where pinball is no longer a major cultural influence.
  • Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard is convinced that she is still as big a star as she was in the silent film era, even though she hasn't made any films since then.
  • In This is Spın̈al Tap, the titular band spend most of the movie actively determined to pretend that the Glory Days aren't well and truly behind them, despite the fact that the crowds and venues are getting noticeably smaller.
  • One of the main themes in The Turning Point (1977). Emma was once a great dancer, but now she's in her mid-forties and can barely execute a double pirouette. Her old friends Wayne and DeeDee, also once on their way to ballet stardom, abandoned their performing careers shortly after having their first child. And Michael, the artistic director, has devolved from a great choreographer into an administrator.
  • Wings (1966) is about a middle-aged Russian woman stuck in a dull life as a school principal, who can't stop thinking about her exciting youth as a fighter pilot in World War II.
  • The World's End: In his teenage years, Gary was the coolest kid in school. Twenty years later, he still hasn't moved on.
  • Randy "The Ram" Robinson, the aging, lonely, deteriorating title character of The Wrestler, keeps going back into the ring to recapture as much as he can of the exhilaration and adoration of his heyday in the 1980s, culminating in a "revenge bout" against his in-ring rival, "The Ayatollah", several decades after their original rivalry.
  • In Young Adult, Mavis Gary is a successful author of young adult novels who relives her Alpha Bitch high school days through an Author Avatar character and never got over her high school boyfriend (whom she attempts to win back despite him being Happily Married with a newborn baby.)

  • Tan'elKoth in Blade of Tyshalle literally fits this trope to a T. He used to be a god. As a line points out, his very name was changed to an unwilling admission that he no longer is that being. Hari also longs for the glory days of his career, when he was an unstoppable assassin instead of a paraplegic bureaucrat. See also Orbek's obsession with reviving the Black Knife nation in Caine Black Knife.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian:
    • In the story "A Phoenix On The Sword", Thoth-amon's days when he owned the Ring of Power.
    • Conan himself suffers from this in later years:
      When I was a fighting man
      The kettle drums they beat.
      And the people scattered gold dust
      At my horse's feet.
      But now I am a great king
      The people hound my track
      With poison in my wine cup
      And daggers at my back.
  • In The Day of the Locust, Harry Greener is a former vaudeville performer who was never that talented to begin with, but with the decline of both vaudeville and his health, he has been forced to take a job as a door-to-door salesman just to have an outlet to keep performing his shtick in front of increasingly less interested "audiences".
  • One of the main themes in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, at least for the characters associated with the secret societies that were crushed in 1825 (the book is set in 1828). The main character's glory days are seemingly still in full swing, but a) he has great and well-founded fear of suffering this trope in the future if he doesn't take some risks and b) while his political and social career has been doing well, he has become increasingly detached from many of his old friends and has also hit a major writer's block, which leads to a lot of regret and nostalgic reminiscing on his part.
  • Bavragor Hammerfist from The Dwarves. He created some of the finest stonework in the world, before his love of drink took over.
  • The Great Gatsby:
    • Many characters, but especially Tom Buchanan, who used to be a star football player for Yale. Nick's impression of Tom is as a restless man who goes about his entire life looking for another football game to win.
    • Gatsby himself inverts this. He never had such pure happiness in his past, but he's ignoring reality in order to try and make the future glorious and perfect and lovely.
  • Subverted in Children of the Lens, last in the Lensman sequence: the surviving crew of the battleship "Dauntless", now top brass, cast off their regalia and revert to their original roles aboard ship of twenty years before in order to re-enter a strange universe and craft the ultimate weapon. They literally get to relive their glory days, even as they are living a second set.
  • Ernie from Naked Came the Stranger fantasizes about his days as a high school quarterback and later a marine, when he was known as Iron Man Ernie Miklos. Now, as a middle-aged man with a wife and kids he doesn't like, he lives mostly for Saturday afternoon football games.
  • Invoked by J. K. Rowling in Quidditch Through the Ages, where the Chudley Cannons (Ron's favorite team) were once a dominant power in the English Quidditch League, but their last league win was in 1892, and they finally changed their team's motto from "We Shall Conquer!" to "Let's all just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best." in 1972 as their transformation into league Butt-Monkey finally completed. Dumbledore even makes a comment about it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
    Dumbledore: Death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year's league.
  • Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom in Rabbit, Run was a basketball hero in high school. At the time of the novel, however, he is a nobody in a loveless marriage and a Soul-Sucking Retail Job.
    “I once did something right. I played first-rate basketball. I really did. And after you're first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate.”
  • Robert Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire longs for the days of the Rebellion, when he was a strong, dashing and popular hero, with a clear enemy to fight and a damsel in distress to rescue. He really hates being king, and he'd give it up in a heartbeat if he could.
    I swear to you, I was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead as now that I've won it.
  • Explicitly called out and then averted in Jean Johnson's Theirs Not to Reason Why. Ia is an extremely powerful pre-cognitive and sees that her ship will need to be destroyed with all hands to prevent the universe being destroyed. She orders all of her crew to request transfer off the ship to save their lives, and the crew objects because they want to stay with her to the end. They explicitly ask her what will happen to them if they do transfer off, and while she lists a few people who have to live, she admits that "the rest of you have already had your impact" and "fame is fickle, and basking too much in your glory days will lead many of you to soured lives".

    Live-Action TV 
  • As part of its Biting-the-Hand Humor, 30 Rock likes to make fun of the fact that NBC's last glory days were in the 1990s. In one episode, Jack reveals this pie chart.
  • Illyria, a Cthulu-esque goddess demon from Angel, awakens from millions of years of stasis to find herself trapped in a human body, her cult all but extinct and her armies long since turned to dust. She spends a lot of time moping about how powerful she used to be. It's actually quite poignant to see how she deals with the modern world.
  • A running gag in Babylon 5 with the Centauri Republic in general and Londo Mollari in particular, leading to an in-universe Lightbulb Joke:
    Q: How many Centauri does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: Just one... but in the glory days of the Republic, hundreds of servants would change thousands of lightbulbs at our every whim!
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "The Witch", Amy's mother never got over her glory days as a cheerleader, so forcibly switched places with her daughter to relive "her glory days".
    • Buffy has moments of this, at least at the beginning of the show, missing her popular cheerleader days, back when she didn't have to be a slayer.
  • Burnistoun has recurring character Biscuity Boyle. As a young man he was a champion athlete and Burnistoun's most famous citizen, but now he's a sad, incontinent old man who's prone to physical comedy and can barely control his body.
  • The Crown (2016). Winston Churchill is Prime Minister again but while he's lauded by the public for his wartime leadership it's clear that his best years have passed and he's out of touch with the modern age. In "Act of God" his young secretary Venetia Scott, having read his book My Early Life, is talking of how much it inspired her to make her mark on the world. Churchill can only quietly beg her to stop, well aware that he's no longer that man.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "King of the Lake", the father of the Victim of the Week is a former Olympian whose career was cut short and who is attempting to relive his glory days through his son's athletic success.
  • Game of Thrones: Robert still lives for the days when he was a powerful and victorious warrior and his beloved Lyanna was still alive. His brother Renly eventually calls him out for glorifying the bloody civil war that ripped the continent apart.
  • On Glee, Terry accuses Schuester of obsessing over the Glee club in order to revive his Glory Days from high school.
  • Highlander actually has an episode called "Glory Days", where Joe Dawson, who was the star quarterback of the high school football team, meets up with the head cheerleader he'd once dated. He gets depressed because he lost his legs in Vietnam, and doesn't think she'll like him, that he's 'damaged goods' (she was actually married anyway, but she does reassure him that he isn't damaged). Meanwhile, Mac is targeted by a former mobster immortal who's depressed and unhappy and wants Mac dead for instigating the 'death' that got him kicked out of the mob back in the 30s.
  • Did you know that Al Bundy of Married... with Children once scored four touchdowns in one game of high school football? Al sure wants you to know.
  • M*A*S*H had an episode, "Friends and Enemies," where Col. Potter learned that an old friend, Col. Woody Cooke, who was assigned to logistics duty had illegally assumed command of a combat unit and led into a needless engagement just to satisfy his thirst for the glory days of frontline action. Potter has to report Cooke for abusing his authority and violating the chain of command; he doesn't take it well.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "The Big Game", the Glory Days for assistant-coach Gus "Snakehips" Geary was when he won the big game of 1912 almost singlehandly. After high school, he was hired as vice president of a local firm for publicity - then a few years after he was demoted to janitor. As it paid the same salary, he stayed on until he was layed off and returned to Madison High as a popular assistant coach.
  • Saturday Night Live: In a sketch featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter is a Hogwarts graduate who never accomplished anything as an adult. He spends most of his time hanging out at the school and talking to the students about his past accomplishments. He also plays Quidditch by himself and makes cheering noises.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, episode 2x24, "The Ultimate Computer," had Dr. Richard Daystrom who invented the duotronic computer system used on Federation starships when he was 24, and spent the next 25 years trying to recapture that moment of brilliance (leading to the disastrous results of the M-5 computer). However he seems to have made some historical impact, as by the 24th century a prominent scientific institute is named for him.
  • The main theme of The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine", in which aging actress Barbara Jean Trenton longs for the days when she and her friends were young, beautiful stars. Her inability to accept the reality in which they have grown old and moved on to other professions is so profound that at the end of the episode, she enters the world of one of her films so that she can remain young and beautiful forever.
  • Breaking Bad: In the opening episode Walter White is seen glancing at an award he was given... for contributing to what eventually became Nobel Prize-winning research. We soon learn that he impulsively left his career as an academic chemist behind, while if he'd been more patient he could have shared that Nobel Prize with the eventual victors. We also see he is now reduced to being a struggling Apathetic Teacher who is forced to wash his student's cars to make ends meet.
  • Better Call Saul: The first episode opens with a Flash Forward to Jimmy McGill on the run post-Breaking Bad, under the alias "Gene Takavic". Now living a life of anonymous drudgery in Nebraska, he is clearly depressed, lonely and utterly paranoid. When his shift as a Cinnabon Manager is over he heads home, pours himself a sizeable drink and watches a VHS tape of the gloriously tacky local commercials he made during his life as Amoral Attorney Saul Goodman. The segment is Deliberately Monochrome but the reflection of the TV screen in his glasses is in full colour, signifying that "Gene" is reliving happier times.
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "O Youth and Beauty!" (based on a story by John Cheever ) features a man who likes to relive his glory days as a (college?) track star by competing with an old film of himself.

  • Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69", by way of employing Nostalgia Filter. "Those were the best days of my life."
  • Daniel Amos's "Memory Lane" (from Doppelgänger) is a warning about spending too much time reminiscing over the past:
    You have gotten much thinner
    You're lookin' like a shadow
    It's from dwelling on the might-have-beens
    Living in a time-warp
    To whom am I speaking?
    Some ghost from the past?
    While you think about old glories
    You're fading real fast
  • The Bowling for Soup song "1985" is about a woman who misses her youth back in the 80's.
  • Dave Mustaine has never got over being kicked out of Metallica, not even after 30 years of his own successful band Megadeth. There are numerous Megadeth songs that refer to it, such as "This Was My Life", "Captive Honor" and "Don't Turn Your Back" just to name a few. Mustaine rejoined Metallica onstage and made it clear he really wants to do an album with Metallica. Metallica themselves view him as ancient history.
  • Mike Oldfield - After the surprisingly huge success of his debut album "Tubular Bells", he tried to reproduce it again, again and again to save his decreasing popularity, which didn't help much. Nor did completely re-recording it.
  • The Bob Seger hit "Like a Rock" features a man reminiscing about his youth. In fact, much of Seger's oeuvre fits this trope.
  • Deconstructed in Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days". The song describes a group of high school classmates who were really big deals at the time, but have since gone nowhere in life, so they get together, get drunk and reflect on their high school days to feel better about themselves.
    • Subverted in that the singer hopes he doesn't become like his friends telling "boring stories of glory days".
    • Also subverted in the video where the main character, a construction worker, dreams of his past as a high-school baseball pitcher. In the end he walks off happily to play ball with his young child.
  • Also deconstructed in U2's "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of".

  • Many mythologies (and modern religions as well) espouse a belief in a glorious past age where humankind and the world existed in a kind of "perfect" state. The usual trend of this belief is that due to some kind of sin, both humanity and the world have "fallen"; the result is the present age, which is often seen as more corrupt and miserable. Most of said mythologies emphasize an attempted return to the "perfect" pre-fallen state, either figuratively or literally.
  • Jason from the Argonautica met his end because of his obsession with his glory days. After Jason's lack of faith to Medea destroyed his life, he found himself years later on the beach where the hulk of his old ship the Argo lay. As he sat reminiscing about his adventure, the rotting prow of the Argo fell on him and killed him.

Many, many sports teams or cities have this trope, particularly in sports with promotion and relegation where messing up can well mean the team getting passed down to the third or fourth division with countless former champions never making it back. There is also a surprising number of washed up former pro sports stars in real life, many of them nursing the effects of one too many injuries and some broke because they never learned to handle money or never made as much as you'd think to begin with.
  • Schalke 04 is a good team to this day (though they've had their slumps and even relegations) but they're still longing for the glory days of the Schalker Kreisel (basically 1930s tiki-taka) when they'd reach the final more often than not and could dominate their competition with ease. Their last championship dates to 1958 (before the Bundesliga was founded) and their last measurable success that wasn't "second place in..." was the 1997 win of the UEFA-Cup.
  • The 1. FC Nürnberg used to dominate soccer in Germany in the 1920s, sometimes sending six players to the national squad with their arch-rival Fürth supplying the other five (there were no substitutions back then) but ever since they followed the 1968 championship with relegation the following year, fans have had to hold on to grainy black and white pictures of days long past and dream of names half-forgotten by others if they want to see a Nuremberg squad actually winning something. They did win the DFB-Pokal in 2007 but got relegated in 2008 - naturally.
  • The Cleveland Browns started out as one of the hottest names in football, winning the All-America Football Conference in all four seasons of its existence (1946-49). When the AAFC folded, the Browns were merged into the NFL, and won four more championships between 1950 and 1964. When the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, the Browns were still a power to be reckoned with in the playoffs (albeit with Every Year They Fizzle Out tendencies). Then the 1995 relocation controversy sent the original Browns to become the Baltimore Ravens, and what has haunted the league since the franchise was revived in 1999 can only be described as a punchline for the saddest joke to ever torture the good citizens of Cleveland.
  • Hambledon Cricket Club was once the preeminent cricket club, and was responsible for defining and updating the Laws of Cricket. With the rise to prominence of the Marylebone Cricket Club it rapidly declined, and is now only a village club playing in the local league.
    • Marylebone Cricket Club is no longer the institution it once was: it used to write the Laws of Cricket (now in the hands of the ICC), ran the English international team (now the England and Wales Cricket Board), and so on. However, it does retain a lot of prestige, both within the world of cricket and as a social institution.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Star League era of BattleTech. During its time the Star League was the unifying entity that held the Inner Sphere together, with the Star League Defense Force to protect it. However after the Amaris Civil War the Great Houses couldn't decide who would be new First Lord, and where eager to wage war with each other for supremacy. When the SLDF left the Inner Sphere, the Great Houses plunged the galaxy into the destructive Succession Wars which lead to a technological deterioration with each state scavenging anything they can use to maintain their war effort against each other.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a few examples:
    • The Eldar used to have galaxy-spanning empires which imploded with the birth of Slaanesh, and reduced to a Dying Race who can never return to their home worlds (which now lie in the midst of the Eye of Terror). It helps that the Eldar still maintain their supreme arrogance and superiority complex, wanting to put the other younger races to their place and reclaim their former glory.
    • Humanity themselves had the Dark Age of Technology, where humankind created anything that could have been created and rapidly colonized known space. Then the Age of Strife happened, throwing everything to the crapper. Fortunately for humanity, after the Age of Strife came the rise of The Emperor and The Imperium of Mankind, which led to the second glory days of the Great Crusade. With Space Marine legions backed with mighty war machines fighting as the Imperium's basic troops, nothing could hope to stand in The Imperium's way. Then the Horus Heresy happened, and everything went to an even deeper crapper than before, and The Imperium has been repeatedly described as 'rotting' or 'decaying' ever since.
      • Roboute Guilliman, who was put in stasis towards the end of the Heresy, was brought back to the current modern times. In a conversation with the Emperor, he actually says it might have been better that Horus succeed instead of the utter wreck that was left.

  • That Championship Season is about an all grown up group of friends from high school who long for the simplicity of their youth, even though some of them are now successful (though their success is built on rotten foundations).
  • In The Club, Jock spends a lot of time reliving his time as a star player, and wants the club to be run the way it was in the old days. He also wants Laurie ousted as coach so that he can maintain the club record for most games coached.
  • Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman is so obsessed with his glory days that he occasionally flashes back to them. Whether or not the glory days actually had that much glory in them, or if Willy and his son are re-imagining the past is an important part of the story.

    Video Games 
  • The Dwarves in Dragon Age. Due to the Darkspawn having overrun the Deep Roads that once connected their Thaigs together, their great Empire that once spanned Thedas has been reduced to just two remaining cities, separated by thousands of miles. While the Surface Dwarves and Casteless are fully aware of their glory days being a long-distant memory, the Noble Castes refuse to admit it and insist on acting like they're still living them.
  • Guybrush at the start of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. After he beat LeChuck in the first game he had a great life, but people were expecting more and eventually he lost Elaine and people forgot about him. This one of the factors motivating him to find the Big Whoop.
  • This is the crux of the Team Rocket subplot in Pokémon Gold and Silver - three years after they were originally defeated and Giovanni disbanded the team, the remnants that are still calling themselves Team Rocket are left in a rather sorry state, going from an open presence in the largest cities of Kanto to having to resort to small-scale Poké-napping and audio experimentation out in the sticks of Johto. Even when they manage to pull together enough people to storm the radio tower in Goldenrod City, the whole purpose turns out to be to broadcast a plea for Giovanni to come back, because they're totally lost without him.
  • Captain Qwark is implied to be this throughout the Ratchet & Clank series, particularly when his adventurous youth is shown in the third game as backstory. After that he sided with the villains on several occasions and was even the big bad for the second game to kickstart his big comeback, and is generally much more cowardly. However, while he is called out by the cognizant characters such as Ratchet and a disgruntled fan, the general populace is generally forgiving of the captain, his tumultuous term as galactic president aside.
  • Langdon Ricketts of Red Dead Redemption. He clearly misses the old days and refers to himself as an old relic sitting around Chuparosa as some 'low-rent would be messiah.'
  • Come the events of Sakura Wars (2019), the Imperial Combat Revue has seen better days. Far from demon-vanquishing vanguard and theater superstars they were in the 1920s, the Revue is in dire straits in 1940: the theater is understaffed and falling apart, the actresses are inexperienced and uncoordinated, and the Mini-Mecha are obsolete relics that are poorly maintained. Things are so bad that not only do they rely on a rival Revue from Shanghai to keep the peace, but they are now facing the possibility of dissolution.
  • Two are mentioned in Tears to Tiara 2. The Canaanites and the people of Hispania under legendary king Eshmun. Laelius mentions that The Empire has seen much better days and he's determined to return it to its former glory.
  • Yes, Your Grace: Sir Friderick became famous during several battles in his youth, but that fame is now long forgotten. By the time he's introduced, he's quite close to retirement age and wants to fight one last battle. Fortunately for Sir Friderick, a former student of his is invited to participate in a battle and refuses to join unless Sir Friderick gets to do the same.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The Best Page in the Universe was one of the most talked about websites of the Web 1.0 era. His attempts to translate his old popularity into YouTube popularity haven't fared well, as his real persona doesn't match well with his over the top troll style used in the writing that made him popular back then.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, after Agarwaen becomes the king of Manster, he gradually grows bored with his kingly duties and yearns for the days when he was a free adventurer.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, it's often argued that Version 1 was the glory days of the board, and that people preferred the old system. This was subverted in a thread on the board in which both V1 and V2 were criticised - V1 for being too spontaneous and for a lesser writing quality, and V2 for being overplanned. To quote the Admin of the site, "for the most part, V3's found a good mix of both planning and spontaneity". Read the thread here.
  • The main theme of There Will Be Brawl. Mario, Link, and a few other characters in particular seem to have taken it hard.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman opens with Bojack constantly watching episodes of his own show from the Nineties, due to being unable to move on from that era, though he still hates when the paparazzi recognize him and chase him down.
  • Camp Lazlo: on the episode "Dead Bean Drop", Slinkman, of all people misses his days as a death-defying daredevil, but he seems to have shoved it into the back of his mind over the years until Lazlo, Clam, and Raj find out and begin talking about it nonstop. He apparently moves past it when after fifteen years of having quit, he manages to jump the titular cliff, and it is never mentioned again.
    • His inability to let it go was probably because he failed his final stunt; Turns out Lumpus sabotaged him out of petty envy. It's this that causes Slinkman to try once more, this time with Lumpus riding as well. He gets him to apologize and succeds in jumping.
  • Chowder has the episode "Big Food" regarding Chowder coming across the legendary Big Food, a now washed up Grand Dame actress based a lot upon Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
    Big Food: I am Big Food, it's the refrigerators that got small.
  • King of the Hill gives us "Big" Willie Lane, a former backup lineman for the Dallas Cowboys who had an unremarkable career, except for when he blocked a kick that allowed the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. He's pretty much spent his entire life since coasting on that glory and constantly brags about it. By the time he moves to Rainy Street, he's become an incredibly obnoxious, overweight alcoholic. This is best exemplified by Willie's Super Bowl Ring; he's never taken it off, and he's gained so much weight that it's now virtually impossible for him to do so, because of how fat his fingers have gotten. By the end of the episode, Hank has gone from worshipping him to blackmailing him with a potential assault charge to get him to move away.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone", Gilda's grandfather is stuck in the days when the kingdom of Griffonstone was a mighty nation instead of a dump.
    • "Rarity Investigates" has an antagonist set up Rainbow Dash for a crime he committed so that he can preserve his flight speed record. He is exposed by Rarity for his frame up and is immediately stripped of his position and retirement benefits.
  • Abe Simpson from The Simpsons tells a lot of (obviously fake and nonsensical) war stories. It overlaps with his constant Rambling Old Man Monologue
  • Totally Spies!: A common motive of the villains the girls face is trying to relive or regain past glory, even if it means kidnapping others and forcing them to live out their deranged fantasies or causing widespread damage. An example being Chet from "Evil Graduation", Beverly High's football captain who abducted everyone else aside from him that was set to graduate and placed them in a replica of the school with a force field around it in the middle of the desert all because he didn't want to move on.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is Older Than Feudalism with a famous quote from Socrates on the youth of his time. Ask anyone that is one or two generations older than you about what they feel about the current generation. 9 times out of 10 they will say that their generation is the best and you are living in a "privileged world" and wouldn't understand what true hardship is. Never mind that making lives better for the future is the reason why the current generation would bother with innovation and progress.
  • The Renaissance saw Ancient Rome as the Glory Days of humankind, hence the popularity of the terms "Dark Age Europe" and "Medieval Morons". Petrarch even said "What else, then, is all history, but the praise of Rome?" In the Victorian and Romantic era, The Renaissance was seen as Europe's true glory days with its achievements in exploration, science, philosophy and art seen as the Dawn of an Era. Needless to say, Victorian, Romantic, Modernist and 60s Art movements are all seen and invoked the same way.
  • The United States, Great Britain, Russia, and China all, to some extent, see World War II this way. Germany, Italy, and Japan usually see it as their Old Shame, though in the case of Japan, they sometimes play it straight by denying war crimes. The feelings are more mixed in Eastern Europe, where the violence and horror of Nazi occupation is coupled with resentment and anger at the Soviet Union's post-war hegemony over their nations.
    • It's also a great deal more mixed in France with the Vichy Occupation and surrender still invoked as their national shame. Needless to say, there is very little nostalgia among Jews and holocaust survivors for these days.
    • During World War II, the period in which German U-boats enjoyed the upper hand against the British and later the Americans was called "the Happy Times." The first period lasted from roughly mid-1940 to late 1941, with the second period (consisting of German attacks on the American East Coast) lasting from January to August 1942. Once the battle shifted against the Germans, these became replaced with "the Sour Pickle Time"; by then, German crews had no more fun going out into the Atlantic.
  • The pre-American Civil War South for the Neo-Confederates who evoked the genteel Antebellum Era and its decline as "tragic". African-Americans, pro-Union and pro-Reconstruction historians needless to say feel very differently about this time period. For them, the Civil War is "the Second American Revolution" that actually corrected the hypocrisy of the Founding Fathers and in Lincoln's words, "a new birth to freedom". Moderate Republicans likewise lament the party of Lincoln's drift to the Right, nostalgic for the time when they were America's progressive left-wing party. Non-partisan historians admit that this was the Republican Party's finest era when its radical-moderate coalition and two Presidents (Lincoln and Grant), expanded the Industrial Revolution across America, radically increased democratic rights and during Reconstruction, crushed the Ku Klux Klan before the end of Grant's tenure led to the enforcement of Jim Crow and the counter-revolution.
  • The Great Depression and World War II, under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was called the "Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw. This was a period when the US government heavily invested in public works across America, the last time leftist and radical politics were truly effective in the mainstream and where after the uncertainty of Depression, America ended up becoming the pre-eminent global superpower.
  • In much of the first world, the postwar prosperity of The '50s is seen as this after decades of depression and war. The decade was a period of relative stability and unprecedented optimism, both probably enhanced by comparison since the period was bracketed by the horrors of World War II and the upcoming turbulence of The '60s. This was particularly prevalent in the US, which had not only triumphed in the war but, more importantly, was just about the only major nation to come out of the conflict with its infrastructure intact. With no rebuilding to do, the focus was on innovation; there was a strong belief in the prospect of limitless progress through science and industry,
  • Some see communist Russia as this (one aspect of Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell). In the words of historian J. Arch Getty: For a surprising number of people today in the former Soviet Union, the terror does not wholly negate achievements such as universal literacy, one of the best technological-education systems in the world, the first man in space, free education and health care, and security in old age.
    • Russians also invoke the glory days of Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great and the long 19th Century from Napoleon's Invasion to the Russian Japanese War mostly because it was the Golden Age of Russian letters (Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov). This was also the era of the end of serfdom, the failed Decembrist uprising and early attempts at liberalism. There's also a lot of nostalgia for Russian Formalism and The Soviet '20s, mostly because it was the Golden Age for Soviet cinema.
    • There's quite a bit of this in the other European ex-communist countries. However, the difference is that some see the communist era as the Glory Days, while others see the pre-communist era as such (which is also rather problematic since almost all of these countries were dictatorships in the pre-1945 period).
    • Especially notable is the countries that formerly comprised Yugoslavia. Tito, the strongman who dominated the country for most of its history, was a savvy politician who managed to prevent Russia from taking direct control of Yugoslavia's operations. This spared his people many of the abuses that other Soviet satellites experienced. This, as well as his success at suppressing internal conflict between ethnic groups (much more impressive given the conflicts of the '90s), makes many Balkan people nostalgic for his rule.
    • Some Eastern and Central European countries go even further back, in sharp contrast to their less-than-stellar experiences in the 20th century, whether it's memories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth or the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    • There's a variation in regards to Russian national Bolshevism, which admires the Soviet era and its industrial and military policies - not specifically because they see that period as a bastion for workers' freedom, but because, regardless of the political or economic systems at work, it represents the height of Russia's power for all the reasons listed in Getty's quote.
  • For England, there are multiple contenders:
    • Among nationalists and conservatives and liberal-centrists, The British Empire, which properly "began" with victory over Napoleon in 1815 and saw Great Britain as undisputed world superpower through the Victorian Era and The Edwardian Era, are often evoked as this for England. Natually the residents of ex-colonies, and some in the metropole consider the methods used to acquire and keep the Empire as nothing to brag about and are quite glad to see the back of it. But the English still long for the days when they, and not America, were the global superpower.note 
    • Likewise, the English consider World War II their "finest hour" in Winston Churchill's phrase. For them mobilization against the Blitz before the United States and Russia got involved, even after France surrendered is the summit of English resolve.
    • For socialists and left-wingers, the post-war era under Clement Atlee which led to the rise of the NHS and other social works organizations was the glorious period. On a cultural level, nearly all English people long for such triumphs as the age of Elizabeth I and the English Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and Victorian Britain, the Romantic movement, The '60s, and the "Cool Brittania" of The '90s.
  • France is fairly polarized on what they think of as glorious eras. Indeed the French longing for "la gloire" is often seen by critical Frenchmen as its Fatal Flaw.
    • The reign of Louis XIV is often invoked as the height of French hegemony across Europe, many associate his court with Molière, Versailles and several other artistic awakenings. Napoléon Bonaparte is likewise invoked for much the same reason, not least because he took France to its greatest territorial extent, won its most innovative military victories and essentially altered the map of the world.
    • For the less imperial minded, The French Revolution is this, though this era is still fairly controversial within France with the bicentennial celebrations in 1989 being fairly muted and divisive. Nonetheless, Frenchmen credit the ideals of the revolution for laying the foundation of the Republic and for establishing democracy, universal franchise, equal rights for minorities and inspiring every national revolution across the world. Frenchmen also celebrate later revolutions such as July Revolution, 1848 while communists, artists and radicals celebrate/mourn the 1871 Commune, and of course May '68.
    • On a cultural level, touchstones include the reign of Francis I, the era of Cardinal Richelieu, The Enlightenment (which largely happened in France, though coinciding with a period of decline in French royal authority), Impressionism, Surrealism and Dadaism. Likewise, the Belle Epoque is often invoked with Rose-Tinted Narrative not only in France but by Americans and Englishmen as well.
  • The '60s is this for nearly all First-World nations. For the French this was the period of "Les trente glorieuses", post-war existentialism and the French New Wave and Chanson. For the English, this was the era of The British Invasion and the rise of working-class English culture into the mainstream. For the Americans, this decade is marred by the Vietnam War but they nonetheless enjoy the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, gay rights and the sexual revolution. In Canada it's the era of Expo 67 and bridging the "Two Solitudes", a new flag, and the dawn of Trudeaumania.
  • Some professional athletes attempt to forestall the end of their careers trying to prove they can still play at the same level despite the drop off in skills.
  • Germany is a little wary of national pride for understandable reasons but nonetheless some Germans do have a quiet and modest pride in their past:
    • Consensually, such events as the Protestant Reformation (which spread literacy and withered the power of the Catholic Church), the Sturm-Und-Drang phase of the Enlightenment and Romantic era and the age of German classical music and opera is very much this. Likewise, The Weimar Republic is invoked for its progressive values, caberet culture, modernist literature and theatre, architecture and German Expressionism in film. Modern Germans celebrate the Economic Miracle of The '50s, and the Reunification of Germany.
      • Berlin certainly had its glory days during the Weimar Era. It was the third largest city by population (behind NYC and London) and the second largest by area (behind Los Angeles) in the world at just around four million and it was a world metropolis on equal footing with other major capitals, producing cultural and scientific advancements on a near-daily basis.
    • The notion of glory days got soiled thanks to the selective interpretation of glory on the part of the NSDAP following the country's defeat in World War I. Hitler ended up becoming enamored with the groups belief, and after ascending the ranks, the Nazi Party would be formed. For them glory was a selective mishmash of Arminius' victory over Augustus at the Teutoberg Forest, the era of Frederick the Great, Richard Wagner and Otto von Bismarck, which has unfortunately tainted the fairly distinct and unrelated associations these events have with German culture. Then again, most real-world fascist movements express this trope in their rhetoric, generally The Theme Park Version or with Historical Hero Upgrade / Historical Villain Upgrade.
    • Well, in the Eastern Germany, the idea of Glory Days is coming back under the word "Ostalgie", or East Nostalgia in English. While every East German is happy with the reunification of Germany and the end of the dictatorship, economically speaking, the excitement of the 90s for East Germans died down quickly as their industries closed and unemployment rose. The East is still worse off than the West German parts, so quite a few people romanticize the time where they all had jobs and were relevant in their own way, although they could all do without the dictatorship. The success of some Eastern cities under the reunified state like Leipzig only seem to reinforce Ostalgie rather than end it, with East German symbols and period movies being really popular tourist items these days. Every major East German city will have a place dedicated to learning about it's DDR history, and while critical of the regime, still goes in depth about everyday enjoyments of the common people.
      • The liberalized successors of the SED, Die Linke, like invoking this trope in ex East Germany for votes.
  • Many people who leave the military have this mindset, especially if they were combat arms and did something heroic. Special Operations guys get it particularly hard, because after they leave the job, there are dozens of reasons why they can never be a world class Made of Iron badass ever again. It's also really difficult to go from having a direction, a purpose, and camaraderie in the military to suddenly having to make your own way as a civilian. If you want to keep a hold of your badassery, you won't be able to; you'll have neither the money nor the time nor the facilities to keep your body in shape and your skills sharp.
  • Many retired former actors and celebrities like to watch videos of their old heydays of success.
  • Losing the limelight and falling out of public acclaim can do terrible things to a former star, especially if they were psychologically fragile to begin with. The trauma of former England football star Paul Gascoigne, who slumped into alcoholism and psychosis when struggling to build a meaningful post-football life, is well documented. Frank Bruno, briefly a British world heavyweight boxing champion, also fell into mental illness after retiring. And it even happens to glamour girls: the decline and fall of Jane Warner is described on this page, and is not a pretty story.
    • This is especially prevalent on team sports, where becoming a professional is far easier than on individual sports. Many individual sports practitioners plan an "exit strategy" already in their teen years and study a trade or profession on which to fall when the career is over.
  • Many individual people see their high school and/or college years as this for themselves, particularly if they excelled at academics or sports during that time.
  • Many a Rail Enthusiast considers the era of steam or the heyday of the old timey railroads this. Particularly in the US and England, in part attributable to the "Beeching Axe" in Britain, which cut roughly half the network overnight and the creation of Amtrak in the US, which while preserving passenger rail service at a time it might well have ended, gutted about half the routes then in existence and made names that still evoke nostalgia and trains of legendary repute forever disappear. In countries with bigger High Speed Rail networks, such nostalgia is less widespread, but some critics of Deutsche Bahn still long for the "good old days" of Deutsche Bundesbahn when trains were still called D-Zug and not ICE.
  • In Nicaragua the ruling FSLN and some former Sandinistas often invoke the 1979-1990 era of the first Sandinista government. Sure it was a period of brutal civil war, but it was also a revolutionary era when people still believed in the cause and (if you are a critic of Daniel Ortega) the revolutionaries had not yet turned out to be hypocrites. Some people whose politics tilt towards the right actually talk that way about the pre-1979 reign of Somoza, despite the blatant human rights abuses and the embezzlement and corruption that reached epidemic levels.
  • During the 1996 U.S. presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, Dole gave a campaign speech in the which he reminisced about what he viewed as the glory days of the post-WWII decade of The '50s, and criticizing baby boomers for (as he claimed) destroying what was good about that era. Many critics of his speech suggested he bungled it by reemphasizing his old age (he was 72, Clinton was 50 in '96) and by not sufficiently considering the fact for many minority groups, the 1950s were a time of rampant racial segregation, bigotry, and discrimination (he did mention the reality of how bad racial relations were in the '50s, but seemed to downplay the importance of desegregation). This glory days speech was cited by some post-election as playing a key role in his loss to Bill Clinton, who easily won reelection.


Video Example(s):


Glory Days

Bruce Springsteen sings about high school days of glory (and provides the trope name).

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Main / GloryDays

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