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Perpetual Frowner

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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dredd_frowning_combo_wikisized.png
They call him "Old Stoneface".

"Staying all serious and scowling every minute of the day is impossible! How can anyone look so mad all the time?!"
Kon regarding Ichigo, Bleach

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A character whose default or most frequent appearance/model is him/her with a serious upside-down smile, even in the most pleasant of situations. Though it can be compared to The Stoic, Perpetual Frowner differs in the simple fact that rather than wearing a face of indifference, the character perpetually expresses the biggest, ugliest frown he or she can make on their face.

Usually comes in three varieties: mopey and listless, angry and angsty, or focused and serious. In many cases, the look of extreme tension continues even when they're asleep. For series where character background and development is allotted, it may later be revealed that the person expresses the demeanor as a result of living or having lived a harsh or tragic life.

Extra points if the character also displays a habit of keeping his arms crossed along with the constant frowning for that extra pouty look.

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If the Perpetual Frowner actually does smile, it either signifies that the character has found a reason to be happy and enjoy life again, or it is one of the most potent sources of Nightmare Fuel you will ever come across. The smile may also be forced upon another by someone.

If the expression is not voluntary but the result of damage to nerves or the like, it falls under Frozen Face.

Compare the Aloof Big Brother, the Deadpan Snarker, and The Eeyore. Contrast Perpetual Smiler. See also the Death Glare and the Clint Squint.


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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman, or at least recent incarnations. When he actually laughed at Harley Quinn in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, it scared her. He wasn't always like that in Batman: The Animated Series, just when he was mad. He didn't really become a Perpetual Frowner until The New Batman Adventures.
    • It must be genetic because Batman's son, Damian Wayne (the current Robin) is this as well.
    • Note that this does not apply to Bruce Wayne, as part of his Rich Idiot with No Day Job persona. To what extent this is an act fluctuates according to how deeply Bruce is burying himself in crimefighting to hide from his intimacy issues this issue.
  • The Saint of Killers from Preacher, alive or undead. One character describes his permanent facial expression as someone who's "treadin' through dogshit".
    • He smiles in a flashback when he holds his newborn daughter. This old, hated Civil War veteran not only has a loving wife but now a beautiful daughter.
      • Although, true to Garth Ennis's style, this quickly becomes a Tearjerker. You don't get to be the Saint of Killers by having everything come up roses, and it's clear that the shit's about to hit the fan...
  • In Judge Dredd, the titular character has two facial expressions: "Frowning Angrily" (pictured above) and "Shouting". Made all the stronger because he famously never removes his helmet where the viewer can see it, so a scowling mouth really is his main facial expression.
    • There was one time when he returned to Mega City 1 from Luna-1 and hadn't been reinstated as a judge yet. He spent a couple of minutes walking around, waving at anyone, and ignoring crimes because he was technically a civilian.
    • One prog has the extremely tasty and addictive Umpty Candy sweeping the city. The cover shows Dredd with a giant grin while eating. It's as disturbing as it sounds.
  • X-Men
    • Wolverine typically has a scowl on his face fitting his Anti-Hero nature and other times he has an iconic Slasher Smile and smirk. Averted when Logan is around his friends and very capable of smiles and chuckles when in a good mood.
    • Logan’s Opposite-Sex Clone X23 smiles even less than him, mainly due to her Dark and Troubled Past toughening her up and giving her intimacy issues. Averted with later comics where Laura can be seen with the occasional smile on her face, the X-Men have rubbed off on her.
    • Surprisingly Cyclops originally was known for this In-Universe with even his teammates Iceman, Angel and Beast mocking Scott for his “stoney face”. The reason for this is mainly due to Scott losing his parents at young age and repressing his emotions in general.
    • The apple doesn’t fall from the tree Cable (a Liefield creation) pretty never smiles and usually doesn’t have much reason to. One of the few times Cable has averted this, is when he’s around his daughter Hope.
    • Apocalypse’s facial structure means he does this naturally, in fact the few times he does smile he looks creepy.
  • Happy Hogan of Iron Man started out like this, simply because that was how he always looked. At one point, he informed the reader that he WAS smiling. He got better before The '60s were through.
  • Darkseid has this expression 24/7 and for billions of years being quite literally stone faced. When he’s not scowling it’s either a Psychotic Smirk or Slasher Smile there’s no in between.
  • About the only time The Punisher doesn't wear this expression is in flashbacks with his family.
    (After blasting Bushwacker through a wall) "I don't smile much. Don't smile ever. But if I did, this would be one."
  • Thanos when he isn’t grinning insanely like the mad Titan he is, usually has a angry scowl on his face. Though on rare occasions he’s had an easy going smile on his face such as when he’s won favour with “his lady”, bonding with Gamora when she was little or when he’s farming.
  • Almost everyone in Sin City. If they smile, you should expect it to be a Slasher Smile.
  • Just take a look at Hawk in Brightest Day.
  • Grouchy Smurf in The Smurfs.
  • The main hero of WILQ – Superbohater, which perfectly matches his bad attitude. In rare instances when he actually changes his face expression, it's usually one of shock and disbelief. Or a Psychotic Smirk, when he's about to hurt someone.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    • Ultra Magnus, stern lawman to a fault, is never seen smiling (except twice, the first he regretted ever since, and the second was to save everyone's life).
    • Ratchet, on account of being increasingly old and grumpy. Just for contrast, a flashback actually shows him smiling, towards Drift, of all people.
    • Helex, of the Decepticon Justice Division, is almost never seen smiling. Usually, he's this or his face is obscured. So much of a perpetual frowner, he doesn't even smile while on the job, except for one time.
  • Any comic character drawn by Rob Liefeld will usually have this as a default expression. Slightly angrier characters will have it with teeth exposed. Still angrier characters will have an open, shouting mouth with the upper half of their face pinched into a painful looking grimace.
  • Zoom is in a constant state of Unstoppable Rage, and his mouth is nearly always twisted into a tooth-baring grimace.
  • Trellis from Amulet. He's only ever been seen smiling once - whilst playing a game of Othello in Escape From Lucien.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In the Grimm Brothers' "The Golden Goose", a local princess was this and her father the King decreed that, if a man could make the very serious and unemotional Princess laugh, she'd marry him. She begins laughing when she sees The Hero carrying around the titular Golden Goose... plus a bunch of people that were stuck to him because of the Goose's curse.

    Fanfiction 
  • In Shinobi The RPG Shimoda Daisuke, who thanks to his one Charisma combines having the emotional range of a statue with a frightening effect is actively frightening to his peers. Plus, he's constantly mentioned as frowning.

    Film - Animated 

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Le Chiffre in a good chunk of his appearances in Casino Royale (2006).
  • Star Trek (2009): Karl Urban's Doctor McCoy took until the third movie to crack a smile. Compared to him, Spock looks downright cheerful.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Strangely enough Cap tends to a have frown as his default expression. True his stoicism is somewhat justified given he was bullied frequently as a kid, has been through many wars and has almost everyone he knew from the forties die, but it is a contrast to his idealistic nature.
      • It’s even noted out of universe as Cap’s actor Chris Evans is a huge goofball on set, yet when the director calls action his costars notice that he immediately stops smiling and becomes deadly serious.
    • Nick Fury has this expression 24/7 in later movies, considering the violence, conspiracies, betrayals and corruption he’s seen it’s to be expected. Though it’s strange since Fury frequently smiled and laughed in Iron Man 2 though this was before his characterisation came in.
    • Hulk’s default expression just like comics is an angry scowl and only smiles once when Cap gives him the “Smash” command. Averted in Thor: Ragnarok as Hulk smiles and laughs like a big overgrown toddler, also Professor Hulk is rarely seen frowning.
    • Bucky much like Cap rarely feels any indication to curl his lips up and would rather bury his emotion in brooding stoicism. It’s a strong contrast to when Bucky was introduced where he had an easy going smile on his face though Coldblooded Torture and being Brain Washed And Crazy for years probably does that to you.
    • Initially played straight with Drax and Gamora who had near permanent frowns on their faces just like the comics, but thanks to Starlord they both brighten up immensely. Drax in particular despite his Dark and Troubled Past is capable of fits of laughter.
    • Thanos is mixed bag as just like like comic he’s capable of a Psychotic Smirk and Slasher Smile, but most other times he has somber frown on his face or a scowl. At the end of Avengers: Infinity War he has peaceful smile after killing half the universe.
    • Captain Marvel almost never smiles and has near permanent stoic frown on her face. It’s even noted In-Universe as a sleazy biker asks Carol to give him a smile and gives him a scowl in return. It’s semi-justified given her part with her abusive dad and hard time at the airforce so Carol is probably acting aloof as a defence.
    • Nebula is the queen of this trope as unlike the previous listed she has distinction of never smiling once, at the most she’ll soften her scowl. She finally smiles albeit briefly in Avengers: Endgame while playing games with Tony.
  • Bagheera from oThe Jungle Book (2016) doesn't smile a lot, even in lighthearted moments. But the only time he smiles in the movie is when Mowgli hugs him after they had been separated.
  • The Bourne Series Jason Bourne is like this, due to constantly being on the run and on his guard. The only time he smiles in the original film is at the very end, when he reunites with Marie. In the sequels, Marie is killed in the first action sequence and he never smiles again.
  • One of the biggest criticisms of Superman’s portrayal in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is that Clark doesn’t wipe his gloomy frown off his face except when he’s with Lois or his mother Martha. Yes it’s part of Zack Snyder Darker And Grittier aesthetic but seeing the All-Loving Hero Superman have a grim look on his face while saving people was too much for fans. Justice League (2017) corrects this as Supes readily smiles and chuckles just like in the comics.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Karkaroff's caricature-esque grimacing.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Edmund Pevensie seems to do this a lot, even after his Heel–Face Turn.

    Literature 
  • Discworld has Commander Sir Samuel 'Sam' Vimes, a.k.a. 'Old Stoneface'. He does smile, occasionally, usually when his son is involved, but a glare, a snarl, or even a roar of rage is much more likely.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • "I snarled", "I glared", "I scowled"... Harry Dresden is very much this. This is notable, given the fact that he spends most of his time cracking bad jokes - though part of it might be to do with the fact that he puts great store by intimidating the monsters he deals with on a regular basis from the off, so they're less inclined to try and have a go.
    • Morgan from the same series is practically carved out of granite. He smiles maybe once in all of the books.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Kreacher the house elf makes emo kids look optimistic and happy from his introduction in the fifth book until the seventh when he finally sees the light and starts to become cheerful.
    • When he's not smirking, Snape spends his time either scowling, frowning or sneering.
  • Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid is usually shown frowning.
  • Bukama from The Wheel of Time prequel novel is one of these. "The older man brightened. Well, his scowl lessened a little. For him, that was as good as a grin from anyone else."
  • Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights starts out like this, at any rate.
  • The titular character in the Eisenhorn trilogy, though not by choice. You see, early in the first book, he gets tortured so horribly (an this is set in Warhammer 40,000, so feel free to imagine just how) that the muscles in his face are irreparably damaged. He can't smile, even if he wanted to.
  • The Death Gate Cycle: The fact that Haplo tends to maintain a grim expression even while sleeping is remarked upon by other characters. He does smile occasionally, however.
  • In I Funny, Jamie Grimm's aunt and uncle's family, ironically nicknamed the Smileys, are shown frowning mostly.
  • Tahniya in The Path to War is actually described as having a permanent small frown, which always makes her look like something has irritated or troubled her.
  • Lord Droon, the villain of Dr. Seuss's early picture book The King's Stilts, is described as a "scowler," mutters that "the lines at the corners of the mouth should go down," and loathes smiles, fun, and anything that seems unserious or undignified - so much that he endangers the entire kingdom by stealing the titular stilts, pushing the king toward the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Tywin Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire has never smiled since he lost his wife. Even before then, there had only been four recorded occasions of him smiling.
    • Stannis Baratheon is similar to, if not even more so, to Tywin in this regard. It's said, more than once, that he "never learned how to smile." He is constantly scowling, and one of his character tics is, when particularly annoyed by something, he grinds his teeth. A character once said he was so mad about something that "he clenched his teeth so hard I thought they would shatter."
      • However this ties into the theme that there is more to Stannis then first meets the eye. He smiles and laughs a few times, usually when his most trusted man Davos Seaworth is around.
    • In the past, King Aegon III was this from seeing the horrific way his mother died. Never smiled, always wore black to mourn his mother.
  • In The Hunger Games, Gale says that Katniss only smiles when in the woods. During the Games, Peeta tells her that she doesn't scowl as much when she's asleep. Katniss herself admits that her smiles are hard to come by.
  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, Generic Girl always sounds tired and unhappy, not fitting in with heroes, villains, or middle schoolers.
  • Skeeter Traps from Chronicles Of Magic is a ten-year-old version of this.
  • In The Witchlands:
    • Stix always seems to be Clint Squinting at people menacingly, though it's later mentioned that she's actually only doing it because she's near-sighted.
    • Vaness deliberately doesn't smile as part of her public persona as the (former) Child-Empress, though she's not much given to grinning in private either.
  • Johannes Cabal: The titular Necromancer is a dour people-hater who's driven only by his supernatural research to resurrect his Lost Lenore. His normal modes of social engagement are stoicism and misanthropic rage; his muscles creak from disuse when he forces a smile; and when he has a giggling fit, people around him are stunned with dismay.

    Music 
  • Rivers Cuomo of Weezer is notorious for always looking somewhat dismayed. Which makes his obvious happiness in the music video for "Keep Fishin'".
  • The Backstreet Boys liked cultivating this image of stoic seriousness in any opportunity they could, mainly on their posters/CD covers as well as going for mainly stoic balladry on their music. In fact, the one way you could tell the difference between them and *NSYNC was that *NSYNC adopted the Fun Personified image and smiled while the Backstreet Boys didn't.
  • Kim Wilde ...but that was just part of her image - she didn't want to come over as Dumb Blonde.
  • Terry Hall was well-known for this in The Specials and The Fun Boy Three. The title of his solo album Laugh played on this reputation, and its cover photo of Hall actually laughing stands out as a notable Out-of-Character Moment.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Raven after he came to ECW, due to a deep depression.
  • Kaiju Big Battel's Big Bad, the evil Dr. Cube, is instantly recognizable because of his unchanging expression (it's actually a helmet, as Cube is not a Kaiju)
  • Jim Ross became one after being afflicted by Bell's Palsy. This was initially mocked with a WCW gimmick known as "Oklahoma" and later by Short Stack when he was "repackaged" as Hornswoggle.
  • Sara Del Rey hasn't been one her entire career but has gone through several stretches of it, enough that a frowning face is a fixture of most of her ring gear. During her (three year+!)JAPW Championship run though, it was speculated she wasn't capable of smiling at the time because of two canker sores.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theater 
  • In Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol Marley is described as prune-faced and perpetually sour like he'd just bit into a lemon and didn't enjoy the taste.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 
  • Girl Genius: Baron Klaus Wulfenbach looks perpetually unhappy. Then again, given how much he likes his job...
    • A good adventuring fight seems to perk him up a little, though, if this page is anything to go by.
  • Earthsong's Gwen.
  • Homestuck: Karkat is the angriest troll. He is just so angry, you don't even know.
    • Karkat smiled once. Eridan smiled never.
    • The Felt, with the possible exception of Clover who doesn't have a mouth but certainly comes off as the Perpetual Smiler type.
    • Also, every Agent except for CD is this.
    • Aradia is an odd example; she certainly starts out as one, only being shown smiling twice (and one of those was in a flashback), but after going God Tier she inverts the trope completely.
  • VG Cats: Aeris has such a short temper that she's almost always at least annoyed. When she does smile, it's generally not a good sign.
  • Sabrina Online: Sabrina's mother and father are a pair of frowners, too.
  • Lowroad Comics: Butler insists that he has more than one expression, but apparently doesn't look into mirrors often.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del — Scowl 3: The Scowling.
  • In Our Little Adventure:
  • Dave of The Anime Club. Since Mort and Mark are always yelling at each other, they might count, too.
  • Walkyverse: Mike Warner has smiled about ten times over a ten year period of existence. These smiles only appear when he's completely hammered. The comment section following this comic and Amber's reaction kind of says it all.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, perpetual frowning seems to be a possible side effect of Testosterone Poisoning. Parodied in this effusively joyous gathering of friends.
  • Tyler in Damaged Tape hasn't smiled once in the entire run of the comic. He's only had two other expressions: yelling, and a typical Nut Shot reaction face.
  • Mist from Waterworks, most likely due to having a bodily condition that, by the standards of her civilization, makes her hideous.
  • Except for the few moments he's shown surprise, Ballister Blackheart from Nimona keeps a frown of seriousness.
  • The Suit Guy of Godslave may have several expressions, but they all boil down to "some kind of a frown".
  • Miko Miyazaki of The Order of the Stick has a frowny unibrow as her default expression. One of the indications that some serious shit is about to go down after she overhears Shojo plotting with Roy is that her frown is replaced with a neutral expression.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Trond, the resident Grumpy Old Man.
  • The fisher from Legend of Legendary Mighty Knight appears to constantly be annoyed, even when the forest folk start holding a celebration in their honor for inadvertently killing the leader of a gang of brigands. At first, it appears that the fisher might just look that way because of their hat cutting off the tops of their eyes, but later pages show their eyes widening in shock, firmly showing they really are this trope.

    Web Original 
  • Strong Bad, from Homestar Runner, has a luchadore mask for a face, giving him a perpetual scowl.
    • Strong Bad has smiled on a few occasions... Including one time in which he believed that being flushed down the toilet would turn him into a monster.
    • Strong Sad, who is the emo member of the group, almost never smiles, except for a few occasions (Usually when he gets his revenge on Strong Bad... or when he's had too much caffeine).
    • All of the Brothers Strong (Strong Bad, Strong Sad, and Strong Mad) are often seen with frowns on their faces.
    • The Homestar Runner Wiki has pages for cataloging instances of smiling for all three Brothers Strong.
  • Doreen, from Doreen and Maureen.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device has the Emperor himself, who manages to have a frown on his face all the time despite being a skeleton.
  • Black puffles from Club Penguin.
  • Bee and Puppycat's own Puppycat is always frowning. It's unclear if this is his mouth's natural shape or if Puppycat is perpetually grumpy.
  • Inanimate Insanity: Mangosteen, a member of Spoiled Lemon is the lord of this trope, as he is never, ever seen to smile.

    Real Life 
  • As an actor, Ice Cube utilizes the angry scowl so often that when his characters do smile, it looks downright freaky.
  • Withdrawn (not just Shrinking Violet) students.
  • Many politicians!
    • Especially notable in Dick Cheney. It doesn't matter whether he's at the Republican National Convention, the campaign trail, having tea at the White House, apologizing for shooting another guy in the face, getting an apology from the guy that he shot in the face, or even making the official announcement that Bush has won re-election — he always has this look on his face like someone just ran over his pet dog a few hours ago.
    • During his bid for president in 2000 Al Gore was known to be very dry in public and attempts to make him seem more approachable would backfire (such as kissing his wife a little too long as she joined him on stage for a rally). Since losing the election a well-received stint on Saturday Night Live and poking fun at himself in Futurama a couple of times has helped reverse that opinion of being a very serious individual.
  • Silent era comedian Buster Keaton, also known as The Great Stone Face. In his entire film career, he has only smiled once...and he had to push up the corners of his mouth with his fingers to do it.
  • Queen Elizabeth was once famous for this one, almost never smiling in public if she could help it. Nowadays she's rarely seen without a big smile on her face, however. This role has since been taken by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose memorable attempts to smile for cameras resembled Wednesday Addams (and provoked similar reactions).
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Although it is not that apparent on press pictures, she seems to have developed some new facial muscles since she has been voted chancellor.
  • Ned Sparks ("I never go anywhere, I never do anything and I never have any fun!).
  • Despite his rather jokey nature, Eminem rarely smiles in covers, interviews or anywhere else really.
    • It's rumored that he made a vow to not smile in front of a camera after Proof died.
  • What about Steven Seagal?
  • Till Lindemann of Rammstein.
    • Which makes the video for "Mein Teil" creepier than it would be otherwise, as he as a rather impressive rictus throughout.
  • Chicago Mafia boss Joseph "Ha Ha" Aiuppa was a notorious scowler who rarely laughed or even smiled.
  • Jason Statham. It's mentioned on his page that all of his good movies could alternatively be titled Jason Statham Drives A Car And Kills People (While Scowling A Lot).
    • Pick any movie he's in, he has exactly two expressions: frowning, and frowning with his shirt off.
  • Formula One World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso. His smile practically involves a frown.
  • Supposedly there does exist a photo of Henrik Ibsen smiling. One portrait.
  • Gilmour Dobie (Gloomy Gil) was inducted into the College Football Hall Of Fame with an amazing coaching record of 182-45-15. Somehow, he never let his success affect his negative demeanor. One of his famous quotes is, "There are only two ways you can finish in life. Dead or a loser".
  • Charlie Sheen always looks as though he's scowling, even if he's smiling or telling a joke. His eyebrows seem to be the main factor.
  • Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown always looked miserable (although that was probably justified). Sadly his spin-doctors noticed this and told him to smile more, it didn't really work.
  • Trent Reznor.
  • Young climate change activist Greta Thunberg is usually known for having a serious look on her face almost all the time. But she does smile occasionally.
  • Most birds of prey such as eagles, vultures, and hawks, constantly looked pissed off or dead serious all the time, although this is more due to their facial muscles being more limited in expression that in humans.
    • This trope is the difference between the surprisingly closely related parrots and falcons. Both have hooked beaks and shortish necks, but the latter has a serious look or angry eyes and the former does not (actually, the former looks pretty smiley in comparison).
    • Also with viperid snakes, especially rattlesnakes, who might as well be considered the angriest looking animal in the entire animal kingdom, looking like they're constantly pissed off.
    • In the league of animals, Boxer dogs, English bulldogs, and other large jowled dog breeds look like frowning is their basic look.
    • Many prehistoric animals, most famously small ornithischian dinosaurs likewise had large palpebral bones above their eyes, which likely lent them such a look. But since people like to imagine them as cute, harmless-looking bug-eyed critters, the lovable deer and antelope-analogues of the dinosaur world, most illustrations ignore this feature.
  • Grumpy Cat (real name: Tardar Sauce), a snowshoe cat who became rapidly famous. Her frown is caused by feline dwarfism and an underbite; by all accounts she's very sweet and affectionate.
    • Inverted or averted with felids with normal facial structures, however. Feline cats look like they are smiling in their default expression and Pantherine cats have either smiley or neutral default expressions.
  • Inverted with dolphins, especially bottlenose dolphins, as they have about the smiliest default expressions in the animal kingdom.
  • Due to Neanderthal face structure — massive and high brow ridges, big lumpy noses, prominent jaws, and small receding chins, their faces look to as like they constantly scowl at something.
  • Bill Belichick, head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots, is well known for his seemingly unmoving frown.
  • Christian singer Aaron Shust. He actually has a very nice smile.
  • Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz of the rap group Onyx are rarely seen with smiles on their faces.
  • There are very few pictures of the late Japanese emperor Hirohito where he has a smile on his face. You'd have an easier time finding pictures of a smiling Adolf Hitler.
  • This used to be a common trait among Big Ten college basketball coaches. Jud Heathcote (Michigan State), Gene Keady (Purdue), and Bob Knight (Indiana) rarely ever smiled on the court, if at all.

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