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Put Me In, Coach!

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"Oh, put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be centerfield
John Fogerty, Centerfield

The underdog competitor wins a competition, sparks a Miracle Rally for the team, or puts in the final score to help win a competition.

This is Underdogs Never Lose, narrowed down to one person.

Not to be confused with a request for the cheapest possible airline seats.

A subset is Dark Horse Victory. See also The Benchwarmer.

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Straight Examples

     Anime and Manga 
  • Eyeshield 21:
    • Panther (and the entire NASA Aliens) kneels in front of Coach Apollo, asking to play for the first time. Panther is let in, and ultimately finishes off the Devil Bats.
    • When Yukimitsu Manabu is finally sent in, he's revealed as an ace in the hole. He scored the Devil Bats' first touchdown against the Shinryuuji Naga, even overtaking Agon to do so.
  • In the Baseball Episode of Heaven's Memo Pad, Alice, the coach, subbed herself in. She's a small hikkikomori who even has trouble opening a drink can herself. While completely failing to actually hit the ball, she managed to steal a base, which directly led to a one-point victory.
  • Season 4 of Major has Goro playing for the Memphis Bats, a team with lousy fielding but very strong batting. While he's normally called in as a closer, during a match he requests to the coach to be put on the mound halfway through the fifth inning, in order to motivate the other players with a bit of his own Get A Hold Of Yourself Man style, and they begin a brutal counterattack from then on. That match is just the beginning for the Bats to get into the game and rise to eventually become champions of the Minor League.
  • In first match of the Kanagawa regionals of Slam Dunk, Sakuragi, Rukawa, Miyagi and Mitsui are all benched as punishment for the fight that happened at the gym a few weeks prior. While it's clear that the team is struggling against Miuradai and Akagi needs them, Coach Anzai doesn't let them in until they promise they won't fight ever again. They all enter and proceed to turn the tide of the match around for Shohoku.
  • Captain Tsubasa: The World Youth finals has a variation. Misaki escapes from the hospital and arrives to the stadium during the half-time break, and he wants to enter to help his teammates despite his leg not being fully recovered. A fax sent for Coach Gamo from the hospital says that Misaki can play at most for thirty minutes, lest he could risk his leg and future career if he exceeds the limit. Reluctantly, Gamo complies, and Misaki proceeds to contribute to Japan's victory.

     Film — Animated 
  • Played straight in Disney's Chicken Little, with the added motivation of the title chicken trying to put the embarrassing "sky is falling incident", where his claim that the sky is falling turned out to be an acorn, behind him. And then it turns out the incident was real.

     Film — Live Action 
  • The Ur-Example (barring any Real Life examples) is the 1925 silent movie The Freshman, starring Harold Lloyd, in which nerdy, bespectacled Harold is finally inserted into the climactic football game because his coach doesn't have any other players.
  • Uncle Rico of Napoleon Dynamite wants to invoke this... through Time Travel. He's spent the last twenty-two years lamenting that his high coach left him on the bench, and wants to go back to 1982 for a second chance at the big game, thinking its victory will make him into a famous football player.
  • Rudy is an interesting example. The titular underdog begs to play in the big game so he can prove to his family that he's on the team. His never-give up attitude having been such an inspiration to the team, they go out of their way to get a large enough lead so that he can make the final play without any risk. And then Rudy gets the sack anyway.

  • Literary, non-sports example: In Harry Potter and the Philospher's/Sorcerer's Stone, Gryffindor wins the House Cup because Neville scored the last ten points they needed to break the tie with Slytherin.
  • Played with in Unseen Academicals, where during the Big Game between the Academicals and Ankh-Morpork United, Trev Likely doesn't want to be put in because he promised his old mum he wouldn't play football, despite the fact that the game is almost literally not his father's football (the brutal street sport that got his dad killed). He eventually caves in when the crowd (and his girlfriend) starts shouting for "Likely!", but proves terrible because he's used to kicking around an old tin can, and not an actual football. Fortunately, some quick thinking lets the Academicals exploit an old rule ("the ball shall be called the ball, if it has been played by at least three consecutive players") and win the game.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Homer isn't the only person to walk in the win on an HBP: an episode of the obscure sitcom The Crew 1995 (about stewardesses) did just that as well
  • Inverted in CSI where one of the college football team's best players demands to be put on the field because there are professional scouts... and the coach (the Victim of the Week) keeps him off because the player was benefiting from a backer's program behind the coach's back, thereby putting the entire school's athletic program in jeopardy, and accidentally killing a girl in a backer's car.
  • Played with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the episode "Take Me Out To The Holosuite". They substitute Rom in at the last minute after he got booted from the team for being unable to hit, catch, or throw the ball during practice, and he completely accidentally makes a bunt that lets Nog get the Niners' only run of the game, they still lose ten to one but the team still treats it as a triumph and celebrates afterward. The really cherry on top is that as the Niners celebrate their first run, Solok tries to get the attention of Odo (who is umpiring the game), and is ejected for touching the umpire, just as Sisko had been earlier in the game.
  • In the CBBC comedy Kevin's Cousins, Milo's Annoying Younger Sibling Brian keeps demanding to play in a boys-versus-girls basketball match, on the grounds that he's a brilliant player. Eventually he gets his chance when one of the girls is injured, and tips the balance in their favour.
  • Zig-zagged in the Murdoch Mysteries basketball episode "It's a Wonderful Game". Harry Murdoch is shown as completely hopeless at basketball, but Murdoch and Dr Odgen first refuse to admit this, and then try to encourage him that he can always improve. When he finally gets a chance to explain himself he says he doesn't feel bad because he's not good at the game, but because he didn't really want to play in the first place, and Coach George agrees that he can just be the assistant coach. Nevertheless, when another player gets injured, he steps in rather than let them forfeit, and scores a winning basket when they're Down to the Last Play (although he's clear that this was a total fluke).

     Web Video 
  • Tom Grossi Comedy depicts this from a fan's perspective in his 2021 Packers Fan Reaction in relation to Rasul Douglas (see below under Real Life).
    (Week 5) "Who the hell is Rasul Douglas?"
    (Week 8) "Rasul Douglas, I didn't know who you were a few weeks ago, but I would die for you!"

     Western Animation 
  • Phil Deville, All Grown Up!, "The Big Score" (everyone loves his sister Lil since they've started winning games [to the point of Phil being totally ignored and Lil quitting the team in spite over that], but in a key game, she makes a charge for goal, and actually passes to Phil, and he actually scores the winner)
  • In the Goofy short "Double Dribble" Merrithew, the shortest member of the Polytechnical University basketball team (and by shortest we mean he's knee-high to the rest of the team) keeps hoping to be called in to play, but the coach keeps calling to other players. By the last quarter, all the other alternates have been eliminated, and Merrithew is the only one left. He wins almost by accident when an opponent trips on his laces and falls through the floor, a board catapulting Merrithew, ball and all, through the hoop.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • Arnold, in "Eating Contest", wins after the only remaining competitor falls face first into a bowl of ice cream.
    • Arnold again, in "Benchwarmer", with a basketball game. This time, he comes off the bench after being benched for several games for not following his coach's ridiculous strategy and scores game winning points from a set play.
    • Eugene Horowitz, in "Coach Wittenberg", bowling. He throws the ball, falls flat on his face, but makes a wide split
  • The cute little rabbit in the Porky Pig cartoon "Porkys Building" (1937, Tashlin) wants to be put in to show what he can do as Porky races a bully adversary in construction of a building. Porky keeps saying no, but when he sees the bully using a rapid-fire brick-laying device, he gives in and sends in the rabbit. With his ears alone, the little bunny defeats the machine (which self-destructed after getting lodged in reverse) and finishes the building.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer is sent in by Mr. Burns to pinch hit for All-Star ringer Darryl Strawberry (the only one out of the 9 ringers he's hired to actually make it to the game) in the final inning of the tied championship game with bases loaded - regardless of the fact that Strawberry has hit nine homeruns, because Homer is a right-handed batter and the pitcher left-handed. According to Mr. Burns, "it's called playing the percentages, it's what smart managers do to win ballgames"; the joke, however, is that Mr. Burns is using a real baseball strategy despite the fact that Strawberry is so obviously superior to everyone else. Mr. Burns then proceeds to confuse Homer with a series of bizarre coaching signals; while Homer stares in blank confusion, he's hit by a pitch and walks (or rather, is carried) in the winning run.

     Real Life 
  • First overall draft pick Drew Bledsoe had been the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots for seven years and was arguably the best quarterback the franchise ever had. Then in the second game of the 2001 season, he was hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, shearing a blood vessel in his chest. Who steps in? Second-stringer and sixth round draft pick Tom Brady, who would then lead the Patriots to six Super Bowl wins.
  • New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree, buried fifth on the depth chart almost the entire season, starred in Super Bowl XLII and made the key play on his team's last-minute touchdown drive - a leaping catch secured by pulling the ball against his helmet. (He also scored a touchdown earlier in the game, but nobody remembers that.)
  • Tyree's dramatics are still arguably no match for the original Super Bowl hero-off-the-bench - Green Bay's Max McGee, who was so sure he wouldn't be playing in Super Bowl I that he spent the previous night out on the town and didn't even bring his helmet to the game, came on as an injury replacement, made a highlight-reel 37-yard catch for the first touchdown of the game and finished with seven catches for 138 yards.
  • Speaking of Green Bay, in the third game of the 1992 season, Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majkowski injured his ankle and was replaced by a second stringer named Brett Favre. Favre proceeded to lead the Packers to a last minute win and start the next 230 games for the team and become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
    • Favre is the more memorable example because, well, it's Brett Favre, but the touchdown that gave the Packers that last-second win actually involved two examples of this trope. Two plays earlier, the Packers' best receiver, Sterling Sharpe, made a huge catch to set up the touchdown but fell on the ball and broke multiple ribs in the process and had to come out of the game. Sharpe was replaced by Kitrick Taylor, an unremarkable receiver who had bounced between various NFL teams for half a decade and had never scored an NFL touchdown — until that day, that is, as Taylor caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Favre. It would be the only touchdown of Taylor's career.
    • Similarly, Aaron Rodgers played very little in the three seasons he spent as Favre's backup. During his first season as starter, and despite a losing record, he passed for over 4,000 yards. He would go on to win the Super Bowl two seasons later and amass three league MVP awards in the 2010s decade (beginning with the year after the aforementioned Super Bowl win, when Rodgers had perhaps the greatest season for any quarterback in league history).
  • Green Bay was at it again in 2021, this time on the defensive side of the ball. Fifth-year defensive back Rasul Douglas was a largely unremarkable player, beginning the season on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad after being cut from two different teams in two weeks in the preseason, before finally getting onto an active roster in early October when the Packers signed him to reinforce an injury-ravaged secondary. Due to Douglas' relative anonymity, the main fan reaction to the move was another wave of complaints about the team's inability to acquire a more notable player. That all changed after the Packers' Week 8 game against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. In the final seconds, the Packers were clinging to a three-point lead, but Arizona's high-powered offense had marched down the field and was inside the 10, and it seemed inevitable that they would score, with the best the Packers could hope for being to hold Arizona to a tying field goal and overtime instead of a game-winning touchdown. Douglas, however, had other ideas, coming up with a clutch interception that sealed the Packers' victory and handed the Cardinals — the very team that Douglas had been poached from just 22 days earlier — their first loss of the season. What's more, it would turn out that that was just the beginning; Douglas ultimately finished the season with five interceptions and two touchdowns.note  Needless to say, when the Packers announced they had re-signed Douglas for 2022, the reaction was pretty much the polar opposite of what happened with the original signing.
  • Australia's Jacqui Cooper had injured herself before the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and so it was left to Alisa Camplin (who herself was competing against doctors' advice) to compete in freestyle ski jumping. She won the gold.
  • Jason McElwain was the autistic student-manager of the Greece Athena HS (Rochester, NY) basketball team. For the team's last home game of the season on Feb. 15, 2006, McElwain was put on the roster so he could be given a jersey and allowed to sit on the bench. With four minutes left in the game, and Greece Athena leading by double digits, coach Jim Johnson put McElwain in the game, who dropped six three-pointers. McElwain's treys weren't relevant to the final outcome, but otherwise it was one of greatest Put Me In, Coach! moments in Real Life high school sports (though it led some people to wonder why McElwain never got a shot to actually play on the team for real, with some thinking that his autism led to him being unfairly dismissed as a potential contributor).
  • With 12 seconds left in the first half of Super Bowl XVIII, the (at the time) Los Angeles Raiders were leading the defending champion Washington Redskins 14-3 and had pinned Washington deep in their own-territory. During an earlier meeting that previous October, the Redskins managed to pull off a screen pass from quarterback Joe Theismann to running back Joe Washington that gained 67 yards. So assistant coach Charlie Sumner replaced starting linebacker Matt Millen (yes, THAT Matt Millen) with little-used backup Jack Squirek, who was assigned to cover Washington man-to-man. The result was Squirek making a leaping interception and landing in the end-zone for a touchdown that basically broke the Redskins' backs.
  • In a variation, this is how Kevin Dyson — who was a top wide receiver, but was rarely used on special teams — ended up playing the key role in the Tennessee Titans' most famous special teams play of all time. In the 1999 AFC Championship game between the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, the Titans needed a big play on the kickoff after the Bills kicked a go-ahead field goal with less than thirty seconds left to play. The team had a play they thought might do the trick, but head coach Jeff Fisher then realized that both their main kick returner and their primary backup were both out of the game (due to injury and muscle cramping respectively). Fisher then made a split-second decision to put in Dyson (by Fisher's account, he just happened to spot Dyson walking by at that exact moment), even though he was so unfamiliar with the special teams playbook that Fisher had to talk him through the play before sending him onto the field. The result was the famous Music City Miracle, in which Dyson caught a lateral pass from Frank Wycheck and then made a 75-yard touchdown run to steal the victory away from the Bills.note 
  • This is Kurt Warner's entire career. In 1999, the hapless St. Louis Rams had a shot at their first winning season in a decade after signing free agent quarterback Trent Green, only to see him go down to a season ending injury in the second preseason game. One tearful speech from Dick Vermeil later, Warner the former supermarket stockboy was the starting quarterback. He would win the MVP on his way to leading the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams to their first Super Bowl victory.
    • In 2008, the hapless Arizona Cardinals had a shot at their first winning season in a decade after drafting quarterback Matt Leinart a few years earlier, only to see him perform terribly. See if you can guess where this is going. In the end, the Cardinals reached the Super Bowl for the first time, but their Miracle Rally fell short and they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • A near-miss version occurred with the Chicago Bears in the 2010 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler was pulled out with a knee injury after a first half in which his team failed to score even a single point, and second-string quarterback Todd Collins threw four incompletions in a row, so with a minute to go in the third quarter, the Bears decided to pull Collins and take a chance on third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie, who proceeded to suddenly turn the game around and give the Bears a fighting chance. Hanie ultimately wasn't able enough to pull out a victory in the time he had left, but he got the Bears a lot closer in one quarter (a quarter they began with a 14-point deficit) than Cutler and Collins had in the first three quarters combined; many fans believed after the game that had he been put in immediately when Culter came out, giving him a little more time to make things happen, he might have been able to pull off the Miracle Rally. (Unfortunately for Bears fans who might have hoped that Hanie could turn out to be the next backup-turned-star and lead the Bears to great things, his performance ended up being largely a one-off; he never played a game like that again, and the Bears ultimately cut him after the 2011 season.)
  • May 25-26, 2011: After 18 innings and nearly six hours of baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds remain tied at 4. The Phillies have just pinch-hit for their last relief pitcher. Everyone was expecting the Phillies to send out an off-rotation starting pitcher, despite the fact that tiring them out is a risky thing to do, simply because they had no one left but starting pitchers on their bench. Instead, Manager Charlie Manual makes the unorthodox move of putting the utility infielder, Wilson Valdez on the mound, keeping the pinch hitter in the game as catcher and moving around other infielders to accommodate. Valdez proceeds to win the game for the Phillies, pitching one inning and giving up no hits as the Phillies proceeded to score the game-winning run in the bottom half of the 19th inning against an exhausted Reds pitcher, whom the Reds did not substitute for, due to a similar manpower shortage. Even though Valdez played the entire game, this still qualifies because it is very rare for a position player to pitch in the majors, let alone win the game. note 
  • It's been argued that not following this trope is what could have changed the outcome of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. In previous games in clutch situations, the injured Bill Buckner had been pulled from first base and replaced with Dave Stapleton, but they decided to let Buckner stay in so that he could be on the field when the Red Sox got their World Series win. Which never camenote .
  • Australian Rules Football: In the 1970 VFL Grand Final, with Carlton 44 points down at half time, coach Ron Barassi brought Ted Hopkins on, who proceeded to rip Collingwood to shreds. Afterwards, Hopkins realised he could never do anything to top his achievements in that game, and retired.
  • Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series: Trailing 2-1 with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, the Atlanta Braves send pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera to the plate. Cabrera, who'd gotten only ten at-bats all season, hit what turned out to be a game-, series-, and pennant-winning walk-off single to left.
  • Game 7 of the 2011 World Series: St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder Matt Holliday had an arm injury that hadn't fully healed, so he sat out and Allen Craig started. Before this, Allen Craig was known as a pretty good if injury-prone young player who had a pet turtle. He played an excellent game and caught the final out of the Series.
  • In 2012, the Columbus Blue Jackets were so short on goalies that they were forced to call on Shawn Hunwick. He not only wasn't on the team officially, he wasn't even a professional athlete. He had to skip classes at the University of Michigan, where he was still a senior, to come down and sub-in for the game. Which he ultimately won. Bonus? Columbus is the home of UM's extremely-bitter archrival Ohio State, and Humwick was forced to take the ice in his Michigan pads.
  • Game 1 of the Clippers/Grizzlies playoffs of 2012. The Clippers were down as by much as 27 points. Coach Vinnie Del Negro almost decided to bench Chris Paul and the other starters and give up the game but Paul convinces Del Negro they can still win the game. Caron Butler is injured, so Del Negro is forced to play Nick Young, who hits three 3 pointers in a row to help tie the game.
  • Double example. In the Olympic handball tournament, Danish goalkeeper Niklas Landin wasn't doing well against Spain, so the second keeper Marcus Cleverly was subbed on. Cue Cleverly saving a lot of shot, peaking at over 50% saved. Cleverly stops saving, so Landin is put back on, and makes several important saves, eventually securing a win for Denmark.
  • All Blacks first-five (flyhalf, for anyone outside of New Zealand) Stephen Donald had fallen out of favour due to a number of competitors for the position, and in particular had suffered a period of vilification due to mistakes made in a 2010 match against Australia that cost the All Blacks the win. Naturally, he was not selected for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. However, the All Blacks suffered an injury crisis in this key position, with the first two choices Dan Carter and Colin Slade picking up injuries. A week before the final against France, Donald came home from a day of fishing with a friend to find a text on his phone from the coach saying that he was needed. He was on the bench for the final, and in the first half the third choice first-five Aaron Cruden went down injured. Fourth choice Donald came on, played the rest of the match and made no mistakes, and kicked what proved to be the winning penalty goal as the All Blacks won 8-7, thus becoming known as the hero that brought the William Webb Ellis trophy back to New Zealand.
  • In 2014 after losing their starting QB before the season and their backup just before the Conference Championship, Ohio State was forced to start third-stringer Cardale Jones. Jones proceeded to not only win the Conference Championship, but also lead the team past the top two teams in the country to win the national championship.
  • Cornerback Malcolm Butler was the only undrafted rookie on the New England Patriots' roster in 2014, and he spent the first half of Super Bowl XLIX on the bench. He replaced Logan Ryan in the second half and played well, but no one could have foreseen him making the game-clinching interception at the goal line with 20 seconds left. In a secondary starring Darrelle Revis (one of the two best cornerbacks in the league), Devin McCourty, and Brandon Browner, the play of the season was made by Malcolm Butler. (Two plays earlier, Butler also made a critical touchdown-saving tackle on Jermaine Kearse — while the rest of the team were acting like the play was already dead — that set the stage for said interception, but like David Tyree's touchdown, no one remembers that.)
  • NBA player Andre Iguodala didn't start a single game for the Golden State Warriors in the 2014-15 season despite being a former all-star (He wasn't exactly doing horrible; the Warriors' roster was just THAT DEEP during the season). Flash forward to the 2015 NBA finals: The Warriors are down 2-1 to the Cavaliers, who were led by nigh-unstoppable juggernaut LeBron James. What do the Warriors do? They start Iguodala for the remaining games of the series in order to guard LeBron. The strategy worked: Iguodala had one of the best playoff performances in his career, and the Warriors ended up winning their first Championship in 40 years. And to top it all off: Iguodala would end up winning the NBA Finals MVP (Beating out LeBron and Regular Season MVP Stephen Curry) due to his excellent play (becoming the first NBA Finals MVP to start zero games in the regular season)
  • Averted in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey seemed to be on his way to one of the greatest postseason pitching performances of all time, pitching eight shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals. Harvey argued with manager Terry Collins to be allowed to finish the game, even though he had passed the 100-pitch mark. Upon coming back out for the ninth, Harvey promptly gave up a leadoff walk to Royals outfielder Lorzeno Cain. Harvey was then pulled after giving up a double to infielder Eric Hosmer, which scored Cain. Hosmer scored the tying run, and sent the game in to extra innings. The Royals then put up five runs in the twelfth, and then held on to win the game, and since they had already won three of the previous four games, they won the series.
  • In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, German attacking midfielder Mario Götze had been sparingly played throughout the tournament and started on the bench in the final against Argentina. He entered the game as a substitute in the 88th minute and went on to score the championship-winning goal in extra time.
  • How's this for an example? During the Naval Academy's first game of the 2016 college football season; Midshipmen quarterback Tago Henry was injured late in the 1st half; forcing Navy to pull Malcolm Perry, a backup who had not dressed due to an illness, out of the stands. Perry would play during the game; while the Midshipmen finished with a 52-16 win over Fordham.
    • Postscript: The following year, Perry became the Midshipmen's starting QB, a position he held for the rest of his Annapolis career. In his final season in 2019, he was named offensive player of the year in the American Athletic Conference.
  • NFL quarterback Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles. He'd previously played as an Eagles quarterback from 2012-14 before being traded to the St. Louis Rams in 2015 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016. In 2017, he returned to the Eagles as a backup to their new quarterback Carson Wentz, who would bring the Eagles to a 12-2 standing before being injured in the last weeks of the season. Foles took over as QB and took the team to triumphs against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC division playoff and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship, before facing off against the highly-favored Tom Brady-led New England Patriots (who'd previously defeated the Eagles at Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005). In Super Bowl LII, Foles would pass for 373 yards and three TDs as well as catch one during a trick play called on fourth down, becoming the first player in Super Bowl history to both throw and catch a touchdown, as the Eagles held off Brady and the Patriots to 41-33 to win. Foles got named Super Bowl MVP as the Eagles at long last hoisted their first Lombardi Trophy.
  • Quarterback Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns made his professional debut during the 2018 season week 3 game against the New York Jets. After Tyrod Taylor got injured and the Browns entered halftime trailing 14-3, Mayfield helped rally the Browns to a 21-17 win, ending their 2-year winless streak that started on Christmas 2016. Browns fans were so happy that they started referring to FirstEnergy Stadium as "The Bakery" rather than "The Factory of Sadness". Mayfield proved to be a major breakout star for the Browns, taking the team to an 11-5 season and their first playoff appearance in nearly two decades in 2020 and capping it off with their first playoff win since the rebirth of the franchisenote .
    • Mayfield would end up doing this a second time in 2022, in a case that was arguably even more impressive due to the circumstances surrounding it. Due to a convoluted series of events, Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers ahead of the 2022 season, ended up getting waived, and was claimed off waivers ahead of Week 14 by the Los Angeles Rams, who had just lost quarterback Matthew Stafford for the year with a spinal injury. Now, it's worth noting here that it's already uncommon for teams to add an outside quarterback during the season (unless the person is already familiar with the team, like someone who was there in the offseason or a recent season) due to how difficult it is for NFL quarterbacks to learn a new offense, and that it's rare for any player who transitions between teams midseason to play in the first week due to needing to adjust to a new team. To bring in an outside quarterback and have him play meaningful snaps in the same week that he's acquired is basically unheard of, let alone when the game also happens to be on a short week, and yet, Mayfield did exactly that: barely 48 hours after Mayfield landed in Los Angeles, he stepped onto the field midway through the first quarter of the Rams' Thursday Night Football matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders — after the Rams had already fallen to a double-digit deficit, no less. Despite the deck seemingly being stacked against him, Mayfield exceeded all possible expectations as he proceeded to lead the struggling Rams to a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback, including a record-breaking 98-yard drive in the final two minutes to create the go-ahead touchdown.
  • A downplayed example with Chad Henne and the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2020 AFC Divisional. Most of the hard work, including all of Kansas City's scoring drives, was done by starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes before he was pulled out midway through the third quarter with a suspected concussion, but Henne held the offense together well enough to prevent the Cleveland Browns taking total advantage of Mahomes' injury, allowing Kansas City to hold onto their lead to win by 5. (Mahomes' injury turned out to be less serious than was initially believed, so Henne didn't have to fill in for him in the following week's AFC Championship.)
    • Henne would have another moment in another divisional round game two years later, replacing Mahomes for a series after Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain and proceeding to put up a 98-yard touchdown drive. The Chiefs ended up winning the game by seven points, so Henne's touchdown drive was crucial. Even better, the Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl that year, so Henne not only got to end what would turn out to be his final NFL seasonnote  on the highest possible note, but he got to do so knowing that he played a part in making it happen.
  • Former Cardinalsnote  and Eagles receiver Roy Green. Green was drafted by the Cardinals in 1979 as a cornerback, but early in the 1981 season injuries to the other wide receivers forced him to play receiver part-time, and after a solid season at that position with 708 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 33 catches; Green was moved to wide receiver full-time starting the following season, where he would spend the remainder of his career in that role (with the Cardinals until 1990; then finishing his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991-92); even going on to lead the league in receiving yards with 1555 in 1984 (then the 3rd highest receiving yardage total in NFL history).
  • Though there was no direct substitution, shades of this were all over the American women's team at the 2011 Gymnastics World Championships after Alicia Sacramone, the veteran of the team and expected to compete on three out of four events (and probably be the anchor on at least one), tore her Achilles tendon. Of the remaining five team membersnote , only Aly Raisman had competed at a World Championships before, and all but Raisman were first-year seniors. Not only did the team qualify in first place and go on to win gold by a pretty nice margin, but in the qualification round, in which all five gymnasts competed on all events in order to maximize the five-up four-countnote  format, all of them performed so well that had it not been for the two-per-country rule, not only would all five of them have qualified into the all-around final, they would all have qualified in the top half of the field. It's no coincidence that four out of the fivenote  would go on to make the Olympic team the following year.
  • In the 2017 Gymnastics World Championships, all eyes were on American gymnast Ragan Smith to win the USA's seventh Worlds/Olympics women's all-around gold in a row. When Smith fell to an ankle injury in warm-ups, the only American who could keep the streak alive was sixth-place qualifier Morgan Hurd, who had struggled in competition throughout the year, and many fans consequently believed it would inevitably be broken...but Hurd hit her best meet of the season and won gold over Canada's Ellie Black by a tenth. In the quadrennium that followed, Hurd proved to be one of the top gymnasts on the USA national team and was a major contender for the Tokyo Olympics, though an injury during the year delay caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic ultimately led to her falling short.
  • In artistic gymnastics, there have been a couple of instances where a gymnast was withdrawn from a final so that a teammate who had a lower score in qualifications and wouldn't otherwise get to be in the final could compete in her placenote . In some cases, these individuals will end up winning medals (which is often the reason the substitution was made in the first place). For example:
    • In the 2000 Olympics, Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina withdrew from the vault final so that her teammate Elena Zamolodchikova, who qualified in ninth place (first reserve), could take her place, with the agreement that any prize money Zamolodchikova received would be split between her and Khorkina. Zamolodchikova won gold in the final.
    • In the 2017 European Youth Olympic Festival, Italian gymnast Alice D'Amato agreed to withdraw from the uneven bars final so that her teammate and close friend Elisa Iorio, usually a stronger bar worker, could compete. Iorio won the final. In a Heartwarming Moment, Iorio told D'Amato after the final that her gold medal should be considered partly D'Amato's as well, since D'Amato's willingness to step aside played a role in Iorio being able to win.
    • In the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, after Chinese gymnast Liu Tingting melted down in the team final (falling three times and likely costing the team a medal), the Chinese federation decided to pull Liu, the fifth-place all-around qualifier, out of the all-around final, allowing Tang Xijing, who had placed 21st in qualifications but had a much stronger meet than Liu in the team final, to compete instead. Tang won the silver medal behind American Simone Biles, generally considered the greatest gymnast of all time.
  • During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles of the United States had a rough day in qualifications and came down with an unfortunate case of the "twisties"note  which took her out of the team final (after a disastrous vault) and subsequent individual finals, resulting in a number of these:
    • Her teammates Sunisa Lee (floor) and Jordan Chiles (bars and beam) stepped up to perform events they weren't expected to contribute to in the final. Both hit their routines to help the team to a silver medal behind only a surging Russia.
    • Jade Carey, an individual competitor two-per-countried out of the all-around, finished eighth when she was called up to take over the second American spot in the AA final — something considered highly unlikely given that she was considered one of the weakest all-arounders on the American squad. Carey also won gold on floor, although this one wasn't as surprising as she was expected to medal on the event anyway.
    • Much like the aforementioned Morgan Hurd, Sunisa Lee stepped up in Biles' absence to bring yet another all-around gold to the USA, finishing just ahead of Brazil's Rebeca Andrade.
    • Perhaps most notably, Mykayla Skinner, the other individual competitor for the USA, finally got her moment to shine. Skinner didn't even make it to Trials in 2012, only made alternatenote  in 2016, and after finally making it to the Games, was two-per-countried out of the vault finals (her best event) by Carey and Biles. On less than 48 hours' notice, Skinner stepped up to the plate and hit a home run, performing two of the best vaults of her career to take the silver medal behind only an outstanding Rebeca Andrade of Brazil. The perpetual dark horse finally won her race.
  • Seventeen years before the Simone Biles situation, the USA had a more minor version of the same thing at the 2004 Olympics when Courtney Kupets had a leg injury flare up, and Team USA decided to pull her out of the beam rotation in favor of Mohini Bhardwaj, who hadn't so much as set foot on a beam in three days. Under the glare of the Olympic spotlight, in the highest-pressure situation of her competitive career, and with the Americans' medal chances riding on her slender shoulders, Bhardwaj, a ten-year veteran of elite and NCAA gymnastics, delivered a clutch performance that almost undoubtedly kept the United States in medal contention; they would go on to win silver behind an excellent Romanian team.
  • Quarterback Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers was dead-last in the 2022 draft, making him that year's "Mr. Irrelevant". After Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury, Purdy stood in for him, and became the first Mr. irrelevant in NFL history to score a touchdown pass during the regular season. Purdy became the starting lead quarterback for the rest of the season, leading the 49ers to the NFC West Championship, becoming the only quarterback to beat Tom Brady in their first career start, and made him the improbable leader of a playoff team. This string of luck and skill has given him the nickname of "Mr. Relevant" in celebration.


     Anime and Manga 
  • In Eyeshield 21, the Devil Bats play against the Yuuhi Guts during the Fall Tournament, only to find the coach has replaced the regular line-up with ringers from the other sports teams at Yuuhi High School. After the Devil Bats manage to gain a strong lead anyway, the coach reluctantly sends in the regular lineup, who fail to make a comeback, but still put up a good fight (this is even more pronounced in the manga, when it's the regulars who score Yuuhi's only touchdown against Deimon instead of the ringers).
  • Ojamajo Doremi double dips: Perennially athletic Aiko asks the perennially brainy Hazuki to race her leg in a swim relay for her against the other room, since it turns out that swimming is something Aiko isn't good at (even after she's spent the last week or two practicing for the race). Hazuki takes the lead on the way out... and then the other room takes it back on the way in when Hazuki cramps.
  • Slam Dunk: During the practice match against Ryonan, Professor Anzai is keeping Sakuragi in the bench, by telling him that he's their "secret weapon". It's not until the second half when Akagi gets a minor injury and has to get out that he seizes his chance to get in and play, and naturally being a beginner he proceeds to make a fool of himself repeatedly.

     Comic Strips 
  • Charlie Brown is an avid baseball player, but he can't seem to do anything right, not even hold a 50 run lead with one out left when Peppermint Patty puts him in after he's sold some peanuts. (Once again, the keyword is "somehow": We cut from Patty getting hit by Charlie's 2nd pitch, to her waking up in bed and finding out from Marcie that Charlie Brown's losing streak is still intact.)
  • FoxTrot:
    • Peter begs the coach to put him in, but he's a genuinely terrible player who spends more time practicing theatrics then actually practicing. He actually receives a concussion afterwards. One arc starts with him being put in a special position by the coach, in which he will doubtless do better than any other player: benchwarmer. In another strip, he doesn't try out for any of the teams and is unpleasantly surprised to discover his name is pre-printed on the lists of rejected players (including baseball and girls' gymnastics).
    • In one arc, he becomes the assistant football coach and his Drunk with Power antics drive the entire team so nuts that the coach puts him next to the opposing team's goal so their team will be able to vent their frustration (it's won them three games).

     Film — Live-Action 
  • Somewhat inverted in the end of The Mighty Ducks, where one of the best players is knocked unconscious scoring the team's first point in the Big Game and doesn't play for the remainder of the match.

  • The John Grisham novel Playing for Pizza opens with the protagonist coming off the bench for the Cleveland Browns, who are holding a 17 point lead with only a few minutes left to play in the AFC Championship game. He proceeds to throw three interceptions for TDs and be KOed by the Denver defense. The humiliation is so huge that he has to flee the entire US and play football in a beer league in Italy.
  • James Thurber's short story You Could Look It Up features a baseball team in a slump putting a midget in as a pinch hitter to walk in the tying run. After verifying that yes, his contract is valid and no, there Ain't No Rule that says he can't play, he's allowed to bat... and promptly hits the ball and is thrown out at first, losing the game. In a Double Subversion, however, the incident is so ridiculous that it snaps the team out of their slump and they go on to win the pennant.
    • Some years later, the St. Louis Browns actually tried it. Their owner denied having been inspired by the Thurber story.

     Live-Action TV 
  • A Freaks and Geeks episode has Bill urging Coach Fredricks to put him and his fellow geeks on the gym-class baseball team. They get their wish...and find their side getting shelled before the first inning is over.
  • Carlton Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, basketball game (airballs the final shot of the game after, in a desperate need to be lauded as Will is on the court, he wrestles the ball away from his team's star player).

     Western Animation 
  • Fry, Futurama, basketball game, "Time Keeps On Slipping". After one of the atomic supermen basketball players is killed, Fry volunteers to fill in for him. His team is 35 points ahead of the Harlem Globetrotters with two minutes left, but somehow ends up losing, 244-86. (The keyword being "somehow", since the overarching plot is that time keeps jerking ahead, leaving events in place but everyone with no memory of what happened.)
  • Subverted in The Simpsons; in the final seconds of a peewee football game, the police come by to arrest the star quarterback, because he happens to be resident delinquent bully Nelson. Bart volunteers to be put the back of a police car as Nelson scores a game winning touchdown.

     Real Life 
  • A Real Life subversion occurred at the 2007 Grey Cup. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' first-string quarterback was injured in the previous game, and had to be replaced by cold rookie Ryan Dinwiddie who, while promising (called the best football player Boise Idaho had ever produced), hadn't played an actual game all season. He performed well—but Winnipeg still lost. (Ironically, when he had his first start the next season, it would become the Bombers' first win that year.)
  • Inverted in the famous 1980 "Miracle On Ice," when the Soviet coach horribly overreacts to a sloppy goal and benches his goalie, Vladislav Tretiak (one of the best goaltenders in hockey history) for the backup. The US takes the lead and ultimately wins.
  • Inverted with the case of gymnast Rozalia Galiyeva (Unified Team), a young newcomer who was pulled out of the all-around final at the 1992 Olympics so her more-established teammate Tatiana Gutsu, who had the ninth-highest score in qualifications but was initially bumped out of the final due to the (at the time) three-per-country rule, could compete in her place, because the team believed Gutsu, who was usually a strong competitor but had an off day in qualifications, had a better chance of medaling. While Gutsu ended up winning gold, theoretically proving the team's choice correct, the whole situation became the subject of much controversy, as the rules at the time only allowed substitution in cases of injury, and the team doctors were found to have falsified documentation of a supposed injury to Galiyeva in order to get the substitution approved. This also meant that even though the team was only concern with the all-around, Galiyeva was also precluded from competing in individual apparatus finals essentially as collateral damage (since she was supposedly too injured to compete).note 
  • In the 1999, the Buffalo Bills started Doug Flutie who had returned to the NFL after a successful career in Canada. Coupled with a strong defense, Flutie had clinched a playoff berth before the last game was played, and his backup Rob Johnson played an excellent game to close out the season. The following week, Johnson remained the starter (though no one will take credit for that decision) and lost to Tennessee on one of the biggest miracle plays in NFL history. To double the sting, the Bills would not make the playoffs again until the 2017 season, eighteen years later. It's still a sore enough subject to start arguments in a Buffalo bar.
  • In the 2020 NFL season, the Denver Broncos found themselves in a predicament when one of the backup quarterbacks tested positive for COVID-19, which resulted in the entire QB corps being put in quarantine protocol due to close-contact exposure one day before the team's Week 12 game against the New Orleans Saintsnote . They ended up having to call up Kendall Hinton, a practice squad wide receiver who had also played second-string quarterback in college, to fill the position on less than 24 hours' notice. It seemed like it could have been the setup for some crazy underdog victory story, especially since the Saints were also not starting their No. 1 quarterbacknote ... but no, it ended exactly the way one would expect, with a 31-3 blowout loss. Hinton would go on to be a solid wide receiver for the team in the following season, but it was clear that there was a reason he was never considered as a serious candidate to play quarterback at the professional level.