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Shaggy Dog Story / Real Life

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  • Tony Nicklinson, a sufferer of locked-in syndrome, ultimately failed to convince the British High Court to allow him to receive medical euthanasia. Less than a week later, his family announced that he had starved himself to death.
  • The balloon boy hoax: a balloon built for science experiments flew off, and the police were tracking it over several hours because they thought a six-year-old boy was trapped in there. It turned out the boy was hiding in a box in his home the whole time. Not only that, but the family staged the entire thing just to get on TV, reputedly.
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  • The Hot Room. A company had two server rooms: the "Cool Room", which had proper air conditioning keeping it at 65°F and the "Hot Room", a cramped closet that was at 98°F, contained vital equipment that risked overheating and would cost over one hundred thousand dollars to cool down. In the end, the maintenance superintendent walks in and fixes the problem in under a minute: turns out there was a tripped breaker that was causing the air conditioning to malfunction, but no one had mentioned it to him before.
  • Dreams are often this. You know the kind — you dream up an entire parallel universe with a Lord of the Rings-style epic plot with several crucial subplots, tons of characters, and that takes place over what feels like a lifetime... only to build up to a cheap Jump Scare at the very end, and/or to vanish into total oblivion within a few seconds of waking up.
    • Incidentally you will try to invoke this whenever something particularly bad happens.
  • The infamous twelve year 'Split' from 1996 to 2008 between rival series CART and the Indy Racing League for control of IndyCar racing ended with one unified Indycar series again.
  • The River City Relay. The 2003 New Orleans Saints were 7-7 going into their second-to-last regular season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, needing to win both of their remaining games and get some help from other games going a certain way to make the playoffs. The Jaguars were up 20-13 with seven seconds left in regulation and the Saints had the ball on their own 25-yard-line. Saints QB Aaron Brooks threw a pass to Donté Stallworth at midfield, bounced off a Jaguars defender and broke two more tackles as time expirednote . Stallworth lateraled to Michael Lewis at the Jags' 34, who ran to the 25 before pitching to Deuce McAllister. McAllister got to the 20 before pitching it to Jerome Pathon, who made it to the end zone for a touchdown after getting one last block from Brooks. Every lateral was reviewed by officials for several minutes before they signaled touchdown. Saints were now down 20-19, needing only a John Carney extra pointnote  to tie the game and go to overtime...which he missed wide right. Saints lose and can't make the playoffs.
    Saints play-by-play radio announcer Jim Henderson: NOOOO!!! He missed the extra point wide right! Oh my God, how could he do that?
    • More Shaggy Dogs: the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks won that day, which would have eliminated the Saints from the playoffs even if they had won. So even John Carney's miss is a Shaggy Dog Story. Even worse, the Saints beat the Cowboys the very next week in a game that could have had enormous playoff implications for them. Instead, the Saints win put the Seahawks in.
  • When programming in assembly language, it's common practice to copy register values into a stack at the beginning of a procedure so you can restore them to their original values later. A common newbie mistake is to accidentally overwrite the register you were planning to use to return your answer while doing this, making all the other work the computer did in that procedure completely pointless.
    • Similarly, in C++, it's easy for newbies to forget that unless you send the address of a variable to a function rather than its value, you're just working on a copy of the variable, not the original one you passed. Changes to it won't affect anything outside the function.
      • Of course, changing an external variable from within a function is called "side effect", and is a programming practice that is often heavily discouraged in most languages that aren't C++, making it even more of a shaggy dog story. The whole arrangement, called "parameters by reference", actually originates in The '60s, and was useful when the memory was tiny and expensive, as it was devised to save it. C++ inherited it through the long string of predeccessor languages: Algol-60 to Algol-68 to BCPL to B to C to finally C++ itself.
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    • Another common C/C++ mistake: x=2 sets x to 2, while x==2 (note the double equals sign) returns a boolean that indicates whether x is equal to 2. This makes it very easy to accidentally write a conditional statement that actually sets the tested variable to the value you're testing it for. This is especially easy to do if you're used to working with languages like Java, which won't even compile with that kind of mistake.
    • This code snippet, which expends quite a bit of effort calculating a value minScore before throwing it out the window and setting it to 2.
    • Also, this quote from, where a person ran a program that calculated one billion digits of pi for over 7 years... but forgot to output the result.
  • Bayer Leverkusen in 2001/02. On course for a treble, when they hadn't even won the Bundesliga once before, they lost a five-point lead with three games to go to Borussia Dortmund, the Champions League Final 2-1 against Real Madrid, and even the German Cup 4-2 against Schalke. They then lost their two star players to Bayern Munich and never recovered. That summer the world cup would be held in Japan and South Korea and the German squad (which had to recover from a humiliating performance just two years earlier at Euro 2000 where they didn't score a single goal as defending champions) consisted mostly of Leverkusen players. The team persevered through much hardship and eked out narrow wins mostly on the strength om Michael Ballack, who got his second yellow card in the Semifinal against South Korea, meaning he'd miss the final - which naturally, Germany lost to Brazil. Yep, Ballack placed second four times in one season.
  • Three of the four major North American team sports - baseball, basketball, and ice hockey - structure their post-season championship playoffs to involve seven-game series (first to four wins advances to the next round). On just five occasions, a team has recovered from losing the first three games by winning the next four, and while three of those have been achieved by national champions (the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs recovered from a 3-0 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the finals of the Stanley Cup, the 2004 Boston Red Sox overturned a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees and followed this by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, and the 2014 Los Angeles Kings bounced back from 3-0 down against the San Jose Sharks in their division semi-final and went on to win the Stanley Cup), the other two have ended up as shaggy dog stories.
    • The New York Islanders, having joined the NHL in 1972, finished dead last in their first two seasons and squeaked through to the 1975 Stanley Cup playoffs by winning a three-game series against the New York Rangers to reach their first ever best-of-seven series. Their opponents were the Pittsburgh Penguins, who stormed to a 3-0 series lead with wins in which the Islanders were never ahead in the scoring. In the four games that followed, the tables turned and it was the Penguins who never took the lead as the Islanders won the series 4-3 to advance to the Cup semi-finals. Their opponents this time were the defending champions, the Philadelphia Flyers; once again, the Islanders lost the first three games but managed to win the next three, and everyone wondered if they could pull off another miracle. Unfortunately for the Islanders, the Flyers proceeded to win Game 7 by a score of 4-1 (they went on to retain the Stanley Cup with a 4-2 series win over the Buffalo Sabres); the Islanders had to wait another five years for their first championship.
    • The Flyers themselves were on the receiving end of this turnaround in 2010. Having lost the first three games in their NHL East conference semi-final against the Boston Bruins, they proceeded to win the next three, then found themselves trailing 3-0 in Game 7 before scoring four goals in reply, the first time a team had overturned a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 Game 7 deficit. After beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the conference final series, the Flyers met the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final series... and lost 4-2.
  • In the 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs, at a time when the NHL was split into four divisions and the playoffs began with five-game division semi-finals, the Smythe Division semi-finals saw the top-seeded Edmonton Oilers, a team very much on the rise with a young Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier just the tip of the iceberg of their player roster, facing the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Kings. After splitting the first two games in Edmonton, the Oilers and Kings met in Game 3 at the Forum on Manchester Boulevard in Los Angeles; the Oilers raced to a 5-0 lead in the first forty minutes, only for the Kings to score five goals in reply in the last twenty and cap it all with an overtime winner. The improbable comeback is known as the "Miracle on Manchester". The teams split the remaining games to give the Kings an upset 3-2 series win and put them in the Smythe Division final series... where they lost 4-1 to the Vancouver Canucks.
  • William Henry Harrison was elected President of the United States in 1840, gave the longest inaugural address in history in absolutely hideous weather, started in on his campaign promise to reform executive appointments... then caught pneumonia three weeks later and died. Since his VP, John Tyler, completely opposed the party Harrison was hard-line for, the only thing to come out of his Presidency was an amendment to the Constitution clarifying what happens if the President dies in office. Yeah, the 25th Amendment - 126 years later. Harrison was also the first candidate of any party to personally campaign for the office, so his campaign itself was a shaggy dog story.
  • In 2013 there was a huge push to get either Yasiel Puig or Freddie Freeman in the fan vote for the 2013 MLB All-Star game. Freddie Freeman won the vote, but he couldn't play because of an injured thumb. Naturally, the manager decided to replace Freeman with... Brian McCann, rendering the whole vote useless.
  • As of January 2015, this appears to be the case of Target Canada. After they purchased the Canadian superstore Zellers in 2011/12, and some of the stores were converted to Walmarts, they spent close to a year gutting the remaining Zellers stores to resemble those of the American Targets, and the Target stores opened without a hitch in the last quarter of 2013. By the end of 2014, however, they reported that they were losing too much money (which they seemed to have used up the previous year during construction) due to supply chain issues and a buggy new software system preventing them from keeping items in stock, and Target announced later that they would close their Canadian stores during the first quarter of 2015.
  • The Phantom of Heilbronn. From 1993 to 2009, DNA samples of the same woman were found in 40 crime scenes in Germany, Austria, and France. Dozens of investigators tried to catch the mysterious female criminal for more than 15 years, to no avail. In the end, it turned out that all the cotton swabs used for retrieving the DNA in the crime scenes were coming from the same shipping. The "mysterious phantom" was just a random worker who accidentally contaminated with her DNA all the cotton swabs before they even left the factory.
  • Any concert cancelled the same day it would happen, with people already in the venue, particularly if there are no refunds. A particularly tragic example is Marina & the Diamonds at 2015 Lollapalooza Brazil. She would fly there the day before the concert and plane problems made her nix the plans. Some "Diamonds" were already at the festival waiting for her... when the concert would be 8 hours later. And soon the press found some had no interest in the other attractions, travelled long distances, and with huge expenditures - one spent three nights at the Hilton, costing approximately $800, hoping Marina would stay at that hotel!
  • Going into Week 17 of the 1999 NFL Season, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, and Carolina Panthers were all tied at 7-8 for the final NFC Wild Card spot. The deciding tiebreaker between the Packers and the Panthers was net point differential in conference games. The Giants had a more daunting task; they had to hope the Packers and Panthers both lost while defeating the Cowboys on the road. As fate would have it, both the Packers and Panthers had home games in the 1 PM slot, against the hapless Cardinals and Saints, respectively. Both teams had no trouble running up the score, but the Panthers would be eliminated because the Packers ended up five points ahead of themnote . This also knocked the Giants out before the late games. Had the Cowboys lost, the Packers would have gotten in. Dallas won, and moved up to the #5 seed ahead of the Detroit Lions, to boot.
  • Wichita State men's basketball had one of the most impressive regular season runs in recent history in 2013-14, and then entered the NCAA Tournament at 34-0. They failed to even make the Sweet 16; their first, and most painful loss of the season came against Kentucky in the 3rdnote  Round. Ironically, Kentucky would fail at their own quest at an undefeated season the very next year.
  • The "Miracle of Coogan's Bluff" ends as a shaggy dog story: the Giants lost the 1951 World Series to the Yankees in six games.
  • Those who saw it will never forget Geraldo Rivera and the "Secrets of Al Capone's Vault", which turned out to be completely empty.
  • There is a legend the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni promised the poet Ferdowsi a golden piece for every stanza of his poem The Shahnameh. However, after Ferdowsi discovered that the reward was silver instead of gold (either by orders of the sultan or some official), he basically threw away the money and fled in order to avoid the Sultan's wrath. Sometime later, Mahmud heard a few lines from the poem and ordered to give the poet a proper reward this time. As the caravan carrying the reward entered the city where Ferdowsi lived, the poet's funeral procession was exiting it on the other side.
  • The Peace of Antalcidas. All the effort of beating back the invasion of Xerxes, the sacrifice of the 300 Spartans... A century of Greek infighting, with the Persian king supporting the opponents of whatever force grew too powerful from his bottomless coffers, and the Greeks sign a treaty making him the main arbiter ensuring peace in their territory.
  • Half of King Henry VIII's marital life was devoted to trying to get a male heir. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon couldn't produce a son, so Henry separated England from the Roman Catholic Church's control and as a result, annulled their marriage and married a new wife, Anne Boleyn. However, like Katherine, Anne also couldn't produce a son and only a daughter, so Henry gets rid of her and married a third wife, Jane Seymour. While Henry finally got the male heir he longed for, that one died only 6 years after Henry did.
    • To add the ironic twist to it, the daughters from Catherine and Anne he previously declared illegitimate, both Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I got to rule England, and the latter is more remembered and venerated than any of her siblings. While Elizabeth did lead England to a golden age, she and her siblings had no children, thus effectively ending Henry's and the Tudor bloodline.
  • Fantastic Four (2015), or Fant4stic, was a shambolically Troubled Production that ended in one of the worst-reviewed movies of 2015. The sole reason it was created was to prevent the rights from reverting to Disney, who own Marvel Comics and the rights to adapt most of the company's characters (with only the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, and their Rogues Galleries not owned by Marvel Studios by the time Fant4stic was released, and Sony Pictures, the Spider-Man rights holder, ended up collaborating anyway). Less than three years later, and at least partially because of Fant4stic's failure, Rupert Murdoch sold 20th Century Fox (and by extension its intellectual properties, including the rights to Marvel's first family) to Disney, rendering the whole mess completely pointless.
  • Larry Bundy Jr has spotlighted a few real-life examples in his Fact Hunt videos:
    • Ocean Software had always handled the ports of Taito's games, including Bubble Bobble and its spinoffs and was set to port Liquid Kids to the Commodore 64 as well. When the game was almost done with development, the company checked with their legal department and discovered that they'd never secured the license for the port.
    • Similarly, Titus Software had a chance to make up for Superman 64 note  by releasing a Superman game for the Playstation. This time, they outsourced it to another company that reportedly did an actual good job. Unfortunately, Titus checked with their legal department and discovered that their Superman license had expired. In fact, it had expired so long ago, another publisher had acquired it.
    • During the time of the Nintendo Wii, a rumor got out that the Hannah Montana game for the system had a code that would allow players to access the system's BIOS. Several enterprising people got the idea to buy up copies of the game and sell them at marked up prices (read: scalpers). And they would have turned a profit...if the rumor had actually been true. (It wasn't.)
  • In 2008, the Democratic National Committee had a special televised meeting to discuss the delegates from Florida and Michigan. In 2008, only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina were allowed to have primary/caucus elections before February or their states would receive 0 delegates (which Michigan and Florida both ignored because of overriding state primary laws). At the time of the meeting, Senator Hillary Clinton wanted those 2 States to have their delegations restored based on the voter outcome of their January Primaries (Senator Barack Obama and Former VP Candidate John Edwards were not on the ballot in Michigan and did not campaign in Florida since it formally had no delegates). During the televised meeting, Senator Obama clinched the necessary Super Delegates to win regardless of the outcome on those two states.
  • So much of medicinal chemistry.
    • One example: Maoecrystal V is a polycyclic natural product with dense functionality, that was reported to have anti-cancer activity. Four total syntheses, the first published in 2010, didn't produce useful amounts. Finally, in 2016, through a herculean effort of reaction optimisation, the Baran research group was able to make it in multi-milligram quantities, enough to run it through the assays and probe how it worked. But the original activity turned out to be a false positive.
  • The New England Patriots 2007 season ended up being one of these. The Patriots didn't lose a single game during the regular season, won both games in the playoffs, and looked like a sure favorite to win Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants. The game itself was somewhat lackluster, with defense dominating play and only ten total points scored in the first three quarters. With New England up 14-10 with 2:39 left in the game, New York started a drive at their own 17 yard line and advanced steadily down the field, including one play that has its own Wikipedia page. New York scored with 35 seconds remaining, New England couldn't answer, and so their attempt at an undefeated season was spoiled by the first NFC Wild Card winner to win the Super Bowl.


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