Underdogs Never Lose
"Our next defeat is scheduled for next Friday, 8 o'clock."
The team that is expected to lose the critical game In-Universe will win.
The underdogs might be a saved Ragtag Bunch of Misfits or just average Joes in over their heads. But in the David Versus Goliath game, they will win, usually (and often literally) at the last second (always to the surprise of everyone but the viewer). This may involve Improvised Training, a Golden Snitch, or even Applied Phlebotinum if there Ain't No Rule against it.
In the case of a Based on a True Story film where the real-world team eventually did lose, the movie will cut away at their biggest win and Hand Wave or ignore the less successful parts of their history. Second Place Is for Losers.
This trope is most dominant in Western media. Sports-based Japanese animation is structured around Team Spirit and effort, and writers do their best to stay true to that and let the weaker team lose. Western writers and producers also write of Team Spirit, but they tend to express it as "if you have Team Spirit, then you will beat the other team."
Related to The Good Guys Always Win. Invincible Incompetent is this trope as used in fiction. Can overlap with the Unspoken Plan Guarantee—both tropes happen because watching a foregone conclusion happen as expected, whether because it's part of the plan or because the expected winner is expected to win, is boring for the audience. See also Crack Defeat.
Anime and Manga
- Simoun. At the start of the series, Simulacrum and its Simoun are portrayed as nigh-invincible from the perspective of the other countries, and we see them inflict heavy defeat after heavy defeat on wildly superior enemy forces in episode after episode until Rock Beats Laser in the end. It's this trope, only the underdogs aren't the protagonists.
- Hilariously used in Saki where the reason Kaori was so successful during her turn was because she was a complete beginner in a table filed with professional players. Since she didn't even really know what she was doing, her discards looked very random in everybody else's eyes, making their attempts to read how the game would go based on the professional Metagame fall completely flat in regards to her. Thanks to that, plus a decent amount of good luck, Kaori was able dominate her table while stumbling all the way.
- This actually a well-known phenomenon in any professional (or just Serious Business) game: You can't predict the opponent's Metagame if they don't have a metagame. It is a phenomenon noted in Game Theory. Essentially, in many situations, there is usually a best choice and strategy. And more often than not, the only thing that can beat this is no plan at all as part of making a good choice in a game is based on what you know the other person to be doing. This is especially notable in games where patterns play a heavy part of the game like poker.
- Eyeshield 21 will either avert, play it straight, or subvert it depending on what point in the series you're referring too. In the spring season, they won two games, lost two games, and tie one game. In the Tokyo Tournament, they only lost once. In the Kanto Tournament and Christmas Bowl, they play this trope as straight as can be.
- Raimon Soccer Club in Inazuma Eleven is always an underdog. The teams always narrowly wins anything stronger by the last minute via the Power of Friendship. Unlike in the game, this team never have enough raw power.
- Central to The Mighty Ducks movies. In the sequel, they are merely in over their heads, but have a few "secret weapons" in the form of unlikely or impossible technical feats.
- Shaolin Soccer has a team of shaolin monks with Charles Atlas Superpowers as the underdogs. In spite of their martial prowess, they all became real losers in the real world, and have no experience playing soccer before the film begins.
- A subplot in Flubber involves the eponymous substance as the Applied Phlebotinum allowing the trope to play straight.
- The special features and DVD audio commentary of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story parody and mock this trope, which was used as standard within the film itself. The commentary claims that the original ending of the film had Globo Gym win and Average Joe's lose the competition, and there is even a deleted scene showing this "true" vision, and an over-the-credits clip included in the theatrical release has villain Dwight Goodman ranting at the audience and criticizing their need to have the film end on such a cliched note. The treasure chest full of money won at the end of the movie even has "DEUS EX MACHINA" written on it. However, comments from the creative team and the original script, which was included on the DVD, reveal that this is all tongue-in-cheek, as the plan was always for Average Joes to win at the end, even if the details changed in different versions of the script.
- King Kong VS Godzilla.
- Done in We Are Marshall, a movie based on the real life decimation of a football team and the attempts to put another back together again. After the new team finally wins one game, we cut to the epilogue and find out that was pretty much it for them winning for that season... and many seasons after that before they finally became a decent team again.
- Cinderella Man portrays the real-life comeback of Braddock. It milks Braddock's underdog status by giving the champ Baer a Historical Villain Upgrade, for which it received some criticism.
- Mike Bassett: England Manager appears to play this trope straight, by having England beat Argentina in the World Cup when it looked as if they would go out. It's really more of a subversion however, because it was only because of how appalling England's form had been since Bassett became manager that they were underdogs in the first place.
- Shah Rukh Khan's Chak De! India.
- Played dead straight in Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. A Genre Savvy troop leader recruits an army entirely of teenage girls knowing The Tradition (an ambient magical force in the land) will enact this trope and make them all fight like experts.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden is often the underdog, and usually wins in the end. At one point, he ends up fighting the Billy Goats Gruff (no, really), who are a fairy tale example, for beating the much larger and more powerful trolls. When Harry faces the eldest (and most powerful) brother, he acknowledges Harry as a fellow underdog.
Eldest Gruff: I dislike being cast as the troll.
- Dresden may be a subversion of this, as while he's normally in an underdog position, he's one of the smartest, strongest, and most clever wizards out there. It's gotten to the point where most powerful enemies are more concerned about him than the entire White Council.
- In Unseen Academicals, the wizards win over Ankh-Morpork United, despite the fact that they've had less training, are a combination of fat wizards, an ape, an orc, and a boy who can only play football with tin cans, and play more fairly than much of Ankh-Morpork United. It helps that a supporter is willing to abuse some loopholes though.
- The William Tell Overture by comedian Spike Jones features a horse-race where the horse Feetlebaum remains in last until the very end of the race, where it makes a surprise finish as first place.
- He has another song about a car race which is also won by Feetlebaum. Talk about an underdog.
- The Underdog by Spoon features the refrain "You've got no fear of the underdog, that's why you will not survive."
- Although, in context, that's less a case of "Underdogs never lose", and more "Underdogs sometimes win".
- Often implied with Rey Mysterio, having the moniker of "The Ultimate Underdog" and generally something of a bully magnet for heel wrestlers due to his small stature. Despite that however he is noted for his remarkable agility in ring and fairly large success rate. The large amount of losses he suffers are usually made obvious they are due to unfair stipulations or illegitimate tactics from his opponent.
- While not about sports, this trope is otherwise played brutally straight in the Ace Attorney series. Every time an experienced attorney goes to court against a rookie attorney, the rookie always wins. This goes so far that in a flashback case with Mia defending and Edgeworth prosecuting, this being the first case that either of them have taken, the trial ends with no verdict, due to the defendant's sudden death. The only attorney ever shown losing their first trial is Godot. And it wasn't really even his first trial; just the first one he's prosecuted.
- Mia and Edgeworth were both established as having perfect win records previously, and instead of creating a new, credible villain who'd then have to be introduced and summarily never seen again they just used an old character.
- You're always the underdog in Ace Attorney cases, the prosecution is always better prepared and more experienced. According to videogame law, other than two trials that end with no verdict, you can never lose.
- Except for 2-4. But there, the client will demand a guilty verdict for himself once the assassin he hired learns that his employer was going to blackmail him. It's either life in prison or a very, very short life otherwise...
- This trope becomes part of the plot in the Apollo Justice arc. Phoenix Wright gets disbarred from practicing law due to presenting forged evidence in court. You learn near the end of the game that Phoenix's friend, Kristoph Gavin, set Phoenix up for the fall since he was passed up for Phoenix in being Zak's defense lawyer for a trial (Zak chose his attorneys by playing poker with them and using the moment to read what kind of a man his opponent was). Kristoph was extremely angry that Zak passed him up, a man with a great track record and lots of experience, for Phoenix Wright, who he accused as a lawyer who purely wins cases through luck and bluffing to make up for lack of experience.
- Though sadly not Truth in Television, court isn't always about being better, but being just. The defense is, luckily, the just side.
- The main recurring element of Popeye, and a staple of his design in the cartoon - Popeye is always set up as the underdog in whatever he's doing, usually for Olive's affection but also in contests, work, and pretty much any rivalry he can get - the other guy is always stronger, seemingly more cultured, efficient, or otherwise more powerful, and it's up to Popeye to really earn his victory, with or without spinach depending on the cartoon.
- A group of college basketball players from El Paso took on the #1 team in the country in the NCAA tournament finals. Yes, the "underdogs" were ranked #3 in the country, but the two teams were as different as night and day, so to speak. The year was 1966; the top team, Kentucky; the underdogs, Texas Western (now known as the University of Texas-El Paso); and the film based on the events that followed, Glory Road. And was that film ever an example of Hollywood History... The film never showed the aftermath of that victory, which involved racist rants by Rupp, and even more vicious printed attacks by white-owned magazines and newspapers, like Sports Illustrated. Haskin's biggest regret was that he never took them to court for their lies.
- In the 2007/08 FA Cup, Barnsley recovered from a goal down to win an away match at Premiership high-flyers Liverpool in the last minute, then in the quarter finals knocked out Chelsea, who had won the trophy the previous season...before being eliminated by fellow underdogs Cardiff City in the semi-finals.
- The 2011 League Cup Final, where perennial losers Birmingham City (48 years without a trophy) defeated Arsenal.
- More college basketball—the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack was 17-10 and probably a longshot to make the field of 48. Then they won the ACC tournament, upsetting heavily favored Duke, and North Carolina, and Virginia (With Ralph Sampson) to gain an automatic berth to the tournament. Then they won six more games to take the national championship.
- The 2006 George Mason Patriots, the 2010 and 2011 Butler Bulldogs and the 2011 Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
- George Mason started the trend with an unbelievable string of victories over Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut (three of the four having won the national title) and then losing in the Final Four to Florida.
- Butler, which was not a total underdog to fans in the know, rattled off this sequence of wins in 2010: UTEP, Murray State, Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State and losing to Duke in the national title game on a last-second miss. Even more gut-wrenching was that Butler was playing in its home city of Indianapolis, the first team to do so for a national title game since UCLA in 1968.
- Yet amazingly, Butler did it again in 2011, with wins over Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Florida and a Curb Stomp Battle loss to Connecticut in the national title game.
- In a double example, Butler's Final Four opponent in 2011 was Virginia Commonwealth. Because of the "First Four" round added that year, VCU became the first team to win five tournament games to reach the Final Four. Their list of wins: USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas.
- In 2013-14, Butler and VCU's Final Four match will become Hilarious in Hindsight as both teams join the Atlantic 10 that season.
- Also, to an extent, the 2008 Davidson Wildcats, featuring now-Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, which reached the Elite Eight.
- The 2010 Eastern Conference NHL Playoffs, consisting of the #7 Philadelphia Flyers having home ice advantage over the #8 Montreal Canadiens in the Conference Finals. Both teams pulled off insane upsets and comebacks to make it in: the Canadiens knocked off the #1 seeded Washington Capitals and the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, coming back from being down three games to one against the Capitals to win the series. Not to be outdone, the Flyers defeated rival New Jersey Devils in five games, before going down three games to none against the Boston Bruins and then coming back to force a Game 7. In Game 7, the Bruins jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Flyers called a timeout, got settled down, and rallied back to win 4-3. Oh, did I mention that none of the division champions made it past the first round?
- And subverted in the Stanley Cup Finals.
- Going almost 90 years without winning a World Series, no one expected the Boston Red Sox to win in 2004.
- To be specific, 1918 was the last time the Red Sox had won a World Series, a curse that came to be known as the Curse of the Bambino (after Babe Ruth, whom the Red Sox had sold to the Yankees following that World Series due to financial troubles. Before then, the Red Sox won five World Series, the Yankees none. After that, the Yankees won 26 World Series, the Red Sox none). The Red Sox were the wild card team that year and they faced the New York Yankees for the American League Pennant. The previous year, Boston and New York met in the American League Championship Series as well. In 2004, the Yankees took a 3-0 series lead in the best-of-seven before the Red Sox won the next four games, becoming the only team outside of the NHL to come back from 3-0 series deficit to win. They would beat the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.
- Played straight with the 2004 European soccer championship winner Greece. Most people thought they would only serve as punching bags and quickly go home. Boy, were they wrong.
- The 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team's famous Miracle On Ice.
- Super Bowl XLII: The 2007 New England Patriots were the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 in the regular season, while the 10-6 Giants were an NFC Wild Card team. Questions all season (and really, all career) over whether quarterback Eli Manning had the "it" factor that separates the good from great teams (like his more accomplish older brother Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, who had won the Super Bowl the previous year) bogged him and the Giants, while the Patriots set NFL records for most points scored in a season (589) and quarterback Tom Brady threw a record 50 touchdown passes. Going into the game, the Patriots were 12-point favorites (a very sizable handicap), and in the fourth quarter Brady threw a touchdown pass to Randy Moss to take a 14-10 lead with 2:42 to play. Then the Giants answered back, starting a drive of their own. With 1:15 left and facing a 3rd-and-5, Manning escaped out of a sack (he literally slipped out of their hands) and threw it downfield, where David Tyree (a player who only had four catches the entire season) leaped into the air, catches the pass with one hand, and pins it against his helmet while maintaining possession with Patriots cornerback Rodney Harrison trying to bat it away. Four plays later, Manning tosses a touchdown to Plaxico Burress, and the Giants go on to win.
- The absolutely epic 2007 Boise State vs. Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl. Although Boise State had gone 12-0 that season, everyone thought they would get curb stomped by Oklahoma, a team that has won more games than any other team in college football since World War 2. Oklahoma was physically bigger, had their star running back Adrian Peterson back, and everyone expected this to be Coach Bob Stoops's year to finally win a BCS bowl. What happened instead was a electrifying game that ended in a Boise State 43-42 overtime victory with a 2 point conversion off a statue of liberty play that not only sealed Boise State's position in college football legend, but also opened the way for other tiny underdog schools such as Texas Christian University and other tiny universities to be given the chance to compete with the big boys. Let's not even get started about the touchdown Boise State scored with 18 seconds to go to tie it all up. And to top it all off, Boise State's running back proposed to his girlfriend at the end. If you've got some time, I absolutely recommend taking some time to watch the whole 3 hour game, especially if you have any interest in football.
- The Kenora Thistles, a hockey team from the a tiny town that had only recently been called Rat Portage, Ontario defeats Montreal 4-2 and 8-6 to earn the first Stanley Cup won by a team outside the big Eastern teams. Kenora is still the smallest town to ever win the cup. They challenged for the cup three times, and now every kid from Northern Ontario that gets a look at the old Stanley Cup searches for the little "Kenora Thistles, 1907" engraved in the bottom ring.
- The 2011 Indianapolis 500 provided an example of an underdog handing the win to another underdog. Rookie driver JR Hildebrand saved enough fuel to inherit the lead three laps from the end when other drivers pitted and multiple Indy 500 and championship winner Dario Franchitti had to slow down to save fuel. Hildebrand drove the last few laps being rapidly closed in on by Franchitti's teammate Scott Dixon, but there was not enough time for Dixon to catch unless Hildebrand ran out of fuel. Then in the last corner of the last lap Hildebrand was baulked by a lapped car, went for an ill-advised overtake and slid off the line into the wall. So Dixon won? Nope, he had also run out of fuel allowing the late Dan Wheldon past to win. Wheldon was a previous winner but was driving a one-off race for the tiny team run by former driver Bryan Herta - while the driver may not have been an underdog, the team was one of the biggest underdog wins in history.
- Buster Douglas was famously a 42-1 underdog when he fought Mike Tyson for the heavyweight title and won. He lost the belt in his very next fight, proving that he really wasn't a better boxer than Tyson, he just had the power of the underdog.
- Played straight by the Danish national football (soccer) team at the European championships of 1992, being that they won a tournament they didn't even qualify for.
- The 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. Bayern Munich, playing at their home stadium, were highly touted to win the Cup after their drubbing of Marseille and Real Madrid. Their opponent Chelsea were barely lucky enough to get past Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona using a makeshift defense and counterattacks with one man forward. Turned out that it was written in the stars for Chelsea all along, after beating Bayern in a penalty shootout.
- It can be said that the trope holds true for Chelsea for the whole duration of the tournament.
Anime and Manga
- Subverted several times in Eyeshield 21 where the Devilbats routinely lose to teams better than them, and routinely win against teams worse than them.
- The World Cup arc is another subversion.
- Painfully subverted in the OVA of Hajime no Ippo, titled Extra Round, where Tatsuya Kimura is the underdog fighting against Champion Mashiba, who is an excellent boxer and better than Kimura in his own style(out-boxing), even Ippo fears him. Kimura is getting old and this will be his only real chance at the title, the OVA is about how Kimura must face his fears, develop his special move and seriously plan ahead how to fight with strategy and tactics. He does, but in the very last moment, Mashiba's arm reach proves superior, hitting Kimura just before he could hit Mashiba, Kimura even thought his blow connected, only to realize seconds later that it was his face on the canvas. The Downer Ending is ultimately averted however, because he doesn't retire as he claimed he would if he lost, and life goes on...
- Averted by Goku in the first two Tenkaichi Budokais in Dragon Ball. He loses his first to Jackie Chun because Jackie's kick had more power to it, loses his second to Tien when their aerial battle lands Goku in front of a truck, causing him to get the Ring Out first, but ultimately wins his third and final against Piccolo mostly because Goku was the last one standing after they blew up the ring!
- Princess Nine also subverts it, with the girls meeting and losing to their Boys' school partner in the quarter finals.
- Averted in Hikaru no Go; the underdog only wins if a win is reasonably possible.
- Excel Saga parodies the typical Japanese subversion in its Baseball episode by having Excel's team lose so badly the score covers most of the scoreboard in nines.
- Both parodied and lampshaded in a certain Tom and Jerry comic. Two footy teams are in the final of some championship: one crack-tough, and other lame losers. The latter is presented by the commentators as "their good side is, uhm, that you must be very curious how did they get to the finals".
- Continuously subverted in Peanuts, where Charlie Brown's underdog team pretty much always loses. Friendly rival Peppermint Patty even highlights their underdog nature by always assuming her team will win.
- Also subverted in the first movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown in which Charlie loses the spelling bee and is afraid his life is over and everyone hates him. Linus shows him that life goes on.
- Subverted in Rocky, though the point wasn't so much to beat Apollo Creed as to "go the distance" against him. Not so much in the sequels.
- Rocky was based on a true story, even more impressive then the movie. Granted though, most movie makers would still end the movie adaption with him winning.
- The same subversion was used in the final installment of the series, however, where he went the distance with Mason "The Line" Dixon and only lost in a split decision, exactly how he lost to Creed in the first movie.
- This counts as a subversion because even though Rocky explicitly tells Adrian he cannot win against Apollo, the film's power relies on the audience expectation that this trope will be played straight.
- Bring It On has both cheer teams as underdogs for different reasons. The main characters are the reigning champions, but they discover that their previous captain had stolen all of their old winning routines. They're all forced to start again from square one. The Opposing Sports Team is from an inner-city school who invented all of those winning routines, but didn't have the money to compete. Once they get Expy Oprah to fund them in the Nationals, the two teams go head-to-head, each with something to prove. Naturally, the team with more underdog credentials wins.
- In The Great White Hype portrays the exploitation of this trope. The crooked boxing promoter scams boxing fans into believing that a white boxer (gasp!) has a shot at taking down the dominant black champ. The white boxer, who hasn't entered a ring in years, receives some slipshod training and gets thrown to the wolves. He actually lands a good shot, teasing the trope even further, before the champ actually starts paying attention and curb-stomps him. The crowd realizes too late that their Great White Hope was really just hype to make the promoter more money.
- Also subverted in The Bad News Bears, where the team comes within reach of winning but ultimately loses by one run because the coach decides to give the less talented players a chance.
- Subverted in Whip It, where the Hurl Scouts make it to the finals, but lose to the Holly Rollers in the last few jams. What makes it a subversion instead of a plain old aversion is that the girls are ecstatic to have made it all the way from last place to the finals.
- In Real Steel, the climax of the movie is the bout between scrappy "junkbot" Atom and the undefeated champ Zeus, who's never had a fight last more than one round. The match ends when the clock runs out in the fifth round. Zeus wins in points and keeps the title, but the crowd clearly favor Atom for having put up such a good fight.
- Cool Runnings ends with our unlikely heroes, the Jamaican bobsleigh team, crashing out on their final run, as it happened in real life. This is all cast in a heroic light by having the team pick up their sled and walk over the line to finish their run.
- Surf's Up.
- Tin Cup. Roy screws his chance of winning the US Open, but still gets the girl.
- In Other People's Money, a scrappy, old-school New England businessman has to face down a ruthless corporate raider from New York who wants to take over and dismantle his business. At the big stockholder's meeting he gives a heartfelt speech about tradition and hard work and the American dream. The corporate raider gives a speech pointing out that, nice as that is, the company is going to go under and the only way the stockholders are going to get any of their money back is by voting for him. He wins the vote easily.
- In Friday Night Lights, the rag-tag MoJo team is the underdogs. They lose. Ever seen the guy who flubbed the critical play crying his eyes out in the locker room, while his teammates stand around and look awkward?
- Saturday Night Fever included a scene where John Travolta's dance moves are completely inferior to a Puerto Rican couple's, but he is nonetheless declared the winner of the competition. This is quickly revealed to be a subversion, as the judge's decision was based on racism and Travolta's infuriated character gives his award to the deserving couple.
- Subverted in A Shot at Glory in which a small Scottish football team from the Third Division (managed by Robert Duvall and owned by Michael Keaton) reaches the Cup Final against all odds - and loses.
- Arguably, subverted in Unseen Academicals, in that the United team hadn't had as much time to practice with the new football and new rules as the Unseen University team, nor did it include an orangutan goalkeeper. Of course, in this instance the real issue wasn't who'd win the match, but who'd survive the match.
- The CHERUB book "Divine Madness" has James try to envision himself "as the plucky underdog in a kids movie" during a Martial Arts exercise. Needless to say, he's one of the "losers" when it's all over.
- The Pit Dragon Trilogy initially ignores this, then mocks it. Heart's Blood is big, tough, and most certainly not an underdog.
- Actually subverted in the season one finale of Glee, in which New Directions is a big hit with the audience at regionals but ultimately loses -- fair and square.
- And subverted again in the season two finale, in which New Directions loses badly at Nationals, as a direct consequence of trusting to their underdog powers of 'heart', enthusiasm and lack of preparedness, as well as the unprofessionalism of their default lead singers.
- Also subverted in a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode where the inexperienced crew plays a baseball game against a super-skilled team of Vulcans. They get clobbered, but they do manage to score one run in the last inning and celebrate anyway.
- They celebrate because the Vulcan captain is an asshole and had declared the DSNiners wouldn't score at all. They did it just to piss him off, and succeeded.
- Horriby averted by Triple H at Wrestlemania XIX in his match against Booker T. Booker was presented as the underdog all the way in: HHH cut some truly horrible promos (some of which bordered on racism), and by the time the feud was white hot, Booker could not have been more underdog. HHH had been presented as an unstoppably dominant force of selfish evil, and Booker a man who'd made some poor decisions, but could redeem himself at 'Mania. In the match, it turned out that HHH was an unstoppably dominant force. Given that 'Mania title matches usually feature performers kicking out of finishers (to show the importance of the event), HHH duly kicked out of Booker's finishers. When Booker got hit with HHH's first finisher, he stayed down, and HHH got the strap. What made this even more galling was that HHH waited twenty seven seconds to make the pin, meaning he not only squashed the underdog, he got a legitimate thirty count against the Booker Man. After that, it was pretty much all over for T, and it wasn't until his "King Booker" gimmick a few years later that he managed to build up the slightest credibility as a main eventer again. Needless to say, there's a reason that HHH's 2002-2004 season is called "The Reign of Terror."
- Played with in Fallout 3 with the Tenpenny Tower quest. Despite having enough money to purchase a room, Roy and his ghouls are denied entry into the complex because they're ghouls. Obviously the underdogs in the affair, helping them gain entry is the morally high option. Come back later and the "underdogs" have killed every human in the tower. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- Parodied in this article in The Onion, which is also a send-up of an entire genre of summer camp movies.
- Cracked.com questioned this trope on one article. Then they mused about a movie about a successful team - specifically, The New York Yankees - and noticed it wouldn't work as well.
- No Black Plume inverts and parodies this trope in this comic.
- Parodied in the South Park episode "Stanley's Cup" in which Stan's ice hockey team is made to look more and more like underdogs as the episode goes on (as well as setting up every other trope that should lead to a dramatic victory). They lose. Badly.
- They even had a straight example for the other team.
- Another time they were trying to get out of little league by losing, but the other teams were better at that, until they rallied Stan's dad to get them disqualified by fighting.
- The 2011 University of Minnesota-Duluth men's hockey team champions played with this. UMD (not to be confused with a school in Maryland) only plays Division I in hockey and Division II for other sports. Their program has enjoyed a quite of bit of success, but being Division II for all other sports, they play in relative obscurity in the U.S. So while they were not exactly underdogs athletics-wise, they were public underdogs in their defeat of the all-Division I University of Michigan in the title game.
- Almost done by the Calgary Flames in the 2004 NHL playoffs. Ranked sixth in their conference (an average team that would barely make the playoffs), the team defeated three division leaders (1st, 2nd, and 3rd ranked teams in the conference) on the way to the Stanley Cup Finals... and were 1 inch  off from winning the Cup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, second in the league.
- The same player, Martin Gelinas, scored every series-winning goal, and nearly did it again in the Stanley Cup final. It was his last year with the Flames.
- A real life subversion occurred in Super Bowl XLIII, in which the Arizona Cardinals led the AFC #2 seeded Pittsburgh Steelers 23-20 in the final minutes of the game. However, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes connected a number of times, most importantly on 3rd Down within their own 20, and of course the game winning touchdown.
- Another real life subversion occurred in the 2008 MLB postseason, as the Worst-to-First Cinderella Story Tampa Bay Rays took on the powerhouse Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, and proceeded to get crushed 4 games to 1. The Phillies got a taste of their own medicine against the Yankees the following World Series.
- Everyone forgets that the Phillies were the underdogs and only made the playoffs due to another NY Mets collapse.
- Bethany Hamilton was a top surfer until a shark decided to have her arm for lunch, but she decided to compete in the 2005 nationals two months later, one arm lighter. She finished 5th.
- However, she did win the 2006 nationals the next year.
- The Venezuelan national football team, a notorious underdog of South American football, finished fourth in the 2011 South American Cup.
- The 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals were underdogs going into the Division Series, where they beat the Phillies, who had the best regular-season record in baseball. The Cardinals had only squeaked into the playoffs thanks to the epic collapse of the Atlanta Braves (see Every Year They Fizzle Out for related entry). When the Cardinals got to the National League Championship Series, it was a toss-up between them and fellow Central Division team/champion Milwaukee Brewers. In the World Series against the Texas Rangers, they were the team who had won it before, but were going against a Rangers team that was in it for the second year in a row, which had stormed through the American League playoffs. Many people considered both teams evenly matched and it took all seven games for the Cardinals to win.
- Danish football (or soccer, whichever is the reader's preferred term) team Randers FC had 8 points (1W/5D/12L) at the winter break of the 09/10 season, and were deemed sure to relegate by everyone (with HB Køge, who had only gained 5 points). 15 matches to go in the spring, Randers gets their shit together and manages to get 32 points (9W/5D/1L) for a total of 40 points. Instead of Randers and Køge getting relegated like everyone expected, Randers' local rivals, AGF, took the ticket to second class football with Køge
- The Axis powers lost World War II. Coincidentally(?), they were the ones with the fewest resources.
- that went to Game 7, where Boston had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the 8th inning before the Yankees tied it and won in the bottom of the 11th on an Aaron Boone walkoff homer
- The perfect season '72 Dolphins had a 14-game regular season
- In game 6, Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin kicked Martin Gelinas's deflection out of the air around the line, and it isn't clear whether or not Gelinas scored. From some camera angles, it appears that he did, and from others, it appears that he didn't.