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Marsellus: In the fifth, your ass goes down. Say it.

Butch: In the fifth, my ass goes down.

Taking a dive. Fixing the match. Intentionally losing a sporting event, usually for monetary gain. You coulda been a contender, but you're going down in the fourth round. A nice fun intersection between the world of professional sports and the world of organized crime.

People who take a dive may be doing so entirely for the paycheck, but they also may be getting their arms twisted by the Mob with threats of physical harm, either to themselves or to a loved one. In that case, it's not uncommon to see the athlete back out of the deal, thus making them some powerful enemies (and sometimes not escaping them). In real life, those who get caught doing this can suffer some serious repercussions, most notably during the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

However, this is one trope which is Defied more often than it's played straight. Our hero decides that he's not going to be anyone's Unwitting Pawn any more, that the Only in It For the Money/Money, Dear Boy is no longer worth the loss of dignity. This of course costs a lot of dangerous people a lot of money, which they're not likely to be very happy about.

Examples of Throwing the Fight include:


Anime & Manga

  • During the Chunnin Exams in Naruto, Gaara was threatened requested by Tsuba and Midori of Kusagakure to take a dive in his fight with Sasuke. He refused.
  • Malcolm Gedo from Hajime no Ippo makes it a habit to throw fights, but not without asking his opponents for an substantial fee, which the opponents understandably see as an insult.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, it was revealed that Dragan lost his previous duel with Jack to get money for his injured father. He isn't happy about it, and when he finds out, neither is Jack.
  • The first City Hunter story features a boxer by the name of Inagaki who intimidates his opponents into throwing fights against him, with the ultimate aim of becoming champion. He murdered Shunichi Ogino, his only obstacle to the title match, after his girlfriend Megumi Iwasaki nursed him back to health following a hit-and-run that Inagaki was also behind. He then threatened to murder the daughter of the champion Mita if he didn't throw the fight, but is stopped by Ryo Saeba, who was hired to take out Inagaki by Megumi, and who ultimately kills him with a solid gold bullet fired into his ear canal at the exact moment that Mita's final punch connected.
  • An involuntary variant is part of Ken's backstory in Weiss Kreuz - he was a J-League goalie and was drugged without his knowledge to fix a game, then blamed for throwing it. His efforts at finding out who was responsible ultimately lead him to join Weiss.


Comicbooks

  • This is part of Daredevil's backstory: His father was killed when he refused to take a dive.
    • Marvel villain Boomerang was blacklisted from pro sports for doing this.
  • Two Golden Age Superman stories centered around this trope, though the players weren't the ones cheating. In one, a boxer was drugged by his manager so that he would lose the fight, and in the other, a college football coach was trying to rig the game in favor of the other team.


Films -- Live-Action

  • Daredevil: See comic book entry, above.
  • Eight Men Out: Based on the real life 1919 Black Sox
  • Snake Eyes: Footage shows that one guy faked a knockout
  • On the Waterfront: He coulda been a contender! Instead of a bum! You shoulda been lookin' out for him, Charlie!
  • The Harder They Fall: The whole movie is based around this. Humphrey Bogart is a hype-man for a boxer who can't box, and he convinces people to take the mob money and not fight.
  • Pulp Fiction: Bruce Willis is supposed to take a dive. He agrees to go down in the fifth round (as shown in the page quote), but then turns around and bets on himself, and winds up killing the other boxer during the fight. What follows is the weirdest fucking day of his life. It may be even worse for Marcellus.
  • Snatch, Mickey is told to take the dive, but refuses. Everyone thinks this is just him being deliberately contrary, but it turns out to be a thoroughly-planned revenge plot which includes placing a huge bet on himself.
  • The Longest Yard is a good example.
  • Many of the races are fixed in Speed Racer.
  • An interesting example in Sgt Bilko, Master Sgt. Bilko in an attempt to fix a boxing match convinces one of the boxers to take a dive. Unfortunately, the errand boy gave the money to the wrong boxer, resulting in this boxer deciding to take a dive as well. Care to guess what happens?
  • In Carman the Champion the champ is supposed to take a dive, but he refuses and just fights Carman straight up.
  • Hulk Hogan's character in Mr. Nanny has been blackballed from Professional Wrestling for refusing to throw a match. Yes, he refused to throw a pro wrestling match. Just roll with it.
    • His refusal makes little sense, but his getting blackballed is perfectly logical: Since pro-wrestling is scripted, taking a dive is actually part of it.
  • In City Lights, a gangster makes a deal to throw a boxing match to Charlie Chaplin's character and split the prize money. Unfortunately, he skips town at the last minute, and Chaplin has to fight the replacement for real.
  • In Hot Shots, a guy at a boxing match comments that both fighters are working for the same manager. One of them goes down after a single punch - which rather obviously didn't connect.
  • The Mr T detective series T And T had an episode with a young boxer accused of throwing a fight. Turned out his teeth protector was laced with drugs.
  • The movie Kickboxer ends with Kurt's brother Eric being kidnapped by Freddy Li's men in order to blackmail Kurt into throwing the fight with Tong Po. To save his brother's life, Kurt is instructed to go the distance with Po before losing the match. Kurt takes a hell of a beating, but when his friends get together and rescue Eric, he gains the second wind necessary to finally take Po down.


Literature

  • Discussed at length in Freakonomics: A sumo wrestling tournament is 15 bouts, and a wrestler must win 8 of 15 to avoid demotion in the national rankings. Wrestlers fighting in their final match while having 7 wins (thus needing the last win to avoid demotion) win 80% of the time when fighting opponents who have already got 8, suggesting that the latter athlete (who won't gain anything from going from 8 to 9 victories) is simply throwing the fight to allow the other wrestler to avoid demotion.
  • Interestingly the possible Ur Example is an inversion: in Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest the boxer is perfectly willing to take the dive until the Continental Op blackmails him into winning with some unsavory facts from his past.
  • Robert B. Parker's Hush Money revolves around point-shaving in college basketball.
  • OGPU Prison by Sven Hassel. The ex-con soldiers of the 27 Penal Panzer Regiment arrange for a Germany vs. Russia boxing match. The early fights are rigged so Germany will win, while the main event is rigged for the German to lose so they'll make a killing when everyone bets against the Russian in a patriotic fervor. Unfortunately the two boxers start mauling each other so hard they loose their temper and forget the arrangement (fortunately the Russian wins anyway).
  • In the Warrior Cats novel The Last Hope, the invincible warrior Lionblaze tries to Screw Destiny by losing a fight. It doesn't really work out.


Live-Action TV

  • Done elegantly in Hogan's Heroes. Kinchloe has to throw the fight against Battlin' Bruno so the Germans can save face against the (true) accusation that a black American prisoner can outperform the Luftwaffe champion boxer. However, he also needs to make the fight last long enough for his comrade to sneak into Klink's office while everyone is watching the match and stay upright when Bruno has metal hidden in his gloves. Kinchloe does eventually throw the fight...after knocking Bruno mostly unconscious. It's clear to everyone who the real winner is.
  • In "The Tap Out Job" on Leverage, the team is exposed as conmen and Eliot agrees to take the dive in the upcoming prize fight. (Thanks to some Xanatos Speed Chess, this still works out in the team's favor in the end.)
  • An episode of Due South revolved around the question of whether one of the protagonist's sporting heroes had taken money to throw a hockey match.
  • The original CSI has had several of these.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "The Right Hand of God," Sam leaps into a crooked boxer who is under pressure to throw a match if he loves his kneecaps, but must win instead to earn money for a group of nuns.
    • In "All-Americans," Sam leaps into a high school football player who must stop his best friend from throwing the big game and losing both teens their chances at college scholarships.
  • In one episode of Police Squad!, the crook of the week blackmails a boxer into throwing a title bout. Drebin rescues the hostage before the round in which the boxer is to lose, inspiring him to win the fight.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the short film "Cheating", there's a very brief quip where Tom Servo accuses Johnny of shaving points during football games. (This fits with the overall theme of Mike's and the bots' quipping that cheating is Serious Business, and therefore Johnny must be Pure Evil because he cheated.)
  • Subverted in S3E10 of In the Heat of the Night, "King's Ransom". Ex-boxer Conrad "King" Baylor told some friends a story: Mobsters approached him the night of a fight, and offered him $10,000(it might've been less, I'm editing this from memory) to throw his match, giving him half of the money up front. He took the money, then bet it on himself, intending to go out there and screw over the mobsters. Unfortunately, his opposition was a little better than he thought, and he wound up losing. The mobsters met him post-fight, gave him the other $5,000, along with another $5,000 "for making the fight look interesting".
  • Actually a common strategy in reality game shows. In order to play dumb, they throw challenges so they look like poor competitors so the other players don't target them as a threat.


Professional Wrestling

  • Professional Wrestling is based on this, the only exceptions being things like the Montreal Screwjob and a few matches in the old days that degenerated into full-on "shoots".


Radio

  • Milton Jones is paid to throw a boxing match on the "Jockey" episode of Another Case; unfortunately he has put his lucky anvil in his boxing gloves and wins with one punch.


Videogames

  • In Blaz Blue, to get all the different endings for the characters in Story mode, you actually have to purposely throw important fights to trigger the different cutscenes and alternate endings. Winning every fight in a particular story usually only unlocks about 50% of the story possibilities for that character!
    • In its spiritual predecessor, Guilty Gear, a number of characters (Jam most notably) had to throw fights to get different routes in Story mode. This made getting Dizzy's third ending in XX an absolute chore, since she had to defeat Boss I-No on one try (if she lost, she got a different ending).
  • This is pretty much half the point of PSP game The Con. If the odds are heavily stacked that your opponent is going to lose the next round against you, it may actually be more profitable to bet against yourself and let the guy kick your ass. The catch is that you actually have to look like you're trying to fight by doing minimal damage, or they get start to get wise to your... well, con.
  • In Breath of Fire 3's Inevitable Tournament, one of your opponents (a magician who's about to face you in an arena where magic is sealed) tries to guilt trip your team into throwing the fight, so he can claim the prize money and get a cure for his deathly sick daughter. Sadly, since one of the player character's allies is being held hostage, your team is unable to oblige. Turns out it's a sham; his daughter wasn't really sick at all, of course.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony, Luis is told to take a dive in an underground fight club in order to pay off a debt his mother owes. If you take this option, your mother berates you for being a loser even though you did it to protect her and the only reason she's in debt is that she borrows from a local thug and won't accept your money.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours. Talk to the bouncer at the club. You'll learn he's working off a debt. He didn't refuse to throw a fight, he just forgot which fight he was supposed to throw. Perils of taking blows to the head...
  • In LA Noire, one of the cases is a boxer who (like the Pulp Fiction example) bets on himself and refuses to throw a fight.


Web Originals


Western Animation


Real Life

  • The most famous example is the 1919 Black Sox scandal, where eight members of the Chicago White Sox were paid to lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, and were subsequently banned from baseball two years later.
    • So pervasive was sports gambling in the 1910s (a number of players, such as Hal Chase, were suspected of routinely throwing games to supplement their income) that the 1919 World Series nearly became one that players on both sides tried to sabotage. A gambling syndicate offered Cincinnati pitcher Hod Eller $5,000 to take a dive, but instead he threatened to break the legs of the runner making the offer. Years later, Eller's teammate Edd Roush, the Reds' best hitter, claimed that during one World Series game, a teammate ahead of him on the basepaths slowed down suspiciously until Roush yelled "Get running, you crooked son of a bitch!!"
  • A lesser but related scam is point-shaving, which has been caught a few times over the years in college basketball. A player who knows the betting spread deliberately misses shots near the end of a game so that his team will win but not beat the spread.
    • The NBA a few years back had a betting scandal along similar lines instigated by former referee Tim Donaghy, where he would call the games in such a way so that he looks fair with the calls but the scores are higher than they otherwise would be (i.e., 110-100 rather than 96-86). He would bet on the "over" of the over/under (you bet "over" if you think the sum of the two teams' scores will be greater than the given line, say 200.5, and under if you think the sum will be less) for the game prior to tip-off.
  • Similar to match throwing is tanking, where a team may deliberately not win games for some advantage other than direct monetary gain.
    • YMMV though since tanking is also an effective tactic to prepare for the future, just look at the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 2000s, they tanked and looked what that got them. A new arena, a Stanley Cup, and a couple of the best players in the world. What is so immoral about that?
    • For bad teams in a given year, there is an existing incentive to tank in North American sports (especially if there is a really good player that will enter the league next season) since teams which perform poorly are generally awarded high draft picks. Accusations in hockey include the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1983-84 (to secure the first pick over the New Jersey Devils and get Mario Lemieux) and the Ottawa Senators in 1992-93 (for Alexandre Daigle).
    • The poor play of the Houston Rockets basketball team in 1982-83, which enabled it to choose Ralph Sampson first in the following year's NBA draft, drew enough suspicion to be parodied in the newspaper comic Tank Mc Namara (one strip showed a fan holding a sign that read "We're No. 26!"). For this reason, the NBA and later the NHL have instituted lotteries whereby teams at the bottom are not guaranteed the first pick in the following year's draft. However, the odds are still heavily weighted towards the worst teams, and in any case teams are still sometimes accused of "playing for ping-pong balls."
      • This doesn't appear to be such a problem in Major League Baseball (possibly because the vast majority of those drafted go through several years in the minors first and many first-rounders don't ever make it to the bigs) or the National Football League (possibly due to their large roster size and subsequent specialization of positions, meaning teams will have specific needs in a given year where a few slots in the draft board isn't something some savvy trades couldn't rectify[1]), neither of which do lotteries.
    • There were also accusations of NFL teams intentionally doing bad in their final weeks of the season in order to gain an easier schedule next year. This was more prominent before 2002, when NFL divisions had five or six teams and more games on a team's schedule were determined by how well they did the previous season; nowadays only two games out of sixteen are determined by how well a team did, not much of an incentive and most likely not worth the rage the team's fans would have for shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars to watch crap.
  • Even better teams may sometimes have an incentive to not go all-out to win:
    • The 2006 Los Angeles Clippers allegedly tanked to get the sixth seed (of eight) in the NBA Western Conference in order to both avoid the Dallas Mavericks in the first round (who had the better record that year and thus would have had home-court advantage) and delay facing the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers until the third round of the playoffs (since the NBA Playoffs is a straight-up bracket). In addition, finishing sixth meant they faced the Denver Nuggets, who were only the third seed by virtue of winning their division: the Clippers actually had a better record, which meant they got home-court advantage. The NBA changed the rules following the season to prevent that occurring again.
      • This isn't even limited to North America: Sweden's ice hockey team allegedly lost on purpose to Slovakia in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics in order to avoid both the Czech Republic and Canada (both powerhouses) in the opening knockout rounds. (There was even a Swedish 5-on-3 power play where five NHL stars were on the ice and none of them took a shot.) They faced Switzerland instead, and later went on to win the gold.
    • Other times, teams might tank in order to stop someone else from getting into the playoffs: In 1988, the San Francisco 49ers lost their final game of the regular season to the Los Angeles Rams, which prevented the New York Giants (who had beaten them a couple of times in previous years) from getting in the playoffs. Phil Simms was not happy.
    • Sometimes teams play to a specific score which benefits both sides: take the 1982 World Cup match between West Germany and Austria, the last game in Group B. Due to tiebreaker rules at the time, a 1-0 or 2-0 West German win would have seen both teams through to the elimination rounds. Any greater margin and Austria was done, and a tie or Austrian win would have knocked off West Germany; in either case Algeria would have gone through instead. West Germany scored in the first ten minutes of the game, and the remaining eighty was just them kicking the ball around for no reason. Algerians weren't the only ones pissed: a West German fan burned his own flag in protest, and both German and Austrian commentators were disgusted. Since this result happened because Algeria had finished its matches the previous day (and thus everyone had time to figure out what score would lead to what outcome), FIFA has scheduled the final games of each group at the same time so that acting with such foreknowledge couldn't happen again.
      • There was a similar event in the end of season play-offs in the English football league in 1898, when Stoke and Burnley both needed a draw (or better) in their final match. It finished 0-0, with neither side even pretending to try to score.
    • A strange version of this occurred in the Caribbean Cup in 1994 due to the strange rule that a win in extra time was considered a two-goal win. Barbados had to beat Grenada by two goals in order to progress. At the 83rd minute, Grenada managed to score a goal, making the score 2-1 in favor of Barbados. Figuring that seven minutes was too little time to try to score on Grenada, Barbados instead scored on themselves to tie the game at 2-2 and force extra time, where they would have thirty minutes to try to score on Grenada properly and earn the necessary two-goal win. Grenada realized what they were doing and tried to score an O.G. of their own, resulting in the last few minutes of normal time becoming a spectacle where Grenada tries to score in either goal while Barbados were defending them both! Barbados would eventually win in extra time.
    • Another infamous soccer version can be found in the 1998 Tiger Cup (former name of the soccer competition of Southeast Asia). Thailand and Indonesia were in the same group and came into the final game of the group stage where both nations were guaranteed going into the knockout stage. Whoever topped the group would face Singapore while the runners-up would face the hosts Vietnam. Both teams thought that Vietnam will be the tougher opposition so they played rather half-heartedly, neither wanting to win. Amazingly, both teams managed to score twice and it was 2-2 as the game was beginning to end. At the last minute, Mursyid Effendi, an Indonesian player scored a deliberate own goal. Thus Thailand won 3-2 and went on to top the group. Of course, the whole thing was rendered moot since both teams lost to their respective opponents in the knockout stage. While Singapore, the "cupcake" team, went on to win the whole thing.
    • In the NFL, teams that have already earned playoff spots going into the final week(s) of the regular season often sit their star players - the Indianapolis Colts are known for doing this, among others. In such cases, it's usually because winning another game doesn't earn them anything (i.e., they've already won their division or the top seed and can't finish any better) but actually trying could get their star players injured and totally screw up their playoff run. This can lead to cases where Team A could lose to Team B, who's trying to get in the playoffs...and face Team A, who's now rested and has seen up close how Team B plays - see 2004, Colts versus Broncos. In an effort to prevent meaningless Week 17 games, the NFL's schedule for 2010 has all division games in the final week, where teams will presumably be motivated by rivalry to play hard.
      • Of course, such shenanigans don't always work. In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals faced the New York Jets at home in the final week of the season. Cincinnati had already locked up its best possible playoff seeding, but New York needed to win to get into the playoffs. Since New York would play at Cincinnati the next week if they entered the playoffs (their game was the Sunday night game and the last scheduled game of the regular season), Cincinnati played with minimal effort to avoid risking their players to injury or tipping off any of their plays. New York won, made the playoffs, and then beat the Bengals in the playoffs the next week. The football gods chortled.
    • When it comes to international competition, politics may enter the picture. In the second round of the 1978 FIFA World Cup, Argentina (who was host and had just undergone a coup de'tat two years before that put a military dictatorship that started Argentina's "Dirty War") needed to beat Peru by four goals in order to beat out Brazil by goal differential and make it to the final. The task was already daunting for the top level of play, compounded by the fact that Argentina had only scored a total of six goals in the first five games while Peru allowed a total of six goals in five games. Argentina won their match 6-0, prompting accusations of shenanigans(i.e., that the Peruvian goalie was born in Argentina, that Peru was dependent on grain sales from Argentina, etc.) though nothing was ever proven.
  • Recently, there was a scandal in the Korean Starcraft leagues where a number of players, including Savior who had previously dominated the scene, were found to have deliberately lost matches for money.

Notes

  1. and that's assuming, if you're going for something like the number one pick, you'd be willing to shell out the eight-figure contracts for a player that may or may not pan out
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