College Basketball
Surrender cobras, tears and more: A look back at viral sad sports fans
College Basketball

Surrender cobras, tears and more: A look back at viral sad sports fans

Updated Jun. 7, 2023 7:48 p.m. ET

They make an appearance — often just for a brief moment — at every major sporting event in the Internet age: the dejected fans in the stands who then go viral on social media, where they live on forever.

The latest sad viral fan emerged during the Miami Heat's fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, when none other than Hall of Famer and former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis was caught on camera looking dissappointed while Heat fans celebrated around him

Just days before, cameras caught sports personality Bill Simmons looking similarly dejected as the Heat blew out the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to advance to face the Nuggets.

Davis and Simmons might be a higher-profile name than most (but not all) spectators caught on camera going through the agony of fandom, but he is far from alone. 


In honor of the latest in a long line of dejected sports fans to make the rounds on social media, let's take a look back at some of the most iconic sad fans.

Deep in the heartbreak of Texas

Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere were in disbelief of how their wild-card round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers in January 2022. And for good reason, as time ran out before Dak Prescott could spike the ball and attempt one last pass toward the end zone to erase a six-point deficit.

But even before then, this fan had already given up hope with over four minutes left the game. Turns, out, the pessimism of the fan — later identified as Dallas-area resident and lifelong Cowboys devotee Emily Bailey — was proven right. 

Michigan fan's surrender cobra

The origins of the "Surrender Cobra" — the hands-clasped-behind-the-head pose that fans often strike in the midst of sports heartbreak — might be unclear. But this Michigan football fan, stunned in disbelief after Michigan State returned a punt for a game-winning touchdown in Ann Arbor with time running out, certainly helped popularize the term.

The legend of Chris Baldwin, the shocked fan in question, only grew from there. Later that season, Ohio State put his image on a jumbotron to cheers from Buckeyes fans, some of whom even made a shirt commemorating the image. During the 2020 season, the Michigan athletics department itself even brought back the image as one of the cardboard cutouts taking the place of fans while COVID-19 pandemic capacity restrictions remained in place.

That wasn't even the last heartbreaking sports moment Baldwin would experience that year. In December, Baldwin was in attendance at Ford Field when Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary as time expired lifted the Green Bay Packers over Baldwin's Detroit Lions.

Crying 'Cat

Like Terrell Davis, this dejected viral basketball fan had his own claim to fame — but not one many realized at the time. The boy wailing as eventual national runner-up Gonzaga sealed a close second-round win over Northwestern is none other than John Phillips, the son of then-Northwestern athletic director (and now ACC commissioner) Jim Phillips.

He's also now a college student at Harvard, in case you want to feel old.

Playing through the pain

Few have ever caught the Internet by storm like Roxanne Chalifoux, who kept playing her piccolo through tears as part of Villanova's band after her Wildcats suffered an upset loss in the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. She even got her own bobblehead.

Villanova then went on to win two of the next three national championships, and Chalifoux is now an eye doctor in Virginia, so it appears everyone had a happy ending here. 

Plenty more sports fans have gone viral for their misery, from the dejected young Oklahoma football fan in 2006 to the crying Utah State cheerleader during her team's loss to Missouri in the first round of this year's NCAA tournament. And from Virginia's slumped fan to this Kansas fan's hilariously blunt sign to the Washington State "Popcorn Guy," to the rest of the country, there will be plenty more to come.

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