Crio’s Question: Confounded Sporting Expectations

To go down “like a lead balloon” is vernacular for an underwhelming performance…deflating.*

What should have been a fairytale moment for Sam Stosur seemed very quickly to become a “given” – an expectation that she, on Australia’s behalf, would win. The loss was greeted with incredulity. What in previews would have been gauged a triumph instead became a “letdown”.

And the achievement of the victor was totally lost in the hysteria over the vanquished.

It happens regularly. Many will remember the massive build up to the Australian Cup clash between Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star. Dandy Andy’s betrayal of the publicist’s dream seemed unfathomable and a classic battler’s tale was largely ignored.

Saturday, 18 September 1999 is a particularly infamous day for Victorians to recall when losers seemed more significant than victors!

The emotional tidal wave is hard to resist.

What other winners have been neglected by a focus on their bested?

*The most celebrated use of the term is the part played in the naming of the English heavy-metal band Led Zeppelin. The story goes that Jimmy Page had completed a Scandinavian tour with the New Yardbirds – an impromptu band that was formed from the popular rapidly disintegrating Yardbirds. Keith Moon is reputed to have said the new band would go down like a lead balloon – some reports say go over like a lead balloon (or zeppelin). Moon is said to have borrowed the term from John Entwistle, who had previously used it to describe bad gigs. Moon and Entwistle, both being English, would have been more likely to have used the English ‘go down’ version. The details of this are difficult to verify as the anecdotal comment wasn’t recorded or put into print at the time and as Moon and Entwistle are deceased. Jimmy Page has confirmed the essence of the story in several subsequent interviews (although, as we all know, ‘If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.’). (thx Wikipedia)


  1. Sam Stosur was doomed from the moment the Saturday Herald Sun editorial team decided to splurge Sam across the front page (Grand Sam!), the middle pages (plural) and the front cover of the sports liftout.

  2. True Tony, though her hopes were certainly revived when I decided that her odds were ridiculously short and hence worth the lay on Betfair (I’d lost again at Flemington).I should have snapped the juicies on the Italian (does she have a name yet in our media?) winning in straight sets.

  3. John Butler says


    I remember a worse reaction when Pat Rafter lost to Goran at Wimbledon.

    It’s not like we’re parochial or anything.

  4. John,
    As a Bluebagger, you’ll well remember the response to Essendon’s dramatic Prelim loss in 1999?

  5. John Butler says


    As you correctly identify, 18/9/99 was a day when all sorts of expectations were upset in the most wonderful way.

    Though I’ve not met many Bomber fans who share quite the same sentiment. :)

    I know a couple who still develop a nervous twitch at the mention of it.

  6. Andrew Pollock knocked off Neil King in the Stawell Gift final in 1976. King went in as the hottest favourite in living memory and Pollock ran him down. But the media even to this day is more about King losing than Pollock winning.

  7. Chalkdog says

    18 September 1999 was the day the current Hawthorn President lost the unloseable! Can still see the very unready winner giving his victory speech in front of a sheet of plastic that struggled to hide the honour board at his local swimming club. And the much disliked Bombres getting done in a similar manner earlier that day. Epic……

Leave a Comment