Sports' top 10 blowups
Kevin Hench / FOXSports.com
Posted: 27 minutes ago
Occasionally sports do indeed bring out the best in men.
Young amateur Francis Ouimet slays professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff to win the U.S. Open in 1913. A team of American college kids beats the Soviets to win hockey gold in 1980. Still grieving from his mother's death, Buster Douglas has the fight of his life and knocks out Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight title in 1990.
But more often, the intense pursuit of perfection and victory on the public stage brings out the worst in men. The history of sports is riddled with unconscionable behavior, complete breakdowns of social norms and civil order. Blowups, meltdowns and tantrums are as much a part of the sports landscape as touchdowns, home runs and slam dunks.
So what are the 10 biggest, baddest and most irrational blowups in sports history? Well, any Top 10 should come with a "non-soccer" caveat because otherwise futbol fracases would comprise the entire list.
BEST DAMN'S BIGGEST BLOWUPS
Sports cannot be played at the highest levels without passion, but sometimes that emotion spills over to the dark side.
In 1995, Manchester United's Eric Cantona literally became a striker when he leapt a barricade to deliver a karate kick to a heckling fan. Last year, Newcastle teammates Lee Bowyer and Keiron Dyer got into a fistfight with each other while the game was still going on. In 1985 at the European Cup Final in Brussels, 39 Juventus fans were crushed to death when a wall collapsed as they tried to escape a surging throng of Liverpool hooligans. In 1964 during an Olympic qualifier in Lima, Peru, over 300 fans were killed when a riot ensued after the referee disallowed a Peru goal in the final minutes that would have tied it.
Kind of makes Ron Artest seem not so bad, eh?
So discounting soccer in its entirety, here are 10 of sports' most memorable meltdowns.
10. George Brett loses it, gets it back
He may have seemed cool and calm, but there must have been a moment when umpire Tim McClelland thought he might be killed as Brett bolted from the dugout after McClelland called him out in the infamous pine tar incident at Yankee Stadium.
Blowing gaskets and shearing lug nuts, Brett came at the 6-foot-7 ump with a look that made Charles Manson look sane. Somehow Brett was restrained, order restored and the home run he had hit off Goose Goosage was eventually allowed to stand after the commissioner's office got involved.
This was the very definition of snapping. You've homered off one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, circled the bases and returned to the dugout, where you are happily receiving the congratulations of your teammates ... when ... the authorities regret to inform you that due to an obscure rule, you are, in fact, out. Snap. AAAAAAAGH!
9. Tom Lasorda on Dave Kingman
Sometimes the powder is packed in the keg, the fuse is very short and the flame comes in the form of the wrong question. In this case, the question was "What's your opinion of Kingman's performance?"
Boom. Lasorda blew up.
We've all heard of a profanity-laced tirade. Lasorda's explosion following the question — Kingman had just homered three times against the Dodgers — was more preposition-laced profanity.
It was a kind of shock and awe use of F-bombs. (Since this is a family website we can't link to the audio file, but it's out there. And it is amazing. Better, for my money, than Lee Elia's indictment of Cubs fans.)
8. John Chaney, man of a thousand faces (all angry)
Intercollegiate athletics are all about molding young lives. Coaches are teachers who must lead by example. Sometimes the examples they provide are examples of what not to do.
Like when Temple basketball coach John Chaney interrupted then-Massachusetts coach John Calipari's postgame press conference with a top-of-his-lungs death threat, screaming "I'll kill you" at the confused Calipari. The scariest part was that a vein-popping Chaney looked like he was quite serious as security pulled him away.
Good thing Chaney didn't have Nehemiah Ingram on the roster in 1994 or Coach Calipari might have been in some trouble. Chaney sent Ingram into a game against St. Joseph's last year to rough up the Hawks. Ingram did his bidding, breaking the arm of St. Joe's forward John Bryant's when he knocked him to the floor. Ah, educators.
7. Ron Hextall, masked assailant
There have certainly been more violent episodes in hockey perpetrated by goons and cheap-shot artists — Marty McSorley and Dale Hunter come to mind — but in terms of a player just completely losing it, I'll vote for a goalie attacking a Hall of Fame defenseman.
Just two years after earning an eight-game suspension for his vicious slash of Kent Nilsson in the 1987 Cup Finals, Hextall was between the pipes as the Flyers were about to be eliminated from the '89 playoffs by the Canadiens. Trailing by two goals with 1:37 remaining in Game 6 of the conference finals, Hextall decided he needed to play enforcer for the team once known as the Broad St. Bullies.
In the opening game of the series, Chelios had elbowed Philly's Brian Propp and driven him into a metal partition along the wall, knocking him unconscious. With the series lost, Hextall took matters into his own hands, skating into the corner and clobbering an unsuspecting Chelios over the head with his blocker. The melee didn't produce the serious injuries of past goon-on-goon NHL violence, but it was unique in that it was triggered by a goalie. Hextall was suspended for the first 12 games of the following season.
Perhaps the best element of this blowup was that it shamed the rest of the Flyers. Imagine a goalie having to take it upon himself to avenge the dastardly deed of the opposition's chippiest player.
6. Hal McRae vs. the office
Baseball's long season has a way of burning out every manager's fuse at some point. What happens when the explosives ignite is what separates a routine meltdown from a Top 10 meltdown. When then-Royals skipper Hal McRae snapped after a tough loss and began destroying the manager's office it became an all-time nominee. But it was when the phone he threw drew blood from a reporter's coconut that the meltdown was cemented on the all-time list.
It's amazing that the blowup that defined McRae's tenure as Kansas City manager isn't a weekly occurrence for the poor skippers at the helm of the Royals. I mean, Buddy Bell just watched his setup man Andy Sisco blow a three-run lead against the Yankees in the blink of an eye as the 6-foot-10 lefty's ERA went from a horrendous 10.13 to an ungodly 21.00. This is the stuff that leads to the destruction of desk supplies in the manager's office.
5. Carlos Perez vs. the water cooler
In the long, glorious history of pitchers losing it in the dugout after they've lost it on the mound, no meltdown has had quite the sustained violence of Dodgers pitcher Carlos Perez's attack on the watercooler in 1999.
It couldn't match, say, John Tudor, Kevin Brown or Julian Tavarez — all of whom injured themselves punching something — for sheer idiocy, but Perez's assault was sublime in other ways. He took 14 vicious swings at the cooler and his fury seemed to perfectly match the contempt that Dodger fans were feeling toward him after he walked the bases loaded (including a walk to Pirates pitcher Francisco Cordova) and was yanked by Davey Johnson.
For the season, opposing hitters hit Perez like he hit the water jug. The loopy lefty finished the '99 season 2-10 with a 7.43 ERA.
4. Buddy Ryan slugs Kevin Gilbride
The best part of this sideline blowup between assistant coaches is that the Oilers won the game, 24-0.
Ryan, the architect of the 46 defense in Chicago, was no fan of the run-and-shoot offense in Houston and made his feelings about the offense and its coordinator well known. When the Oilers turned the ball over in their own territory late in the first half on what Ryan considered an idiotic play call, he let Gilbride know how he felt. With his fist.
Two weeks later, Ryan's defense gave up four second-half touchdowns to Joe Montana and the Chiefs as the Oilers made a first-round exit from the playoffs. Gilbride, by all accounts, did not storm down the sideline to punch Ryan in the face for his poor defensive scheme.
3. Lou Piniella vs. Rob Dibble
Sweet Lou calling out Dibble and then grappling with him in the Cincinnati locker room has many of the key components of an all-time meltdown all rolled into one.
First, it's completely irrational. Dibble was bigger, stronger, crazier, meaner and 20 years younger than Piniella. Send him to the minors. Fine him. Suspend him. But attack him? Pure lunacy.
Second, it's an entirely public spectacle. When a guy truly snaps, he doesn't care who sees it. He's beyond embarrassment.
Third, if the scrap goes really well for Piniella, he stands a good chance of injuring one of his key players. That's the beauty of melting down, you're not exactly thinking the situation through.
Poor Dibble was put in a lose-lose spot and had to be caught off guard by someone acting crazier than him.
2. Woody Hayes goes out in style
What tops a coach threatening an opposing coach, a coach hitting a fellow assistant and a coach attacking his own player? Well, there's just something extra nutty about a coach attacking an opposing player.
Yes, it's easy to get a lump in your throat when the long, glorious career of a venerable coach comes to an end. Especially if said coach punches you in the throat.
On Dec. 29, 1978, Ohio State's fate in the Gator Bowl was sealed when Art Schlicter was picked off by Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman. Bauman made the mistake of returning the interception to the Buckeye sideline, where Hayes was in full meltdown. Not only did Hayes slug Bauman, but he also hit one of his own players who tried to restrain him. Ah, once again, a college coach leading by example.
1. The Malice in the Palace
Like the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" — the one on Lexington Green, not the Polo Grounds — that started the American Revolution, the Malice in the Palace was triggered by the beverage heard round the world.
After his absurd and unnecessary hard foul on Ben Wallace prompted a retaliation from the Detroit center, order looked to be restored as Artest stretched out on the scorer's table. But when a fan tossed a half-full cup at Artest, the glass-half-empty All-Star sprang into action. Soon all hell had broken loose as the Pacers tried to out-crazy each other. Artest set the bar by sprinting into the stands and attacking the wrong guy.
Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal tried to match their nutty teammate blow for blow, unloading fists of fury at menacing and non-menacing Pistons fans alike. And though he didn't get deep into the mess, Jamal Tinsley did manage to find a long-handled metal dust pan, which he began wielding over his head like a weapon.
The melee made the dust-up at Madison Square Garden 25 years earlier between Rangers fans and Bruins players seem quaint by comparison.