In the world of sport, sometimes athletes let their emotions get the best of them. When this happens, it can produce some shocking, violent, or even hilarious results. Athletes are a volatile bunch, so I’m sure there are many meltdowns we’ve forgotten, but here are 12 of the craziest we’ve found:
12. Atlanta Braves vs. San Diego Padres (MLB) – 12 August, 1984
The Padres and the Braves played a game that wasn’t known as much for one specific incident as much as many small ones. Alan Wiggans was hit by the first pitch of the game by pitcher Pascual Perez. When Perez batted in the 2nd inning, the benches cleared, and it was on. Benches also emptied in the 5th, 8th, and 9th innings, and a total of 14 players were ejected between both teams. It’s surprising that there were still enough to finish the game.
11. Tie Domi – Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) – 2001
One of the all-time bad boys in ice hockey, Tie Domi’s was known for being a tough guy. We couldn’t have enough space on this page to fill with all of the fights he’s had, but one stands out from all the others. After being sentenced to time in the penalty box, Domi sprayed a heckler with his water bottle. The heckler decided to climb the glass and continue to taunt Domi, when the glass gave out and he fell into the penalty box. Already unhappy with the fan, Domi pinned him down and started punching him.
10. Didier Drogba – Chelsea vs. Barcelona (UEFA Champions League Semi-finals) – 6 May 2009
In the disgraces to end all disgraces, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba’s outburst didn’t happen while the clock was running but after the final whistle had gone. After Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta scored an equaliser in stoppage time to give his team a crucial away goal victory, Chelsea’s Drogba pleaded with referee Tom Henning Øvrebø to no avail, earning him a yellow card. It wasn’t over there, as a television camera took the brunt of his outburst from there, serving as the perfect audience for Drogba to let the viewers know what kind of a “f***ing disgrace” had been done against him. Apparently, someone at UEFA was watching, as he was handed a 2 match ban, which Chelsea later appealed to cut down to just 1.
9. Ty Cobb – Detroit Tigers vs. New York Highlanders (MLB) – 15 May 1912
Baseball legend Ty Cobb might be one of the best hitters to ever to live, but he was never known for being very sociable. So in 1912, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when a fan named Claude Lueker exchanged some harsh words with Cobb during a game in New York. Lueker crossed a line with Cobb when he allegedly called him a “n***** lover”, and after the 6th inning, Cobb went into the stands to settle the score. What he didn’t know was the Lueker was handicapped, as he had lost his hands in an industrial accident. Cobb was suspended by the league.
8. Jose Offerman – Long Island Ducks vs. Bridgeport Bluefish (Atlantic League (baseball)) – 14 August 2007
Once a solid major league infielder, Offerman was at the end of the road when he started having trouble controlling his temper. After a 15 year major league career, he was playing in the independent leagues, for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, when he was hit by a pitch by Bridgeport pitcher Matt Beech. He lost control of his temper and charged the mound, which is a common reaction, but made the genius decision to bring the bat with him. Beech suffered a broken finger in the brawl, and catcher John Nathans got hit in the back of the head and suffered a concussion. I’d like to say that’s the end of this story, but in January of 2010, as a manager in the Dominican Winter League, Offerman hit an umpire after a player of his was ejected, and is no longer able to manager in the DWL.
7. Khalid Askri – FAR Rabat vs. FAC Kenitra (Morocco) – 25 September 2010
It’s been a rough year for FAR Rabat keeper Khalid Askri. After a gaffe that cost his team an important cup match (when a shot he saved in a penalty shootout spun in while he was celebrating), Askri committed another major error, when he was dribbling away from a KAC Kenitra forward, the opposing player stole the ball from him and scored an easy goal. This blunder proved to be overwhelming, and Askri suffered a complete meltdown on the pitch, walked off the field, and effectively subbed himself from the game.
6. Kermit Washington – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets (NBA) – 9 December 1977
The details of what happened on December 9th, 1977 aren’t exactly clear, but what we do know is that a fight escalated between the Lakers’ Kermit Washington and the Rockets’ Kevin Kunnert. During the fight, Rockets’ forward Rudy Tomjanovich ran out on the floor, and Washington punched him square in the face. As a result of the incident, Tomjanovich suffered a broken jaw and face and his injuries kept him off the court for 5 months. He was never the same. An entire book was eventually written about this fight and its aftermath.
5. Izzy Alcantara – Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons (AAA baseball) – 3 July 2001
Another “hit by pitch, charge the mound” story, but the Pawtucket minor league baseball player had business to take care of first. Before charging the mound, Alcantara went for the opponent closest to him at the time, catcher Jeremy Salazar, kicking him in the catcher’s mask with his spike before an unsuccessful trip to the mound.
4. Zinedine Zidane – France vs. Italy (2006 FIFA World Cup Final) – 9 July 2006
Certainly the most high-profile event on this list, this gaffe also ranks as one of the most costly as well. After he was taunted by Italy defender Marco Materazzi (something about his sister, allegedly), Zidane lashed back, stopping in his tracks and headbutting Materazzi, earning him a red card. France, of course, lost on penalties, and Zidane was sent off in his final match. It’s a shame that even though Zidane had many brilliant moments in his career, he’ll be remembered by many sports fans for this gaffe (and the countless internet parodies it inspired) more than anything else.
3. Albert Haynesworth – Tennessee Titans vs. Dallas Cowboys (NFL) – 1 October 2006
After Dallas running back Julius Jones scored on a rushing play, offensive lineman Andre Gurode fell to the ground. Presumably unhappy at the result of the play, Haynesworth pulled Gurode’s helmet off and tried to stomp on his unprotected head. He missed on the first attempt, but didn’t on the second, catching Gurode’s forehead with his cleat just above his right eye. Haynesworth cost his team a 15-yard penalty after the play and was suspended for 5 games without pay, costing himself almost $200,000 in salary. Gurode received 30 stitches in his head.
2. Eric Cantona – Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace (Premier League) – 25 January 1995
In January of 1995, Cantona was with Manchester United playing a match at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. He was sent off for a kick on Palace defender Richard Shaw, and was none too happy about it. On his way into the tunnel, he unleashed a kung fu kick into the Palace home support, striking Eagles fan Matthew Simmons. A major brawl broke out, and Cantona was suspended for the rest of the season.
1. Ron Artest – Indiana Pacers vs. Detroit Pistons (NBA) – 19 November 2004
The Pacers and the Pistons had their fair share of bust-ups coming into the 2004 season, but on November 19th at the Palace of Auburn Hills, things reached a boiling point. With less than a minute left in the game, Ron Artest committed a hard foul against the Pistons’ Ben Wallace. The altercation escalated from there, and Artest countered by laying on the scorer’s table next to the court. It only got worse from there, as a spectator threw his drink onto Artest, and that’s when he snapped. Artest rushed into the stands to find the fan that threw the drink, and punched the guy he thought was responsible (as it turned out, he wasn’t). Fellow Pacer Stephen Jackson came into support of his teammate, and began swinging at fans, and when fans spilled onto the court, Artest ended up punching one and teammate Jermaine O’Neal punched another. The impact here was massive, as a total of 10 players in trouble with the police, and 5 Pacers and 4 Pistons receiving suspensions. As the main instigator of the brawl, Artest was suspended the remainder of the season, and his teammates Jackson and O’Neal were suspended for 30 and 15 games respectively. This put a damper on the Pacers’ playoff chances, as they were a talented team expected to contend for a title.