What happens behind closed doors is supposed to stay behind closed doors.
Unfortunately for the fools we're about to discuss, sometimes it doesn't.
We would be naive to believe that it's all sunshine and rainbows in professional sports locker rooms. Just like any group of people who work closely together for far too many hours in the course of a week, there are bound to be scuffles and disagreements. It's human nature.
It's when the most intense of the scuffles and disagreements get out from behind those sealed doors that we have a problem.
And now that the NFL plans to install cameras in home-team locker rooms beginning in 2013, we're bound to have a lot more stories like these at this time next year.
Who knew that the USC football team was so intent on defending Matt Barkley's honor? And who knew the New York Jets essentially require a course on how to behave like human beings in their own safe haven?
We do, thanks to some very generous leaks.
We begin with a semi-recent development out of Southern California.
The 2012 season was a somewhat trying one for the USC Trojans, who simply aren't used to being bad. They're used to being the top dogs in the Pac-12, and this year—since their quarterback was returning for his senior year and they had poached Silas Redd from Penn State—they expected to be better than ever.
When they weren't, it was clearly a shock to the system. QB Matt Barkley started out the season in stellar fashion, but a Week 3 loss to Stanford was a warning sign, as were two straight midseason losses to Arizona and Oregon. By season's end they were 7-6 and angry—as evidenced by the alleged locker room brawl that took place after USC's loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
According to ESPN.com, the younger players, in a fit of frustration, started trashing Barkley, and the veterans came to his defense. A "chaotic scene" reportedly ensued. Coach Lane Kiffin denied it, but that virtually guarantees it actually happened.
The most embarrassing thing an athlete can do (besides missing a dunk) is to seriously injure himself in a fit of rage. But that didn't stop Yankees hurler Kevin Brown from taking on a wall in 2004.
The starting pitcher—who was 10-4 at this particular point in time and was critical to New York's success in a tight race in the AL East—was so PO'd about a 3-1 loss to Baltimore in September that, after departing the game in the sixth inning, he promptly disappeared into the clubhouse and decided to punch a wall.
He was left with two broken bones in his non-pitching hand, requiring surgery and a pin to repair a fractured wrist.
Brown left the Yankees—then 2 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the East—in the lurch, but in the end, they ended up winning the division. But whether Brown's meltdown indirectly contributed to New York's subsequent collapse at the hands of the Sox in the ALCS will forever remain a mystery.
People are bound to fight in Major League Baseball. These guys spend virtually all of their time together from February through October (if they're lucky), and tempers are certainly expected to flare.
But it's not every day that you hear about a physical altercation between a manager and a pitcher. When you hear that Lou Piniella was the instigator though, it kind of all makes sense.
The notoriously fiery manager reportedly took on relief pitcher Rob Dibble in the clubhouse back in 1992 because, according to a local Cincinnati news station, Dibble insinuated—while surrounded by reporters—that Piniella didn't use him in that night's game because he didn't feel like it, not because there was anything wrong with his pitching shoulder.
Piniella then allegedly called Dibble a liar, and "an angry wrestling match" ensued. The best part was, thanks to some intrepid reporters, it was all caught on camera.
Perhaps this was a warning sign. In 1998, in the aftermath of a game that the Chargers had lost, then-quarterback Leaf was being interviewed by a reporter in front of his locker. Apropos of nothing, Leaf leaped off the bench he was sitting on and began to manically scream, "Knock it off! Don't talk to me!" while the reporter looked on in befuddlement. Leaf then had to be removed from the situation by several teammates.
DeMarcus Cousins is one of those mythical creatures who is — by all indications — insanely talented, but is also someone a lot of GMs won't touch because of potential off-the-court problems.
Like this one.
The embattled Sacramento Kings center was allegedly involved in a locker room scuffle with a cameraman following a despicable loss to Dallas in January 2012. Sacramento Bee writer Jason Jones documented the alleged fight on Twitter (via the Dallas News), claiming that it started when Cousins asked the cameraman not to film him while he dressed. Legit, right?
The cameraman said the camera wasn't on, but Cousins still wasn't comfortable.
The cameraman then verbally-eye-rolled at Cousins, mouthing off a little as he departed. Cousins became suitably enraged, but did not pursue the cameraman further.
I mean, I'd also be upset if I just lost by 33 points and couldn't get dressed in peace.
There were a lot of problems with the pathetic 2011 Red Sox. There was a dearth of leadership, there were personality clashes and beloved manager Terry Francona had, according to popular opinion, lost control of the clubhouse.
Which is why, legend has it, a handful of starting pitchers began a ritual of eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse when they weren't on the mound, rather than sitting in the dugout and actually watching the game like they were supposed to.
The validity of this legend is still questioned, but sources told The Boston Globe's Bob Hohler that the team's leaders—Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey—had a "habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season."
These players still, to this day, have not lived down the chicken and beer thing, mostly due to the fact that the alleged clubhouse C&B parties coincided with Boston's 7-20 September collapse, the worst in the history of baseball.
Damned be he who dares to jeopardize the beloved face of David Beckham.
To be fair, this one was truly an accident. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson didn't mean to break his superstar's face. It just sort of happened.
The irascible manager was especially furious in the aftermath of a 2-0 loss to hated Arsenal in February 2003, and he proceeded into the locker room, where he angrily kicked a soccer boot and sent it flying—straight into Beckham's face. According to the Hurriyet Daily News, it hit Beckham right above his left eye, leaving him with a very obvious cut.
While Ferguson never apologized—at least publicly—he did appear "sheepish" as he addressed the incident with the media, saying, "If I tried it 100 or a million times it couldn't happen again. If it did I would have carried on playing."
A classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was almost as though people were actively seeking issues between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard before the two of them even showed up to preseason last fall. They wanted drama. They wanted the two of them to hate each other. They wanted Kobe to make Superman cry.
According to this report, he almost did. Kind of.
When the Lakers' 2012-13 campaign began with a pitiful whimper rather than a bang, it was an outcome no one expected—especially not the guys in the locker room wearing purple and gold. As such, there was some early tension between the stars. Allegedly.
After the team started out 15-18 and stuff hit the fan, a "feud" developed between Bryant and Howard, according to the New York Daily News. A "league source" indicated that both of them were in a bad mood after a particularly rough loss to the Sixers, and Kobe called Howard soft. The gloves were off after that and "Howard was restrained from going at his teammate."
It's doubtful that they'll be hanging together once Howard's time as a Laker comes to an end.
The New York Jets have had so many behind-the-scenes issues that they deserve their own section. Our first entry comes courtesy of Bart Scott, who allegedly threatened to attack a reporter early last season.
Of course, he used different terms to make his threat.
The last two seasons have not been kind to the Jets, and their ire has not been difficult to detect. But this poor photographer was just trying to do his job—take a picture of Scott—when the linebacker erupted on him. According to the New York Daily News, Scott was talking to an ESPN New York reporter when Dan Leberfeld attempted to snap a picture. Scott asked, "Why are you taking a picture of me?"
Instead of responding, "It's my job," Leberfeld chose to come back with, "Because I want to."
The two then told each other to "get a life" before Scott threatened to "smack the s***" out of our friendly photog. Leberfeld then threatened legal action, but it was Scott who got the last words: "B****-a** motherf*****."
It's not particularly strange that most of the Jets hated Tim Tebow. He's a polarizing personality, a love-him or hate-him kind of guy.
Sadly for him it seems that most of his 2012 teammates fell firmly on the side of hate.
All season long, as the Jets continued to get worse and worse and Mark Sanchez continued to become more and more incompetent, many of us wondered why Tebow wasn't getting a shot under center. Nobody ever acknowledged that there was a reason why Sanchez was still starting and the backup wasn't getting a shot, but nobody seemed to have any legit beef with or about Tebow, either.
That is, until more than a dozen people connected to the team anonymously questioned his skills in a Daily News report. One player even told the paper, "He's terrible." It was a shocking admission for a team that seemed to be in the dark about the fact that there was any problem to begin with—and it's not every day that a bunch of players gang up on one guy and rag on him to reporters.
Media's dream, player's nightmare.
Back to players embarrassing themselves with self-inflicted injuries. It's not every day that you hear about a punter having to miss four weeks after wounding himself with an ax.
There was no reason given as to why Jacksonville Jaguars punter Chris Hanson was swinging an ax at a tree stump in the locker room in 2003 but he was—and managed to hit himself instead of the stump, suffering a "deep gash in his lower right leg," according to the Jacksonville Times-Union. Hanson underwent surgery and was required to keep his foot in a boot for 4-6 weeks.
Strangely, this wasn't even the first freak accident in which Hanson was involved. The Times-Union reports that in 2002, he endured first- and second-degree burns after a fondue pot upended at his residence.
Moral of the story: Leave the ax at home.
While axes aren't exactly welcome additions to the locker room, cows apparently are.
Cows are one of the best animals out there to use when you're trying to pull off an excellent prank. Just ask notorious prankster Ken Griffey Jr., who brought one to the Mariners' locker room in 1995 after losing a bet with manager Lou Piniella. When Griffey failed to hit three home runs on three pitches, he was supposed to buy his manager a steak dinner.
Instead, he brought him the entire cow.
According to The Score, Piniella opened the door to his office one afternoon only to find the ginormous animal waiting for him. See the video above for the full hilarity of Piniella's reaction.
In December 2012, while Louisville was preparing for the Sugar Bowl, news broke that head football coach Charlie Strong allegedly coerced a former player into covering up a beating by a pair of teammates that occurred in his locker room, according to ESPN.com.
The player in question, Patrick Grant, said he was attacked by two of his former teammates in 2010 but was encouraged to lie about it by the team trainer if he ever hoped to play, via ESPN.com. To make matters worse, the suit also alleges that head coach Charlie Strong later revoked Grant's scholarship, since his injuries rendered him unable to play, and "hung up on him when he protested."
What really went on in that locker room? It's hard to say. Strong is still the head coach at Louisville, and the two players who were allegedly involved in the beating were promptly dismissed from the team and later withdrew from the school. But ESPN.com writes that they were never indicted by a grand jury on first-degree assault charges, so the mystery remains.
Establishing yourself as a four-star recruit and getting offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and more is doubtlessly an impressive feat. But breaking your jaw in the midst of a locker room scuffle before you get a chance to make your verbal commitment is not.
Georgia prospect Tyren Jones allegedly broke his jaw during a fight back in February but aside from that there are precious few details regarding what really happened, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. The nation's 11th-ranked running back had to undergo surgery on his jaw, but at least he restrained himself from throwing a punch during the scuffle. That's character.
The worst part of all of this is that it happened just days before he was set to make his commitment announcement. But seeing as his mouth was probably wired shut, he couldn't really be expected to verbally announce much of anything.
Oftentimes, when players on the same team decide to spar with one another in the locker room, other teammates and/or coaches are quick to break things up and send them on their merry way.
But what happens when there's nobody else around except the two people sparring?
In December 2011, just weeks before their TicketCity Bowl showdown, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin decided to take on backup wideout Curtis Drake, and police were called to the scene. The QB had to be taken to the hospital and according to the AP, it's possible that he suffered a seizure and a concussion.
Maybe the two of them were just in a bad mood because they couldn't do any better than the TicketCity Bowl.
Earlier this season, Carmelo Anthony was intent on proving that he could be just as tough off the court as he is on it. He wasn't the kind of guy who ran his mouth and then ran away.
Unfortunately he didn't get a chance to prove it before team officials and authorities stepped in.
Anthony was understandably upset back in December, when Celtics antagonist Kevin Garnett spent most of a matchup against the Knicks chirping inappropriately about Anthony's wife, LaLa, and Honey Nut Cheerios (you make the connection). Therefore, after the game Melo decided to show KG who's boss by reportedly lurking outside the visitor's locker room and the Celtics' bus in the hopes of running into KG and provoking an altercation.
Of course, Anthony had to know that both the locker room and the bus would be surrounded by security and team officials. So maybe he's not so tough after all.
When most professional baseball teams are on the verge of elimination in the playoffs, they spend their pregame time studying pitching charts, taking extra batting practice and perhaps meditating.
The 2004 Red Sox, however, tried something else. And by all indications, it worked.
Unsubstantiated rumors circulated for a long time about the notoriously loose Red Sox kicking off their pregame routine with shots of Jack Daniels, but according to NBC Sports, it actually did happen. Led by first baseman Kevin Millar, the team did shots of whiskey before Game 6 of the ALCS against the hated Yankees—and of course, since they won that one (and Game 7, too), they also took shots before each game of the World Series.
Millar told NBC Sports:
What we had was one small Gatorade cup, with a little Jack Daniel's in it. We passed it around and everyone symbolically drank out of the same cup, because we are a team. It wasn't as if guys were drunk. Can you imagine Trot Nixon or Jason Varitek or Mike Timlin actually sipping alcohol before a game? No way.
Revisionist history? Perhaps. But hey, if it's working, why stop?
Boston University's hockey team took a lot of flak in September 2012 when investigations revealed some rather unorthodox championship celebration activities.
According to The Boston Globe, a lengthy report commissioned by the university revealed a "culture of sexual entitlement," among other things, as it related to the school's stellar hockey team. Via the Globe, the report stated that in addition to "sexual debauchery" and "academic trouble," the players held a raucous celebration after winning the NCAA championship in 2009.
At the team's home rink, there was allegedly a keg in the locker room showers—from which "dozens of guests" drank—and perhaps fueled by liquid courage, they proceeded to strip down before storming the ice to shoot.
And then, of course, there was this infamous quotation, courtesy of one former student: "“It was insane. People were having sex in the penalty box.”
The team managed to keep the party a secret from the police and the administration, according to the Globe, but legendary head coach Jack Parker later acknowledged that he knew about the drinking.
Remember that time when Gilbert Arenas got caught with a bunch of guns in his locker at the Verizon Center? And remember the time he and teammate Javaris Crittenton got in a scuffle about a gambling debt and it ended with the two of them pulling guns on each other—again, at the Verizon Center?
Of course you do. It's probably all you remember about either of them.
Arenas was once a promising player, but all of that potential seemed to evaporate once he admitted around Christmas 2010 to bringing guns to the team facility. Naturally, in the aftermath of the "standoff" with Crittenton, sources claimed that the two of them were just messing around—but most NBA players don't mess around with firearms in the locker room.
Arenas was suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season in the aftermath of the gun fiasco, and his career was never the same. He is now playing professionally in China.
One of the biggest Jets-related stories of the century had nothing to do with football. In fact, it even sparked a nationwide debate on gender equality.
All it took was a few cat calls at a female reporter who had entered the team's locker room in 2010.
Ines Sainz was a reporter for TV Azteca, a Spanish language station, and in town doing a story on Jets QB Mark Sanchez when she encountered some questionable treatment from players in the team's locker room. Allegedly, players threw footballs toward her and at least one "called out to her," sparking a debate about the players' rather inappropriate reaction to having a female reporter in their domain.
In the aftermath, the Jets released a statement that said it would "take any appropriate steps necessary to maintain a respectful environment for the media," according to the Huffington Post—but not everyone was blaming the Jets for the hubbub.
Sainz claimed she was "uncomfortable" with the treatment she received, but ESPN.com's Jemele Hill called a spade a spade when she wrote, "I'm having a hard time feeling sympathetic for someone who at times carries herself in a manner that insults some women in this business. At the Super Bowl XLIII media day, for example, Sainz went around touching players' biceps as part of what she called a 'strongest arm' competition."
Maybe it really wasn't all the Jets' fault. But it's hard to believe that stuff like this was still happening in 2010.