Caution: These Athletes Bite
The world is an ugly and dirty place. It always has been, and it's tough to imagine those fundamental truths will ever change—certainly not in our lifetimes. And honestly, that could be the understatement of the century.
Sometimes less than hours pass in between devastating headlines dominating the news. We're talking wars, genocide, rape, murder, random acts of terror—basically, these days we've got it all. In the worst possible sense of the phrase.
But it seems no matter how bad things get, two relatively arbitrary things remain absolutely taboo: biting and/or spitting on your fellow man. Sure it's a strange line in the sand to draw, but we have to have standards somewhere.
Biting people, in particular, is just not something many adults can wrap their heads around. That's actually how my younger cousin, Jessica, and I settled most of our disputes…as toddlers. It's an act associated with children.
Spitting on someone as an adult is disrespectful and unacceptable. Biting someone? Well that's downright crazy. But then again, not all biting is created equal—you'll see what I mean.
Here are 25 athletes you might want to avoid when times get tough…because they could very well bite you.
25. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka doesn't have a history of biting humans, that we know of, so opponents facing him don't have to be concerned that playing defense on him will cost them a chunk of flesh.
But I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.
24. Brooks Laich, Washington Capitals
Of all the biting incidents on this list, this is probably the most questionable.
The accused, Capitals forward Brooks Laich, is a pretty credible source. And the accuser Sean Avery, retired fashionista and aspiring mean girl, is a pretty not credible source.
That being said, I choose to believe it, not because Avery says it happened, but because I truly hope Laich did it.
The alleged incident took place during a game between the Capitals and Rangers in April 2011. I have no idea why I emphasized alleged, or even used the word to begin with, because there's no question that an altercation occurred.
The two got into it during the second period, and various blows were exchanged. According to Avery, Laich bit him. According to Laich, Avery was psychotically clawing at his eyes and face and trying to stick his fingers into Laich's mouth in an attempt to bait him into biting.
Laich's account is too hysterical and amazing not to be true. In fact, if I had to script an altercation that an average man might have with Sean Avery, it probably would have gone down exactly like that.
But still. Avery's fingers were in his mouth, so this totally counts.
Oh, and it seems these two teams have a history of lobbing such accusations. Which is fine, because they both deserve a good biting.
23. Rafael Nadal, Tennis
Actually, it's probably not fair to single out tennis stud Rafael Nadal here, because his sport is absolutely littered with biters. Perhaps it something they teach at the youth level?
Amateur or professional. Male or female. Grand Slam or non-Grand Slam. Tennis players always seem to be biting or chewing on something.
An important trophy, which I'm assuming this is, is one thing. But tennis players are constantly seen biting their rackets, the balls and their jerseys—basically anything within arm's reach.
22. Marc Savard, Boston Bruins
During Game 2 of their playoff series in May 2010, Bruins forward Marc Savard was accused of biting the Flyers' Daniel Carcillo late in the second period. Although, as we're often told, there are two sides to every story.
Carcillo and his Flyers teammates called Savard a coward and, essentially, a grade-schooler. Pretty tame stuff actually, considering the accusations and the fact a team from Philly was involved.
But one man's "bite" is another man's "he was trying to pull out my damn teeth." Which is basically what Savard had to say in the wake of the incident, adding he wasn't clear on the definition of "biting."
Hmm. Which one of those sounds more believable? Savard got out of hand and bit someone, or Carcillo decided he was in the mood for a dental extraction.
21. Muhammad Ali, Retired Boxer
Although I couldn't find much more than some vague photographic evidence, it seems that boxing great Muhammad Ali may have had a little more in his arsenal than floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.
A fan aptly points out that during their during heavyweight bout in 1975, it sure looks like Muhammad Ali is about to bite (or in the process of biting) opponent Ron Lyle. I'm not sure if it's ever been verified, but I don't think Ali considered anything off limits.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and bite like a crocodile. Boom.
20. MLB Bat Biters
Even though going to an MLB baseball game is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon or evening, many of the intricacies of the game continue to elude me.
For example, why the pitcher is morally obligated to peg a batter on the opposing team because a previous batter ultimately scored with too much enthusiasm.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's a whole unwritten rulebook about baseball that is ridiculous and nonsensical, and I'm assuming this whole bat-biting thing would be in the glossary.
Although, one of the unwritten MLB rules is probably also about never assuming, because it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." Who knows. But apparently the Padres' Carlos Quentin is a fan of this practice, among others.
Weirdos. The whole lot of them!
19. Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers
When Pittsburgh and Philadelphia face off in any sport, it's pretty much guaranteed that tempers will flare between the cross-state rivals. Except in baseball, because the Pirates are just sad.
The Penguins and Flyers have one of the nastier rivalries in the NHL, and it got even nastier in October 2009 when Flyers forward Scott Hartnell was accused of biting Pens defenseman Kris Letang.
The altercation came in the final moments of the game, because most of their games tend to end in a scrum. Letang was adamant that it happened, but Hartnell denied it and was not suspended because the league lacked indisputable evidence.
But you know he totally did it and still smirks about it to this day.
18. Olympic Gold Medalists
Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul isn't the only member of the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team that tasted the goods after winning gold at the 2012 Olympics in London.
The whole team was photographed biting their medals at one point or another. Gold medal-winning athletes from every country around the world seem to do the same thing as well.
Maybe it's tradition, something new or maybe athletes have an ability to certify the carat of gold with their teeth. Whatever's going on, I wouldn't recommend coming between an Olympian and his or her gold.
17. Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks
It's a testament to the drama of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Canucks that a lousy little finger bite was barely a blip on the radar.
Obviously, when Vancouver's Alex Burrows went cannibal on Boston's Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 of the series, headlines were made. Particularly when it was announced that Burrows would not face suspension for the incident.
But as the series stretched on, it was mostly forgotten. Particularly when the Bruins won Game 7 in Vancouver, and the city descended into riots.
No reports on the number of riot-related bites.
16. Tiger Woods, PGA
Golf great Tiger Woods is one of the fiercest competitors the sports world has ever seen. Known to wear his emotions on his sleeve, he reacts passionately to every triumph and tribulation on the green.
Woods has gotten back on track over the last year, winning more tournaments than anyone else in the sport, but he has yet to end his Major drought. You know he's frustrated when he's gnawing on his own club.
And that's him exercising as much restraint as humanly possible for Tiger. Biting a club looks weird, but throwing a club could get him in serious trouble.
15. Mikhail Grabovski , Toronto Maple Leafs
You know how in the NFL, the broadcasters are constantly parroting that the officials need to see "indisputable proof" in order to overturn a call? I swear, those guys are given a list of 10 talking points and ordered to never deviate.
The NHL version of that is the league constantly being unable to dispense with discipline when one player bites another. A storyline that plays itself out far more than it should outside the homes of battling, grade-school-age siblings.
In February 2013, Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski reportedly used his teeth to take some aggression out on the wrist and thumb of Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty—who was left with visible injuries and required antibiotics and a tetanus shot.
The NHL has taken a very strong stance on the biting issue. Unless an appendage is found in the mouth of the offender, he is assumed innocent. And even then…it's a little hazy. What if someone bites off their own finger and shoves it in someone's mouth?
In that case, I say give 'em a couple of matching minors and be done with the thing. For chrissakes, we've got a game to play.
14. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Devastatingly limping Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is of the biting sort, but thankfully he doesn't have a taste for human flesh—unlike many athletes on this list.
Bryant has a tendency to bite his jersey and towels on the bench when he's frustrated. Which, unfortunately for him, was the entire 2012-13 season.
That's not to say it's something that Bryant just picked up recently—he's been a jersey-biter throughout his career.
13. Uga, University of Georgia Mascot
Some live college mascots are a little feistier than others, but Georgia Bulldog mascot Uga has a history of being a bit temperamental. And calling him temperamental is quite the understatement.
He's been played by different dogs over the years, but none had more bite than bark than Uga V. In 1996 he infamously lunged at (and bit) an Auburn wide receiver in the end zone after hauling in a touchdown.
Jeez. Cam Newton had better be thankful he didn't come around until a couple of Ugas later.
12. Chris Chelios, Retired NHL
Retired NHL defenseman Chris Chelios played just three years shy of 30 years in the league when he retired in 2010. Which means there's absolutely no telling how many opponents' appendages he chomped on in nearly three decades of play.
Although he only 'fessed up to one bite, on retired forward Tomas Sandstrom, the fact that it took him 15 years to do so makes you wonder what else he's not copping to. Chelios admitted, "It was just a natural instinct to do that."
That was back in the 'anything goes' NHL—he wasn't fined, suspended, or even penalized for treating Sandstrom's finger like a steak. According to Chelios, the bite was in self-defense, and it didn't matter anyway, because the referee hated Sandstrom to begin with.
11. Tree Rollins, Retired NBA
According to a 2008 Sports Illustrated article on NBA injuries, former Celtic Danny Ainge damn near lost his finger in a scuffle with former Hawk Tree Rollins.
The incident happened during a first-round playoff game in 1983 and was instigated by Ainge, who tried to tackle Rollins in some fashion.
Ainge then screamed out in agony and later explained, "We got into a little scuffle out on the court by the foul line and he almost bit my finger off." The wound required two stitches.
Again, according to Ainge, "Usually you don't put stitches on a human bite … But just to keep everything in there together, they had to put a couple of stitches in there."
You'd think more than two stitches would be required to keep a human finger attached. Whatever though, in the end it was all worth it. The next day the headline in the Boston Herald read: "Tree Bites Man."
Too amazing for words.
10. Dave Manson, Retired NHL
On the last day of February 1990, the Blackhawks were leading their division and among the best teams in the NHL. So they decided to take the night off in a game against the Capitals, in which they lost 4-0.
There was more than enough blame to go around and a surprisingly large number of people willing to shoulder it at the time. A loss like that, however nasty, wouldn't normally be such a big deal for a team in Chicago's situation, almost two full months before the playoffs.
But 'Hawks defenseman Dave Manson took it upon himself to make it a big deal by getting into it with Caps tough guy Scott Stevens. And by "getting into it," naturally I mean "biting a chunk out of his hand." Because that's a total normal reaction to any situation.
Manson claimed it was merely retaliation, but it's rare that the team posting a shutout retaliates to anything in such a manner.
9. Luis Suarez, Liverpool
Things took a very ugly turn at Premier League match in April 2013: Liverpool's Luis Suarez decided to take a bite out of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. He followed that performance up by scoring a goal, which clinched a 2-2 draw.
In the end Suarez did face the firing squad for his freaky Hannibal Lecter act, receiving a 10-match ban for biting. He issued a half-hearted apology for the incident and promised to focus on "being a better footballer."
It was actually quite like the "apology" he issued after this eight-match ban for using racially abusive language in late 2011. Suarez needs to focus on becoming a better person instead, because that's the real issue.
8. Jarkko Ruutu, Jokerit
Former NHL goon Jarkko Ruutu is now playing abroad, which means everyone in the league can rest easier each night. During his time in the NHL, Ruutu made it his business to use, bruise and abuse everyone he encountered in an opposing jersey.
Suspensions and fines were just the cost of doing business for this modern-day goon who was playing in a league that had passed him by. In January 2008, he really managed to outdo himself by taking a bit out of Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters, no slouch himself, while playing for the Senators.
It was clear that Ruutu had, in fact, bitten Peters, but according to Ottawa's coach (at the time), it wasn't a big deal because he "rubbed his hand in Ruutu's face about three times."
Well, I guess three is the magic number. So if you do anything three times, expect Jarkko Ruuto to appear as if from nowhere and bite the crap out you.
He was actually suspended two games without pay from the league. I was under the impression that biters were normally issued a plaque and a pat on the back for such things.
7. Tim Hague, MMA
Joey Baltran can thank less-than-divine intervention for his accidental matchup with Tim Hague in UFC 113 in May 2010. The event was held in Montreal, and he was initially slated to fight Chad Corvin.
But there was some kind of medical paperwork issue that occurred, which gave the Quebec Athletic Commission a rare opportunity to flex their muscles, by not approving Corvin for the fight at the last minute.
He was replaced with Tim Hague, who isn't someone you'd typically classify as a "rule follower." Unless UFC has officially made biting the hell out of your opponent a requirement—which is long overdue.
Hague bit Baltran. Baltran beat Hague.
6. Derian Hatcher, Retired NHL
Retired ruffian Derian Hatcher was a career goon who represents everything the current NHL is trying to systematically eliminate from the game. Kinda like Tie Domi, only he wasn't terrible at hockey.
Hatcher played nearly two decades in the league before retiring in 2008. He may have been mean, but he was nice enough to leave a lasting memory in a game against the Devils just a few months before hanging up his skates.
Then playing with the Flyers, Hatcher was accused of biting Devils center Travis Zajac during one of a number of altercations throughout the game. As you can imagine, each side interpreted the episode quite differently.
Said the Devils head coach Brent Sutter, it was "like a dog on a bone." Said Hatcher, "If he's cut, good, but I didn't bite him." Glad we cleared that one up, fellas.
Well then. Case closed. Hatcher did it, because there's nothing in his career that would suggest otherwise.
5. Dylan Hartley, Northampton Saints Rugby
In March 2012, Northampton Saints rugby player Dylan Hartley bit the crap out of Ulster's Stephen Ferris. Although the incident wasn't captured by the refs or television cameras, likely shielded by a scrum of burly men, it didn't need to be.
Hartley's chomping left more than sufficient evidence—in the form of nasty bite marks on Ferris—for the International Rugby Board to take action. The NHL likely would have chalked the whole incident up to "Boys will be boys," but the IRB handed Hartley an eight-week ban for his biting shenanigans.
He could've had it a lot worse, considering a 26-week ban he earned for gouging in 2007. Hartley was facing the potential four-year ban, but the deciders must have been drunk (or just feeling generous) that day.
Honestly, I thought that rugby was like cage fighting, in that anything goes. Being snacked on by the opposition is basically like paying a toll...but apparently not so much.
4. Ken Linseman, Retired NHL
In his day, retired forward Ken Linseman had a well-earned reputation as one of the nastiest players the game had ever seen. You don't generally get nicknamed "The Rat" for being a nice guy.
Although Linseman wasn't just your run-of-the mill goon, he was a talented player who could be counted on for much more than racking up penalty minutes. The fact that he could beat them in a fist fight and later beat them with a game-winning goal made Linseman even more hated by his opponents.
Something else that didn't sit well with his foes? The fact that rats have a penchant for biting. In 1984 Linseman, then with the Flyers, became involved in an altercation with the Oilers Lee Fogolin after some extracurricular activity in front of the Edmonton goal.
The Rat bit Fogolin "so severely on the cheek that the Edmonton player required a tetanus shot." And if you think he was sorry, think again. Linseman chimed in on the matter, essentially stating that if fighting is allowed by the NHL, the only rule (in his mind) is that there are no rules.
The exception paradox will get you every time.
3. Claude Lemieux, Retired NHL
During the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals between the Canadiens and Flames, the Habs' famed tough guy Claude Lemieux got into a little tussle with Calgary's Jim Peplinski.
Apparently there was some hair-pulling and eye-gouging, but eventually the catfight got serious when Lemieux bit Peplinski's finger down to the damn bone.
The bone, people. The bone.
2. Francisco Gallardo, Diósgyőri VTK
Spanish footballer Spanish Francisco Gallardo is playing in Hungary these days, far away his former Sevilla teammates. Which is for the best, because during a match in 2011, he proved that he does not play nice with others—including his own teammates.
You can understand how an athlete can lose control when things aren't quite going his way, even if you're not the type to resort to biting. But Gallardo doesn't just bite the opposition when he's mad, he also employs it as a celebration tactic.
Gallardo's 2001 incident is just so very unpleasant, that it's hard to find the words. So, I guess I'll just say it. He once celebrated a goal by biting the penis of teammate Jose Antonio Reyes. Now, I wish I hadn't.
Sure puts that Mike Tyson ear thing in perspective, doesn't it?
1. Mike Tyson, Retired Boxer
Ah yes. The bite heard 'round the world.
The award for the most infamous of infamous biting incidents in sports history goes to recently reputationally reformed boxing madman Mike Tyson. The 1997 heavyweight bout against Evander Holyfield was one of the most hotly anticipated rematches in the sport's history.
The hype was massive, and so was the $100 million it grossed—it was a pay-per-view record that stood strong for a decade. So obviously the circus surrounding the event was out of control, but no one was more out of control than Tyson himself.
The fight was completely out of control by the third round and was temporarily stopped. When the action resumed, Tyson went straight for Holyfield's ear, taking a nasty chunk out of it in the process. Naturally the incident earned him a disqualification, but he wasn't exactly contrite about the state of Holyfield's ear.
After the fight Tyson said, "He's got a nick on his ear. Look at me. I've got to go home to my children, and they're going to be scared of me." His children were scared? Imagine how Lennox Lewis' kids felt when Tyson threatened to eat them.
Looks like Holyfield may have gotten off lightly.
Best ALMOST Biter: Smokey, University of Tennessee Mascot
During a game against SEC rival Kentucky in November 2012, Tennessee's mascot Smokey, a Bluetick Coonhound, really tried to do his part to help his Vols.
It just so happens he tried to help them get a leg up by taking a leg out! Smokey got loose during pre-game warm-ups and made a mad dash for Wildcats' kicker Craig McIntosh.
Luckily for McIntosh, Smokey was stopped short of his target. And the silver lining for Vols fans—at least one member of the team plays with some passion.
**Speaking of mascots—I love them! If you love mascots or want to talk trash to someone who does, you should be following me on Twitter: Follow @blamberr
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