Fans Who Were a Bigger Story Than the Game
While many sports fans like to “get into” the game, a rare few out there literally get into the game, becoming in one way or another as much a part of it all as the players themselves.
Some people don’t like peripheral sports stories about fans in the news. If it’s not tallied in the box score or recorded by the stat-keeper, it’s not sports in their mind.
Unfortunately for those people (and fortunately for the rest of us who value humor and/or joy in life), there are times when even the driest game recap can’t help but include a fan whose presence was impossible to ignore.
The following are the fans who made more headlines than the outcome of the game itself. Some stole the spotlight with their amazing personal stories, while others did it through abject idiocy or interfering in the play on the field.
They're all different but have one thing in common: they either managed to affect the score or reduce the outcome to a Page 6 afterthought.
The US Open Arguers
Do you remember that time in 2010 when Novak Djokovic defeated Philipp Petzschner at the US Open? No, you don’t.
What you might remember, however, is this video of a young man at the match getting slapped by a humpback whale-lady and then assaulted by her cotton-headed companion (father? husband? who knows).
The argument and following violence sparked a ridiculous mob mentality reaction from the audience, who saw a young guy talking back to an older lady and sided with the elderly attackers.
This is not how you resolve conflicts, people.
The Spurs Shrieker
Somehow someway, a single fan hijacked one of the most exciting NBA playoff games in recent memory.
Game 1 of the 2013 playoff series between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs ended in a flurry of mind-blowing comebacks, clutch shots and wailing that would shame a banshee.
Despite the wild action taking place on the floor, fans watching at home couldn’t help but notice a razor-edged squeal continuously rising above the din of the game. It sounded like a seagull being filleted alive with a hook knife, and it drove people crazy.
The soul-sundering cries immediately became a viral sensation across the Internet, and the result was not one, but THREE women stepping forward to claim they were the menace to society whose shrieks had threatened to pierce viewers’ eardrums.
Here’s video of the most likely candidate, who quoted my initial article on the shrieking where I wrote that she sounded like a “dying seagull" (toots own horn).
Timothy John Lawrence Smith
Yes, all those names in the title of this slide belong to a single man—a wild Tottenham fan who ran onto the pitch at White Hart Lane and threw what may have been the worst punch in recorded history at Chelsea’s Frank Lampard in 2007.
Thankfully, Lampard ducked the awful swing and Timothy John Lawrence Smith was banned for life from attending Tottenham home games.
Jack Hoffman Scores Touchdown
Jack Hoffman is seven years old, a huge fan of Cornhuskers football and going through a tremendous battle with brain cancer.
You might remember him from this clip at the Nebraska spring game, where Hoffman was invited onto the field to run a play from the line of scrimmage. A warrior with some wheels, Hoffman went on a 69-yard romp to the end zone where he was lifted up by the entire team in celebration.
Hoffman’s run was the play that finally knocked Jadeveon Clowney’s hit off the top of the ESPN “Best of the Best” poll, and will certainly enshrine Nebraska's spring game as the only preseason scrimmage people will never forget.
The man, the myth and the infamous Chicago legend—Steve Bartman.
Most Chicago natives and baseball fans know Bartman, who will forever be remembered as the nerdy Cubs fan who tanked his team’s shot at the 2003 World Series by trying to catch a foul ball.
Bartman was in attendance at Game 6 of the NLCS playoff series between the Cubbies and the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins) when a ball slapped off the bat of Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo in the eighth inning.
The ball sailed toward the stands along the left-field line where Bartman was seated. The man reached up to grab the falling ball, deflecting it into the seats and disrupting what potentially could’ve been a catch by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou.
Bartman was immediately swamped with derision by his fellow Cubs fans for interfering with the ball (although other spectators had tried reaching for it) and had to be escorted from the game for his own safety.
The incident would be remembered as a turning point for Chicago, who went on to fall apart and lose the series. Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS has since become branded as “The Bartman Game.”
Despite being stricken with cancer and unable to speak, Joshua Jones cheered his Dodgers on in silence as they played against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in early May.
Like him, the Dodgers were struggling through a difficult stretch, but after the team floundered through a forgettable loss an unexpected moment of kindness occurred.
After having a personally disappointing performance, the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp trotted over to the stands and began giving away his game attire to Jones. Jones’ father had told the Dodgers third-base coach that his sick son was a huge fan, and that was all.
Kemp ended up receiving word about a sick fan in the stands, and that was the extent of the knowledge he had before heading over to meet Jones.
It wasn’t a publicity stunt—he didn’t know Jones’ friend was going to film the exchange on his phone, or that he would upload it to the Internet thereafter. He just started taking off his jersey and shoes as Jones sat on in joyful silence.
Sports aren’t everything, and Joshua Jones’ happiness—and Kemp’s gesture—went viral, and ultimately won through as the most important thing to come out of the game.
Oh, “middle finger lady,” what would’ve the Bulls-Heat series been without thine most warmest, one-fingered salutation?
It would’ve still been awesome, but involved a lot less cloak-and-dagger mystery.
Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, chances are you probably had the image of this woman—Miami “socialite” Filomena Tobias—plastered on your screen at one time in the last week (you do now).
Tobias made headlines as the “middle finger lady” for flipping off the Bulls’ Joakim Noah after he was ejected from Game 2 of the series.
With the Heat going on to destroy the Bulls 115-78, the incident was the biggest surprise of an unsurprising night, and it only became more intriguing as the story of her seedy-sounding past was unraveled.
News outlets identified Tobias as a thrice-divorced millionaire who had once been suspected in the death of her ex husband, CNBC commentator Seth Tobias. Yup, the plot thickened, but at the end of the day it was just a ridiculous, Miami Vice-style sideshow.
Filomena has since apologized (through her attorney, of course) for her actions at the game.
The William Ligue Tag Team
♫ Well the south side of Chicago, is the baddest part it's true ♫
♫ And if you go down there, you better just beware of the fans named Bill Ligue ♫
Jim Croce reference, anyone? Nope? All right, moving on.
Tom Gamboa was doing his job when a pair of shirtless heathens jumped out the stands and assaulted the Kansas City Royals first-base coach during a game at Comiskey Park in 2002.
His attackers were 34-year-old William Ligue Jr. and his 15-year-old son William III, who had climbed down from the stands, jumped a fence and ran on to the field, blindsiding Gamboa with a flurry of punches and stopping the game.
“I felt like a football team had hit me from behind,” Gamboa told reporters. “Next thing I knew, I’m on the ground.”
It was one of the ugliest fan moments in baseball history, but fortunately for Gamboa, the whole Royals team was there to dog-pile on the punks and save him from serious injury.
Spike Lee is always stealing the thunder from anything going down on the basketball court, but the New York Knicks superfan's biggest moment of fame (read: infamy) occurred during Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers.
Everyone remembers Reggie Miller scoring eight points in 11 seconds at the end of the game, but his in-game heroics can’t be recounted without mentioning Lee’s courtside antics, which included goading Miller with trash talk.
Even the announcers couldn’t help but mention Miller and Lee’s constant jawing, which had become as much a part of the game as dribbling the ball by the end of the contest.
The 12-year-old who robbed the Orioles.
Jeffrey Maier was just a regular kid who enjoyed postseason baseball, but all that changed when a ball cracked off Derek Jeter’s bat into deep right field during Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS.
The young fan reached over as the ball fell toward the right field wall and intercepted it right in the face of Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco, who immediately protested the play.
Officials ruled the play a home run and the Yanks went on to win the pennant and another World Series title. Maier, of course, would go down as a hero in Yankees folklore.
Orioles fans remember Maier somewhat differently.
Meet Robin Ficker: attorney, free-speech advocate and heckler extraordinaire.
Ficker was the Washington Bullets’ biggest fan, and the former season ticket holder used to spend every home game talking trash from his spot behind the opponent’s bench. He once even provoked Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden to the point where the man had to be restrained from going after Ficker.
What did he say that managed to unhinge a professional basketball coach so completely? He reminded Layden that USA Today had rated him the “Worst Dressed Coach” in the league.
Sick burn, bro.
Ryan Howard's Home Run Buddy
He couldn’t see it, but A.J. could certainly hear the crowd go wild after Ryan Howard bludgeoned a home run into right field.
The 7-year-old boy living with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) had presented the Phillies slugger with a bracelet before a May game against the Marlins, asking Howard to wear it to help raise awareness of his condition.
Howard did just that, and even managed to follow through on another request A.J. had for him: to hit him a home run.
When Howard’s first at-bat resulted in a soaring sky shot to the right-field seats, A.J. didn’t have to see it know who it was for.
“Oh my gosh! That was probably for me,” A.J. said to reporters about Howard's homer.
And for one brief moment, our stone-cold hearts melted and the world was a magical place again.
The Lakers Bros
Ryan and Brian are bros.
They enjoy the Lakers, broing out hard and they nearly crashed the Internet with this brotastic moment in November 2012. No one even bothered watching the rest of the game after this moment.*
Oh, and Ryan (glasses kid) loves to “shred the pow” on his snowboard at Park City.
Jump out of the Way Guy
Cardinals infielder Peter Kozma clocked a ball deep into center field during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in early April, having no idea the situation it would cause.
The ball dropped over the wall and into a deck area, hitting a young lady in the face as her boyfriend leapt away in fear.
It was an embarrassing moment, and it sparked a huge “Men should protect their girlfriends” vs. “Men should let women get hit in the face in the name of advancing gender equality” argument on comment boards across the Internet.
All I know is that Kozma hit a home run, and no one cared at all after the ball domed that woman.
Darrell Bailey—known as “Clipper Darrell” among sports fans—didn’t interrupt or steal the attention from any one game with his timeout dancing antics, but his rough break with the franchise created waves in the media in 2012.
The Clippers superfan was allegedly asked by the organization to stop "being Clipper Darrell." The team's management had grown uncomfortable with Darrell’s decision to provide interviews to sports media outlets (such as Bleacher Report) about the team and his experience as a superfan.
Obviously, the news hit him hard, and sparked an argument over whether the organization was throwing its biggest fan under the bus.
All Ted Kramer wanted was a home run from Todd Frazier.
It was in the sixth inning of an April game against the Marlins when Kramer—a man with Down syndrome and the Cincinnati Reds biggest fan/batboy—asked the team’s third baseman to hit the ball out of the park for him.
As fate would have it, that’s exactly what happened—Frazier stepped up and walloped a two-run homer over the wall in center field.
The commentators went crazy, the fans loved it and it spawned one of the most amazing pictures you’ll see out of a regular season baseball game.
Phillies Taser Fan
This 17-year-old Phillies fan who ran onto the field at Citizens Bank Park got all he bargained for and more when police broke out Dr. Watts in order to bring him down.
It’s one of the most ridiculous field invasions we’ve ever seen, and will forever go down as the game where a teenager was electrically shocked for outrunning goofy field security.
Dragos Petrut Enache
Broken bones and a canceled match were the result of a Romanian man rushing onto the pitch during a contest between Steaua Bucharest and Petrolul Ploiesti in 2011.
Petrolul hooligan Dragos Petrut Enache somehow managed to slip past security and attacked players on the pitch. The first player Enache targeted was defender George Galamaz, whose right cheek bone was broken when the fan sucker-punched him in the head.
Fortunately, Galamaz’s teammates reacted like a kicked hive of bees and subdued the invader with extreme prejudice. Unbelievably, two of the men on Steaua were given red cards for attacking Enache while he was on the field.