American sports fans: We are all hypocrites.
Why lay such a potentially slanderous charge against such a large and diverse group of people as the American sports fan?
The typical American sports fan deplores violence. Absolutely detests it. A hard slide or a late hit or an overly aggressive check into the boards, and the typical American sports fan spits venom as he speaks of the unsportsmanlike conduct that begets such viciousness.
But on the inside, we actually love viciousness. We love the brain-jarring hits in football, the violent collisions at the plate in baseball and the action-halting fistfights in hockey.
We just want to be disgusted because it makes us feel better about the fact that we are actually titillated by violence.
And that makes us hypocrites.
Let's have a look at the top 40 most vicious hits in sports history.
Boy oh boy, if ever too big a deal was made about something, it was Pittsburgh Pirate Randall Simon playfully tapping a young girl wearing an enormous oversized Italian Sausage costume as the infamous Milwaukee Brewers sausage race swung past the Pirates dugout.
The police were called in to investigate this one, and though the charges were eventually dropped, this incident dogged Simon for years.
This infamous hit by Leonard Marshall against Joe Montana, at a time when the Giants and the 49ers were the two mightiest teams in the NFL and Montana was the poster child for the league, officially began the 1990s, as Montana was never the same after that hit and the 49ers dynasty came to a close.
This hit is probably only "cheap" by today's standards. In 1990, nothing came of the play; in 2011, had that hit been levied by, say, James Harrison on a quarterback equivalent to Montana in today's terms, like, say, Tom Brady, Harrison would have been fined $1 million, and tackling the quarterback would be outlawed.
The great thing about this play is that you have a world-class athlete in Pedro Martinez grabbing a 70-plus-year-old man in Don Zimmer by the head and slamming him to the ground, and generally speaking, people agree that Zimmer was in the wrong and Pedro had every right to respond the way he did.
Baseball: where celebrating Grandpa getting mugged happens.
At the end of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was beaten, battered and bruised. He had to be helped off the field and had to have surgery in the offseason on an injured ankle resulting from that game.
Here's the clincher: The Saints failed to register even a single sack on Favre all game.
Instead, they made sure that Favre was punished through a series of not-so-close late hits and what, were I not a Saints fan, I would willingly call several cheap shots.
At the beginning of this play, Kurt Warner was an NFL quarterback, former league MVP and Super Bowl winner trying to lead his team back to the Super Bowl, perhaps for the final time.
At the end of this play, Warner was a former NFL quarterback, did not know where he was and was nearly certain that he was Batman.
A troubled young man, to be sure.
On this night, Oregon senior LeGarrette Blount lost his marbles, confronting his teammates, opposing players and fans in an angry tirade that cost him his season.
In the process, Blount knocked an admittedly antagonistic Boise State player out cold.
How universally hated was Bill Laimbeer during his prime?
When Robert Parish punched Laimbeer in the face on the court, the referees not only did not throw Parish out of the game—they did not even call a technical foul.
We go from an incredibly tolerant NBA, in which Robert Parish does not get a suspension, or even a technical foul, for pummeling Bill Laimbeer, to the modern game, where Amar'e Stoudemire gets suspended for an entire playoff game for briefly leaving his own bench when Robert Horry body-slams Steve Nash into the scorer's table.
The NBA: where "Let them play!" happens.
One rule we shall all be able to agree on throughout sports:
Stay away from the family jewels.
At the end of a hotly contested game between Tennessee-Chattanooga and East Tennessee, an overly exuberant East Tennessee cheerleader made the mistake of getting in Benny Green's face, and he dispatched her with a swift slug to the face.
But hey, slugging a cheerleader half your size...we've all been there, right?
Where's your face?
Oh, sorry, Jason Varitek just handed it to you.
Welcome to the NFL, young man.
Gotta give props to Sav Rocca for jumping up after being pummeled by Antwan Barnes. A lot of guys would have stayed down.
This play happened in a crucial moment in a crucial game at the end of a brilliant career.
In extra time in the 2006 World Cup final in what was already known to be the final game of Zidane's career, he responded to the taunt of an opposing player by head-butting him and getting sent off in the 110th minute of the game.
The unsaid thing here is, of course, that Zidane's head-butt appears to have sent the opposing player into next week. I know soccer players are adept at using their heads as objects, but methinks the opposing player doth protest too much.
You be the judge.
Albert Belle just let Fernando Vina know that you don't hang out in Albert's baseline.
That Albert was a colossal horse's ass was already known to all.
This one is more vicious than cheap, and Robin Ventura deserved what he got.
That Ventura would take offense to being beaned by Nolan Ryan, at the time the venerable old man of Major League Baseball, was alone absurd. That he would charge the mound against the 46-year-old living legend and hero to every kid in America was just insane.
But not nearly as insane as what happened next.
In the blink of an eye, Ryan had Ventura in a headlock and began furiously pummeling Ventura in the head with his fist. Here's Ventura, a 25-year-old, just getting the crap beat out of him by a 46-year-old who'd announced he would be retiring at the end of the season.
It was one of the greatest beatdowns ever delivered by a pitcher to a charging hitter.
Dennis Rodman was a truly great player. Say what you will about his eccentricities—he backed up his crazy with dominant rebounding and defensive play day in and day out.
But this little incident, and his explanation for it afterwards, serve as a reminder that good player or not, Rodman was also a jackass who didn't care about anyone but himself and was not exactly a people person.
What did the cameraman ever do to him?
In 1970, Ray Fosse was a 23-year-old power-hitting All-Star catcher just getting his career going.
All that ended in the 1970 All-Star Game when Pete Rose, ever the competitor, bowled Fosse over on the game's final play, separating Fosse's right shoulder.
According to many, Fosse was never the same.
Tough play. Bobby Hurley absolutely got lit up.
Let me ask you this: If the roles were reversed and a Duke player had delivered the punishment to a Georgia Tech player, would it have been called a foul?
No, I don't think so either.
As Deion Sanders was emerging as an All-Star for both the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons and was using heroic efforts to juggle his careers during the overlap of the baseball and football seasons, player-turned-commentator Tim McCarver took exception to the circus on the air.
Sanders got his revenge in the post-NLCS victory party in the Braves locker room, dousing McCarver repeatedly with ice water.
Talk about cheap.
Before I knew anything about hockey, I knew the name Marty McSorley and that he was a thug.
Seriously, Marty McSorley, one black guy in the entire NHL and you go after him with a vicious high stick?
This play, by the way, resulted in an assault conviction and 18 months' probation and was the end of McSorley's NHL career.
For what it's worth, Chris Simon looks like he was knocked kinda woozy himself right before he turned around and clotheslined Ryan Hollweg.
Still, not cool, Chris. Not cool.
In an ugly camp incident in 1997, Michael Westbrook snapped and started whaling on Stephen Davis.
Now it is time for a segment called "For What It's Worth":
For what it's worth, in the video, which I know I've seen but seems to have been erased from the entire Internet (seriously, how does that happen?), there are some interesting aspects to this fight.
Like, for what it's worth, no one really comes to Davis' aid.
Even after Westbrook stops beating him and a teammate or two comes over to say, basically, "What the hell?"
No one comes over to help Stephen Davis.
For what it's worth, the Redskins only fined Westbrook $50,000 and did not suspend him.
For what it's worth, it looks as though Davis may have had this coming.
Not sure which aspect of this video makes Ken Stills look worse:
a. The spin-him-around-and-send-him-to-the-sidelines move his teammate does after the play;
b. The other teammate's "What the eff are you doing?" body language; or
c. The "everyone saw that" 47 flags that come flying in after the play.
The incident, which occurs on this video at 2:33, involved what was already bad blood between Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens.
Try not to think the words "roid rage" while you watch this video, in which Piazza's bat breaks, sending the barrel of the bat hurtling towards Clemens, and Clemens picks the bat up and throws it at Piazza as if he had done it on purpose.
The impact of this hit, though heinous, was really just bad luck, as Patrice Bergeron's head was where his body should have been. Had he been standing upright, this is a simple check into the boards.
That dude was still out cold, though.
Sportsmanship was remarkably absent on this play.
"How dare you steal the puck from me and score a goal.
"Now you die."
This was before most of us knew who Vince Young was.
Thankfully, this incredibly cheap, WWF-style move was not the last highlight of Young's career.
At the same time, maybe that will teach him not to do whatever he did to that dude to piss him off so badly.
What makes this play so awful is the premeditated nature of it.
Bertuzzi literally seems to be waiting for his moment, shadowing Moore and even holding his jersey for leverage.
Ooh, look at me, I'm on a real field with real NFL players in a real game.
Uh-oh, here comes the real James Harrison.
The funny...er...sad (?) thing about this melee is that Andrew Golota was actually kind of handling Riddick Bowe before he decided to start punching him in the balls, for which he was ultimately disqualified.
Feeling that Evansville player Anthony Molina was being a bit overzealous in attempting to time his pitches, Wichita State pitcher Ben Christensen decided to throw a pitch at Molina to teach him a lesson.
The problem: Molina wasn't in the batter's box. He was in the on-deck circle, and he wasn't looking.
Molina would eventually look up just as the ball was arriving at his head. It was the last thing he would ever see out of his left eye, as the throw collided with the eye, crushing the eye socket and blinding him.
It was one of the most vicious moments in sports history.
Again, in the NHL, the difference between a vicious cheap shot and a casual body check really does seem to be semantic.
In this case, not so much. Boulerice pretty much annihilated Ryan Kesler.
You play with matches, you get burned.
There is a concept known as Assumption of Risk that would seem to come into play here.
If, during a massive stadium-wide riot, you as a fan come onto the court in some sort of show of brazen machismo, you assume the risk that an opposing player is going to clean your clock.
Ever wonder what happened to Jim McMahon after the 1985 Super Bowl?
In this play the following year, after an interception, Charles Martin body-slammed McMahon onto an already injured shoulder, ending his season.
McMahon was never the same again.
We can debate "viciousness" all we want, and this may not be the most vicious thing that has ever happened in a sporting event.
It must be the craziest, though.
We've all been there: sitting on the bench, watching something on the field that makes your blood boil.
Tommy Lewis is one of the few people, if not the only person, ever to actually act on it.
There is only one reason you know the name Izzy Alcantara. It is because of this play.
Frankly, can you blame him for his tactics? Who likes being chased down from behind by the catcher when you're charging the mound?
Better to take him out first.
This could have happened to anybody, really.
Any one of us could have ripped the helmet off the head of an opposing player who is lying on the ground.
And any one of us could have looked down at him and calmly taken our cleated foot and stomped that opposing player in the face.
Where Albert Haynesworth really brings his own brand of classiness, though, is where he vehemently protests being ejected from the game, as if it was an overreaction by the officials.
Stay classy, Albert.
Woody Hayes is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a legend of 27 seasons at Ohio State, but his career came to an end very quickly after this ill-considered moment against Clemson in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
Nancy Kerrigan became an international household name when, on January 6, 1994, she was clubbed in the right knee by an assailant at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Cobo Arena in Detroit.
When it was later revealed that the assault was planned by rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and their friend Shawn Eckardt, this incident became one of the defining cheap shots of all time.
Kerrigan's famous cry of "Why, why, why" became a sports-retrospective staple at the turn of the century and remains a classic to this day.
One of the most horrific moments in sports, especially for the NBA. As you might imagine, NBA PR people have done a fair job of scrubbing the inter-tubes of this video. It takes place at the 1:55 point in this video.
The Kermit Washington incident occurred during a different time in the NBA, when fights were far more common and the NBA bore more resemblance to the NHL in that regard than it does now.
The incident was the beginning of the end of all that.
During a scuffle between the Rockets and the Lakers, Washington was taken by surprise by a hard-charging Rudy Tomjanovich. Not realizing that Tomjanovich was coming to break up the fight, Washington let fly with a roundhouse punch that was only part of the story.
Had Tomjanovich seen the punch coming or had he been less off-balance, he would have merely had a fractured face. Instead, Washington hit Tomjanovich off-balance, causing him to fall straight away to the floor and fracturing his skull with a sound that has been described as the sound of a watermelon hitting concrete.
The incident broke Tomjanovich's face and caused blood and spinal fluid to leak into something called his "skull capsule," which caused him to taste the spinal fluid in his mouth.
Washington was absolutely vilified for the incident, which ended Tomjanovich's career and caused the NBA to clean up its act in a major way.
It was this incident, amongst others, that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would "save" the NBA from just a few years later.