Athletes Gone Ballistic: The 20 Most Intense Episodes

Eric NewmanCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2011

Athletes Gone Ballistic: The 20 Most Intense Episodes

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    This is not a list of athletes who fell into drug abuse, gambling, alcohol or crime.

    This is not a list of accused and convicted rapists, harassers, gropers.

    This is a list of moments in athletic history in which athletes, set off by the fury of a bad call, the insolence of a fan, a potent pang of jealously or just the intense pressure of competition, had a horrific lapse of sound judgment. 

20. Mikhail Youzhny Self Flagellates

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    What made him snap: He lost a point.

    What he did: Beat himself bloody.

    Justified or Not?: You lose an important point, I give you a slap to the forehead with your bare palm. You lose a set, I might be okay with a little racket to wall smashing. You lose a match, and I very generously may give you one light racket thump to the head, and still say you kept to this side of sanity.

    But three full on racket-to-head thwacks? Well, that's just nuttier than a Tim Horton's maple log.

19. Derek Anderson Pitches a Fit

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    Note: Ballistic episode is going too far with this one. More of a hissy fit. But too engaging to pass over.

    What made him snap: A journalist questioning his motive for laughing on the sidelines when his team was getting thrashed.

    What he did: Denied laughing (though it was all over national television), threw a temper tantrum. Reportedly went to the locker room, tantrumed a bit more, then left.

    Justified or Not?: Granted, it sucks to have to justify ever titter you make, but you're a team leader and a celebrity; it comes with the turf. Cope.

18. Frank Francisco Launches a Chair

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    What made him snap: Heckling fans.

    What he did: Launched a chair, smashed a woman's nose.

    Justified or Not?: Not.

17. Eric Cantona Kicks a Fan

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    What made him snap: A heckler allegedly hurling out racial insults and a projectile.

    What he did: Laid out some serious kung fu. 

    Justified or Not?: On moral grounds no, but so many of us have had so much fun watching this video over the years; it almost gets justified for the entertainment value it created.

16. Vernon Maxwell Attacks a Fan

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    What made him snap: A heckling fan.

    What he did: Charged into the stands and clocked the guy in the jaw.

    Justified or Not?: Here's the thing: if you are a sports celebrity, expect heckling and learn to ignore it.

    But hecklers, there are lines not to be crossed. Mocking someone on his wife's recent miscarriage is crossing about 10 of those lines. 

    The heckler has denied allegations that he made such remarks. If he did take it to that horrific level, Maxwell's violent outburst is understood, though not condoned.

15. Lincoln Kennedy Attacks a Fan

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    What made him snap: a face full of snow.

    What he did: ran into the stands and decked the snowball-flinger.

    Justified or Not?: Justified. Fan struck first. Even the Denver police agree.

14. Randall Simon Takes out a Sausage

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    What made him snap: Fear of seasoned ground meat and/or mascots portraying such delectables?

    What he did: Clobbered the Italian sausage racer, a.k.a. Mandy Block with a bat.

    Justified or Not?: Certainly not. Who does that?

13. Sasha " the Pitbull" Lakovic Goes After a Fan

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    What made him snap: A fan beer-ing and popcorn-ing assistant coach Guy Lapointe.

    What he did: Catapulted himself over the glass. Or at least atop it.

    Justified or Not?: "The Chicago Way" is not the Calgary Way.

    Fight food with food, Sasha.

12. Stephon Marbury Makes an Odd Culinary Decision

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    What made him snap: Workplace stress?

    What he did: Gleefully ingested petroleum jelly.

    Justified or Not?: Not sure. I suppose it depends on how the stuff tastes. 

11. Al Cowens Runs Up the Middle of the Diamond

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    What made him snap: An errant pitch (more than a year prior).

    What he did: Stepped up to plate. Hit the ball. Ran straight up the middle of the diamond and tackled the pitcher, Ed Farmer.

    Justified or Not?: Well, Farmer had thrown a pitch that did a number on Cowens' jaw about a year before. But Farmer felt bad; he even visited Cowens in the hospital. So have to go with 'not justified.'

10. Dale Hunter Interrupts a Celebration

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    What made him snap: Turge steals the puck away from Hunter. Turge scores. Turge celebrates. Hunter boils over.

    What he did: End the celebrating with a walloping blindside. 

    Justified or Not?: In all honesty, who can't relate? We hate to be made fools of. But come on, Hunter, practice a little restraint.

9. Ty Cobb Beats a Disabled Fan

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    What made him snap: A heckling fan

    What he did: Jumped the rail, dashed up 12 rows of seats and laid into the heckler.

    By the way, the fan was missing one hand altogether and had just three fingers on the other hand. When panicked onlookers informed Cobb of this, he reportedly shouted back, "I don’t care if he has no feet!" and proceeded with his savage pounding. 

    Justified or Not?: Um, no.

8. Ron Artest Goes After Fans

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    What made him snap: A shove from Ben Wallace, followed by fans lobbing drinks

    What he did: Took to punching fans. 

    Justified or Not?: The fan who nailed Artest with the cup—yeah, he needed a punch. Maybe Wallace too. The others, not so much.

7. Angel Valodia Matos Attacks Ref

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    What made him snap: Refs decision to disqualify him after taking too much time out for an injury in the middle of his fight 

    What he did: Bloodied the ref with a face kick.

    Justified or Not?: Fidel Castro thinks so.

6. Mike Tyson Snacks on Ears

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    What made him snap: In his own words:

    (1) “I bit Evander because I was undisciplined at that moment. I had nothing to lose then. I had no wife, I didn’t have my kids.”

    (2) "That was just striking out in pure hatred. For that one moment I just forgot he was a human being." 

    (3) ''Regardless of all he did, he had butted me for two fights. I addressed it in the ring.''

    What he did: Bit, chewed, spit.

    Justified or Not?: Going with a "no" on this one. 

5. Tonya Harding Takes out Her Competition

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    What made her snap: Nancy's talent.

    What she did: Ordered a knee-capping.

    Justified or Not?: Hey, if you can't beat them...have a henchman whack their legs with a metal baton.

4. Coach Woody Hayes Attacks Player

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    What made him snap: Charlie Bauman's interception = loss of Gator Bowl.

    What he did: Punched Bauman in the throat.

    Justified or Not?: Not.

3. George Brett Freaks out at Ump

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    What made him snap: His home run was called back because umps deemed there was too much pine tar on his bat.

    What he did: Went berzerker. Watch for yourself.

    Justified or Not?: I'm going with yes on this one. Rule 1.10(c) of the 2002 Official Rules of Major League Baseball is silly. It was originally meant to protect the hitters, not penalize them.

2. Latrell Sprewell Chokes Coach

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    What made him snap: Coach P.J. Carlesimo asked for crisper passes.

    What he did: Grabbed coach up by the throat, forced him to the ground. Came back later for seconds—this time in the form of punching.

    Justified or Not?: Buck Williams says: "...nobody in his right mind can really take his side. He was totally wrong."

    Sprewell himself says: "What I did was wrong, but when you sit back and watch it take off, you realize you have no control over it."  ...Really, Latrell? Really?

1. O.J. Simpson Flees

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    What made him snap: Murder charges

    What he did: Got in the back of a Ford Bronco, allegedly with a gun to his head. Led the police on a 50 mile slow-speed chase.

    Simpson had a passport, a fake beard, and 8K in cash in the car with him. Oddly enough, the Bronco was heading north.

    So the plan was to elude pursuing squad cars, helicopters, fans lining the road, and about one hundred million television viewers, drive 1000 miles to the Canadian border (FYI: Mexico is only about 130 miles away), slap on the velcro soup strainer, hope the Canadian immigration officer who inspects his passport isn't a football fan or at least forgets that "Orenthal James" is "O.J." and then settle down for the rest of his days somewhere up in the Yukon territory? Was that it, O.J.?