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The 10 Dirtiest Plays in Sports History

Chris MaddenAnalyst IINovember 29, 2011

The 10 Dirtiest Plays in Sports History

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    On Thanksgiving Day, Ndamukong Suh embarrassed himself and the Detroit Lions with a blatant stomp to the arm of the Green Bay Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith.

    He has drawn the ire of the NFL, the media, and fans. All label him a dirty player.

    The NFL has come down with their punishment: a two-game suspension.

    The scrutiny that comes with a "dirty" reputation will have a bigger impact on his career though.

    If we look back in time, Suh's "Stompsgiving 2011", pales in comparison to the dirtiest plays in sports history. It doesn't even crack the top ten.

    Most dirty plays involve a player letting his or her emotions get the best of them. Suh was no exception.

    The difference was his actions lacked an intent to cause serious harm or injury. But the same cannot be said for the intentions of others on this list.

    Here are the 10 dirtiest moments in sports history.

10. Reggie Evans Gets a Handful

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    As this video shows, Reggie Evans tries to gain an advantage over Chris Kaman in a most unusual way. Kaman appears to be boxing Evans out, setting himelf up to get a rebound, when Evans grabs a handful of.....well, you know.

    Evans didn't cause serious injury to Kaman. He wasn't suspended multiple games because of his actions either.

    But to quote Cris Carter, "C'mon, man!"

    This is something you just don't do. It's the lowest of lows—one of those unwritten rules.

    Reggie Evans apparently didn't get that memo. What he did get was a $10,000 fine; for the sake of NBA players, I hope Reggie learned his lesson.

    If not, the NBA might want to invest in a different kind of Under Armour.

9. New Mexico Sock-Her

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    Elizabeth Lambert, a defender for New Mexico's women's soccer team, made national news in 2009 when video of her rough play surfaced on ESPN.

    A media storm followed, and the Lobos promptly suspended her indefinitely.

    Her actions were not unprovoked, though. In the video you can clearly see two BYU players, on separate occasions, elbow her and grab her in a sensitive area.

    But that doesn't excuse her over-the-top response. And it proves that retaliation usually gets the most attention.

    Lambert unleashes a forearm shiver to the back of the blonde BYU player that elbows her.  She yanks another player to the ground by her hair, and she engages in multiple illegal slide tackles and other takedowns.

    You wouldn't see this much action in women's MMA!

    The fact is, if this had been men's soccer, there would have been no story.  The nation was appalled that a young, attractive woman could behave in such a manner.

    That should be insulting to women athletes everywhere.

    But in my opinion, male or female, provoked or not, that was dirty!

8. Zidane's Headbutt

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    In sports, there is a fine line between right and wrong.  Players straddle that line every day. Holding by an offensive lineman is only wrong if he gets caught.  A basketball player taking an extra step with the ball isn't traveling, unless the ref blows the whistle.

    A headbutt to an opponent's sternum would qualify as wrong. However, if that opponent just made highly offensive comments about your sister, I think you might reconsider.

    This was the case of Zinedine Zidane, who delivered a devastating headbutt to Marco Materazzi's chest. 

    So if it's wrong to ever support a "dirty" play, then consider me wrong, because I think Marco Materazzi got what he deserved.

    That doesn't disqualify the play from this list though.  A headbutt will always be a dirty play because it's illegal in all sports.  Deservedly Zidane got a red card and was disqualified from the match.

    As devastating as the headbutt appears, I'm still not sure if Materazzi's reaction is genuine.  I think he learned his flop technique from Bill Laimbeer.

7. The Marcus Vick Stomp

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    In the 2006 Gator Bowl, Marcus Vick proved just how classless he was.

    Vick stomped on the knee of a defenseless Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil had made a clean tackle on Vick, who had scrambled out of the pocket. The play was over, and Dumervile was simply trying to get up.

    Vick blatantly stomps on Dumervil's knee, then puts all his weight on it and pushes off. 

    This is a particularly dirty play, because there was absolutely no provocation. 

    This type of lapse in judgment should not be a surprise, coming from Vick.  He missed the entire 2004 season due to serious legal issues, and gave the crowd at West Virginia the finger during a game in 2005.

    Not surprisingly, Vick was dismissed from Virginia Tech shortly after the Gator Bowl.

    His response: "It's not a big deal. I'll just move on to the next level, baby."

    If he was talking about the NFL, we're still waiting.

6. Simon's Stomp

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    I'll be the first to admit that Jarkko Ruutu is no angel.  He had his own run-ins with the NHL and was suspended at least once for his style of play.

    Chris Simon is on a whole other level, though. 

    He tries to perform a "sneaky dirty play", which is never successful. He hides in the crowd, pulls Ruutu's leg out with his skate, does his dirty work, then makes a quick escape to his bench.

    Professional athletes seem to forget that there are things called video cameras recording their every move.

    As we all know, the tape doesn't lie.

    Simon stomps on Ruutu's lower leg, ankle, or skate; it's hard to tell. It really doesn't matter, because if you stomp with a skate blade on any body part, it's going to hurt badly.  Ruutu is lucky Simon didn't slice him open or break his leg.

    Simon was given a 30 game suspension, the second-longest in NHL history.  Although Simon came back, he was never the same player. 

    You could say that this suspension marked the end of his career.

5. Albert Haynesworth's Face Stomp

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    It was October 1st, 2006, and the Tennessee Titans were matched up against the Dallas Cowboys. Albert Haynesworth was, at that time, an up and coming defensive lineman and probably the best defensive player the Titans had.

    Perhaps this was an ominous sign of the troubles laying ahead for Haynesworth.

    What makes this play so dirty is the premeditation. Haynesworth takes the trouble to remove Andre Gurode's helmet. Then when one stomp attempt fails, he tries again.

    The second time was the charm. Haynesworth's cleat caught Gurode in the face, just missing his eye, and opened up a gash that required 30 stitches.

    Immediately following the stomp, Haynesworth, appalled that the refs were calling a penalty, had a tantrum and threw his helmet on the ground. 

    He was ejected from the game.

    After further review the NFL suspended him five games without pay, the longest suspension in modern NFL history. 

    To his credit, Haynesworth did apologize and refused to appeal the suspension as the players union recommended he do. Too little, too late.

    I think it's safe to say that everything has gone downhill for Haynesworth since then.

4. The Mailman's "Special" Delivery

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    Just like Ty Cobb sharpened his cleats, Karl Malone was known to sharpen his elbows before every game. Many an NBA big man was a victim of Malone's "special delivery".

    But on this night in 1991, Malone targeted Isiah Thomas, a barely six-foot-tall point guard

    Legend has it that during an earlier matchup between the Jazz and Pistons, Thomas torched Malone's teammate John Stockton for 40 points. Thomas was upset that Stockton, not himself, was chosen for the original Dream Team. 

    Thomas had every right to be upset. He was the better player. Michael Jordan unfairly influenced his Dream Team snub.

    Malone wanted to teach Thomas a lesson in respect for showing up his teammate.  Clearly, a flying elbow between the eyes was the appropriate method.

    Thomas was knocked silly, as the video shows, and required over 40 stitches to close the wound above his left eye.

    Karl Malone was known as a dirty player and this is perhaps the dirtiest play of his career.  It was a vicious attack, and he should have been charged with assault.

    Instead he was fined $10,000 and suspended for one game.

3. Todd Bertuzzi's Cheap Shot

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    This particular dirty play shows why they're dangerous and illegal. 

    Todd Bertuzzi did not intend to end Steve Moore's career. After sucker-punching Moore from behind, he didn't plan on Moore falling on his head, or several other players piling on top of them.

    Bertuzzi certainly didn't intend to fracture three vertebrae in Moore's neck. But that's exactly what happened.

    True, Bertuzzi was looking for payback. Moore had injured his teammate Marcus Naslund during their previous matchup. The hit on Naslund was ruled legal.

    That wasn't enough for Bertuzzi, his teammates, or Canuck fans, though.

    In hockey, fighting is illegal but a part of the game. Bertuzzi was trying to bait Moore into a fight. Smartly, Moore was not biting.

    Bertuzzi resorted to a dirty sucker punch from behind to get his point across.  The rest is history.

    Moore's hockey career was taken from him. Regardless of his intent, I think Bertuzzi's should have been, too.

2. Simon's Slash

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    Chris Simon had been known as a thug long before he made Ryan Hollweg's chin look like raw hamburger.  In fact, he had already been suspended five times prior to this incident.

    It was March 2007, and Hollweg's New York Rangers were facing Simon's New York Islanders.  Hollweg checked Simon into the boards cleanly. Simon fell to the ice, at first appearing dazed, but then got to his feet.

    Simon immediately saw Hollweg coming towards him and calmly took a two-handed swing with his stick. 

    It looked like he was trying to hit a ball off a tee, if Hollweg's body was the tee and his head was the ball.

    Luckily, Hollweg wasn't seriously injured, and he declined to press charges against Simon.

    Simon was ejected and suspended indefinitely. He eventually missed 25 games. Simon later apologized, and said that because of a previous concussion, he didn't remember much of the incident.

    How convenient!

    The sad irony was that Simon's slash fell on the three-year anniversary of the Bertuzzi-Moore incident.

    Unfortunately, lessons were not learned.

1. Marty McSorley Mugging

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    It's the most notoriously dirty, vicious play in NHL history.  It also carried the biggest punishment in NHL history.

    Donald Brashear suffered serious injury, and not only from the slash to the head.  He suffered a grade-3 concussion when his head slammed into the ice.  Luckily, Brashear recovered, returned, and had a productive end to his career.

    McSorley was not so lucky. Nor should he have been.

    Prior to this incident, McSorley was known as an enforcer; maybe even a thug. But he was also a skilled hockey player. He was known as Wayne Gretsky's bodyguard when he played with the Edmonton Oilers. He helped them win two Stanley Cups.

    His prior accolades are forgotten now. McSorley's legacy will be this ugly play. He received a one-year suspension for it, the longest in NHL history, and never played in the NHL again.

    He was also charged with assault with a weapon for his attack on Brashear. A jury found him guilty, and he served 18 months' probation. 

    A little lenient if you ask me. 

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