The Dirtiest Plays in Sports

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIISeptember 26, 2012

The Dirtiest Plays in Sports

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    There's a fine line between gritty and filthy in the reckless world of sports.

    Athletes often find themselves bridging the gap between the two extremes with borderline acts of fury, and they're naturally forgiven for their accidental chaos.

    Sometimes, a player will thoroughly cross the line.

    Sucker punches and stomps become headlines. Pundits have noted heat of the moment as a possible cause, as well as thorough disregard for decency.

    We're here to look at the dirtiest plays in sports history.

    This is athletic disgrace at its worst.

20. Reggie Evans Reaches for Chris Kaman

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    Grab the bull, get the horns. Reggie Evans found that out the hard way when his hand was caught in Chris Kaman's cookie jar.

    Kaman, in the post-game interview, didn't seem as angry as we expected. Instead, he was simply dumbfounded. It was surely a stomach-wrenching experience for the burly center. Just don't call him Shirley.

19. Zinedine Zidane's Head Mess

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    It was the header heard 'round the world—Zidane's head to Materazzi's chest.

    When the French legend was sent off in the 110th minute of the 2006 World Cup Final, the worst moment possible (France would lose to Italy 5-3 in a shootout without their star), the world was shocked. But, according to his Italian victim, Zidane sparked the feud by offering his jersey to Materazzi after the game, to which he replied, "I would prefer your sister."

    "I swear, before all this mess, I didn't even know Zidane had a sister," said Materazzi.

    Jury proceed...

18. The Mailman Delivers an Elbow

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    The Nail-Man, better known as Karl Malone, was the Robin to John Stockton's Batman during their Utah Jazz heyday. There was a ferocious ingredient to the power forward's game that made him both a legend and an enemy.

    We've seen him backhand-slap Christian Laettner, jewel tap Brent Price, and elbow anyone who's been within a five-block radius during a rebound attempt, but nothing compares to the 40-stitch education he gave Isiah Thomas back in December of '91.

    On the other hand, those bad boy Detroit Pistons were simply tasting their own medicine.

17. Bobby Clarke's Notorious Shot

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    Ringleader of Philly's infamous Broad Street Bullies during the Flyers' '70s heyday, Bobby Clarke was a win-at-all-costs type of player, and he was beloved for it. His slash to the ankle of Soviet Valeri Kharlamov during the Summit Series in 1972 cemented his reputation.

    Clarke was revered by the hockey world because of his ruthless demeanor and fierce desire to wreak havok. In the end, as his coaches saw it, Kharlamov had to be stopped...

    "I called Clarke over to the bench, looked over at Kharlamov and said, 'I think he needs a tap on the ankle.' I didn't think twice about it. It was Us versus Them. And Kharlamov was killing us. I mean, somebody had to do it. And I sure wasn't going to ask Henderson," said Team Canada's assistant coach John Ferguson.

16. Tie Domi's Postseason Elbow

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    Tie Domi had no regard for humanity during his NHL career. During the closing seconds of Game 4 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Domi offered a slight elbow to the face of Scott Niedermayer, who never even saw his villainous counterpart coming.

    Domi was eventually suspended for the rest of the playoffs.

15. Ndamukong Suh Stomps His Reputation

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    If not for that tantrum-like stomp at the end, Ndamukong Suh may have been able to finish his 2011 Thanksgiving Day game. Instead, another two games were added to his ejection, after he physically manhandled Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith while he was already face planted.

    A defensive stud who owned a clean record and classy reputation when he left Nebraska soon began taunting the game he loved. Although he's been straight-laced ever since.

14. Steve Moore's Rookie Impact

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    A cheap shot by a young kid trying to make a name for himself against one of the game's biggest stars was essentially the storyline behind Steve Moore's head shot on Näslund in 2004.

    With clearly no intent to go for the puck, the Avs rook went straight for the noggin. Neither Näslund nor coach Marc Crawford was pleased. Although, it shouldn't matter who was hit, but rather that the shot was cheap.

    Enough of Crawford's treat-my-superstar-better pleas.

13. Mike Tyson Deafens the Crowd

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    Forget the bite, which was clearly an epic counter to Evander Holyfield's supposed headbutt, let's study the Oprah Winfrey Show apology. Michael, what would you like to say?

    The Winfrey influence conquers all odds yet again.

12. Joey Barton's Ruckus

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    After allegedly elbowing Carlos Tévez and epically being handed a red card, Queens Park Rangers star Joey Barton decided to go haywire. He kicked Sergio Agüero, and then, while walking away, got entangled with several other Manchester City subs.

    Mario Balotelli looked ready to end Barton's life.

11. Chris Simon's Slashing Ways

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    It's the subtle pokes that cause the biggest riots. One dirty player, Chris Simon, aims to stomp the ankle out from under another filthy scoundrel, Jarko Ruutu.

    A bloody fist engagement would've sufficed. Remember, there's fighting in hockey for a reason.

10. Marty McSorley's Classy Exit

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    Shortly after this sucker swat to the head of legendary brawler Donald Brashear, Vancouver's Marty McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon and sentenced to 18 months probation. Naturally, he faced a one-year suspension from the NHL as well, this being his last taste of the league.

    Brashear would return just over a month later in true champ form.

9. Marcus Vick's Defining Moment

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    Considering there are so many rules protecting quarterbacks at every level, one might expect the position to be stocked with petrified brats.

    Not former Virginia Tech signal caller Marcus Vick, who proved to folks out there that he was simply a classless hunter. All that talent and no mindset.

8. Albert Haynesworth's Self-Control Issues

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    In the words of Dave Chappelle, here's when keeping it real goes wrong.

    Bullish Albert Haynesworth, former defensive tackle for the Titans and $100 million overweight benchwarmer for the Redskins, decided to slam his foot down on helpless and helmet-less Cowboys center Andre Gurode back in 2006. Following his wanton disregard for human life, Haynesworth was suspended for five games.

7. Pepe Gets Chippy

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    In all fairness, if all divers were treated this way, the disgusting issue might be solved.

    But Brazil-born footballer Képler Laveran Lima Ferreira, known around these parts as Pepe, stretched the limits when he kicked his opponent back to the first half. And several not-so-friendly taps for good measure.

6. Tie Domi's Encore

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    Ulf Samuelsson is remembered most for ending the career of popular UCLA Bruin Cam Neely (also featured as Sea Bass in the Jim Carrey films Dumb and Dumber and Me, Myself and Irene). The former defenseman was a notorious cheap-shot artist.

    Then came Tie Domi, who's dabbled in dirty plenty of times. It's only natural that these two would collide for an icy finish.

5. NCAA Hardwood Stomping

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    When gangly Buckeyes center Luke Witte was knocked to the hardwood by a crunching foul during a '72 game against Minnesota, tempers began flaring. And then came the helpful hand of Minnesota's Corky Taylor to help the seven-footer up.

    What followed was pure, maniacal hatred. Witte was kneed in groin by Taylor after being helped up, and then stomped to a pulp during the fracas. It was collegiate horror.

4. Matt Johnson's Heinous Knockout

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    Blind-sided knockouts are the most disgraceful aspect of hockey, and they need to be stopped.

    6'5" winger Matt Johnson may have disagreed back in 1998, when he slugged Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom in filthy fashion. Honestly, is face-to-face combat no longer trending?

    Johnson earned a surface-scratching 12-game suspension, and bruising Beukeboom would find himself with yet another concussion. He would retire the following July.

3. Elizabeth Lambert's Chaotic Moment

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    Ever hear of the snowball effect? It's what BYU had to deal with after New Mexico's Elizabeth Lambert started down a hill of violence back in 2009.

    A two-game suspension was all she'd get for her hair-pulling antics. A disgraceful, yet engaging performance.

2. James Butler's Shot Heard 'Round the World

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    Dubbed the Harlem Hammer during his precocious time in the ring, boxer James Butler is remembered most for one disastrous sucker punch.

    After losing a fight by unanimous decision to Richard "The Alien" Grant, Butler socked his opponent with a fierce right. A 20-5-0 career was forever tainted by brutality.

    While Grant received 26 stitches and a dislocated jaw, Butler got four months in the Riker's Island slammer for assault.

1. Todd Bertuzzi's Notorious Slug

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    Looking for revenge against Steve Moore, who'd only recently targeted line-partner Markus Näslund's head, Todd Bertuzzi proceeded with the most heinous act in NHL history.

    His slug from behind forced Moore to retire (he eventually sued Bertuzzi), while the Canucks' bruiser was suspended indefinitely by both the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), only to be reinstated in August of 2005.

    A deafening moment on the global sports scene. Numbing in effect.

    Follow me for more reckless abandonment.