When Sports Taunting Goes Wrong

Scott Janovitz@@BrainTrain9Featured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2015

When Sports Taunting Goes Wrong

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    During the reign of Michael Jordan, he was the last athlete you'd want to taunt.
    During the reign of Michael Jordan, he was the last athlete you'd want to taunt.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Though taunting is admittedly sometimes fun, things rarely go the taunter's way.

    Call it karma, bad luck, coincidence or a sign from the sports gods above, but no matter the reason, taunters rarely prosper. 

    Over the years, many a competitor has antagonized the likes of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and LeBron James, and just as many have paid the price. 

    Of course, not all retribution comes in the form of a legendary athlete. 

    Countless boxers and famous UFC fighters, for example, have felt vanity's wrath—and the canvas—in manners both humbling and pitiful.

    And sometimes taunters are punished in more unexpected ways, by falling pucks, choreographed cartwheels or lunatic fans.

    With, then, these possibilities and others in mind, we've scoured the internet to find our 10 favorite instances of When Taunting Goes Wrong.

    Some of the sports moments we chose are both iconic and heroic, while others are a bit more random and playful. No matter what, though, each one features a taunter who opened his mouth only to have someone (or something) else shut it.   

Knowing Your Own Weakness

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    In life, it's important to know both your own strengths and your own weaknesses. 

    In this featured MMA battle, the loser's weakness is something approximating direct punches to the head, a flaw of which he was clearly unaware. 

    Of course, once he awoke, we hope he managed to fully comprehend the inherent dangers in taunting, and also assume he now more intimately understands the wonders of defense as well as the fragility of the human chin.

    If only he could have learned these lessons sooner, and in time to communicate them to this similarly naive taunter, or to perhaps just one of two misguided boxers. 

Puck You!

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    Taunters need be aware of not just who they're taunting, but when they're taunting.

    If, for some reason, taunting is absolutely necessary, it's probably wise to first remove yourself from harm's way. Or, in other words, play things safe with a more strategic brag.

    This lesson is really driven home—straight to the face, in fact—in the moment above. 

    When Chicago's Steve Sullivan is injured by a stick to the forehead, a nearby Avalanche fan takes the opportunity to go full taunt, displaying the type of confidence and braggadocio that only exists behind a thick layer of glass.

    The problem? It turns out, for this fan, the glass was actually no protection at all, a fact he discovered the hard way.   

    And the lesson here is twofold: God is always watching and sometimes you pay for sticking your nose in places it doesn't belong. 

     

Ball and Score?

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    We now take a break from lesser-known taunts to highlight a taunt heard round the world. 

    The year was 2004, the setting Lambeau Field. Determined through four quarters of football, the Matt Hasselbeck-led Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers would need overtime to decide the NFC Wild-Card Game winner.

    Captains for both teams gathered at midfield for the obligatory coin toss. The ref gestured and the quarter hovered before spinning back down to earth, with a decidedly Seattle tilt. Then, for no real reason, Hasselbeck announced the boldest of declarations and one he will forever regret:  

    “We want the ball, and we’re going to score," blurted the unjustifiably cocky and equally greedy quarterback. 

    Of course, he wasn't all wrong. Seattle really did want—and got—the football, and someone actually scored too. It just wasn't the Seahawks. 

    Instead, on the sixth play of Seattle's second OT possession, Green Bay's Al Harris made Hasselbeck eat his words, picking off the taunter's pass before taking it 52 yards in the other direction to give the Packers a 33-27 victory.

    Now, if only Matty H was half as accurate as he was prematurely confident, perhaps then he could have avoided this embarrassing list. 

     

Don't Mess with the King

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    Some rules in life are pretty basic. You don't, for example, provoke a cornered dog, wake a sleeping giant or piss off LeBron James.

    Just ask Tobias Harris and the Orlando Magic, who recently learned the latter lesson.  

    Midway through the third quarter of their December tilt, Orlando led Cleveland by two and felt good about its chance to grab the upset W. That was, of course, until Harris decided to open his mouth and ruffle the King's feathers (which can be found at the 3:40 mark in the video linked above), which even James acknowledged was a difference maker in the end. 

    "I was actually in chill mode tonight but chill mode was deactivated after that," admitted the future Hall of Famer. 

    And the stats only further validate James' claim—from that point on, LBJ went 5-of-7 from the floor, scoring 15 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter alone.

    Oh, and by the way, Cleveland went on to win with ease, 98-89

     

Killer Cartwheel

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    It's now time to explore a moment that features perhaps our most creative and unique taunter: The Cartwheeling Goalie.

    With the game heading to a shootout and a trip to the America East Championship on the line, Hartford's goalie dug dip into his bag of secret weapons and pulled out—of all things—the dreaded cartwheel, a stunt surely no soccer player could ever overcome.

    Unfortunately for Hartford, though, it turns out the Stony Brook Men's Soccer team is tougher than most and, more importantly, completely impervious to cartwheeling goalies—don't ask us how. 

    It's always the unexpected things in life that come back to bight you and, in this instance, the men from Stony Brook surprisingly proved too strong. Resisting the goalie's powerful tactics, the striker not only found the back of the net, but threw his opponent's weapon of taunt right back in his face.  

    In the end, Stony won the shootout 3-2, and then took the real shootout—the shootout within the shootout, if you will—by virtue of absolute and total destruction. 

Barking at Brady

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    Ask those closest to Tom Brady, and we're betting they'd tell you the superstar quarterback requires little to no added motivation.

    And part of us wishes we could time travel, all the way back to 2007, to explain this fact to Steelers safety Anthony Smith, who paid dearly for taunting—or motivating—a vengeful Brady.  

    A virtual unknown at the time, but emboldened nonetheless, Smith found enough nerve to guarantee a Pittsburgh victory over New England, even though he didn't have sufficient talent or a big enough role to deliver on such a demanding promise.   

    And deliver he did not. 

    Of course, simply winning wasn't enough for an annoyed Brady; he had to make Smith pay too for his antagonistic ways. 

    As a result, the Patriots not only cruised to a 34-13 victory, but their quarterback torched Allen for not one, but two explosive touchdowns

    And, since then, defensive backs all around the league have thought twice before poking Brady the Bear.  

Close, but No Cigar

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    While most athletes tend to exaggerate and embellish upon their taunting tales, DeSean Jackson has real proof that he was taunting all the way back in high school, before taunting was even cool.

    To be more specific, Jackson was a high school senior when, with a premature taunt, he first embarrassed himself on national television.

    The game—the 2005 Army All-American Game—is hardly remembered today, while Jackson's blunder will likely never be forgotten.

    From flipping through midair with prominent visions of seven, to fumbling the football after landing a solid foot short of the goal line, Jackson experienced the full taunting spectrum, soaring with pride before crashing in shame.

    And, somehow, the humbling moment didn't humble Jackson at all, as the overzealous wideout made an eerily similar mistake roughly five years later. 

Roll Tide

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    Our next moment comes to us from the 2014 Sugar Bowl, the site of Oklahoma's surprising 45-31 win over Alabama. 

    The game's major highlight, however, was not the battle that ensued on the field, but rather one that took place in the stands.

    We aren't entirely sure what the young male from Oklahoma said to so clearly upset Alabama's apparent No. 1 fan, but we do know that she wasn't fond of it. 

    It's also clear that some 'Bama fans handle both their banter and booze a little worse than the rest of us. 

    To one unsuspecting Sooner fan, it was all just a little harmless trash talk. But, to our distinguished member of the Tide, them be fightin' words, yo. 

         

Not so Big Ben

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    Back to the NFL and 2010 we go to take a closer look at Ben Roethlisberger's tumultuous taunt.

    The regrettable moment took place during one of many (insert decidedly sarcastic tone) heated battles between Pittsburgh and Oakland. After giving his team a 21-3 lead on a second-quarter touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, Roethlisberger made a truly ill-advised decision and began to taunt Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour.

    The quarterback, however, incorrectly assumed he was protected by the rules of the game, for which Seymour clearly had less respect. Big Ben also grossly underestimated just how scary defensive tackles can be.

    With next to no thought, then, Seymour reacted accordingly, promptly placing Big Ben on his backside.

    And though we can't say for sure, we imagine nothing erases the memory of a sweet touchdown pass—or makes one regret taunting—quite like a concussion-inducing forearm shiver.   

'Was He Big Enough?'

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    In our final slide, we take a look at the great Michael Jordan, who—better than anyone else—could turn the tables on taunters.

    Our favorite of these iconic Jordan moments dates all the way back to 1987, when His Airness and the Bulls visited Utah for a regular-season showdown with the Jazz. 

    With roughly one minute left in the second quarter, Jordan found himself with a mismatch on the low block, posting up and eventually dunking on the much smaller John Stockton.

    On Jordan's way back down the court, Utah's owner at the time—Larry H. Millercalled out, "Hey, Jordan, dunk on someone your own size." 

    Never the fan of criticism, Jordan vindictively responded like only he could. On the very next offensive possession, he corralled the ball in transition and, like a heat-seeking missile, went full tilt toward the bucket once again, this time throwing down a thunderous jam right on top of the much bigger Mel Turpin, who stood 6'11" and weighed 240 pounds. 

    Andas if he hadn't already sufficiently driven his point homeonce the dust had settled, Jordan looked back over at Miller and coyly asked, "Was he big enough?" 

    That night, we're sure Miller learned to never again mess with No. 23. He wasn't, however, the last taunter Jordan would expose or embarrass. 

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