Sports elicit emotions unlike any other form of entertainment. You may want to stand and applaud upon seeing a tremendous concert or witnessing a musical that touched your soul, but these events do not result in the instant reactions that occur in the stands at sports arenas.
Sometimes, people at sporting contests get out of hand. A combination of things occurring on the playing surface – perhaps the home team failing to adequately show up for a game – along with certain individuals in the stands having consumed a little too much alcohol leads to fans going beyond heckling, cheering and booing.
Here are the 10 most memorable fan meltdowns in recent memory.
Note: Events that resulted in serious injuries/deaths were, for obvious reasons, not included in this list.
10. Eric Cantona Hits Back
The list begins with a reminder of why you should avoid crossing the line when watching a game in person. Manchester United star Eric Cantona had been sent off during a January 1995 match at Crystal Palace, something that did not sit well with the player. As Cantona made his way off of the pitch, a fan sprinted down the steps to hurl insults toward the ejected athlete.
Wrong move, sir.
Cantona snapped, unleashing a karate kick worthy of the Double Dragon video game franchise onto the fan before pummeling the man. The player was arrested and convicted for assault, but that sentence was overturned. He was banned from playing for eight months by the Football Association.
9. Browns Fans Take I
It should come as no shock to anybody that Cleveland fans are featured in this piece multiple times. The city has not, as of the posting of this piece, had a professional sports championship to celebrate in 50 years, and the Cleveland Browns in particular have found numerous and mind-boggling ways to break the hearts of the team’s supporters over the years.
The home fans unintentionally gave the Browns a boost during a 1989 game versus the Denver Broncos. Members of the notorious Dawg Pound section of the old Cleveland Browns Stadium threw batteries and other debris onto the turf, so much so that the referees decided to have the two teams play on the other end of the field. This led to the Browns having the wind at their backs when Matt Bahr kicked a 48-yard game-winning field goal to give Cleveland a 16-13 victory.
8. Not Jolly
It’s one of the more infamous fan reactions of the past century, a moment that gets brought up during sports broadcasts each and every holiday season. Philadelphia sports supporters are a different breed in a variety of ways, and they very much put that on display in December of 1968.
The Phillies, 76ers and Eagles were all disasters in the fall of ’68. A gentleman hired to play Santa Claus was unable to make it to the Eagles game because of bad weather/lack of interest, and thus the club hired a kid who literally did not fit the bill. Philly fans, never a group to keep their unhappiness a secret, went on the attack, and it made for what is a SportsCenter moment 40+ years after the fact.
7. Ultimate Snowball Fight
There’s nothing wrong with a little snowball fight during the winter months. That is, of course, unless it happens at a football stadium AND it features drunk and angry fans. Then it becomes a major problem.
The New York Giants were on their way to finishing with a 5-11 record in 1995 when they hosted the San Diego Chargers in the season finale. Fans, perhaps bored by what they were seeing or maybe just mad that the home team stunk, began throwing snowballs and iceballs onto the field. While it sounds harmless, injuries did occur. The Giants nearly forfeited the game.
6. Disco Demolition Night
Nothing brings people out to the ol’ ballpark as does a gimmick. That was exactly what the Chicago White Sox were shooting for in 1979 when they planned a public backlash/execution of disco albums. Everything started out fine, with chants of “DISCO SUCKS!” being belted out around the park.
Then came the time to destroy the records. Explosives were set off, and the booms caused by the blasts led to security personnel being distracted. Their chance in sight, thousands of fans rushed onto the field. Riot police was eventually called, and the White Sox had to forfeit the game to the Detroit Tigers.
5. When Hockey Fights Go Wrong
Fighting is, until the rule gets changed (and it probably will sometime down the road), part of NHL games. This is especially true when rivals such as the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins meet on the ice as the teams did in November of 1970. A brawl between players of the clubs broke out near the end of a period of play, and both benches cleared.
Not happy to remain bystanders, a group of Boston fans decided to throw down with players, coaches and trainers on the Montreal bench. They got more than they bargained for, and the Boston police had to be called in to calm matters.
This is regarded as one of the most-memorable and all-time classic hockey fights.
4. Browns fans Take II
Diehard fans of the Browns can recall this December 2001 contest as if it occurred yesterday. Cleveland was driving down the field for a potential game-winning drive late on in the contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it appeared that the Browns had converted on fourth-and-one before quarterback Tim Couch spiked the ball to stop play. Referee Terry McAulay blew his whistle immediately after the spike, however, as he had been buzzed that the fourth down play needed to be reviewed. It was determined that the Browns had not gained the first down due to wide receiver Quincy Morgan never fully completing the reception, and the Jaguars were awarded possession.
The fans in the Dawg Pound were unhappy with what they had seen. They began throwing beer bottles and other debris onto the field, and the refs, in an attempt to keep themselves, players and coaches safe, called the game early.
That NFL contest is one reason you get served plastic beer bottles at sporting events today. Thanks, Cleveland.
3. Riot in the Ring
Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota met for a heavyweight boxing match in the summer of 1996. Golota controlled much of the action, but he struggled with following the rules of the sport; most notably the rule that says you can’t hit your opponent below the belt. Golota nailed Bowe with no fewer than six low blows (ouch), the last of which got him disqualified.
Members from the camps of both fighters entered the ring after the fight was called, and a melee ensued. Fans of Golota decided that they wanted in on the action, and they joined in on the riot. In all, nine people were hospitalized.
2. Malice at the Palace
Just as with the first incident mentioned in this piece, No. 2 serves as a lesson all sports fans should learn: Remember, before you do anything that may result in a physical altercation with a player, that the person you are engaging with is a professional athlete.
He can probably take you.
NBA players are pros, and thus they should never enter the stands. That said, it’s hard to blame members of the Indiana Pacers for reacting as they did on that fateful night when the team was playing at the Detroit Pistons. Debris had been hurled at their bench, and any one of them could have been seriously injured.
It’s easy to blame the players for this riot, but remember that nothing of the sort would have occurred had the fans involved followed arena regulations.
1. Cleveland Fans Take III
Fans of the Cleveland Indians. An absolutely lousy team. Beers being sold for a dime. The per-purchase limit for beers set at six. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, everything that you could imagine would go wrong when such a situation occurred. Those in the stands got wasted. Fans stormed the field. Bottles, chairs, knives and chains were used as weapons. Members of the Indians fought their own fans to protect players of the Texas Rangers.
It was an absolute disaster.