We are drawn to it like Donald Trump to a microphone. We know we should condemn it—be adults and not waste our time on childish antics. Still, it’s impossible to look away. Americans love a good tantrum. No, what we love to watch is the car accident which is a celebrity or athlete going all five-year-old on the media, a referee or another player. It makes us feel a little better about our day. Heck, it’s on TV. We don’t have to deal with it.
There have been many over the years, of course. If you’re old enough, you watched John McEnroe melt down on a regular basis. Bobby Knight was an Olympic-level chair-thrower. In the NFL, several players have repeatedly gone off the rails on occasion. In their case, however, and with the new information concerning how head injuries can affect football players, it’s unclear how much of that behavior is medical, chemically induced or the result of some good old fashioned immaturity.
We’re looking for players and coaches who broke a spring over a particular incident or loss and went above and beyond the call in displaying the results of mommy holding them too much as a baby. Here are 10 of the best:
10. Cam Newton – Super Bowl 50, 2016
The temptation is great, since this happened so recently, to place it at the top of the list. You will see as you read the rest of the entries that, in context, the Panthers’ MVP quarterback acted mildly by comparison. But Cam Newton has a special problem. He likes to celebrate his successes. Often, he likes to do so overzealously, continuing his dabbing and Clark Kent impersonations well past the time when others return to the sidelines. Therefore, he is going to be held to a higher standard when he slips up.
It has been presented that the reason he walked out of the presser after Carolina lost 24-10 to the Broncos was because Denver’s Chris Harris was being interviewed close by and Newton overheard him talking about how their game plan worked to stymie the Panthers. OK. We get it. That still does not excuse a player simply ignoring his league mandated responsibilities to talk to the press. It also doesn’t excuse his plaintive whining to the refs near the end of the game as if those zebras and not Von Miller had abused him for the past three and a half hours.
Cam Newton has not done himself any favors. Ask Peyton Manning about how the media likes to bring up silly storylines from the past for the rest of your career. Manning holds most major passing records and had already won a Super Bowl but still had to field the questions about how his brother had won two championships. Cam is a great athlete, looks to be a great QB and a really pleasant person. The pressure will be on now, greater than ever, to prove this little outburst was a fluke and his 2015 season was not.
9. Jim Schwartz – Lions vs. 49ers, 2011
Detroit Lions head coach went a tad ballistic when he took umbrage from a slap on the back by the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh. The Lions had just lost a close game by the score of 25-19 when the two coaches met a mid-field. Normally, opposing coaches simply shake hands and wish each other luck the rest of the season. But the volatile Harbaugh was unusually jacked from the important win and celebrating as he approached Schwartz. The Lions’ head man apparently felt Harbaugh disrespected him by not making eye contact and boisterously slapping his hand and possibly—although it’s disputed—his back. That set Schwartz off. He reportedly chased Harbaugh as much as 40 yards before confronting him and beginning a scuffle that could have well resulted in stubbed toes and hurt feelings. No, really—like most sports fights it becomes plain after a few moments that there is a reason they don’t participate in MMA.
“I went to congratulate coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way,” Schwartz said during the post game press conference. “I didn’t expect an obscenity at that point. Obviously, when you win a game like that, you are excited, but there is a protocol that goes with this league.”there.” He went on to say, “I am not going to apologize for that. If that offends you or anybody else, so be it.”
8. Svetlana Khorkina – Athens Olympics, 2004
It would be rare to taste grapes more sour than Svetlana Khorkina was serving after losing to U.S. gymnast Carly Patterson in the 2004 in the women’s all-around competition. She blamed Patterson, she blamed the judges and finally blamed her national heritage for ‘fleecing’ her of a gold medal she apparently thought she was owed.
Khorkina, already a two-time champion, was likely participating in her final Olympic games. She had long ago earned a reputation as a serious competitor and often a surly interview. When an athlete loses, though, it’s a far cry from saying you did your best to calling the judges phonies and questioning the skill of your opponent. Svetlana did both.
“I think it’s because I’m from Russia, not from America. I’ve seen much tougher competition than her,” Khorkina reportedly told the Dallas Morning News of Patterson, 16. “Let’s see how long she can remain on top. Can she keep going and compete in two more Olympics like myself?”
Wow. That’s the kind of class normally reserved for Kanye West.
7. Nancy Kerrigan – Lillehammer Olympics, 1994
Slack, you say? Someone who was assaulted by an imbecile with a stick in order to derail her lifelong dream of winning a gold medal and then lost it anyway despite a difficult comeback and near pristine performance deserves some slack? No, we will have none of that here.
See, Nancy Kerrigan’s terrific story of overcoming obstacles and her heart wrenching defeat actually work against her in this instance. She had it all. She was America’s sob story. A real life Rocky Balboa, loved by millions even though she lost. All she had to do was not say something petty. On camera.
Ooh! Missed it by that much.
Oksana Baiul skated away with the gold that year and was quite happy about it, it would appear. She let loose tears of joy not unlike most beauty pageant winners and other athletes who achieve a lifetime goal. And if Nancy had simply applauded and smiled her enormous smile while the darling of the Ukraine accepted her applause and readied herself to receive her medal, all would have been fine. But she couldn’t resist.
A camera focused on her while she waited for Baiul to arrive for the ceremony. Kerrigan postulated that Baiul was putting makeup on and ‘was only going to cry again.’ Turns out the officials were simply trying to cue up the Ukrainian National Anthem.
6. Vince Young – Titans vs. Redskins, 2010
This may not be as much an example of a sore loser as much as an utter lack of maturity, but when a player tosses his uniform and pads into the stands, it probably merits mention here.
Vince Young came into the NFL as the next franchise quarterback. His performance against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl had cemented his name in college football lore and gained him instant riches as a high pick in that spring’s NFL draft. It’s awfully hard to not be a disappointment when the bar is set that high. He battled minor injuries and worried Titans coach Jeff Fisher with his sketchy work habits in practice. He wanted to succeed but was constantly questioned on how badly.
So, when Young tore a tendon in his thumb during a close game with the Redskins in 2010, it was encouraging that he tried tape and gloves to reduce the pain and informed the coaches that he wanted to return to the game. Fisher wouldn’t have it, leaving 23-year-old Rusty Smith in at QB in a game the Titans eventually lost in overtime.
Young lost it, throwing his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands as he entered the tunnel. The QB was out for the rest of the year with his damaged thumb, then moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles for one season, retiring after 2011.
5. Jeff Tarango – Wimbledon, 1995
This guy was simply unhinged. Call it what you want but Jeff Tarango’s sudden outburst and exit from his 1995 match with Alexander Mronz resembled an irate Crispin Glover on amphetamines.
Getting consistent harassment from the Wimbledon crowd for past incidents, Tarango actually shouted “Oh, shut up!” after a round of taunting which resulted from his arguing a call. Well, this is Wimbledon and in addition to extending our pinkies while drinking tea and dropping our “H”on occasion, we have rules about abusing officials and fans. When the chair umpire, Bruno Rebeuh, penalized Tarango for the outburst, the player screeched those most noble of words, “No, no, no, I’m not playing anymore.” How valiant.
After demanding an audience with the supervisor of referees and (shock!) not gaining any satisfaction, Tarango called the chair umpire “the most corrupt official in the game,” declared he was finished, stormed off the court and into the ranks of top 10 lists everywhere. You do have to give him some credit. Considering he never made it out of the third round of a major tournament, he was still able to make sure his name will be remembered for something he did on the court. Way to go, Jeff.
4. Dennis Green – Cardinals vs. Bears, 2006
The classics never get old.
“They are who we thought they were! And we let ‘em off the hook!”
If you’re not familiar with this one you should be ashamed of yourself. Dennis Green’s Arizona Cardinals had just blown a 20 point second half lead against a Bears team that was undefeated in five games early in the 2006 season. Even after allowing the comeback, the Desert Birds had been inside the 20 yard line with a late chance to kick a game winning field goal, but choked that away as well. So it’s not hard to understand why Green was perturbed. But taking it out on the post-game reporters?
“If you wanna crown them, then crown their ass!” he bellowed. The jury is still out on how good the crown would look when placed there.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – World Cup, 2010
Nice loogie. The introduction of bodily fluids to a sore loser episode will surely scale it up this list.
Cristiano Ronaldo was a forward for the Portuguese National Team in the 2010 World Cup when they lost an intense game to Spain, 1-0. That’s pronounced one-nil for all of my fellow American soccer illiterates.
No, losing is not fun. We can only speculate that wiping someone’s spittle off of your shoes is not much more enjoyable, however. As he was walking off the field, Ronaldo was—and this couldn’t have been much of a surprise—followed by a news cameraman. Frustrated and displaying some decent marksmanship, the footballer launched some lung-butter directly at the man’s feet. He was called out by the media immediately and roundly roasted by indignant soccer fans for weeks. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to imagine an indignant soccer fan, is it not?
2. Woody Hayes – Ohio State vs. Clemson, 1978
Woody Hayes was a coaching legend. He might have been talked about in the same hushed tones as Bear Bryant and Bud Wilkinson were it not for this very ugly episode. He had helmed the Ohio St. Buckeyes for 28 years and claimed five national titles by the time the 1978 Gator Bowl rolled around. Not unlike their 2015 team, Clemson was on the rise and trying to beat a national powerhouse at season’s end. They were leading 17-15 late in the game when the fateful play occurred.
Driving to kick a field goal which would have put them ahead by one, Hayes decided to have QB Art Schlichter run an option. Schlichter inadvisably tried a short pass which was intercepted by a backup nose tackle named Charlie Bauman. Bauman made a short return on the pick and was forced out near the Buckeye sideline. No one knows what was really going on in Hayes’ head at that moment but another Clemson player stated he heard the coach say to Bauman, “You SOB, I just lost my job!” before grabbing his jersey and taking a swing which landed harmlessly near the player’s throat. According to interviews afterward, every player and assistant who saw the incident knew Hayes had crossed a very specific line. It was his last game as Ohio State’s head coach.
1. Tommy Lewis – Alabama vs. Rice, 1954
“I guess I’m just too full of Alabama.”
That was the quote issued by Crimson Tide running back Tommy Lewis after one of the more bizarre plays in sports history. Well, if he wasn’t, he was certainly full of something.
Lewis’ Alabama team trailed the Rice Owls 7-6 with over eight minutes left in the first half of the 1954 Cotton Bowl. Lewis had scored earlier on a short run and was sitting on the bench when the Owls’ Dicky Moegel broke free on a long run. He was streaking down the sideline with defenders in pursuit when something a bit unexpected happened. Lewis, apparently thinking he was invisible, ran from his own bench and tackled Moegel around the 42 yard line of Alabama. People, players and especially referees had to stop to figure out what had just happened.
When the decision came down, the result of the play had Moegel and Rice being awarded a touchdown anyway under a rule that punished “unfair play”. It ended up not being overly important to the outcome of the game as Moegel ran wild, scoring three times including the aborted run and Rice cruising to victory, 28-6. For his part, Lewis will be forever remembered as the author of the “12th man tackle” and looked on by Alabama fans as exhibiting the utmost in Tide spirit.