All of us have had a bad day at work and said things that we later came to regret. It is very unlikely, however, that these incidents took place on national television and received widespread public criticism. Life as an athlete or coach is much more than the actions that take place on the field of play. Success in this business often requires you to be an expert communicator and model citizen in addition to the physical demands of the job.
Mandatory media appearances have been a part of sports for some time now, meaning that many provide the same canned responses that fans have come to expect. Players and coaches can be fined for not upholding their media obligations. When an individual strays from the script and speaks from the heart, it can lead to some very entertaining off the cuff exchanges, even some of the most memorable moments in sports history.
Being an athlete or coach in constant contact with the media can be a delicate balancing act. It requires insight at moments when introspection is not easy, humor at moments that may be personally painful, and emotion when tensions are running high. When a person cannot muster those qualities it can be very entertaining for viewers and even lead to an iconic career moment. While being remembered for something you said in the heat of the moment is not ideal, it is infinitely better than being forgotten.
10 Cam Newton
To be fair to Cam Newton, the setup for his Super Bowl 50 post-game press conference was not ideal: only a thin curtain separated Cam from the Broncos victory press conference. But, that did not excuse his terse responses and petulant behavior. Losing on the grandest scale in American sports must be extraordinarily difficult, but storming out of a press conference is only going to tarnish Newton’s media friendly image. Cam is now defending his actions and vowing to return better than ever, while the American public relishes in his defeat.
9 Jim Mora
Following a brutal loss by his Indianapolis Colts to the San Francisco 49ers, coach Jim Mora unleashed a legendary tirade. He started off by listing the myriad of reasons for the Colts loss, including four Peyton Manning interceptions, before a reporter asked about the Colts playoff chances. This question incensed Mora, who adopted a high pitched tone to deliver his legendary line, “Playoffs...don’t talk about playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?”. The press conference went down in history and was eventually parodied in a Coors Light commercial.
8 Mike Gundy
Lecturing sports media in morality is not a good idea for most people, but Mike Gundy somehow managed to pull it off. When an article was published that criticized his quarterback, Gundy went on the offensive to defend his player. His rant included lavishing praise on his quarterback, who was going through a rough patch, before launching into a tirade that included the legendary phrase “I’m a man, I’m 40.” Gundy even attempted to trademark the phrase before finding out somebody beat him to the punch.
7 John Chaney
Few would disagree with the statement that John Calipari is a jerk, and former Temple head coach John Chaney was well ahead of the curve. Chaney took offense to Calipari haranguing officials during the UMass Minutemen victory over the Owls. Chaney was even making good points before he lost his temper and charged the dais, threatening to kill Calipari. The two were separated quickly with Chaney continuing his threats. Over 20 years later, it appears to be water under the bridge. The pair appeared in an Instagram photo with Chaney’s hands jokingly wrapped around Coach Cal’s neck.
6 David Bennett
David Bennett is far from a household name, but you’re likely familiar with his infamous press conference. In 2011, during his 10-year stint as the head coach of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Bennett launched into a tirade on preening football players that included animal noises. He implored his players to “play like a dog” and the video quickly became an internet sensation. Bennett built the Chanticleers football program from scratch, but was fired three months after the press conference. He now serves as the head coach of the River Bluff High School Gators.
5 Herm Edwards
During a midweek press conference, coach Herm Edwards of the New York Jets delivered an iconic message that still strikes a chord with sports fans. The Jets were 2-5, and when a reporter asked about the team giving up, Edwards struck back. “You play to win the game” is now associated with Herm even more than his iconic Miracle at the Meadowlands fumble return. The quote may not have stuck with the media in the room, but it caught fire with fans, and Edwards sticks by it to this day.
4 Hal McRae
Even before the widespread use of the internet, Hal McRae’s 1991 rant managed to find a national audience. As manager of the Kansas City Royals, McRae was frustrated by the team’s 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers. When asked about a particular pinch hitting opportunity, McRae lost it and launched into a profanity riddled tirade as he trashed his office. The reporters in attendance scattered as McRae tossed items around the room, including a phone that cut one of the reporters.
3 Terrell Owens
Football fans are well aware that Terrell Owens is an athlete that plays with his heart on his sleeve. Following the Dallas Cowboys devastating playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, where Tony Romo botched the snap on a crucial field goal attempt late in the game, Owens took the podium wearing all black aviators. He then tearfully defended his quarterback, labeling the media as unfair before saying “That’s my teammate. That’s my quarterback. We lost as a team.” It was a touching and pathetic moment for one of the greatest wide receivers of all time.
2 Dennis Green
Following a brutal loss to the Chicago Bears that saw his Arizona Cardinals squander a 20-0 halftime lead, Dennis Green delivered a classic post game rant. He acknowledged the loss, but following a question about his team’s performance, Green screamed at reporters about his team’s capitulation. He capped off his rant with a quip about crowning their posterior, before saying, “They are who we thought they were, and we let em off the hook!” Green was fired following the season, which saw the team finish 5-11.
1 Allen Iverson
When the Philadelphia 76ers were ousted from the 2002 NBA Playoffs by the Boston Celtics, Allen Iverson took the lion’s share of the blame. Four days after their exit, Iverson appeared before the media following an argument with head coach Larry Brown. That press conference saw Iverson utter the iconic line, “We talking about practice”, 22 times. The phrase was parodied, auto-tuned, and talked about for over a decade before it was revealed in 2015 that Iverson may have been drunk during the presser. In hindsight, that isn’t a very big surprise considering Iverson’s public struggles with alcohol abuse.