9 Biggest Sports Meltdowns, Temper Tantrums, and Blowups

Emotions run sky-high in sports, so it’s not hard to scroll through hundreds of instances of mouthing off and water cooler-tossing. Sometimes these tirades are scathing beratings, hilarious acts of violence against inanimate objects, and, at their worst, episodes of “When Animals Attack.” I chose a smattering of all three types because variety is the spice of life, after all. So enjoy the show and try not to piss these guys off.

(Oh, and I remember the Pacers-Pistons game at Auburn Hills, but thought that falls more under “biggest brawl,” or “closest thing to a riot that sports has ever seen,” than it does meltdown or freak out by an individual. I saved this list for individual blow-ups. I feel that what happened in Detroit was something else altogether. Someone (I believe it may have been Adam Corolla) said that that event was like watching Jurassic Park in the theater and witnessing a dinosaur jump off the screen and eat the guy next to you. Like I said. Something else altogether.)

9. Bobby Knight Tosses a Chair

Bobby Knight could probably do a decent job of populating this list by himself, but that just wouldn’t be fair to all the other hotheads, so we’re just getting him out of the way by making him the first entry. There are certain names mentioned almost through free association in response to “sports temper tantrums,” and Knight’s name certainly tops that list. This incident occurred in February of 1985, when Indiana was losing to rival Purdue. Knight got teed up for arguing a call, and he decided to register his disagreement by tossing a chair onto the court. The video shows it all.

8. Dennis Rodman Kicks a Cameraman

Dennis Rodman was a player praised for his desire to hustle for every board and loose ball. Often, that ended with him careening into the crowds, sometimes with unfortunate results. However, in this instance, it didn’t appear that anything had really gone wrong. In January ’97, Rodman fell over onto a cameraman who appeared to be sitting in a reasonable area, however, upon attempting to get up, Dennis kicked the cameraman a couple times, apparently out of frustration. Rodman later said he was trying to kick the camera, but that was of little consolation to the operator, who was carted out on a stretcher.

7. John McEnroe Explodes at Age 48

This is just funnier out of context, so I’ll spare you what he was doing playing in a tennis match at age 48, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t a Wimbledon semi-final or anything. This is an older, more-mellow McEnroe reacting to a call he thought was blown. (What else could it be?) His reaction is downright subdued compared to his earlier tantrums, but this demonstrates how nasty he could be with nominal stakes later in life. I chose this one as opposed to his earlier ones, just because at this age and at the low level of competition, this seems to be a far more ludicrous reaction than any of his earlier stunts.

6. Dennis Green Riles Himself Up

“They are who we thought they were!” It was immortalized in the Coors Light commercials, but what’s even funnier than that line is the way that the seemingly innocuous question is asked by a faceless reporter, then answered calmly, then not-so-calmly by Green. He fired himself up on this one, which is the best part of the whole thing. If he had kept going he may have exploded. They are who you thought they were, indeed, Dennis.

5. Mike Sanford Stages a Sit-In

“The game is not over. I need to speak to your athletic director,” was repeated ad nauseum as Sanford returned from the tunnel after a close call that cost the Runnin’ Rebels the ball game against Iowa State. It turns out replays showed that he was flat out wrong in assuming his receiver was in bounds, but that’s neither here nor there on this list of tantrums. His gallant march from the tunnel is rife with trips and spills, and his non-violent resistance in ordering his team to remain on the field is noble, but completely misguided.

4. Lou Piniella’s Classic Manager Tantrum

Baseball managers rival only John McEnroe for the title of “Most Toothless Tantrum Throwers.” They spit, kick, run around, and yell, but at the end of the day, they just look hilarious. Never once has an umpire ever thought or said, “Gee. Now that you’ve sullied my shoes and spit in my vicinity, I’m inclined to revisit that call I made and check it again for error.” Instead, you let the baby wear itself out, and if that takes too long, you just effin’ eject him. Lou was the master at this, and this one in particular is just great.

3. Jim Everett Doesn’t Care to Be Called “Chris”

Jim Rome have a history here that you can kind of pick up on from the moment this interview starts. Jim Rome, looking like a special kind of douche in the infancy of ESPN2 (The Deuce!), antagonizes Chris, er, Jim from the get-go, referring to him intentionally as the female tennis star. After the smiles and anxiety seems to go away, Rome gets right back at it. To be fair, Everett was the Saints QB and a representative of his team. He couldn’t have let that go. And he sure didn’t. Watch for the result.

2. Hal McRae Flips the Eff Out

To be fair, I’m not sure however manager of the Kansas City Royals during the past 20 years hasn’t melted down like this several times apiece. In 1993, McRae suffered yet another loss, which by that point had become routine, and just couldn’t take it any more. It went from comical to a little dangerous (but still pretty comical) when McRae tossed a phone and hit a reporter in the head, drawing blood. Get excited for baseball season.

1. DeSoto, Florida High School Player Decks Ref

For every act of non-violence in a temper tantrum (see #5), I’m surprised there’s not a hundred of these. Especially with hot-headed youngsters. This guy, Mason Holland, gets in a quick shoving match after a free throw, only to get teed up seconds later. Holland’s temper gets the best of him, then shoves the referee, only to step away a second later. During his retreat, his rage again gets the better of him, and he goes in more violently this time, throwing the ref to the ground before getting wrapped up by cooler heads. His team forfeited the game, and Holland got suspended. One of the few instances of these tantrums ending in genuine violence, though it’s surprising there aren’t more, given the way emotions run and athletes’ history of very bad decision making.