7 of History's Most Terrifying Sports Riots

Spectator sports have a singular capacity to bring together disparate groups of people towards the common goal of cheering for a favorite team. However, this noble aim is occasionally forgotten by forty-thousand people collectively thinking, "Hey, I bet I could pick up this stadium chair and throw it at that guy! That'll teach him to support my team's rival." In the spirit of that mindset, here are a few riots you might have missed while watching the Pistons-Pacers Malice at the Palace on YouTube.

1. The Richard Riot

Montreal Candiens Hall of Famer Maurice "The Rocket" Richard was undoubtedly the top scorer of his era. As a result of this talent, he was also a target for opposing teams' abuse. On March 13, 1955, Richard snapped after Boston's Hal Laycoe high-sticked him in the head during a power play; Richard retaliated by repeatedly swinging his stick into Laycoe's face before punching out a linesman who tried to restrain him. NHL President Clarence Campbell responded by suspending Richard for the rest of the season and the playoffs, which caused outrage in Montreal.

richardriot.jpgThe suspension of Richard may have been justified, but Campbell's decision to announce that he would attend the next Canadiens home game at the Forum was questionable. Montreal fans prepared well, and when Campbell arrived with his fiancee, he was greeted by a volley of eggs, vegetables, and anything else Canadiens fans could find to chuck his way. At some point a tear gas bomb was set off in the arena, but the smoke only angered the fans and forced them outside, where they began looting and vandalizing the area around the Forum in a full-blown riot that lasted most of the night, causing $500,000 worth of damage. The scene was likely described as "violent even by hockey standards."
In his public statement, Richard apologized and promised the fans he would return the next year to lead the team to the Stanley Cup. He made good on his promise; the Canadiens won the next five Stanley Cups.

2. Nika Riots

Modern racing fans may think their Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gear makes them intimidating, but the aficionados of sixth-century chariot racing at the Hippodrome of Constantinople put them to shame. Fans of the major Byzantine racing teams, the Blues and the Greens, functioned as something of a pair of politically conscious street gangs. On January 10, 532, several drivers were to be executed for deaths occurring at an earlier race, but a Blue and a Green escaped and hid. Their respective fans made impassioned pleas for leniency, and responding to public pressure, Emperor Justinian reduced their death sentences to life imprisonment and called for a set of races on January 13th.

The races didn't go so well for Justinian, though; the racing fans wanted the drivers pardoned entirely. By the end of the day's 22nd race, the Blues and the Greens had stopped cheering for their respective factions and started yelling "Nika!" ("conquer"), and in a rioting twist rarely seen since, the two sets of fans joined forces, leading to absolute mayhem. The unified group launched a siege of the imperial palace and set fire to the city.

Rather than looting, the mob then developed a more political agenda. Its leaders demanded and received the dismissal of three of Justinian's ministers and proclaimed Hypatius to be the new emperor. After five days of violence, Justinian's generals Belisarius and Mundus brutally suppressed the factions of fans. Estimates of the casualties reached as high as 30,000 dead, although history fails to record whether conservative sports commentators of the day blamed the incident on the influence of hip-hop on chariot racing culture.

3. A.C. Milan vs. Inter Milan

An April 2005 Champions League quarterfinal between A.C. and Inter Milan seemed like a great place to renew their bitter intercity rivalry "“ or at least wreak some senseless havoc. Although A.C. won the first of two matches and had gone up 1-0 in the second, Inter thought it had scored an equalizer on a header with twenty minutes left. Much to the displeasure of Inter fans, referee Markus Merk disallowed the goal because an Inter player had fouled A.C. goalkeeper Dida while jockeying for position.

Like any reasonable mob would, Inter fans responded by pelting the field with hails of bottles and that most European of riot weapons: the lit flare. As Dida cleared away bottles from the pitch to set up a goal kick, he was struck in the shoulder with a flare and received minor burns. The match was restarted after a thirty-minute delay, but more thrown flares led to its abandonment and A.C. Milan receiving credit for a 3-0 victory.

Inter Milan was fined a record 200,000 Euros for the riot, and their fans received the sports version of being sent to their rooms: the club's first four 2005-2006 home matches were played in empty stadiums, effectively making them the soccer equivalent of Atlanta Hawks home games. Here's some terrifying amateur video of the events:

4. Red Star Belgrade vs. PAOK Thessaloniki

During a 2006 game for the ULEB Cup (Europe's second-tier basketball league) in Belgrade, a handful of fans of Red Star's rival Partizan showed up to cheer for the visiting Greek squad. Red Star fans were understandably a bit perturbed, and a bit of a brawl ensued. As the hundred or so Partizan fans fought back, things quickly escalated into a heated riot, complete with flare-throwing, an especially questionable tactic in an enclosed arena with a wooden floor and plastic seats. Hundreds of fans streamed onto the court, and many chucked their stadium seats into the air or at fellow rioters.

Amazingly, only six people were injured in the melee, and after a thirty-minute delay, the game was started. Partizan fans apparently got what they came for, though, as PAOK won 85-81.

5. New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

cobb-ruth.jpgNo list of violent sports episodes could be complete without an appearance by Ty Cobb. On June 13, 1924, the visiting Yankees were leading the Tigers 10-6 in the top of the ninth inning when Cobb, the Tigers' star and manager, allegedly signaled for Tigers pitcher Bert Cole to plunk the Yankees' Bob Meusel. As the story goes, Babe Ruth caught the sign and warned Meusel, who took the pitch on his back and charged the mound. A brawl erupted between players, including a tense staredown between Cobb and Ruth, and hundreds of fans flooded onto the field to join in on the fracas. Police eventually subdued the rioters, but Cole and Meusel both took suspensions from the American League. Ruth and Cole paid fines and the Tigers forfeited the game. On the bright side, the newly released Mitchell Report doesn't connect any of the players on the field that day to performance-enhancing drugs.

6. Andrew Golota vs. Riddick Bowe

Great fighters are often remembered for their signature punch, and Polish heavyweight Andrew Golota could throw a low blow as well as anyone. In July 1996, he got his first big-money fight against former champ Riddick Bowe at Madison Square Garden. Golota dominated the bout despite an absolute unwillingness to stop punching Bowe in the groin. He was ultimately disqualified for a fourth low blow in the seventh round that left Bowe writhing in pain on the mat. Naturally, an in-ring scrum broke out in which Golota was repeatedly bashed on the back of the head with a walkie-talkie by a member of Bowe's entourage.

At this point, a full riot fired up as HBO commentator George Foreman begged for sanity from the crowd. According to the New York Times' account of the event, Polish-flag-toting fans tried to storm the ring only to be stopped and fought by other members of the crowd, which had heavily favored Brooklyn's Bowe. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had been a spectator, spent over an hour hiding out in Golota's heavily guarded dressing room.

Predictably, Golota and Bowe fought a rematch in Atlantic City. This time things went marginally better for "The Foul Pole"; he made it all the way to the ninth round before being disqualified for three straight shots to Bowe's groin.

Madison Square Garden has been fairly peaceful since, but Knicks fans are only one more questionable Isiah Thomas trade away from making this donnybrook look like a tea party.

(If you want to jump to the rioting, fast forward to the 2:50 mark.)

7. Sydney Riot of 1879

In 1879 a touring team of English cricketers played a heated series of matches against New South Wales throughout Australia. After a little more than a day of play in the second match, New South Wales was batting while behind by 90 runs when their star player Billy Murdoch was given out by the English-chosen umpire George Coulthard after a close play.

The Australian crowd was less than pleased to see their hero given out by the English ref, and a surge of 2,000 fans burst onto the pitch to express their displeasure physically. What followed was an epic throwdown that included English captain Lord Harris being slapped with a stick, English batsman A.N. Hornby being stripped of his shirt, and other Englishmen wielding cricket stumps (pointy sticks) as weapons while trying to defend Coulthard. The crowd was cleared from the pitch twice but kept rushing back onto the field until the day's play was suspended. The match eventually resumed the next day, and the English team claimed the victory. If Ron Artest has a favorite nineteenth-century cricket match (and he almost certainly does), then this one has to be it.

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Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys. His last mental_floss article looked at offbeat clauses in baseball contracts.

Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
10 Monster Facts About Pacific Rim
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.


Idris Elba in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Warner Bros.

One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.

“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”


Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”


In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.


Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.

Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."


Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.


Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.

“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”


A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.


Rinko Kikuchi in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.


At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.


If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.

When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.

5 Ways to Define a Sandwich, According to the Law

It’s easy to say what a sandwich is. Grilled cheese? Definitely a sandwich. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato? There’s no question. Things start to get messy when you specify what a sandwich isn’t. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito, or an open-faced turkey melt?

The question of sandwich-hood sounds like something a monk might ponder on a mountaintop. But the answer has real-world implications. On several occasions, governments have ruled on the food industry’s right to use the delectable label. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg—pop culture icon, scrunchie connoisseur, and Supreme Court Justice—has weighed in on the matter.

When pressed on the hot-button issue as to whether a hot dog is a sandwich while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ginsburg proved her extreme judiciousness by throwing the question back at Colbert and asking for his definition of sandwich before making a ruling. Her summation? A hot dog fits Colbert's definition of a sandwich, and therefore can be considered one.

While RBG's ruling may not be an official one, it matches Merriam-Webster's bold declaration that a hot dog is a sandwich (even if the Hot Dog Council disagrees). Officially, here’s where the law stands on the great sandwich debate.


Hot dogs are often snagged in the center of the sandwich semantics drama. Despite fitting the description of a food product served on a bread-like product, many sandwich purists insist that hot dogs deserve their own category. California joins Merriam-Webster in declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich nonetheless. The bold word choice appears in the state’s tax law, which mentions “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.” Applying the sandwich label to burgers is less controversial, but it’s still worth debating.


When Qdoba threatened to encroach on the territory of a Panera Bread in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the owners of the bakery franchise fought back. They claimed the Mexican chain’s arrival would violate their lease agreement with the White City Shopping Center—specifically the clause that prohibits the strip mall from renting to other sandwich restaurants. “We were surprised at the suit because we think it’s common sense that a burrito is not a sandwich,” Jeff Ackerman, owner of the Qdoba franchise group, told The Boston Globe.

The Worcester County Superior Court agreed. When the issue went before the court in 2006, Cambridge chef and food writer Christopher Schlesinger testified against Panera [PDF], saying, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

Justice Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that Qdoba would be allowed to move into the shopping center citing an entry in Merriam-Webster as the most damning evidence against Panera’s case. “The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a ‘sandwich’ as ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them,’” he said. “Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich’ is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.”


If you want to know the definition of a certain dish, the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good people to ask. It’s their job to make sure that the nation’s supply of meat is correctly labeled. When it comes to sandwiches, the agency follows strict criteria. “A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit,” Mark Wheeler, who works in food and safety at the USDA, told NPR. His definition comes from the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book used by the department (the USDA only covers the “labeling of meat, poultry, and egg products,” while the FDA handles everything else, which is why the USDA's definition excludes things like grilled cheese). Not included under their umbrella of foodstuff served between bread are burritos, wraps, and hot dogs.


The USDA’s definition may not be as simple and elegant as it seems. A sandwich is one thing, but a “sandwich-like product” is different territory. The same labeling policy book Mark Wheeler referred to when describing a sandwich lumps burritos into this vague category. Fajitas “may also be” a sandwich-like product, as long as the strips of meat in question come bundled in a tortilla. Another section of the book lists hot dogs and hamburgers as examples of sandwich-type products when laying out inspection policies for pre-packaged dinners. So is there an example of a meat-wrapped-in-carb dish that doesn’t belong to the sandwich family? Apparently strombolis are where the USDA draws the line. The Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book clearly states the product “is not considered a traditional sandwich” [PDF].


When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t discriminate. In a bulletin outlining the state’s tax policy, a description of what constitutes a sandwich warrants its own subhead. The article reads:

“Sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

It then moves on to examples of taxable sandwiches. The list includes items widely-believed to bear the label, like Reubens, paninis, club sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Other entries, like burritos, gyros, open-faced sandwiches, and hot dogs, may cause confusion among diners.


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