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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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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
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Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
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To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
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During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
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David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
6 Priceless Treasures Lost in Shipwrecks
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In the lore around treasures lost at sea, most of the excitement goes to pirate’s gold and the sunken luxuries of the Titanic. But in the centuries of human seafaring, many lesser-known priceless objects, from literary manuscripts to scientific research, have been claimed by the depths. Here are some tales of those losses, from a lifetime of work by a 19th-century woman who was an expert in cephalopods, to a rare book by Dickens that went down with the Lusitania.

1. LOUIS DE JAUCOURT'S ANATOMICAL LEXICON

Always, always, always back up your work. Of course, that's easier now than it was in the 18th century, when French scholar Louis de Jaucourt dispatched his six-volume Lexicon medicum universale to his Amsterdam publisher, a move intended to evade French censorship. The medical dictionary, on which he'd spent 20 years, was completely lost when the ship it was on sank off Holland's coast. Luckily, Jaucourt rebounded when Denis Diderot asked him to contribute to the Encyclopédie, now considered one of the greatest works of Enlightenment thought, for which he used his notes from the lost manuscript. Jaucourt became the publication's most prolific author, penning 40,000 articles—so many he was nicknamed l'esclave de l’Encyclopédie, or the "slave of the Encyclopedia."

2. THE FIELDWORK OF ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE

Portrait of Alfred Russel Wallace, Welsh naturalist and explorer
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1852, following four years of research in the Amazon, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was ready to return to England. He loaded his copious notes, animal and plant specimens, and drawings onto the brig Helen. Just 26 days into the voyage, the vessel caught fire. Wallace only had time to hastily fill a tin box with a few drawings of fish and palms and some scientific notes before joining the crew in the lifeboat. After 10 days marooned at sea, they were rescued by the brig Jordeson—but most of Wallace's work was gone forever. As he lamented in an October 19, 1852 letter, "The only things which I saved were my watch, my drawings of fishes, and a portion of my notes and journals. Most of my journals, notes on the habits of animals, and drawings of the transformations of insects, were lost.” While he continued as a leading naturalist—albeit one overshadowed in his evolution research by Charles Darwin—Wallace was never able to reconstruct those years of fieldwork.

3. THE CEPHALOPOD RESEARCH OF JEANNE VILLEPREUX-POWER

Before Jeanne Villepreux-Power’s 19th-century research, most scientists thought the Argonauta argo, or paper nautilus, scavenged its shell from other animals. But by inventing the modern aquarium, Villepreux-Power could study the species first-hand, and witness how it grows and repairs its own shell. The breakthrough was one of many discoveries made by the pioneer in cephalopod research, one of the few women to achieve prominence in Victorian science. She might be better known today if it weren't for the fact that when she and her husband decided to move from Sicily to London, the vessel on which they’d shipped their possessions—including the majority of her drawings, notes, and equipment—foundered off the coast of France in 1843. After the devastating loss, she never published again.

4. A COPY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL OWNED BY CHARLES DICKENS

Sinking of the Lusitania
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When Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat realized the RMS Lusitania was doomed that fateful day in 1915, he dashed to his cabin, using the light from a few matches to try to find the literary treasures he’d brought aboard. These included original drawings by Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray, as well as an edition of A Christmas Carol owned by Charles Dickens himself. The edition was irreplaceable, since it included Dickens’s notes related to his 1844 copyright suit against the illicit republishing of his story. In the book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson vividly describes Lauriat’s harrowing experience when the ocean liner was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland: Lauriat grabbed the leather briefcase containing the Dickens, but left the Thackeray sketches behind. Rushing out to the deck, he saw a lifeboat packed with women and children that was being dragged down by the sinking ship. He jumped in with the briefcase, yet was unable to free the lifeboat, and in the escape into the water he lost the precious cargo. Out in the waves, he managed to evade entanglement with an antenna, swim to a collapsible lifeboat, and survive. One of the few items he managed to save were photographs of his baby, which he told his wife were his "mascot."

5. WRITINGS OF JOSÉ ASUNCIÓN SILVA

Portrait of José Asunción Silva

Many Colombians can recite the first lines from the influential Modernist poet José Asunción Silva's "Nocturne III"—"A night / A night full of hushings, of the curled wool of perfume / And incanting wing"—and it’s even printed in microtext on the 5000 Colombian peso bill. The poem, written in 1892, is believed to be a tribute to Silva’s half-sister. Silva suffered another blow in 1895, when many of his manuscripts, including a draft of a novel, were lost in a shipwreck. He left his diplomatic post in Venezuela, and dedicated all his time to reconstructing the drowned novel. But his melancholy continued: After visiting a doctor to ask the exact position of his heart, he shot himself in 1896. His rewritten novel—After-Dinner Conversation (De sobremesa) —wasn’t published until 1925.

6. THE ART OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA LUSIERI

The South-east Corner of the Parthenon, Athens by Giovanni Battista Lusieri
Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Giovanni Battista Lusieri was a meticulous painter of the Italian landscape, particularly its classical ruins. In large panoramas and more compact watercolors, he depicted the Acropolis, views of Rome and Naples, and, his favorite, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Some of his most striking works captured the volcano at night, illuminating the darkness with its orange glow. Lord Byron called him "an Italian painter of the first eminence." Yet his name is now obscure. This is partly due to the years he stopped painting to help Lord Elgin remove and ship the Parthenon Marbles to London. But when Lusieri's artwork was being sent home from Greece after his death in 1821, a shipwreck destroyed nearly half of it (including a spectacular 25-foot-long panorama of Athens), helping to ensure his fall from fame.

BONUS: PEKING MAN

A replica of the Peking Man Skull
A replica of the Peking Man Skull

When paleontologists discovered the bones of "Peking man" in a dig near Beijing in the 1920s, they were the oldest hominid fossils ever found. However, scientists can now only study the bones—thought to be about half a million years old—from casts. The Peking Man fossils were last seen in December 1941, but vanished during the Japanese occupation of China while they were being sent to the United States for safekeeping. There are many conjectures on their fate, from being secretly stored away in Japan, to being under a parking lot in China. Yet one enduring theory is that they were lost at sea on the Japanese freighter Awa Maru: In 1945, the ship was torpedoed in the Taiwan Strait by the USS Queenfish despite being guaranteed safe passage by the United States, leading to the loss of more than 2000 lives—and, it's said, the priceless Peking fossils [PDF].

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