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7 of History's Most Terrifying Sports Riots

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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.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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entertainment
9 Things You Might Not Know About 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
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Even by the standards of pro wrestling and its exaggerated personalities, there’s never been anyone quite like Randy “Macho Man” Savage (1952-2011). A staple of WWE and WCW programming in the 1980s and 1990s, Savage’s bulging neck veins, hoarse voice, and inventive gesticulations made him a star. Check out some facts in honor of what would’ve been Savage’s 65th birthday.

1. HE WAS ORIGINALLY A PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER.

Born Randall Poffo in Columbus, Ohio, Savage’s father, Angelo Poffo, was a notable pro wrestler in the 1950s, sometimes wrestling under a mask with a dollar sign on it as “The Masked Miser.” If that was considered the family business, Savage initially strayed from it, pursuing his love of baseball into a spot on the St. Louis Cardinals farm team as a catcher directly out of high school. Savage played nearly 300 minor league games over four seasons. After failing to make the majors, he decided to follow his father into wrestling.

2. A HAWAIIAN WRESTLER INSPIRED HIS FAMOUS TAGLINE.

In 1967, a then-15-year-old Savage accompanied his father to a wrestling event in Hawaii. There, he saw island grappler King Curtis Iaukea deliver a “promo,” or appeal for viewers to watch him in a forthcoming match. Iaukea spoke in a whisper before bellowing, punctuating his sentences with, “Ohhh, yeah!” That peculiar speech pattern stuck with Savage, who adopted it when he began his career in the ring.

3. HIS MOM GAVE HIM THE “MACHO MAN” NICKNAME.


By John McKeon from Lawrence, KS, United States - Randy "Macho Man" Savage, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

According to Savage, his wrestling nickname didn’t come from the Village People song but from an article his mother, Judy, had read in Reader’s Digest announcing that “macho man” was going to be a hot term in the coming years. She mailed it to Savage along with a list of other possible names. Even though neither one seemed to know what a “macho man” was, Savage liked the sound of it. His stage name, Savage, came from Georgia promoter Ole Anderson, who thought Savage’s grappling style was ferocious.

4. HE SCARED OTHER WRESTLERS.

In the early 1980s, Savage’s father had started promoting his own regional shows in the Lexington, Kentucky area. To draw publicity, Savage and the other wrestlers would sometimes show up to rival shows threatening grapplers and offering up wagers that they could beat them up in a real fight. Once, a Memphis wrestler named Bill Dundee pulled a gun on Savage, who allegedly took it away from him and beat him with it. After his father’s promotion closed up, Savage landed in the WWF (now WWE), giving him a national platform.

5. JAKE THE SNAKE’S PYTHON PUT HIM IN THE HOSPITAL.

One of Savage’s recurring feuds in the WWE was with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, a lanky wrestler who carried a python into the ring with him and allowed the reptile to “attack” his opponents. To intensify their rivalry, Savage agreed to allow Roberts’s snake to bite him on the arm during a television taping after being assured it was devenomized. Five days later, Savage was in the hospital with a 104-degree fever. Savage lived, but the snake didn’t; it died just a few days later. “He was devenomized, but maybe I wasn’t,” Savage told IGN in 2004. 

6. HE PLANNED HIS MATCHES DOWN TO THE SECOND.

While outcomes may be planned backstage, the choreography of pro wrestling is left largely up to the participants, who either talk it over prior to going out or call their moves while in the ring. For a 1987 match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, Savage wanted everything to be absolutely perfect.

“We both had those yellow legal tablets, and we started making notes,” Steamboat told Sports Illustrated in 2015. “Randy would have his set of notes and I would have mine. Then we got everything addressed—number 1, number 2, number 3—and we went up to number 157. Randy would say, ‘OK, here is up to spot 90, now you tell me the rest.’ I would have to go through the rest, then I would quiz him. I’d never planned out a match that way, so it was very stressful to remember everything.” The effort was worth it: Their match is considered by many fans to be among the greatest of all time.

7. HIS MARRIAGE TO MISS ELIZABETH CAUSED PROBLEMS IN THE LOCKER ROOM.

Savage’s “valet” in the WWE was Miss Elizabeth, a fixture of his corner during most of his career in the 1980s. Although they had an onscreen wedding in 1991, they had been married in real life back in 1984. According to several wrestlers, Savage was jealously guarded with his wife, whom he kept in their own locker room. Savage would also confront wrestlers he believed to have been hitting on her. The strain of working and traveling together was said to have contributed to their (real) divorce in 1991.

8. HE CUT A RAP ALBUM DISSING HULK HOGAN.

In 2003, with his best years in the ring behind him, Savage decided to pursue a new career in rap music. Be a Man featured 13 rap songs, including one that eulogized his late friend, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. But the performance that got the most mainstream attention was the title track, which dissed wrestling star Hulk Hogan. The two had apparently gotten into a rivalry after Hogan made some disparaging comments about Savage on a Tampa, Florida radio show. Whether the sentiment was real or staged, it didn’t do much to help sales: Be a Man moved just 3000 copies.

9. HE MIGHT GET A STATUE IN HIS HOMETOWN.

In 2016, fans circulated a petition to get Savage his own statue in Columbus, Ohio. The initiative was inspired by the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a monument in Columbus, and wrestling fans argue that Savage should get equal time. The mayor has yet to issue a response. In the meantime, a 20-inch-tall resin statue of Savage was released by McFarlane Toys in 2014.

See Also: 10 Larger-Than-Life Facts About Andre the Giant

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