Olympics Loser Fights his Horse (and 5 other Unlikely Sports Brawls)

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While I usually don't pay much attention to the WNBA, it's hard to ignore what Candace Parker is doing to kick-start interest in the league.  She's dunking, she's rebounding, and on Tuesday night she went one step further and became embroiled in a melee during the Los Angeles Sparks' road game against the Detroit Shock.  If you sat down to make a list of "sporting events at which you're least likely to see a brawl," a WNBA game would have to be near the top, but was it the most unexpected throwdown of all time? Here are a few other notables you may have missed:

1. Stock Car Racing Goes Kung Fu

Before the event started, there was relatively little chance of the 2006 Glass City 200 at Toledo Speedway becoming an object of international fascination. After all, it wasn't even a NASCAR race; it was part of the ARCA series, a sort of minor league level of the sport.  All of that changed when Don Saint Denis spun out Michael Simko during the race. With the red flag up to stop the race, Simko decided it was time for some revenge. He hopped out of his car and ran full-steam towards Saint Denis' ride before giving it a flying Mortal-Kombat-style kick through the windshield. Simko then removed his helmet and started punching his foe through the driver's window. Saint Denis wasn't going to go down without a fight, though; he crawled out of the car and started defending himself.  The dustup was shown on television stations around the world and quickly became a YouTube classic; both riders drew suspensions for their actions. Here's video of the scrape:

2. NASCAR Fights Its Way National

The 1979 Daytona 500 is considered one of the most important races in the sport's history, but not completely because what drivers did behind the wheel. Although the race was the first of its length to be shown on live television in the U.S., what happened after the checkered flag dropped made it legendary. In the last lap of a tight race, Cale Yarborough tried a risky pass of leader Donnie Allison. Allison successfully blocked Yarborough's advance, but Yarborough hit the infield mud and lost control of his car.  The two drivers careened into the wall and ended up crashed in the infield as Richard Petty zipped past them to take the win. Allison and Yaborough got out of their cars and started arguing in the infield, and within a few seconds were throwing punches, as was Allison's brother Bobby. CBS broadcast the fight nationwide, and the story hit the front of the New York Times' sports section, which helped propel NASCAR to much greater national popularity.

3. Jockeys Throw Diminutive Blows

Jockey Eddie Taplin was a legendary ironman in the horseracing scene of the early 20th century. He ran over 9,000 races in a career that spanned over three decades before retiring in 1936.  He also wasn't afraid to shred some silks after a race was over. Taplin lost the 1910 Martinez Handicap to E. Martin, who was aboard the horse Binocular.  During the stretch run, though, Taplin had cracked Martin with his whip, which he claimed was justified since Martin crowded him. The two jockeys jawed about the contact after the race, and eventually Martin lost his temper and threw a punch.  Taplin may not have started the fight, but he ended it: he punched Martin hard enough that he dislocated two of his own fingers. The tiny pugilists eventually separated and received suspensions.

4. Man Fights Horse

Taplin and Martin's spat may not have been all that classy, but at least they attacked each other and not their horses, which is more than can be said for Hans-Jurgen Todt.  The West German modern pentathlete was competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when his horse for the riding portion of the competition began giving him trouble. The horse, Ranchero, balked at three different obstacles, effectively killing Todt's chance at a medal. Todt then came unhinged and started attacking the horse. It took several teammates to eventually break up the one-sided fight, and Todt became a strange Olympic footnote as a sort of anti-Nietzsche.

5. Water Polo Gets Physical

Picture 241.pngWater polo is already a taxing game, but in one match early in the 20th century, it turned downright violent. Teams from New York and Chicago met in Pittsburgh for a preliminary match to crown a national champion in the sport, and things quickly turned rather gruesome. Early in the match a scrum broke out, and it escalated until four men were taken from the water unconscious. At that point, it probably seemed the fight was over, but Chicago's coach Joe Choynsky had a different idea. Choynsky, a former prizefighter, reignited the melee by delivering a picture-perfect blow to the jaw of New York player Joe Ruddy. According to Time magazine, a riot then broke out as female spectators yelled "Shame!" at the men. Following these antics, the Amateur Athletic Union dropped water polo from its program for over twenty years before picking it back up in 1934.

6. Snooker Players Take It Outside

Picture 252.pngBefore he became a professional pool player, Australian Quinten Hann was a hotheaded pro snooker player known for his temperamental outbursts. One particularly notable incident occurred at the 2004 World Championships while he was playing Andy Hicks.  Throughout the match Hann taunted the unseeded Englishman, and after Hicks dropped Hann 10-4, Hann challenged Hicks to a fistfight outside. Match officials separated the players, but they eventually came to blows. After the fistfight, fellow snooker pro Mark King decided to take up Hicks' cause in a charity boxing match after the event. Hann apparently decided he was something of a pugilist after this win and scheduled another fight against Gaelic footballer Johnny Magee; Magee promptly broke Hann's nose in that bout.

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July 24, 2008 - 5:34am
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