ross-merrill - August 14, 2016
Recently a player in a Russian league hockey game fought with three opponents -- and then jumped into the home team's bench to fight the rest. The referees didn't just eject the player or penalize the team; they canceled the entire game, only three minutes in. The very angry player, Damir Raspiyev, has since been banned from the sport indefinitely.
The video of Raspiyev's spree is impressive, but how does it stack up against other fights on the ice, or the court, or the field? Here are some of the craziest brawls in sports history.
University of Miami football players have something of a reputation. In 2006, the Hurricanes played Florida International, a school located just nine miles away -- not a major rival but a school where "the a lot of the players grew up very close to one another," as the horrified ESPN commentator puts it. After the extra point, a massive brawl ensued.
Players kicked each other; some were body-slammed to the ground. A Hurricane beat a Panther with his helmet. Both benches cleared, and referees and coaches were powerless to stop the fight; stadium police had to get involved. Five Hurricanes and eight panthers were ejected, and eventually 31 players across both schools got one-game suspensions. And there was one other casualty, too -- former Hurricane wide receiver Lamar Thomas was broadcasting the game for Comcast Sports Southeast, and made comments approving of his team's behavior. CSS fired him.
This 2004 fight at Fenway Park stands out for several reasons: First, because of the big name at its center: Alex Rodriguez. He was hit by a pitch and, as he walked to first base, shared some words with Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. The catcher threw a punch and the brawl was on. Both benches cleared. The second reason this fight makes my list is because of the rivalry of the two teams, starting decades earlier and running right through the previous year, when the Yankees beat the Sox in the 2003 playoffs, keeping Boston's World Series curse intact.
But that's the other reason this fight is special. Down 3-0 when the brawl began, the Sox would go on to win the game. The teams then met in the American League Championship Series, where the Yankees won the first three games. But, like something out a movie, Boston won the next four games, and then the first four games of the World Series, to finally break the curse. Was this brawl the turning point? You decide.
Fights break out at hockey games all the time, but this one in 2004 wouldn't end -- and resulted in a league record for penalty minutes. Philadelphia's Donald Brashear and Ottawa's Rob Ray started brawling near the Flyers' goal. The refs let them tangle for a while and then separated them. But while being led to the penalty box, Brasher hit another Senator, and both teams broke off into small groups and started fighting. A ref got taken down. Both goalies got involved. The crowd went nuts. But it wasn't over. It hadn't even started.
After the delay, the next two face-offs resulted in more fights. After the third face-off finally got the game going, two more fights started. After the fourth face-off, yet another fight broke out. After the game (a Flyers victory), it took officials more than an hour to calculate all the penalty minutes for the various players: 206 for Ottawa and 213 for Philadelphia, a record total and a record for a single team.
This infamous fight, dubbed "The Malice and the Palace," took place at the end of game. Pacer Ron Artest fouled Piston Ben Wallace, and Wallace retaliated. Artest retreated back to the scorer's table and lay down on it while the officials tried to calm Wallace down. Then a Pistons fan threw a plastic cup of soda at Artest's chest. The player jumped into the stands and grabbed a fan (the wrong one, it turned out), along the way stepping on a radio broadcaster, cracking five of the man's vertabrae.
Other fans joined the melee. More Pacers jumped into the stands, either to retrieve Artest or defend him. At the same time, fans rushed onto the court. Bottles and cups, and even a folding chair, rained down on the Indiana players as they raced to the tunnel. Outnumbered security officers had to cover the heads of the visiting players and coaches, as if they were Secret Service agents protecting the President. When the visiting team was gone, fans attacked each other. With 46 seconds left on the clock, the officials called the game. The final result: Two people taken to the hospital, nine players suspended, five players charged with assault, five fans charged with assault and banned from Pistons game for life. Players lost a total of $11 million due to the missed games.
It probably goes without saying that all the above games counted; there were actual stakes. This crazy brawl, possibly the worst in NFL history, took place during a pre-season game that had no effect on the teams' records. In this 1986 game, a late hit by a Cardinal on a Bear led to a dozen St. Louis players dragging, punching, and kicking the Chicago player onto their sideline. As they neared the stands, fans threw items at the lone Bear, who was kicked in the crotch several times, according to Chicago coach Mike Ditka. Order was restored, but players from both teams met in the middle of the field and continued scuffling.
The refs ejected five Cardinals, at which point the St. Louis coach tried to take his entire team off the field, basically forfeiting the (meaningless) game. The official stopped him, for whatever reason, but they didn't eject any Chicago players. Afterwards, 51 players were fined -- 26 from Chicago and 25 from St. Louis. Nobody was suspended and no coaches were fined. Fans of John Madden who think they've heard everything from the legendary broadcaster should watch the video for his take on the madness.
Did I leave out a great sports brawl? Fight it out in the comments.
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