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The Decade's Biggest Off-the-Field Sports Meltdowns


Jim Mora Meets the Media (2001): Mora rarely held back during his post-game briefings, as witnessed by his assessments of his team’s special-teams play (“I’m sure people vomited in the stands after watching our kicking game”) and a poor offensive performance (“We couldn’t do diddly poo”). But his best-ever assessment came following a loss that dropped his Colts to 4-6, when an inquisitive sort had the gall to ask him whether the team had a chance at the playoffs. “What’s that? PLAYOFFS?!,” he responded in the kind of high-pitched whine usually associated with reality-TV mental cases. “Don’t talk about PLAYOFFS?! You kidding me?! PLAYOFFS?! I just hope we can win a game! Another game!”


Herm Edwards Does Not Play To Lose the Game (2002): Following a loss to the Browns in 2002, Edwards wondered aloud whether his sad-sack Jets didn’t quite comprehend the true motivation for participating in sports competitions. Responding to a query about the Jetsies’ “ability to win,” Herm chirped back with one of the great monologues in the recent history of public speaking: “You play to win the game! Hello? You play to win the game! You don’t play it to just play it. That’s the great thing about sports: you play to win, and I don’t care if you don’t have any wins.” Give him points for passion, if not for brevity.


Joe Namath Moves In For the Kill (2003): On hand to celebrate the Jets’ announcement of their all-time team, Namath proved—rather, attempted to prove—his lady-slayin’ bona fides when interviewed by ESPN’s Suzy Kolber. Asked about the team’s then-quarterback Chad Pennington, the glassy-eyed Namath slapped an arm around Kolber’s shoulder and enthused, “I want to kiss you. I couldn’t care less about the team struggling.” Surprisingly to precisely no one, he was shunted off into rehab a few weeks later.


Ron Artest vs. The World (2004): Things got a bit pushy-shovey at the end of a Pistons/Pacers game in Auburn Hills a few seasons back, prompting Artest to passively-aggressively taunt the Pistons and their fans by lying face-up on the scorer’s table. One fan voiced his objection by throwing a beer at Artest and, well, it was on. In true Artest fashion, he rambled into the stands and singled out the wrong fan for a retributive pummeling. A 73-game unpaid suspension followed, as did 575,000 words worth of whiny sports columns opining that the Artest melee represented the end of professional sports as we knew them. Alas, the games lived to see another day, as they always do.


Randy Johnson Introduces Himself to the New York Press (2005): Upon arriving in New York to take a physical in advance of his introductory press conference as a member of the Yankees, Johnson was so stunned by the improbable appearance of a cameraman that he decided to shove the guy. In full view of tens of people. On Madison Avenue. We’ll say this: The incident certainly set the tone for the Big Unit’s turbulent Yankee tenure.



Mike Tyson Sends a Mixed Message (2005/2006): Picking the most profound Tyson meltdown is like picking the greatest Beatles song: there is no shortage of candidates from which to choose. Amid all the ear-nibbling and face-tattooing and car-giving-away-to-bewildered-Port-Authority-cops, we’re partial to his “I just want to escape. I’m really embarrassed with myself and my life. I want to be a missionary” monologue, which was followed in short order by a decidedly non-servicey DUI/felony-drug bust. It’s not all bad, though: the guy showed crack comic timing in “The Hangover.” Somehow, we’re still rooting for him.



Dennis Green Isn’t Who We Thought He Was (2006): If you thought that the 20-point, second-half lead enjoyed by Green’s Arizona Cardinals during a Monday-night clash against the Bears was safe, well, you’re not familiar with the illustrious history of the Cardinals franchise. When the game ended with the Cardinals once again on the losing side of the ledger, Green exploded when asked about the too-hyped Chicago offense: “The Bears are who we thought they were! That’s why we took the damn field! Now, if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let them off the hook!” Never has berserker rage been conveyed so articulately.





Mike Gundy Affirms His Manhood, Loudly (2007): A famous don’t-mess-with-the-media expression goes something like “never argue with a man who buys his ink by the barrel.” Yet Gundy must not have taken Glib Proverbs 101 during his student days, as he lost his mind when pressed by a reporter—a student reporter for the Oklahoma State newspaper, not John Stossel or some New York Times twerp—about a column in which the reporter questioned the decision to demote former starting QB Bobby Reid. Rather than merely say “I didn’t agree with the column,” Gundy became agitated when asked why he described the report as fiction, eventually puffing up his chest and issuing a challenge: “Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 40!”



O.J. Finally Faces the Music (2007): We didn’t sit on the original O.J. jury, so we can’t (cough! guilty! cough!) fairly weigh in on its decision (cough! guilty!) to acquit him on charges that he killed his ex-wife and a friend (cough! GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!). Either way, justice finally caught up with the guy in 2007, when another, more sane jury found him guilty on charges that he stole sports memorabilia at gunpoint. We suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.


John Daly Takes a Nap, Hooters-Style (2008): Even before he started acting as erratically as the circa-1995 Robert Downey Jr., John Daly ranked high on the list of “public figures we wouldn’t be surprised to see passed out in a Hooters parking lot.” When it finally happened—several months after he was fired by renowned coach Butch Harmon, who said, “The most important thing in his life is getting drunk”—it wasn’t exactly headline news. The “Dirty Arnold Palmer” (sweet tea-flavored vodka and lemonade) has since been renamed the “John Daly.” One gets the impression he’s flattered by this.



Plaxico Shoots Himself In the Foot, Almost Literally (2008): Burress had a Super Bowl ring on his finger and a $35 million contract in his pocket when he entered the NYC nightclub LQ on a Friday night. Unfortunately for him, he also had an illegal and unregistered gun in his pocket, which accidentally discharged when Burress attempted to stop it from sliding down his pants leg. The gunshot wound didn’t do much damage; the bent-on-making-an-example New York district attorney did, sending him away to jail for two years.


T.O. Sheds Tears For His Quarterback (2008): As witnessed by his regularly scheduled outbursts over everything from getting more passes thrown his way to his frustration that more passes haven’t been thrown his way, Terrell Owens is one passionate dude. Never did this side of his personality receive more of a public airing, however, than when he stepped up to the mic to defend beleaguered Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who’d shown a troubling tendency to throw the ball to teams other than his own. Following a devastating playoff loss to the Giants, Owens emotionally intoned, “You guys can point fingers at him and talk about the vacation [with former girlfriend Jessica Simpson], but if you do that, it’s really unfair… It’s my teammate, my quarterback. If you do that, man, it’s unfair. We lost as a team. We lost as a team.” All together now: Awwwww!



Serena Williams Expresses Her Mild Displeasure (2009): You can’t blame Williams for getting upset in the wake of the line judge—or the ref, or the ump, or whatever they call it in tennis—tagging her with a foot fault at a pivotal moment in her U.S. Open semifinal against Kim Clijsters. That call almost never gets made at that point in a match. You can, however, blame Williams for her less than gracious reaction, which featured screaming, racket-brandishing and promises of an imminent butt-kicking. The judge did the only thing she could do: penalize Williams a point for her behavior, which gave the match to Clijsters.