In the world of sports, there is in a sense, an unwritten code of honor and conduct. It's called sportsmanship. In essence, athletes are expected to behave like gentlemen (gentlewomen as well) before and after contests and maintain a level of mutual respect during.
Obviously there is nothing absolute about these unwritten codes because plenty of athletes pick and choose which to follow. Most athletes taunt or "chirp" and now accept trying to get under an opponent's skin as part of the game. Others, in contact leagues, go so far as to try to hurt other players intentionally. Head-hunting is still considered unsportsmanlike and likely always will be. These are just examples, but the list goes on.
As far as sportsmanship with regard to fans, there are also codes of conduct, but they are far more "unwritten" and in many cases, not followed at all. As a general rule, fans are not supposed to behave in such a way that diminishes the enjoyment of those nearby. Anyone who has ever gotten blind drunk at a sporting event, shouted threats or obscenities at opposing fans, or held a massive sign that blocked the view of those sitting behind has broken the rules, but who cares, right?
Probably the most frowned upon way a fan can contribute to a miserable game-day experience is by interfering with a contest. People show up at sports events to watch heroes and foes battle it out in an entertaining test of strength, agility and endurance, not to see some yahoo invade the field, rink or ring and cause havoc. Here are our fifteen most ridiculous and notable instances of fan interference.
15 Pete and Jerry Cusimano - The Detroit Octopus
14 1908 Olympic Marathon - The Glass of Champagne
Booze has gotten in the way of many an athletic career, but during the 1908 Olympics in London, it cost a marathon runner what should have been a victory. Charles Hefferon was born in England, raised in Canada but spent much of his adult life in South Africa and competed for that country in 1908. During the marathon event, he was leading until around mile 24. There are, of course, about 26 miles in a marathon and he was confident in his lead. Thus he accepted a drink of champagne while running along the route. Less than a mile later, he experienced a cramp, slowed down and ultimately lost to American Johnny Hayes.
13 NFL Snowball Games
The most recent of the snowball-influenced NFL games in the league's history is that between the New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers in 1995. Giants fans, around the end of a 5-11 season, pelted players and the field with snowballs, resulting in over 100 ejections and over a dozen arrests. Ultimately the Giants lost by ten.
12 Jeffrey Maier
The first of (spoiler alert) three very similar events at baseball games, Jeffrey Maier was just twelve years old when his name became popular in New York and infamous elsewhere. Back in 1996, while attending a game during the American League Championship between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, Maier caught a Derek Jeter fly ball. The ball was well-hit and Maier reached over the wall, grabbing it while outfielder Tony Tarasco was trying to make a catch. Umpire Rich Garcia called it a home run, but many thought it should have been called fan interference.
11 Malice at the Palace
This was probably the most intense fight in the history of the NBA. The scene was a home game for the Detroit Pistons and they were facing the Indiana Pacers back in 2004. While the Pacers were a solid team and made the finals the year before (losing to the San Antonio Spurs) they were having an off-night on November 19th. Down by fifteen with under a minute left, a fight broke out between Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) and Ben Wallace.
10 Michael O'Brien - The First Sporting Event Streaker
While the "phenomenon" of streaking goes back further than the 1970s, 1974 is the first documented instance of a fan doing so at a match. It was a rugby match back in 1974 between France and England that was being played at Twickenham Stadium in London. As of 2006, when he finally gave an interview, he had become a successful businessman, but back in 1974 he had been bet by an acquaintance who had no idea that O'Brien was never a man to back down from such a wager.
9 James Miller - The Fan Man
If James Miller had lived years later, worn a GoPro, and maybe, just maybe avoided sporting events, he might have been known as an awesome daredevil, like Jeb Corliss, rather than a nuisance. He flew into several sporting events in the early 1990s, but none was more notorious than his entrance into 1993's boxing title fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield. Holyfield would eventually be named the winner in the bout, but round seven was interrupted by Miller flying in through the roof. His parachute strings became tangled in the lighting apparatus and he eventually tumbled into the crowd where he was beaten and lost consciousness.
He was taken to hospital and issued a fine, and the fight continued twenty minutes later. Miller had trouble getting employment and received death threats for some time after this event and a couple of other flying stunts that got him arrested. In 2002, at age 38, Miller hanged himself in the woods up in Alaska, where he had moved to escape his own infamy.
8 Disco Demolition Night
Ahhh, Disco Demolition Night. The hilarious answer to the question "what happens when you let too many people into a baseball double header for cheap and feed them beer and treat them to a fireworks display?" Let's start at the beginning. It was Chicago, back in 1979. Disco music was on its way out and rock was dominant once again. A local radio personality, Steve Dahl, organized an event that would take place between two Chicago White Sox/Detroit Tigers games. Anyone who brought a disco record to the game would be admitted for 98 cents and those records were to be blown up between the two games.
7 UCLA VS Arizona - Fake Ref
We already discussed the first streaker in sports history, but this was a whole different ball game, pun intended...awesome. This was just a few years ago during an absolute massacre of a game when Arizona was beating UCLA 42-7 heading into the half. A fan dressed as a ref charged on the field and blew the play dead before running around the field removing his clothing.
6 Caleb Humphreys
5 Steaua Bucharest - Fan Attacks
4 Stanford Marching Band
This goes all the way back to 1982 and a close game between the University of California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal. With less than five seconds remaining in the game, Stanford had taken the lead, 20-19. John Elway was playing for Stanford at the time, for those who want to appreciate how long ago this was.
During the post-field goal kickoff, the Bears started to lateral the ball to one-another and one was nearly brought down (there are two parts of this play that are still hotly debated), but ultimately, Kevin Moen ended up with the ball and weaved his way through the Stanford band, who had wandered onto the field after it seemed a California player had been tackled.
3 Boston Patriots Fan Blocks Game Winning Pass
2 Steve Bartman
The first two baseball fans we saw so far, Caleb Humphreys and Jeffrey Maier, helped out their teams and were praised by their fellow hometown fans. Steve Bartman is the most notorious fan in baseball history because he is considered to have started the implosion of the Chicago Cubs back in the 2003 playoffs.
1 Monica Seles Stabbing
This is by far the most violent fan interference with a match and therefore we consider it number one for notoriety. Monica Seles was one of the biggest stars in the tennis world back in the early 1990s, winning eight major titles before she turned 20 years old. In 1993, however, her career was derailed when a German fan, Gunter Parche, who, as they say "had more issues than a news stand" stabbed her during a match. She was out of tennis for two years after this event. Parche was not charged with a criminal offense, due to his mental condition. She returned to tennis in 1995 but had less success than she experienced earlier in her career.
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