Every now and again a moment will happen in sports that stops you in your tracks. Something that is completely absurd, shocking or disastrous will break down the façade that we buy into – the idea that the sports arena is a sacred environment separated from the falibilities of every day life. We now know this is not true because when it is all said and done, sports stars are just people capable of making the same mistakes.
While we are all capable of acting on our dark side, sports identities have the added pressure of dealing with sponsors, agents, the media and their own expectations. Performing in that field often appeals to the narcissists, obsessive-compulsive or bipolar individuals who change at the flick of a switch when they are thrown into a competitive environment.
The burning desire to win and achieve ultimate success can come at a cost. It reveals the true nature of athletes away from the spotlight, but in the 21st Century there is no safe place to hide. On other occasions the hand of Mother Nature steps in that leaves fans holding their breath. The frenetic atmosphere sport creates lends itself to all types of bizarre activity that is impossible to predict.
Here at The Sportster, we’ve taken a moment to pause and reflect on the Top 15 moments in the history of sports that left us thinking WTF? From the tragic to the simply outrageous, the games we know and love have a habit of going from the back page to the front in no time at all. So get the swear jar ready because these are the top WTF moments in sports.
15 Usain Bolt Segway Collision
News writers around the country could not wait to hit the send button on the headline “Nut Hits Bolt” when the greatest runner of his generation came feet-first with a cameraman’s Segway in China. The 29-year-old Jamaican Olympic Champion was lapping up the accolades from a 200m-sprint victory when a broadcaster tripped his segway on a railing before colliding with the most lucrative pair of legs on the planet. While the footage in slow motion looked hilarious, it could have been the most costly mistake ever made and a horrifically innocuous end to a spectacular career. We’re sure the apology and subsequent friendship bracelet offered by the cameraman was consolation enough for the scare.
14 149 Own Goals in 1 Game
Full disclosure, we know a vast majority of our readers don’t keep up to date with developments in the Madagascan soccer league, but something happened in one game that left us thinking WTF? Yes that score line is correct. In 2002 AS Adema won 149-0 against Stade Olympique L’Emyrne. From reports on the ground, apparently the L’Emyrne players were left frustrated when their coach lost his temper with the referee and starting banging in the goals in their own net in protest.
The 149 goals more than quadrupled the previous record of 36-0 in 1885 and even though it was a blight on the game, fair play for sabotaging to that degree over an hour and a half of soccer.
13 Chuck Hughes Dies on NFL field
If only the football world knew what Chuck Hughes’ condition was, he would never have stepped foot on the field. The death of Chuck Hughes from an acute coronary thrombosis meant he had the heart of a 60-year-old and collapsed when playing for the Detroit Lions at Tiger Stadium in 1971. Further heart conditions have followed in the sporting world and testing is now mandatory across most disciplines, but Hughes remains the only NFL player to die on the field. A tragic moment that made the result obsolete, putting the game into perspective.
12 Diego Maradona and the “Hand of God”
How on earth did the referee not see it? The most iconic player of his time lifted above giant English goalkeeper Peter Shilton before the ball bobbled into the net, ultimately proving the difference in a 2-1 win. The little magician’s performance for Argentina against England in Mexico 1986 is without doubt the most celebrated and derided soccer game anyone has played. Diego completely owned the moment, telling the press shamelessly it was the “Hand of God” goal. Depending what side of the fence you sit, it is either the goal of the century, or the scandal of the century.
11 Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial
Paralympian champion Oscar Pistorius stunned the world when he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day, in February 2013. Only he will know his true intentions, but the following trial garnered a global audience. Rumors persisted about a love affair with guns and a strain in the pair’s relationship prior to the shooting. Pistorius was sentenced to five years prison for culpable homicide, however the runner was transferred to house arrest after only serving 10 months. As Steenkamp’s family fight the emotions of the loss everyday, a dark cloud of mystery will always remain about the events of that night which still leaves people scratching their heads.
10 Kobe Bryant Rape Case
A sexual encounter between Lakers and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and a 19-year-old hotel employee would rock the sport in 2003. The NBA champion eventually settled out of court but never admitted to the accusation of rape during the extramarital affair. Bryant’s reputation fell dramatically after the event, as his partner’s miscarriage was attributed to the stress of dealing with the ugly fallout as well as leaks over private testimony he gave to Colorado law enforcement. Sports scandals rarely get bigger than this and for the NBAs sake, they’ll be praying it stays that way.
9 Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan
It had to be a serious scandal for a figure skating incident to grab international headlines. In 1994 Kerrigan was brutally attacked after a practice session with a baton, bruising her leg and forcing her withdrawal from the Figure Skating National Championships. A media frenzy ensued when it was revealed that U.S. 1994 Olympic rival Tonya Harding hired the services of Shane Stant to carry out the cowardly hit. The nation poured sympathy on Kerrigan while Harding showed her true colors, selling a sex tape to Penthouse magazine for $200,000. The Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan story symbolizes the best moment in sporting rivalries.
8 Child Sexual Abuse at Penn State
Rarely can parallels be drawn between the Catholic Church and college football, but Penn State drew global attention when it was revealed that the organization harbored a sexual predator who groomed children. Jerry Sandusky’s reputation as a quality assistant football coach blew up in smoke when it altered to being a serial child molester over a 15-year period. His minimum prison sentence of 30-years will see Sandusky die in jail, however the saga put the issues of institutionalized collusion and duty of care right under the spotlight.
7 Magic Johnson’s HIV-positive diagnosis
One phone call from the Lakers team doctor changed Magic Johnson’s life forever and people’s perceptions about AIDS as a disease. The year was 1991 and Magic Johnson was in the prime of his career at 32 years of age. Considered not only healthy, but in elite physical condition, Johnson’s diagnosis stunned the basketball world and forced people to rethink the disease linking it only with homosexuals. Johnson's success after basketball has also given hope to anybody with the virus that they can live a good life.
6 Eric Cantona Kung-fu Kicks Fan
Safe to say Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons won’t be telling Eric Cantona to “F*** off back to France, you French mother****er!” in the future. The enigmatic Manchester United star lost all composure when he launched a kung-fu style kick into the patron as he was walking off into the tunnel for being shown a red card. The cocky Frenchman was fined a total of £30,000 and banned from soccer for eight months. Thankfully for Eric’s sake, YouTube was not invented, but the VHS tapes were dusted off and the footage remains one of the iconic WTF moments a sporting event has ever captured.
5 Monica Seles Stabbing
The last thing a professional tennis player is expecting at the change of ends is to be stabbed by a member of the crowd. Twenty years after the freak incident in 1993, Seles admitted the mental scars of that day still affect her. During a match in Hamburg, an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf’s ran onto the edge of the court to stab Seles between the shoulder blades.
Unlike the Harding situation there was never any connection made between Graf and the culprit, yet it remains one of the most frightening moments ever seen on the sporting arena. She sat out nearly two years of tennis as a result amidst a fight with the German legal system to see the stabber face justice.
4 Tiger Woods Sex Scandal
A fresh affair being leaked to the media is akin to closing the gate after the horse has bolted. Allegations of Tiger cheating on Lindsey Vonn with Jason Dufner’s ex-wife Amanda Dufner pale in comparison to the explosive sex scandal in 2009. Woods went public when it was revealed he not only played the field on the course, but off it even more. As then-wife Elin Nordegren went to town on Woods’ SUV with a golf club it became clear her anger was well founded. Fortunately she took a sizeable chunk of his earnings, $110 million to be exact. Woods lost all credibility, endorsement deals and his mojo for the game. Who knew that was his secret all along?
3 Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield’s Ear
Considering Mike Tyson wanted to kill his opponent Evander Holyfield in their Las Vegas encounter of 1997, perhaps he should be grateful he only took a chew to the ear? Tyson went from being the big brute of a fighter to an out-of-control maniac in the space of one action. The pair's tussle frustrated Tyson so much that he stooped to the level of Luis Suarez or the worst feral dog you’ve ever come across. While his rape charges belied a man with no moral fiber, the infamous bite made everyone ringside and watching on television think, WTF?!
2 Muhammad Ali Arrest
Picture the biggest sports star in the world, think LeBron James mixed with Tom Brady, and imagine them being sent to prison for not going to a war that was vastly unpopular amongst the community, e.g. Iraq. Analogies are needed in 2015 because never before or since have we seen a sports personality with such magnetic charisma face the might of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The aftermath that followed would be what anyone was talking about, stripping Ali of his status as Heavyweight Champion of the World and arrested for his stance not to join the Vietnam War. Among a litany of famous phrases said over a decorated career, Ali stood in defiance of the hierarchy that tried to force a man unwillingly into battle. “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” is arguably his greatest quote which defined a generation of disaffected youth.
1 1989 World Series Earthquake
Game 3 of the World Series, 1989. Oakland Athletics versus San Francisco Giants. What was to follow would be the first ever live broadcast of an earthquake and it is believed the baseball game saved hundreds of lives in the aftermath. The Loma Prieta earthquake was captured when ABC went through to a highlights package before commentator Al Michaels could be heard saying, “We’re having an earth-“ when the feed cut out. Reruns of Roseanne and The Wonder Years fooled nobody as the news spread internationally.
A collapse of the Interstate 880 tragically killed 42 people, but with many people leaving work early to see the game it may very well be the only time a game has literally saved lives. Without a doubt, the '89 World Series earthquake remains the top WTF moment in sports history.