Athletes, whether we want to believe it or not, are people just like the rest of us. Despite their near physical perfection, the pressure to perform or perhaps the dizzying effects of stardom at times cause even the best of them to behave inappropriately.
Bad sportsmanship is common enough, at times it rears its ugly head in even the most friendly of matches, but it is very rare to see it at its worst. For at its worst, unsporting behavior can evoke such revulsion that it can change the way that a game is played from that point forward. It can redefine what we consider acceptable behavior and permanently sully the public’s memory of otherwise great athletes.
Whether due to violence, unfair play or rudeness, the athletes in the events featured in this article have earned reputations for unsporting behavior. Today, we look at the worst moments and the impact of the most glaring examples unsportsmanlike conduct in a range of different sports in an effort to understand precisely what it was that caused mere seconds of play to be etched in the memories of fans around the world.
Ice Hockey: Retaliatory Hit Leaves Player With Broken Neck
Three weeks after a questionable call that injured Vancouver Canucks team captain Markus Näslund (the league’s leading scorer at the time) by Colorado Avalanche center Steve Moore, the Canucks were looking for revenge. With Colorado up 8-2 late in the third period, Todd Bertuzzi began following Moore down the ice and trying to get him to fight. When Moore didn’t give him the time of day, Bertuzzi, behind Moore, grabbed the Colorado player’s jersey and punched him in the side of the head and took him down to the ice face first.
After lying on the ice for several minutes, Moore was finally removed on a stretcher. According to Wikipedia, “he suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, vertebral ligament damage, a grade three concussion, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, and facial cuts. To date, Moore has not appeared in another professional hockey game.”
Aftermath: The aftermath of the Bertuzzi-Moore incident began immediately after it took place and continues to this day. Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely, fined $500,000 and faced criminal charges that saw him sentenced to a year of probation.
Bertuzzi was allowed to reenter the league for the 2005-2006 season, but faced civil action from Moore, which is presently ongoing. Moore’s lawyers are seeking a total of 18 million dollars and Moore’s parents are seeking a further $1.5 million for “negligent infliction of nervous shock and mental distress.”