The 5 Ballsiest Ways Fans Have Affected The Outcome of Games
These are the kind of stories that you have to love even if you hate sports. After all, these fans, after paying good money to watch the sporting event, couldn't just sit down and enjoy the athletic showcase they came to see. They had to make it all about them. And thanks to their jackassery, not only did hilarity ensue, but the course of sports history was changed forever.
Duke University's Speedo Guy Provides the Ultimate Free-Throw Distraction
It's an unwritten rule in basketball: If you go to the foul line, expect to see hundreds of fans standing and waving shit in front of you. They're also likely to scream anything from vague insults to vicious racial epithets, simply to annoy you enough that you miss your shots. It's all kind of pointless, of course -- basketball players have been dealing with that silly bullshit since middle school. The players just tune it out, and fans convince themselves that their signs and chants behind the backboard are actually doing something to affect the game.
But in 2003, one heroic fan at Duke University had a plan. He knew that in fact one man truly can make all the difference. Provided that one man is virtually nude at the time.
See, this game was against the University of North Carolina. These teams have been slugging it out as far back as 1961, and it's considered by many to be the greatest rivalry in sports. One fan knew he had to pull out all the stops, and by stops we mean his balls:
Patrick King, a student at Duke, did what every opponent in history has failed to do: He convinced the rabid crowd to sit down. Why? Because if hundreds of kids were all on their feet and acting like utter loons, the free-throw shooter wouldn't have been able to see this:
"You see, guys? That is teamwork."
This is what North Carolina's Jackie Manuel saw when he went to the free throw line in the middle of yet another nail-biter between these historic rivals. King stripped off his coat, rose above the now-seated students, and began to dance in a tiny, distracting Speedo. Every stereotypical stripper gyration that King could think of, he performed. Hip-thrusting, leg-pumping, and the occasional booty shot all combined to throw Manuel completely off his guard.
"Be glad I don't give you both barrels."
Manuel took the first shot.
Manuel tried to gather himself, to shrug off the power of King's mystifying man meat, and prepared his second shot. That's when the dancing got wilder and thrustier, until even the Duke faithful were overcome with lust.
"We're going to need the rulebook for this one. And a new ink pen."
Manuel took the second shot and ... well, we'll just let him tell it:
"I just saw this guy in a Speedo, y'know, no shirt, just dancing around. It was kinda hard to focus on my free throws, seeing a guy in a Speedo moving around. I was like, OK, gather myself, y'know, refocus. He jumped up again and started doing another dance and y'know, inside I was laughing, but, y'know, trying to stay focused. It kinda threw me off and I ended up missing my second free throw."
Patrick King, aka Speedo Man, caused two missed free throws ... and his team ended up winning that crucial rivalry game by three freaking points. And thus King became more famous for his grape-hugging undies than anything else he will ever accomplish in the future.
The New York Yankees Win a Pivotal Playoff Game, Thanks to a 12-Year-Old Boy
If you get tickets to a baseball game, the advantage to sitting in the outfield is the one-in-a-thousand chance you might catch a very valuable souvenir: a home run ball. So for a young Yankees fan attending a game in the major league playoffs, the absolute best-case scenario would have to be catching a ball hit by one of his heroes (like, say, all-star Derek Jeter). In fact, that would probably be the highlight of his life, as no young Yankees fan has ever grown up to be a good person.
But 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier managed to top that. From the stands, he didn't just catch the home run, but actually caused it, and helped send the Yankees to the fucking World Series in the process.
It was Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. It was the eighth inning, with the Yankees trailing 4-3 and running out of chances.
Yankees superstar Derek Jeter smacked one into the outfield, but it wasn't long enough to be a home run -- it was just short. But in baseball, that's all that matters -- being just short of a home run means a routine out. And sure enough, Oriole outfielder Tony Tarasco was there, ready to catch the ball and drive another nail into the Yankees' coffin.
But just as Tarasco stretched up, a young hand reached down from the stands and snatched at the ball, deflecting it out of play.
He then went to the hospital and beat up several cancer patients while giggling.
If you're wondering how it's legal for fans to just reach into the field of play and participate in a major league baseball game, the answer is, it's not. At all. Normally the umpire just calls interference and the runner is declared out (which would have made young Jeffrey Maier an instant villain, since fans could have argued that if he hadn't interfered, then maybe the outfielder would have dropped the ball on his own). But this time, the umpire declared it a home run. This tied the game and completely knocked the wind out of the Orioles' sails.
"Sir, I strongly disagree with your assessment of this particular play and would appreciate your reconsideration."
The Yankees would go on to win the ALCS (and later the World Series), while Maier would get his 15 minutes of fame. He appeared on talk shows, was publicly declared a thief by the governor of Maryland, and offered no apologies for his actions, saying that any 12-year-old Yankees fan would have done the same thing.
"Angel in the Outfield Tells Sports to Go Fuck Itself."
Meanwhile, the guy who actually caught the ball (remember, Maier just deflected it) was nowhere to be found. No accolades, no talk shows, no free tickets to Game 2 (complete with limousine ride), no nothing. That's what he gets for not being a 12-year-old boy.
The 1908 Olympic Marathon Was Decided by Everybody but the Runners
The early days of the modern Olympics certainly reflected the times: Gymnasts competed in slacks held up with belts, women athletes wore full-length dresses complete with gigantic feathery hats, and fans thought nothing of handing glasses of alcohol to athletes in the middle of competition (apparently).
They kind of needed it to soothe the fear that those hats induced.
In the 1908 London games, the men's marathon came down to two runners: South African Charles Hefferon, and Italian Dorando Pietri. The latter was well behind Hefferon with just over two miles to go, and the race was all but in the bag.
Then a fan offered Hefferon a drink, which he readily accepted. This wasn't just a paper cup of water or whatever they had in 1908 instead of Gatorade. No, this was a glass of fine champagne, because this was 1908 and people back then had class. Hell, we think champagne is what they used for Gatorade back then -- there are stories of people who managed to win after consuming a bit of wine or brandy during a race.
"Looks like you're fine, but just don't run over 10 miles per hour."
Unfortunately for Hefferon, there is a reason modern science does not recommend slowly getting hammered while in the middle of a demanding act of rigorous physical activity -- after another mile of running, Hefferon developed severe cramps. This slowed him down significantly, and ultimately cost him the race.
This would seem to mean that the gold medal was in the bag for the second place Pietri, who was probably smirking at how the man in front of him clearly couldn't hold his liquor. He sped up to take the lead. This, unfortunately, is possibly the worst long-distance running strategy imaginable. Worse, it seems, than drinking fucking alcohol. Because, while Hefferon simply developed cramps and slowed down, Pietri quickly gave in to exhaustion and began stumbling and bumbling around like he was the drunk.
After Pietri collapsed, bystanders proceeded to escort him across the finish line. Sadly, that turned out to be illegal, and Pietri was disqualified. Thank God, because cutting his medal up so all 15 of his helpers could be recognized would have been a ripe pain in the ass.
Not even Voldemort's soul could handle that kind of dilution.
The actual winner, by the way, neither drank nor required assistance, and thus nobody remembers him. Pietri, the guy who lost, was later awarded a special Silver Cup by the queen of England and had a reverent tribute song written about him by a young Irving Berlin. Man, losing is awesome!
A Fan Grabs a Football Player Mid-Play and Tries to Rip His Head Off
When the Arena Football League was created in 1987, several ideas were implemented to differentiate it from the NFL -- for instance, the half-size field allowed for higher scores and faster action, and the tiny arenas were a great cover for how little the public gave a shit. Also, there was no "out of bounds" area -- the fans were right up against the field, separated from the players only by a low wall:
This is what we call "foreshadowing."
You'll notice that it's like that all the way around the field, including the end zone. So if you're a player near the edge of the field, you're within arm's reach of a fan. This means it was really just a matter of time before something like this happened:
On August 8, 2011, C.J. Johnson of the Georgia Force was ready to receive a kick from the Sharks when he backed into the wall separating the crowd from the action. A front-row Sharks fan decided that whole ball-catching thing was unacceptable, so he reached out, wrapped his arms around Johnson, and slammed him against the wall several times over. He even attempted to rip his helmet off, because of ... shit, who knows? Maybe he thought there was creamy nougat underneath.
Admit it: You'd watch Arena Football if this were legal.
Now, if you tried this crap at an NFL game, several very not good things would happen. Security would pounce immediately and throw your ass out of the game. Several fans might throw their shitty $9 draft beers at you, because the alternative would be to actually drink them, and who wants that? Also, you would not get on camera, and the announcers would barely even mention you. All in all, it sounds exceedingly pointless.
Of course, this is Arena Football, so none of this happened. The fan got to stay, he got ample camera time, and the announcers treated it like the funniest thing they'd ever seen. Several of the Sharks players even ran over to the guy and took turns high-fiving him.
Because nothing teaches a moron that what he's doing is wrong more than being high-fived by his idols.
The only remotely legit part here is that the Sharks were penalized for what turned out to be beyond-blatant interference. The ball was given to the Force on the 20-yard line, which, on a 50-yard field, is a pretty big deal. However, the fan clearly got into the Force's head, and they ultimately lost 64-55.
Ha, that's Arena Football for you! What a silly little bush league operation! There's no way that kind of garbage could happen in the NFL, right? Well ...
Boston Patriots Win Thanks to a Blocked Pass -- from a Fan
It's not that rare for crazy fans to run onto the field during football games. It's never a big deal -- the players stand around in mild annoyance for a few minutes while security tackles the drunken fan and drags him away. If a fan ever ran onto the field during a play, the refs would just blow it dead and maybe penalize the home team.
That's why the story we're about to tell you will likely never, ever happen again, even if professional football is being played 200 years from now. What this fan did is one of the most singular accomplishments in the history of professional sports, although we're assuming the guy was far too inebriated to remember any of it later.
You mean a guy with a mustache like that is starved for attention? Naawww.
The Boston Patriots of the 1960s were like Charlie Sheen's Cleveland Indians of the NFL: a gaggle of misfits and lovable losers who resembled a circus more than a professional sports team. They would start snowball fights mid-game, share their sideline with the opposition (because their stadium had no extra space), and grab former players from the crowd because they didn't have enough men on the field.
But perhaps the most unforgettable incident of them all occurred on November 3, 1961, when a fan ran onto the field, directly inserted himself into the game ... and won the damn thing.
In the final seconds of this game, the Patriots were winning by one touchdown, 28-21. The visiting Dallas Texans had the ball, however, and were on the 5-yard line. One pass into the end zone would tie it up. If they missed, fans were waiting on the sidelines to charge the field in celebration. But one of these fans (who many believe was Patriots owner Billy Sullivan, an accusation he never actually denied) felt that waiting in the background while insulting the Texans' mothers was overrated and useless. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Yep, he's actually doing that cartoonish sneak walk.
This guy not only ran onto the field, but assumed position -- he literally went back there and positioned himself like another safety. And no one noticed.
Texans quarterback Cotton Davidson snapped the ball. He read the play and made a pass to wide receiver Chris Burford for a seemingly easy touchdown ... at which point this random guy literally leaped into action. He batted down the ball, making the pass incomplete and securing victory for the Patriots.
"Should that guy be here? He must have forgotten his pads and helmet at home. Happens to the best of us."
Amazingly, nobody noticed this as it was happening -- it was only when footage was studied the next day that anyone spotted the rogue spectator. By then, obviously, it was too late to protest.
And here's the thing: If you don't know much about football, you have to understand that of the 12 players on that defense, only one of them correctly read the play, saw the receiver's route, and got into the right position to defend the pass: the drunken guy in a windbreaker.
It was going to be a touchdown otherwise -- the quarterback had the other 11 guys fooled. Only the fan had it right. So where other drunken spectators stumble out and try to hug the QB or get an autograph, this guy did the equivalent of stealing a baseball and then striking out the hitter. Hank Stram, head coach of the Texans, jokingly called it "the best defensive play seen all year long." Hell, we think it's one of the best plays ever.
Jamie will gladly accept any champagne donations and can be found at his blog here, where he can help you quit your job and go crazy. You can make fun of Patrick on Twitter or send him hate mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more insane spectator behavior, check out 6 Pieces of Fan Art That Are Better Than the Original and The 4 Most Unexpected Fan Bases in Pop Culture.