The best-worst riots in sports

Jeff Winkler Contributor

Who knew a Canadian riot consisted of more than just some heated comments about the weather? Lest anyone think hockey is a sport best played among an eclectic group of kids coached by Emilo Estivez, Canadian hockey fans pucking lost their stick last night.

Drunken violence broke out in Vancouver after the Canuks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup series. Cars were burned, windows were smashed, feelings were hurt.

How bad was it?

“Police started using flash-bangs – grenades, which are made to distract and disorient, rather than injure – to break up the mobs,” according to CBS, although some Canuky hooligans found time to make love between the war.

What’s most surprising is the Canadians’ anger over coming in second. They might as well have rioted for being Canadian.

Rioting after sporting events is almost de rigueur now (except for the Cannabis World Cup) and in fact a tradition in some countries. Here are some other competitions between Team Idiot vs. Human decency. (BIG BOSTON: Bruins lift Stanley Cup)

San Francisco

After the Giants won the 2010 World Series, San Francisco erupted in what the Chronicle called “joyful mayhem.” Close to 7,000 of the city’s normally peacenik residents decided the city by the bay had to burn. Keep in mind that this is the city has seriously considered banning circumcisions and Happy Meals.

The normally painfully boring sport quickly became painful for anyone caught walking down the city’s famed Market St.

The “joyful mayhem” consisted of looting, fires and destroying perfectly good cars, although this time it wasn’t because the vehicle wasn’t up to emissions standards.

Los Angeles

California again. Ugh.

The only thing good about Los Angeles is that the residents are constantly trying to burn it to the ground. So in that regard, it really is the city of angels.

Riots broke out after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship this past June. And they did the same thing back in 2000 because Shaquille O’Neal was named the series’ MVP. None of these outbursts of “joyful mayhem” compare to angry mayhem, however. (POST UP: Mavericks champion arrested for being drunk in public)

In 1992, the city almost crumbled in the the sea after sanity was shutout in the Rodney King finals.

University of Maryland

It’s not always the fans who are responsible for shocking displays of violence.

After University of Maryland beat Duke in 2009, its students got in trouble for public exuberance. That’s when the Prince George’s County police force came riding in to keep the cheerful, but not riotous, crowd in line.

As U of M student John “Jack” McKenna celebrated on the sidewalk, several officers on horseback surrounded him before their reinforcements charged in, slammed McKenna against a wall and viciously beat a fetal-shaped McKenna at least 12 times. All the police brutality was caught on the new-fangled technology the damned kids carry around with them these days.

The incident sparked an investigation, particularly after McKenna was originally charged with disorderly conduct. iPhones and flipcams might offer enjoyable YouTube clips of riots, but they also help document the abuses of police when it’s claimed that order needed to be maintained among mindless sports fanatics.


In America, Soccer’s played by the goofy kid who couldn’t cut it in any other sport, and then there’s David Beckham. In England, futbol is the national obsession, as well as the national tragedy.

Violence at English soccer stadiums really took off in the late 1970s and 80s. Scores of people were beaten and bottles were thrown at opposing fans from higher elevations. After matches — win or lose — fans would tear through the streets of the hosting city, upending anything not bolted down. The fans were so bad they formed actual gangs (“firms” in limey) around particular teams.

Reports of the violence can read like war dispatches. One of the worst incidences of violence was during a local match in 1985. (dubbed the Kenilworth Road Riot), and the “crush,” — drunk, rowdy fans duking it out in the stadium —  at the ’85 European Cup Final lead to the deaths of 39 people and hundreds more injured.

Rather than attend a soccer game (because it’s soccer), not to mention one as violent as an English match, stay home and read Bill Buford’s great book, “Among the Thugs,” about these soccer hooligans.

Ever been in a sports-induced riot? Tell us about it in an email!

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