The worst fans who screwed up sporting events
Some unruly fans go beyond being mere obnoxious clowns who should’ve switched to water eight beers ago. Whether they’re hurting players, attempting to play the game themselves, or making too much noise at the worst possible time, all the following fans would’ve massively helped their favorite sport if they’d stayed home and gotten drunk on the couch.
You can run, but you can't win
Imagine training for years for an Olympic marathon only to lose because some yo-yo gets pushy at the exact wrong time. That’s what happened to poor Vanderlei de Lima, a Brazilian runner who was competing in the marathon at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
As the BBC recapped, De Lima was in the lead with about 4 miles to go, when out from the crowd came a crazed fan in a kilt. He shoved de Lima into the crowd and allowed others to gain on him. De Lima soon lost the lead, and eventually earned the bronze medal, which would’ve been great if he weren’t a virtual lock to win gold just a few miles earlier.
The “fan” who pushed de Lima was a guy named Cornelius Horan, an ex-priest who carried an incomprehensible sign ranting about the end of the world. So when de Lima called him a “lunatic” after the medal presentation, he was pretty on-the-money. Horan was arrested, and de Lima was honored with everything short of a gold medal. Fans cheered him wildly as he entered Panathinaiko Stadium to finish the race, the International Olympic Committee awarded him the Pierre de Coubertin Medal (which honors those who display true Olympic spirit), and he got to light the Olympic Cauldron at the 2016 Rio Games.
Getting too grabby
In Arena Football, there’s no real barrier between the fans and the field, outside of a waist-high wall. That makes it real easy for unruly fans to get involved, as the above video shows.
In August 2011, the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League were facing the Georgia Force. As the Force’s C.J. Johnson went back to receive a kick, he found himself at the wall separating the end zone and the crowd. One Sharks fan took it upon himself to prevent a successful run by grabbing Johnson and holding him back in the biggest disrespect to the Force since Jar-Jar Binks. The referee penalized the Sharks 15 yards, which is pretty significant — an Arena Football field is only 50 yards long.
As for the fan, NBC Sports reported that he seemingly got little more than a slap on the wrist for his actions. He was apparently moved from his seat, but likely not ejected from the game. In addition, fans around him cheered, and Sharks players even approached him for high-fives. That’s a pretty good reward for grabbing an unsuspecting player’s head and possibly injuring them. (Luckily, Johnson seemed to be okay.) Even still, if you find yourself with the opportunity to grab a professional football player, don’t. It’s rude.
The soccer sucker-punch
In October 2011, Romanian soccer squads Steaua Bucharest and Petrolul Ploiesti were going at it. Steaua was up 1-0 when Petro supporter Dragos Petrut Enache introduced a strategy his team hadn’t considered: blatant assault.
As ESPN reported, Enache ran onto the field and punched Steaua defender George Galamaz in the back of the head, breaking his right cheekbone and causing him to miss 45 days of action. He then tried to fight other Steaua players, who angrily threw him around until security dragged him off the field. Two of those players got ejected for fighting Enache, who won himself charges of “disturbing public order” and “committing violence.”
According to prosecutors, Enache was on drugs and used a “hard object” when attacking Galamaz. When you’re getting high and bringing a weapon to a fun athletic contest, you know you’re not traveling the right path in life.
The referees stopped the game for 10 minutes and awarded Petro a penalty kick, which they nailed. This angered the rest of the crowd, who apparently saw what Enache did and figured they could top it. So they started throwing flares onto the field until the refs had enough and ended the match entirely. Steaua got the win, and Petro got a fine for poor game organization, not to mention poor fans.
If you can't beat the player, beat the ref
The typical rugby player is tougher than week-old steak, so a fan getting angry and attacking them is almost certainly asking for a trip to the hospital. Perhaps that’s why this crazed fan went after the poor referee instead.
During an August 10, 2002, match between the South Africa Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks, Springboks supporter Piet Van Zyl decided he didn’t like how referee Dave McHugh was doing his job. He disapproved so much, in fact, that he ran onto the field and grabbed McHugh, throwing him to the ground and dislocating his shoulder. He might’ve done more, except security and rugby players pulled him off McHugh and away from the field. The commentators immediately abandoned impartiality, repeatedly calling Zyl “pathetic,” observed how “he couldn’t even get the tackle right,” and opined that “for our country this is not a good sign at all.” Zyl got his nose bloodied by a rugby player, and later earned himself a lifetime ban from any South African rugby field, along with charges of assault.
An eyewitness account via Rugby Dump says the scofflaw made it perfectly clear he wasn’t sorry. He claimed McHugh had it coming, due to his supposedly poor officiating. Also, Zyl apparently had it out for McHugh since 1995, when the ref ejected a Springboks player from a game. Maybe Zyl should find himself another sport, along with tons of therapy.
Stabbed in the back
There’s supporting an athlete, and then there’s being so psychotically devoted to that athlete, you endanger somebody’s life in their name. The assailant in the Monica Seles backstabbing story is decidedly the latter.
As ESPNW recalled, on April 30, 1993, tennis superstar Monica Seles (then the top female player in the world) was taking a break during a tournament match changeover. A man named Gunter Parche came from behind and plunged a knife into her back. Thankfully, he didn’t cause much more than a torn muscle, and was stopped before he could do any further damage. It seems his motive was as basic as it was asinine: He was a huge Steffi Graf fan, hated that Graf was merely the second-ranked player in the world, and wanted to stop Seles by any means necessary.
Sadly, Parche mostly got what he wanted. Seles missed 28 months of action, as the attack completely destroyed her will to compete. She sunk into depression, which only worsened after Parche got off with probation, due to a psychiatrist testifying he wasn’t mentally stable. Ultimately, she eked out just one Grand Slam title post-stabbing (she had won seven out of eight before it), and retired in 2003 having accomplished significantly less than what people expected from her. Gunther Parche didn’t just screw up a sporting event — he screwed up a whole sporting career.
Flares aren't fair
Inter Milan supporters went way too far when supporting their team in April 2005, when actual weaponized assault reared its ugly head, endangering a player’s life and causing an important soccer match to end early.
During the quarterfinals of that year’s Champions League tournament, Inter Milan took on AC Milan. AC was up 1-0 after 73 minutes, when Inter finally scored on its rival. Unfortunately, the referee waved off the goal, instead calling a foul against Inter. That, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, made the hardcore Inter fans super mad, and they started throwing flares onto the field. One hit the head of AC’s goalkeeper, Dida, and the referee quickly stopped the match and got all the players off the field, waited a bit, then tried to restart the match. But soon after the match restarted (with Dida on the sideline), Inter fans started throwing more flares. Finally the ref had enough and called the game early.
Thanks to these “fans,” Inter was punished hard. As the BBC reported, not only were they hit with a loss, they were fined £132,000 (about $184,000) and were banned from playing in front of fans for four European games, which means even less money. Thankfully, it also means no flares.
Poking an angry Tiger
When you attend a golf game you’re expected to be as quiet as possible so as not to distract the players, who need total concentration. The fan in the above video clearly didn’t care about anyone’s expectations because not only did he get loud, he got loud at the worst possible time.
On January 28, 2018, Tiger Woods was playing the Farmers Insurance Open and was putting for birdie on a hole. However, he didn’t count on a birdbrain in the crowd screeching “Get in the hole!” in the middle of his swing. As expected, the shock of being screamed at caused Woods to miss the hole and angrily settle for par.
The crowd was universally on Woods’ side, giving the heckler some heck of his own. Golf.com reported such comments as “You’re an idiot, go home!” “Get that moron out of here!” and a supervisor outright telling the crowd, “If I were you all, I would beat his a**.” Golf fans are too nice for that, though. The loud fan skulked away after repeatedly apologizing. Maybe he should try football, where being a loud and obnoxious fan is expected and encouraged.
The wrong way to get your kicks
This story’s more silly than anything else, but it’s still an example of how even goofy fan gestures can mess things up for the team that’s supposedly being helped by the move.
In September 2009, the Spartak Moscow soccer team was set to take a penalty kick against FC Saturn. As the Spartak player readied himself for the kick, a fan ran onto the field and interfered. Luckily, he didn’t try to fight anybody, but he did kick the ball. Impressively, he actually got it into the net, though that was more because the goalkeeper was too busy staring at him in utter confusion to even attempt a block.
Perhaps because he was on home turf and because he wasn’t actually hurting anybody, the fan got to run around the field for a while, as did a buddy of his. They celebrated like they had just won the World Cup, and the crowd roared their approval. Once they exited the field, the Telegram reported Spartak kicked for real and also succeeded. Unfortunately, Spartak lost the game — whether that was due to one of their supporters messing up their concentration or if it was bound to happen anyway, no one knows for sure. Either way, if you’re a fan and want to kick a soccer ball during a professional game, practice until you’re good enough to get signed, like a real player.
The penalty that wasn't
In 2008, the Boston College Eagles were playing the Virginia Tech Hokies, when a BC fan apparently decided the ref had missed a Hokie penalty. Instead of complaining and drinking like everyone else, this fan decided to become the referee.
And so, after the BC quarterback threw an incomplete pass, a flag was thrown onto the field, presumably for pass interference (according to The Stupidest Sports Book of All Time). It looked exactly like a referee’s flag, so of course the refs whistled to stop play. But they quickly realized they all had their flags still. And so, one of the referees had to utter a sentence he likely never thought he’d say: “There was no flag on the play. The flag was thrown in from the stands.”
Nobody seemed too bothered by the issue — even the announcers chuckled and complimented the fans for getting into the spirit of things. As for the play, it stayed an incomplete pass, and the Eagles converted a first down just one throw later. It was still a silly gesture by a silly fan, though.
The cap-fueled basebrawl
On May 16, 2000, the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Chicago Cubs. That day, according to CBS Chicago, an overzealous Cubs fan named Josh Pulliam decided to mess with the visiting team.
Pulliam made his way into the Dodgers’ bullpen (which is right on the first base line), grabbed catcher Chad Kreuter’s hat, punched him in the head, and ran into the crowd. He shouldn’t have done any of those things, but Kreuter and his fellow bullpen buddies didn’t respond very well either. Rather than let security deal with Pulliam, Kreuter and friends gave chase and began to fight the fan. This escalated into fighting other fans, as the Dodgers dugout and bullpen emptied in response.
After a 10-minute delay, play resumed. Ultimately, as the New York Times reported, just about everyone involved got punished. Several fans were ejected and charged with disorderly conduct, while an incredible 16 Dodger players (plus three coaches) were fined and suspended. Luckily for the team, the players didn’t have to serve their suspensions at the same time, since L.A. actually needed players to put on the field. Years later, according to the Chicago Tribune, a fan whom Kreuter choked in anger sued the Cubs for charging him and won $475,000. All this because one guy couldn’t leave somebody else’s hat alone.