The Oxford Dictionary definition of tantrum reads ‘an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.’ It’s the final part of that definition that makes sporting tantrums so amusing for the viewer and utterly embarrassing on the part of the person involved.
Nowadays elite sportspeople are expected to be role models, to be an ambassador for their sport and to protect the spirit in which their game is played. To see them momentarily forget this as they lose themselves in fits of anger, self-pity and blame shifting; this is what makes the tantrum so amusing. Tennis, golf and other non-contact individual sports seem to be the ideal breeding ground for tantrums. The lack of physicality means that frustration is turned inward. You can’t go and fly into a tackle as you would in football or rugby. The individualism means that great efforts have to be made to divert failure away from your own ineptitudes. This is never possible, but still they try. The tantrums highlighted below are graded from A downwards, with A being the worst tantrum.
William Gallas, Final Whistle of that ‘Eduardo’ game at St Andrews.
Some captains shout and holler at their players, some are like a second manager on the pitch whilst some lead by technical example. Then there are those who cry over conceding a last minute equaliser. A cause of untold embarrassment to Arsenal supporters, who were forced to see their club captain behave like a 5 year old who’s just lost a game of Ker-plunk.
There are three stages to this tantrum. Firstly, running to other end of the pitch and turning your back on the opposition penalty being taken. Secondly, a Tony Ketsbaia inspired attack on a Cadbury’s advertising hoarding. Thirdly, sitting alone in the centre circle after the final whistle. Arsenal’s title bid of 2007/8 never recovered.
‘YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS’. Say those words and people know exactly what you’re talking about. This tantrum, or collection of tantrums, gains an A due to the fact that people remember McEnroe’s rants at umpires almost as much as his Grand Slam victories. Some of the tantrums below exhibit far worse behaviour but none have a position in sporting history like this one. The contrast between McEnroe’s screeching New York tones and the umpire’s stiff-blazered and clipped English makes it all the better.
Sergio Garcia, Blaming it on his shoe at Wentworth.
It may sound a tad harsh, but the whole of Sergio’s career could be classed as one long tantrum. His frustrations have manifested themselves in a number of ways: tenuous excuse making, an extended break from the game, down beat interviews and even once spitting into a hole. Throwing clubs doesn’t look good but most players, professional and amateur alike, have done it. But throwing your shoe? What on earth was going through Garcia’s head as he hurled his Adidas spikes behind him into the crowd after an errant drive on Wentworth’s daunting Par 5 17th? Presumably he felt he had slipped and had some grievance with his spikes. Or perhaps he slipped because he swings at this tee shot as if he’s trying to advance the Mary Rose. Sheepishly, Garcia retrieves his shoe from the crowd and trudges away down the fairway. Its number 1 on the clip attached.
Ron Artest, Indiana Pacers vs Detroit Pistons, NBA 2004
Grade: B –
The reason this bizarre incident doesn’t make the top grade is because I would view it as less of a tantrum and more of an assault. I suppose I could have chosen Eric Cantona’s Kung-Fu episode, but the fan/player interaction is much closer here. Ron Artest, playing for Indiana, fouls Piston’s Ben Wallace resulting in Wallace retaliating. Nothing unusual about that. However, unhappy at Wallace’s conduct Artest goes to the courtside scorer’s table to complain. This incenses one Pistons fan who throws a cup of Diet Coke at Artest. Furious, Artest (along with some team mates) storms into the crowd and starts throwing punches. The irony of this angry tale is that they started beating up the wrong man! A prime example of brainless behaviour, although the fact that Artest has since changed his name to ‘Metta World Peace’ suggests he may have been brainless all along. The incident cost him an 86 game ban and $5 million in salary.
Serena Williams, 2009 US Open.
Grade: B –
We’re back to Tennis again, and Serena Williams is angry about a line call in her match against Kim Clijsters so fires a volley of profanities at the lineswoman. The lineswoman then informs the umpire that Williams had threatened to kill her. This only makes Williams even angrier as she strenuously denies the allegation. Cue a saga over whether she did or did not threaten to kill the lineswoman.
Kevin Keegan, ‘Luuv It!
The importance of this incident in the 1995/6 title race is overplayed given that United only needed one more point to win the title when Keegan gave this interview. He also isn’t the only manager to say something stupid in post-match interviews, so for those reasons this only achieves a tame C. Nevertheless it was evidence that Keegan had taken the bait of Alex Ferguson’s comments, and any story relating to Ferguson’s mind games will always be popularised. Infuriated by Ferguson’s suggestion that Leeds, who had little to play for, might take their game against Newcastle lightly, Keegan began his famous speech. In it he stated quite clearly that he would ‘Love it if we beat them’. Love it! Cue years of ‘Cheer up Kevin Keegan’ chants from United fans, to the tune of The Monkee’s ‘Sleepy Jean’.