Burning Down the Town: The Most Infamous Sports Riots in American History

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Rioting and sports have probably been around since ancient times when athletes ran around barefoot and naked. It seems like every time a team wins or lose a championship, drunken and excited fans think that it’s a good opportunity to tear up and loot their own cities. They set fires, fight and turn over cars. And the next day they find out that one of those cars was theirs. In all seriousness there have been sports-related riots so bad that people have been injured and killed over the decades in the United States and other parts of the world. Top 5 takes a look at the Top Sports Riots, but is limiting it to just to the United States, because as any weary world traveler knows, if you go to any country with a soccer or cricket team, there is bound to be a riot.

5 Riddick Bowe vs. Andrew Golota, Boxing, Madison Square Garden, 1996

It’s amazing that there haven’t been more riots at boxing matches, but this one was a doozey. Golota apparently thought it was ok to hit a fighter in the groin again and again. Bowe, his people and the fans at Madison Square Garden didn’t think that was cool and that’s when all the fun began. The fight was called and Golota was disqualified after the fourth blow to the groin, but someone from Bowe’s side decided to get even by bashing Golota in the back of the head with a walkie-talkie. The fans decided to get in on it and rushed the ring, leaving the poor announcers from HBO panicking and running for their lives. Even tough guy and former heavyweight champ George Forman, who was calling the fight for HBO thought it was a good idea to get the hell out of there.

4 Ron Artest Goes Ron Artest in the Palace, Detroit, 2004

NBA resident psychopath, Ron Artest, then playing for the Indiana Pacers is not a fan of Diet Coke. That may be because he had one thrown at him while lying on the scorer’s table with about a minute left in a regular season game against the Detroit Pistons. The end result was a riot of epic proportions and idiocy. Artest went into the stand and took out the wrong guy. And for whatever reason, five other players from both teams decided to get involved. They charged the stands to protect who we don’t know, and were later charged with assault. Five fans involved faced criminal charges and were banned for life from the Palace. This riot wasn’t as violent as it was hilarious!

3 Discounted Beer Night, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, 1974

Ok. This is a no brainer. The Indians promotions department must have had one too many of these cheap beers when it came up with this brilliant idea. Eight ounce cups of beer for a dime at a home game where the team traditionally sucks against another sucky team in the Texas Rangers. Does Top 5 really need to tell you what happened? It was so bad that when fans took to the field with knives and chains it scared the hell out of Hall of Fame manager Billy Martin, and nothing scared him!

2 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup Riots, 1993

No one can ever say that Canadians don’t know how to riot. The Canadiens hockey team had just won their record 24th Stanley Cup over the Los Angeles Kings, and fans went out to destroy St. Catherine Street. This one was really bad as 980 officers were called out to control this mess. An amazing 47 police cars were destroyed, 168 people were injured, including 49 police officers. 115 were arrested and there damage totaled$2.5 million. It was the last time a team from Canada won the Cup and for their sake, Top 5 hopes they never win another one!

1 Disco Demolition Night, Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1979

Now Top 5 may not be as big of a fan of disco as much as the next guy, but what were the fine folks at Cominskey Park thinking when they came up with this promotion? Take a bunch of KISS and Led Zeppelin-lovingdrunken baseball fans cheering a bad team, give them the opportunity to take their frustrations out on some horrible 1970s disco, and things will surely get out of hand. The point was for fans to bring in their disco albums in to be blown up in the middle of the field. You know — good old fashioned, wholesome family fun. Some 90,000 people showed up to a stadium that holds about 52,000 decided to take part in the fun. After the blast left a hole in the field, fans got out of hand and went nuts. There were six injuries, 39 arrests, and the second game of the double header was forfeited. Top 5 wants to know if fans hated disco so much, why did they own so many albums?

Honorable Mention

Los Angeles Lakers Riots, 2010

It seems like the Lakers winning a championship and riots have become synonymous with one another. They rioted in 2000 and 2009, so this one was a given. Police weren’t having it this time around after the Lakers defeated their heated rival Boston Celtics for the title, but neither were the wild and drunken fans. Rioters threw soda cans of all things and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. A total of 10 people were injured and there were 50 arrests.

Detroit Tigers World Series Championship, 1984

A list on rioting wouldn’t be complete without Detroit. This one was insane as the police in both cars and horseback were pretty much powerless as trash cans and cars were burned. The worst part was that one man was murdered. There were also three rapes, 40 arrests and who knows how many injuries.

Denver Broncos Super Bowl Riots, Denver, 1999

This one was HUGE as 10,000 fans were involved causing millions of dollars in damaged buildings and overturned cars. Denver fans would repeat this a year later, but on a smaller scale when the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl. It was smaller, because there was nothing left to burn or damage from the year before.

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