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Unnecessary Roughness

"Personal foul...Unnecessary Roughness... defense number 92! 15-yard penalty...automatic...First Down!"

In many sports-related movies, in order to show how competitive and ruthless the Opposing Sports Team is, they will perform many aggressive actions (such as knocking opposing players down) that would never be performed in a real game because they would either result in a foul being called against the offending player or would serve no useful game purpose anyway. Of course, such a play that would normally call for the player's ejection will only result in a small infraction or no penalty at all, because the refs were paid off or not paying attention. Sometimes, the players don't actually want to do it, but are ordered to do so by their ruthless coaches.

Not necessarily a case of Gretzky Has the Ball, except in the cases where extreme roughness is tolerated well beyond what would result in ejections in Real Life.

To some, this is a complaint over real officiating and the belief (real or imagined) that star players and popular sports teams get favorable calls from game officials. That's a whole other discussion that will probably make a big mess and we'll just let you read the examples at the bottom of the page for that.

For people who use a sporting motif to beat people up, see I Know Madden Kombat. See also Rugby Is Slaughter. If this takes place in a tournament, including unnecessary roughness within the context of a fighting tournament, see Flexible Tourney Rules.

The Trope Namer for this trope is American Football, the only sport where the refs outright use this term (it's a catchall for rough play that isn't specifically banned but is clearly unfair). Other sports either use a different term or split it up into separate offenses.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The first instance of cheating in Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer has Hikaru's opponent using illegal electric whips that damage her. Misaki, being a Pollyanna, doesn't know this is illegal, and keeps on going anyway. A twist is that the battle is indeed Being Watched, by a very important person in the competitive Angelic Layer world, but since it's not an official match and she's trying her hardest, he lets it go because getting through this will help her out in the long run.
  • Deconstructed in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, as Sousuke is instantly ejected from a rugby match very early after shattering the jaw of the opposing team captain and knocking him out...and then Played for Laughs when the players, who had just went through The Spartan Way with Sousuke acting as Drill Sergeant Nasty, use this as motivation, and all hell breaks loose. This example is also interesting in that it's the type of team described at the top of the page that's getting smashed.
  • This is one of the most common complaints about Eyeshield 21- that players eventually start outright brawling and even maiming each other on the field (one player ended every game by breaking the arms of every quarterback he faced) and it's regarded as just "part of the game". Which it isn't.
    • The guy who breaks everyone's arms IS insanely strong, and has managed to pass it off as just being a result of that... Everything else is just unnecessary roughness, including throwing punches and even martial arts moves, not to mention linebackers throwing the small protagonist around the field.
  • In Bamboo Blade, during the first practice match between Muroe High and Machido High's kendo teams, Machido fighter Yuri Ando attempts to break Muroe team captain Kirino Chiba's concentration by tripping her, even after her coach (who also serves as the referee) warns her before the match to avoid using dirty tricks. Ando winds up losing the match anyway, as Kirino gets a second wind and finds a way to outsmart her.
  • Subverted amusingly in the manga My Girl when Masamune decides to run barefoot in the Fathers' Relay Race at his daughter's school athletics carnival. One of the other fathers deliberately treads on his foot just as the starters pistol goes off, causing him to trip- so Masamune grabs the guy's heel and drags him down as he gets up to run.
  • In Ask Dr. Rin!, one of the episodes had the soccer team competing against one of the other teams who made sure to showcase a lot of this, just in case you weren't convinced by a flashback earlier in the episode that showed them being jerks off the field.
  • In Kuroko No Basuke the school Kirisaki Daiichi is known for this, except in a way that the refs won't notice.
  • 8 Man After features a scene where the Big Bad buys a football team and tries to ensure his victory by stocking the roster with cyborgs high on Psycho Serum. The team naturally gets brutally and unnecessarily violent until they turn on the referees and even start killing people in the audience.

    Comic Books 
  • The climax of Astérix in Britain features a rugby match between Camulodenum and Durovernum. The first big tackle of the game results in one burly Durovernum player jumping up and down on the head of a skinny Camulodenum player. The druid umpire blows his horn and calls for a penalty for reasons of "unnecessary roughness" (this in the animated film; in the comic, it's "this is a British sport, not a Roman circus!"). The Camulodenum player later takes magic potion and exacts his revenge, by this point the chaos on pitch renders the druid umpire ineffective.

    Film 
  • The Blind Side: The defensive lineman of the Lions deliberately kicks Michael when he's down and after the play has already ended, and the referee not only ignores the kick, but penalizes the Wingate Crusaders after Coach Cotton complains.
  • In the opening game of Kicking And Screaming, a player on the opposing team sticks his arm out in order to knock a defender down as he rushes past him.
  • The entire football game in The Longest Yard has lots of Unnecessary Roughness going on, on both sides. The opportunity for Unnecessary Roughness is really the only reason the prisoners agree to play the game in the first place, and the warden instructs the guards' team to humiliate the inmates by pounding them into dust.
    • Though in this and the following examples case, the games are exhibition games between guards and prisoners - they may very well have decided to allow roughness for the sake of it.
      Samson: I think I broke his fuckin' neck!
      Announcer: I think he broke his fuckin' neck!
      Team doctor: One side, one side. [Examines injured player] Get the ambulance! I think he broke his fuckin' neck.
      Samson: See! I told you I broke his fuckin' neck!
  • The Vinny Jones vehicle Mean Machine, a remake of the The Longest Yard. is centered around an association football (AKA soccer) match between prison inmates and guards. It seems only an excuse for both parties to kick the hell out of each other, the prisoners going as far as recruiting a deranged kung-fu serial killer and giving their players lessons on how to hurt their opponents while avoiding penalties.
  • The chariot scene in Ben Hur is a classic, and often-parodied, example. However, there is no law in the arena. That was the reason for Ben Hur to participate in the race.
  • Notably used in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life in a rugby game with students versus teachers. When one of the young boys is about to make a try, a teacher watching from the sidelines trips him up.
  • Team Evil from Shaolin Soccer deliberately attempted to injure enough players of the eponymous team that they wouldn't have enough replacements to fill the required spots and thus be forced to forfeit. This strategy included such odd tactics as deliberately kicking the ball straight at the goalie. They get away with it because the referee is on their boss's payroll.
  • Same deal as above with the Monstars in Space Jam. And it nearly worked, too, were it not for Bill Murray. (But then, when you have Marvin the Martian as your referee...)
  • The film Slap Shot is largely a subversion of this trope, focusing on a team that is in a huge slump until they recruit three brothers who basically just skate around beating up the other team, allowing the other players to score. The climax pits this team against a makeshift bunch of the roughest players in the sport, and the game quickly degenerates into one huge brawl.
  • Probably one of the worst offenders is Little Giants, where the assistant coach of the Opposing Sports Team tells his son to injure the quarterback by any means necessary. He does so well after the whistle. In real life, not only would he be ejected, but he'd likely never be able to play in Pop Warner again (these are 12 year olds, by the way). In the movie? Just 15 yards, and the assistant coach getting dressed down by the head coach. Also, the impetus for the star girl football player to come from cheering her team on to getting back on the field and kicking some butt.
  • The evil Iceland team from The Mighty Ducks II sends its captain to take a vicious slash at Banks, breaking his wrist. Despite that such an obvious attempt to injure would get him ejected from the game (at minimum), he only gets a 2 minute minor penalty and Lampshades it on the way to the penalty box.
    Sanderson: Two minutes is well worth it.
    • This also happens in the first film, when one of the Hawks' players runs Banks from behind, taking him out of the game.
  • Sleepers provides a rare example of unnecessary roughness being perpetrated by the protagonists and morally justified in context. Hey, it isn't a sports film. The inmates of a juvenile prison play a game of football against the guards. The guards have made and will continue to make the boys' lives a living hell, including but not limited to the sexual molestation of the four main characters. The boys see this as a chance to turn the tables for one day. Their gameplan is simple: brutalize the guards, who can't resort to such tactics themselves in public, and give the ball to Rizzo, a college star. Rizzo pays with his life; his death is avenged many years later
  • In Sorority Boys, the Tri-Pi Sorority girls play the role of the Opposing Sports Team in a football game against the protagonist Delta Omega Gamma sorority. The DOG sorority's advantage comes from having three guys in drag on the team, but this advantage is neutralized when the Tri-Pi sorority girls perpetrate a Groin Attack against each of the disguised frat boys.
  • Played for laughs in The Replacements, in which the title team racks up over fifty yards of Unnecessary Roughness penalties in one play purely to boost their own morale.
  • In Necessary Roughness, "Flat-Top," the linebacker for the No. 1 team takes a cheap shot at kicker Lucy Draper (played by the lovely and talented Kathy Ireland). She gets even.
    Flat-top: Welcome to football.
    Lucy (after getting up): Welcome to foot, BALL! (Cue Groin Attack)
    • in a later game, after karate expert Samurai is told to go all out:
    Ref (complete with gestures): Illegal contact. Number 51. Sunkutsu elbow THRUST to the up-back. Oimawatsu roundhouse lunge kick to the corner-back. Tagatami insword block to the... shit, never mind... 15 yards. First down.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of The Waterboy.
  • There's a famous scene in The Karate Kid where Evil Sensei orders his charge to sweep Daniel's already wounded leg. The kid is reluctant, but ultimately goes along with it.
    • The leg is actually injured in the first place when Daniel's opponent is ordered by the Sensei to deliberately cripple him with an illegal attack in another example of this. He protests the order, does it anyway, and is subsequently ejected from the tournament. For his part, the kid apologizes profusely as Daniel is carried out of the ring.
    • Johnny experiences some unnecessary roughness in the sequel, in the opening scene which takes place immediately after the first film's climactic fight. Having cheated and still lost, Johnny confronts Kreese and tells him where he can stick his particular brand of karate. Kreese nearly kills him, but Miyagi intervenes.
  • Done in a potato sack race in Uncle Sam.
  • Escape to Victory (AKA Victory in North America). During World War II, a team of Allied prisoners of war plays the German national team in an exhibition match. The German team commits many violent fouls against the Allied players, which the referee doesn't call. The reason is that the referee has been ordered by the German Army officers to cheat and help the German team win.
  • Done repeatedly in Cars by Jerk Ass perennial runner-up Chick Hicks, who won't hesitate to slam other racers and cause a thirty-car pileup just to stop his rival. He never gets penalized in any way for his tactics, even after causing a near-fatal crash for the retiring champion and winning the coveted Piston Cup championship.
  • In Million Dollar Baby, Maggie's opponent for the final match repeatedly takes cheap shots and hits her after the bell rings, which should disqualify her, but she only gets points deducted.
  • The rival baseball team in 3 Ninjas: Kick Back.
  • In The Wave, fascist methods apparently gave the water polo team more team spirit than ever. The supporters really cheer them, they work as a team… but lose shortly anyway. So one of them tries to drown the adversary captain. Yeah, fascist training leads to team unity, but not to fair play.
  • The Last Boy Scout takes Unnecessary Roughness to its logical extreme (but ultimately a subversion because...well, it should be obvious why) when a football player gets high on PCP and then pulls out a gun and shoots 3 opposing players to score a touchdown before killing himself.

    Literature 
  • In the Harry Potter books and movies (especially the latter), the Slytherin Quidditch team has a ruthless and aggressive playing style, but it's all considered part of the game. Referees may occasionally insist on a "clean game," but they still won't care if it's not, especially since the victims fight back.
    • That reflects a bit unfairly on Madam Hooch, the referee, who was screaming virtually non-stop at the Slytherin team and awarded Gryffindor half a dozen penalty shots, but we don't know what kind of offence would result in someone being sent off and not even the Slytherin team ever outright assault an opponent (Quidditch is an exceptionally violent and dangerous game anyway- realistically, the bludgers could quite easily kill someone).
    • According to the spinoff book Quidditch Through the Ages, there are 743 separate fouls in the game... including "Attacking one's opponent with an axe". A recurring gag is that every single foul on the list occurred in the first Quidditch World Cup, as well as several nobody thought to put on that list (such as one team captain sending bats after the opposing team and another team captain teleporting his opposite number into the middle of the Sahara).
      • We can't forget "the Transfiguration of a Keeper into a polecat". It's unclear whether this was done to provide an edge in a scrap, or simply render the enemy Keeper unable to use his broom.
      • In fact, the actual list of what constitutes a foul has been kept secret for years for fear of "giving the players ideas."
      • It's also mentioned that about 90% of the fouls can be prevented from ever happening by just not letting anyone use their wands while on the field (but unfortunately, that infringes on one of the Wizarding World's most basic human right).
  • The P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster story "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy" has the eponymous Upper-Class Twit getting involved in the yearly rugby grudge-match between two rival villages; the event quickly proves to be an excuse for the participants to beat on each other.
  • The impromptu football match between the armies of Ankh-Morpork and Klatch in Jingo is scored by fouls rather than goals.
    • Unseen Academicals suggests that this is how Ankh-Morpork street football is traditionally scored. The Big Match at the climax of the book also has an example; most of A-M United realises that playing UU fairly is both good for the game and not actually that difficult, but there's a handful of real psychos seeded in there, and they're careful only to act when the ref isn't looking (linesmen haven't been introduced yet).
      • The UU team are amateurs so the professional players of A-M United have every advantage. The smarter pros realize that and are also aware that the opposing team are actually ultra powerful wizards who will likely enact their own Unnecessary Roughness after the game. The Librarian alone is known for beating people to a bloody pulp for calling him a monkey (he is an orangutan).

    Live Action TV 
  • Most auto-racing depicted on TV features more contact between cars than a demolition derby. In reality even slight damage to a race car can result in such a huge performance loss that drivers usually avoid contact at all costs. Anyway, every major organized motorsports competition has strict rules against deliberate vehicle contact, and will disqualify or even ban an offending driver who's being reckless. And if it resulted in someone getting injured or worse in a wreck then that's the least of their problems!
    • Odd-vehicle races on Top Gear have strict no-contact rules — which are always forgotten before two laps.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the episode "The Gang Gives Back" has Dennis, Dee, and Mac forced to do community service by coaching two YMCA youth basketball teams. They all teach their players to use copious amounts of this, including sticking open safety pins in their wristbands to stab the other team with. Unsurprisingly, the Big Game at the end is an all-out brawl.
  • In Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (episode "Travelling All Stars") we see a baseball match where the professional team's players deliberately injure members of the Colorado Springs team and receive no penalty. (Naturally, Colorado Springs wins anyway.)
  • There were a few instances of the American Gladiators and the contestants mixing it up in the heat of competition. Once, Turbo actually punched a contestant during Sling Shot.
  • Friday Night Lights is full of these; in one case Riggins is shown having bloody gashes on his neck stitched up midgame, the implication being that an opponent tried to claw his jugular open.
  • Necessary Roughness, about a sports therapist working for a (gridiron) pro football team, is a pun on the football foul. Excessive on-field violence becomes an important point in season 2 when the new owner institutes a 'bounty' system where players get under-the-table bonuses for injuring key players on the opposite team.note  When Coach and Niko find out about it, they are furious because it is an extremely dangerous practice and if the truth is revealed, the league will shut the team down and clean house.
  • On Justified the Bennetts and Givens have been Feuding Families for over 50 years but in the 1980s agreed to a truce. However, Dickie Bennett and Raylan Givens ended up on opposite sides of a high school baseball game. Dickie tried to hit Raylan with a baseball, a brawl erupted as result and Raylan hit Dickie in the knew with a baseball bat. Dickie's knee was broken and he had to walk with a limp ever since. Dickie still holds a massive grudge over this and in the present tries to kill Raylan with a baseball bat.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Where to begin? It's the business.
  • Heels routinely get away with this kind of behavior — in fact, it practically defines being a "heel."
    • "No DQ" matches are often used to let the "face" cut loose and Pay Evil unto Evil. It used to be exclusively so, until bookers started using them to let the heel cheat openly and win.
  • From The Rock's own page, there was his unprecedented 10 chair shots in a row to Mick Foley.
  • New Jack has literally made a career of this since moving from SMW to ECW in 1995. Prime examples include The Mass Transit incident, where he brutalised a 17 year old wrestler and left him requiring fifty stitches after slicing his forehead open with an X-Acto knife; The Gypsy Joe incident, where he brutalised an old man with various weapons, including a baseball bat during a match; the 'stabbing' incident, where he pulled a piece of sharpened metal out of his pocket and used it to stab a local indy wrestler 17 times with during a match (he was later arrested for aggravated assault); and the Vic Grimes incident, in which he attempted, by his own admission, to kill a fellow wrestler at the conclusion of a scaffold match ("I wanted him to die. I ain't got no love for Vic.")
  • CHIKARA actually has a rule about it, called "castigo excesivo", or "excessive punishment." At A World Of Comforting Illusions, the tecnico}} team Incoherence (Hallowicked and Frightmare) d. the rudo BDK team of Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze by DQ for this reason after Sara gave Frightmare four consecutive piledrivers without going for a cover.
  • Norman Smiley ran Chavo Guerrero Jr's stickhorse "Pepe" through a woodchipper on the January 11, 1999 WCW Monday Nitro.
    • Raven did the same thing to Perry Saturn's mop "Moppy" on the September 17, 2001 Raw.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy X, the Luca Goers play this trope almost stereotypically in their effort to prove themselves as Jerkasses.
    • The Al-Bhed Psyches kidnap Yuna to attempt to blackmail the Besaid Aurochs into throwing their game and beat Wakka up so badly he collapses.
      • Which comes off as even more unnecessary, considering they're overpowered to hell and back.
      • And also because Yuna was able to free herself from the kidnappers just as help was about to come.
  • Pretty much the point of most Midway arcade sports games, such as Arch Rivals, High Impact Football, the NFL Blitz series, NBA Jam, etc.
    • Also the entire gameplay focus of EA's Mutant League Football and hockey. You can win a game by simply killing the entire opposing team. And the refs don't escape from the bloodbaths either.
      • Mutant League Football also has an inversion of this trope. By bribing the ref, he will start calling bogus penalties against the other team if it will help yours. One of the penalties that can be called is "Unnecessary Kindness."
    • Then there's Blood Bowl. This is what happens when you take the over-the-top ridiculous aspects of Warhammer, and replace the GRIMDARK with American Football. Based on the tabletop gaidengame, you can choose between "classic" mode (taking individual turns and rolling a crap-ton of dice like said tabletop) or "arcade" mode (standard real-time football, except instead of "downs" you play from kickoff/snap until you either score, or the enemy gets the ball and HE scores.)
  • The entire premise of Mario Strikers Charged is this trope. Tackling your opponent into electrical fences, lobbing bombs, Koopa shells, banana peels, and unleashing Chain Chomps onto the field is very common. They've turned soccer into something so intense the players all wear body armor. Even Bowser.
  • Most hockey minigames in the Spyro the Dragon-series involves breathing fire at your opponents. The ones that don't take place in worlds where Spyro's Breath Weapon has been changed to something else.
  • In Base Wars, it's not sufficient to tag a runner out. Instead, the two robots fight to the death.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars, it's possible to run over other players baseketball and soccer games with a car.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Pinky and the Brain, when Brain becomes a basketball player, and he starts playing solo because of his Acquired Situational Narcissism, he starts attacking the opposing players. As a result, he loses his popularity with the sports fans just as quickly as he got it.
  • Shows up in the 1980 animated film Animalympics. In one memorable sequence, a hockey game literally turns into a warzone... and a pastiche of war movies. Even the briefing from the coach is violent, starting with "First, you start with the faceoff. After you take his face off, you kick him in the shins..."
  • Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown had, among other things, the three bullies diverting the raft of the Peanuts gang through a mining area (complete with explosives) and a log mill.
  • Shows up in an episode of South Park that parodies the living hell out of sports movies, and ends with a team of hockey players causing bloody injuries to a group of four-year-olds.
  • There was an episode of Doug (second season) where Roger Klotz not only sabotages Doug and Skeeter's original downhill derby car, but he also pulls the Ben Hur chariot race trick.
  • In the episode of Jem where Jem and the Holograms and their rival band The Misfits are invited to compete in a sports competition in Hawaii, The Misfits' band manager Eric Raymond actually hires someone to teach The Misfits "how to cheat"! Tricks such as spring-heeled shoes, spring-powered vaulting poles, and a bike that sprays oil and slices other competitors' tire spokes a la Ben Hur have The Misfits winning and setting records...for a little while at least. This was the eighties. Villains from the eighties Can't Get Away with Nuthin' '.
  • In the The Mighty Ducks cartoon, the eponymous characters go up against a hockey team called the Destroyers, who were banned from the NHL for this, in a practice game.
  • An episode of ReBoot has Matrix and Bobnote  in a Pokemon-variant game. Being Cheating Bastards they ignore the "mon vs mon" rule and go straight for the User handler, ending the game when Bob (as Bobzilla) crushes him under his foot.
  • The Classic Disney Short Hockey Homicide features all sorts of comically over-the-top violence at a hockey game, such as the team captains constantly getting sent to the penalty box for fighting and the referee getting run over so many times he resorts to wearing a suit of armor. At the climax the fighting between the players degenerates into an all-out brawl among the spectators, which the players end up sitting back to watch as the cartoon ends.

    Real Life 
  • As noted in the page quote, the Trope Namer is American Football. Unnecessary roughness is a personal foul penalty that covers a large range of actions, such as hitting a ball carrier who is already out of bounds or violent contact with a player who is away from the ball. At the professional and college levels, the foul carries a 15-yard penalty and, if the foul is committed by the defense, an automatic first down. Severe instances result in player ejections.
  • In the NBA, Bruce Bowen was notorious for being the league's dirtiest player after the rules were cleaned up and more anti-defense following the Jordan Era
  • The Other Wiki details the Rudy Tomjanovich-Kermit Washington incident from December 1977:
    "Washington saw Tomjanovich running toward the altercation. Not knowing that he intended to break up the fight, Washington hit Tomjanovich with a roundhouse punch. The blow, which took Tomjanovich by surprise, fractured his face about one-third of an inch (8 mm) away from his skull and left Tomjanovich unconscious in a pool of blood in the middle of the arena. Jabbar likened the sound of the punch to a watermelon being dropped onto concrete. Tomjanovich had a reputation around the league as a peacemaker. [...] Reporters heard the sound of the punch all in the way in the second floor press box, and some rushed to the playing floor in disbelief. [...] besides having the bone structure of his face detached from his skull and suffering a cerebral concussion and broken jaw and nose, he was leaking blood and spinal fluid into his skull capsule. His skull was fractured in such a way that Tomjanovich could taste the spinal fluid leaking into his mouth. He later recalled that at the time of the incident, he believed the scoreboard had fallen on him. The doctor who worked on Tomjanovich said "I have seen many people with far less serious injuries not make it" and likened the surgery to Scotch taping together a badly shattered eggshell."
    • Washington's career slowly petered out into early retirement afterwards, while Rudy T went on to coach the Houston Rockets to two NBA Championships in the mid-90s.
  • We seem to have found a replacement for Bowen in the 2009 NBA playoffs: Rajon Rondo. To the extent that for a while, his nickname was Rajon Wound-o.
    • During the 2009 Bulls-Celtics playoffs during game five, Rajon Rondo fishhooked Brad Miller's face as Miller went for a layup. Rondo's hand was three feet away from the ball, and all Rondo got was a personal foul. He should have drawn a flagrant one at least. Official review upheld the decision. (Because to do otherwise would be like going on national television and saying, "Bulls, we may have cost you guys the game.") Can be seen here.
    • How about game 6 of the same Bulls-Celtics series—namely, Rondo grabbing Kirk Hinrich and throwing him into the scorer's table with the ball nowhere near.
  • Subverted in Sheffield United's game against Liverpool a few years back, Steven Gerrard dived over a tackle from a United defender, and was given a penalty, the Referee, refusing to admit he was wrong, claimed it was given for "intent".
  • There's an image of Matt Millen sucker punching another player during the post game handshake. Karma eventually paid Millen back, he later became General Manager of the Butt Monkey Detroit Lions when they went winless for an entire NFL season.
    • Another incident occurred during the 1985 AFC Divisional Playoffs. After the top-seeded (at the time) Los Angeles Raiders lost to wild-card (and eventual AFC representative in Super Bowl XX) New England, Millen got into a scuffle with Patriots general manager Pat Sullivan (son of team founder Billy).
  • Claude Lemieux was one of the most loathed players in NHL History (no relation to Mario, one of the most loved), and with good reason. Most agree that he single-handedly started the Avalanche/Red Wings rivalry in 1997 for a pretty vicious cheap shot on Kris Draper.
  • These guys. And these ones.
  • Averted by football running back Earl Campbell. Though he regularly ran over and through people with enough force to hear the collision over every other sound in the stadium, nothing he did was illegal.
    • Same with Larry Csonka. Most of the time. He did get a 15 yard penalty once for throwing a forearm that was more like a right cross.
  • There was a game between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons where, after a late hit on Mike Vick, an on field brawl started. Dispite several punches being thrown, some hard enough to knock players helmets off, no penalties were called, and no one was ejected.
  • Dwayne Johnson (yes, The Rock) was recruited by the University of Miami to play football, but injuries kept him out of the starting lineup for most of his college career. His biggest moment in a game was when he became involved in a bench-clearing brawl (Miami vs. San Diego State) and was shown on ESPN chasing the San Diego mascot screaming "I'll kill you!"
  • The Philadelphia Flyers for some time in the 1970's were known as "Broad Street Bullies" - a team so violent that The Simpsons included it among the Jury of the Damned in one Halloween Episode.
    • The invincible juggernaut Soviet team almost backed out of playing them on their U.S. tour in 1976 after an especially vicious hit.
  • On the verge of losing the 1972 Summit Series to the Soviets, the Canadians, who were made up of professional NHL players, simply resorted to dirty play, such as deliberately injuring the Soviets' best player Valeri Kharlamov, in order to win the series. This is partially averted because in North America, very few people will admit Canada's dirty play helped contribute to their victory.
    • Half the series was played in Canada, and the other half in the Soviet Union. Overseas, the Canadian team suffered from a severe case of Can't Get Away with Nuthin' , while the Soviets had the Russian referees on their side, despite an agreement to use neutral Swiss umpires to judge the game. The Canadians may have played a more physical game than the Russians were expecting, but they were called on it on both sides of the Pacific, and especially in the USSR.
  • On February 18 2004, Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche checked Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Näslund in the head, giving him a concussion when he hit the ice, and no penalty was called. Two games later, Canucks enforcer Todd Bertuzzi clubbed Moore from behind, knocking him to the ice. The Avalanche jumped on Bertuzzi, breaking three of Moore's cervical vertebrae and giving him a concussion when they all fell on him. Moore has not played since.
  • During the 1970 NFL season, the then-defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were playing the Oakland Raiders. Late in that game with the Chiefs leading 17-14, quarterback Len Dawson scrambled for a first-down that would have enabled the Chiefs to run out the clock, gaining additional yardage after a cheap shot from Raider defensive end Ben Davidson. It didn't end there, however, as receiver Otis Taylor jumped in and retaliated, resulting in offsetting penalties. Kansas City had to punt, Oakland ultimately knocked a field-goal through to deadlock the game 17-all (no regular-season overtime until 1974). Taylor's antics came back to haunt the Chiefs, as with only four postseason slots in that time, that cost Kansas City a division title and left them as the odd team out in the AFC playoffs.
  • While many soccer defenders are known for being aggressive, there's a case from the 1981 Copa Libertadores that deserves mention: In the second game of the finals, Mario Soto from Chilean side Cobreloa was able to make two Flamengo players leave the game bleeding (the rest of Cobreloa managed to injure two other players). In the third and last game, with four minutes left and victory already guaranteed to Flamengo, the team's coach Cláudio Coutinho decided to avenge the previous game and put benchwarmer Anselmo in the field, with the sole intention of hitting Soto (who promptly got punched in the head, leading to a fight that got both players expelled).
  • The Battle of Santiago has to be one of the finest examples.
  • Although many British soccer teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s had at least one player with a reputation for violent tackling and otherwise dirty playing, Leeds United under Don Revie could fill an entire first eleven with such players, so when they met Chelsea, who had a number of similarly savage players in their first eleven, in the replay of the 1970 FA Cup final, the inevitable result was one of the most violent matches in the history of the tournament (in 1997, referee David Elleray watched the match and said the two sides should have received a total of twenty yellow cards and six red cards):
    • Leeds' Terry Cooper and Chelsea's Tommy Baldwin were already kicking each other as the match began, while Leeds' Norman Hunter and Chelsea's Ian Hutchinson (the only player to be booked for either side in the match) spent most of the match trading punches and Leeds' Johnny Giles and Chelsea's Eddie McCreadle made numerous lunging tackles on opposing players.
    • Chelsea's Ron "Chopper" Harris effectively took Leeds' Eddie Gray out of commission soon after kickoff with a savage tackle to the back of the leg, while Leeds' Jack Charlton kneed and headbutted Chelsea striker Peter Osgood.
    • Leeds opened the scoring after Mick Jones viciously bundled Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Bonetti into his own goalmouth and then rounded him seconds later while he was still regaining his bearings to score, while the winner was scored by Peter Osgood after Jack Charlton, who was assigned to mark Osgood, devoted his attention instead to exacting revenge on Ian Hutchinson for a dead leg.
  • On a similar note, though Leeds United fans may remember the 1975 European Cup final mostly for some questionable refereeing decisions which denied them possible penalties (indeed, many of the club's hardcore fans refer to the club as European champions to this day), Bayern Munich fans may remember it instead for the savagery of the Leeds players which brought a premature end to the careers of two of their players. Three minutes into the match, a particularly vicious tackle by Terry Yorath on Bjorn Andersson led to the latter having to be substituted and only playing a further handful of matches at senior level. Uli Hoeness, who described the tackle on Andersson as "the most brutal foul I think I have ever seen", was himself taken out of the match after a tackle by Frank Gray resulted in a serious knee injury from which he never fully recovered.
  • In the 1980s, Wimbledon took on this mantle during an era when they were known as "the Crazy Gang". One opponent told the newspapers that he expected every team to have a hard man, but he'd never known a team to entirely consist of hard men.
  • Still on soccer, we have brazilian defender Júnior Baiano. He reached memetic levels for his violent, reckless tackles. In the early nineties. Before internet was popular.
  • 1982 World Cup semi-final, West Germany v France: Late in the game French player Patrick Battiston was advancing on goal when German keeper Harald Schumacher ran out and smashed him in the face with his forearm. Battiston was knocked cold and taken to hospital with broken teeth and a damaged vertebra. Schumacher was not even booked and saved two penalties in the resultant shoot-out. Justice was done in the final as West Germany lost to Italy, and Schumacher later offered to pay Battiston's dental bill.
  • There's an old joke about Ice Hockey's general level of violence: "I went to a brawl and then a hockey game broke out"
    • Similar to American football, ice hockey has a catch-all penalty for dirty play, "roughing." This penalty can range from "callous disregard of safety when skating into your opponent" to "intentionally firing a solid piece of vulcanized rubbernote  at your opponent's face." There's also the similarly intentionally vague "game misconduct" penalty, which is basically the hockey term for being ejected from the game.
    • And of course, the actual fistfights, which happen quite often, and in fact, are considered a major part of the game. The penalty for a fight is five minutes, which applies to both players. It's rather telling that there's a specific penalty called just for "fighting" as opposed to other sports that would charge players openly fighting with violating more generalized personal misconduct rules.
    • One of the various Unofficial roles in a Hockey team is the "Goon" or "Enforcer" who's entire job is to stop Unnecessary Roughness by the other team, mostly by the threat of beating anyone who tries into a paste, especially if said roughness was directed at a star player.
    • Sportswriter/comedian Sean McIndoe wrote The Seven Levels of Dirty Hockey, where the lowest is annoying the adversary (i.e. skating close to the goalie to cover him in ice) and the other six deal with fighting - with the top one being an assault that has no reason than "I am going to try to end that guy’s season" (he includes the aforementioned 1972 Valeri Kharlamov game as an example "at the risk of permanently losing my Canadian passport").
  • The 1956 Hungary-Soviet Olympic water polo match is a classic example of this trope. The other wiki has details.
  • A few years back, Oklahoma and Baylor were playing a basketball game with Baylor ahead and Blake Griffin threw a Baylor player down to the ground and started to give him a Curb-Stomp Battle on the court. Amazingly enough, a technical wasn't called on Griffin but the other player instead. This terrible call ended up leading to an Oklahoma comeback and no sort of reprimand for Griffin.
  • In a 2008 Tae-kwon-do Olympic match, one Cuban competitor got so angry at losing that he kicked the umpire's face. You can see the picture here, and the video here.
  • Another recent (March 2012) story describes an illicit arrangement in which Washington Redskins players were paid bonuses for deliberately injuring opposing players to take them out of the game.
    • Actually, they appealed the charges and won, resulting in no penalties or suspensions from the ever more vigilant NFL Executive Office. The New Orleans Saints, whose bounty-program supported by the coaching staff meant to encourage defensive players to injure opponent players in exchange for cash bonuses started the whole investigation after a pre-game speech by their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, before the 2011 NFC Divisional Game was leaked (in which he calls for taking their rivals' starting RB, Frank Gore, out of the game and make their starting receivers fear catching the ball by hitting them hard at the beginning of the game), ended with:
      • The organization being fined $500,000 and surrendering their second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts.
      • Head coach, Sean Payton, being suspended for the 2012 season.
      • Gregg Williams being suspended indefinitely (first chance for appeal will be at the end of the 2012 season).
      • General Manager Mickey Loomis being suspended for the first 8 games of the 2012 season.
      • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt (who's the second-in-command after Payton in their coaching staff) being suspended for the first 6 games. This is relevant because Vitt had served as interim coach during the 2011 season when Payton was unable to coach due to injury, so the Saints will start the 2012 season with an interim interim head coach.
      • Linebacker and team captain Jonathan Vilma being suspended for the whole 2012 season.
      • Other defensive players (Will Smith, and Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita, no longer with the Saints) being suspended for the first games of the 2012 season.
  • In the first round of the London 2012 women's soccer tournament, the US was playing Colombia. Partway through the game, one of the US players, Abby Wambach, collapsed on the field, clutching her face and kicking her legs in apparent agony. Given the penchant for theatrics in the sport, the commentators sounded somewhat skeptical - up until she removed her hands from her face and sat up, revealing that her right eye was rapidly swelling shut. As it turned out, she was running down the field ahead of a Colombian player, Lady Andrade. When Wambach slowed down, Andrade came up next to her and sucker punched her in the eye. Amazingly, the referee missed it completely - through Andrade did not get away with it. The US requested that FIFA review the footage after the game, and they have since banned Andrade from her next two matches - which amounts to an Olympic ban as Colombia failed to win any of their group games and did not advance to the next stage.
  • The Boston Celtics' Kevin McHale once clotheslined Kurt Rambis to keep him from getting a basket, as seen here. It says a lot about the NBA at the time vs the NBA of today that he didn't even get a foul. Hell, that the commentators say they were expecting something like that to happen sooner or later (it was a playoff game between bitter rival teams), and describe "knocking your guy on his ass" as a legitimate strategy.
  • Given its reputation, it should come as no surprise that Rugby Union has its share of Real Life examples.
    • Eye-gouging. It's a serious offense that will get you banned from the sport for weeks, months or even years depending on its severity - justifiably so, because players can and have lost their eyesight because of it.
    • Several famous examples happened in tours of the British and Irish Lions:
      • The 99 call - code for "everyone, beat the crap out of the nearest opposition player" used in the 1974 tour of South Africa. The matches in that tour was notoriously filled with violence, and the Lions captain Willie McBride came up with the call so that when one Lions player retaliates, all players retaliate. It succeeded, because the referee couldn't identify a single instigator and send him off. (Nowadays, video replays would mean these kind of tactics will just result in the whole team getting banned.)
      • NSW Waratahs fullback Duncan McBride punching Lions flyhalf Ronan O'Gara while he's down, in a match between the Lions and the regional team New South Wales Waratahs during the 2001 tour of Australia. It was so vicious, it spawned a rumour that O'Gara had slept with McRae's wife. McRae received a red card and a 7-week ban, but he didn't miss any matches since it happened during the off-season.
      • The "clear out"/"spear tackle" (depending on whom you ask) by New Zealand captain Tana Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu on Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll, during 2005 tour of New Zealand. O'Driscoll dislocated his shoulder because of it, ending his tour. The Lions subsequently lost the series 0-3 while Umaga and Mealamu received no sanctions. Even now, this incident is a Flame Bait for rugby fans and everyone has different opinions on the degree to which it was intentional, what penalty (if any) it should have incurred and the effect it had on the whole tour.


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