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Unnecessary Roughness

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"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 Artistic License – Sports, 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 and Hockey Fight. 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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • The first instance of cheating in 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Wizards in Fairy Tail tend to grow more powerful the stronger their emotions become; in the titular guild's case, it's the more they feel for their friends and allies' sake. Seeking a chance to prove Saber Tooth's superiority, Minerva gives Lucy a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in a contest that only requires a simple ring-out, while her teammates (sans Rogue) laugh and taunt Lucy's friends from the bleachers to ensure Fairy Tail will give nothing but their absolute best. They get Fairy Tail's best, all right, when Natsu delivers a Curb-Stomp Battle to a fully-powered Sting and Rogue without needing to use either of his Super Modes, costing Saber Tooth the lead they've held since the very start of the tournament.
  • 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... (although considering this is still being played at the high school level, you'd think the torrent of complaints from the parents of the crippled students would results in something being done about it) 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.
    • It wasn't so bad during the Zokugaku game, when the delinquent Chameleon thugs were actually cheating by using cheap shots (e.g crotch kicks, eye-pokes etc) to take out Deimon's linemen without the referee seeing, and Deimon's own thugs got one over them simply by being better at fighting dirty. But by the time of the Seibu game the Gunmen's centre defensive lineman is knocking down Deimon's linemen with lariats and even Deimon's coach is brushing it off by describing football as "A combat sport using your fists." Yeah, no.
    • One of the worse offenders is probably Mr. Don, the American best lineman who made a time out to declare to the audience he will kill a linebacker and then proceed to savagely tackle said linebacker. He also tries to sack the quarterback out of commission like the other player in the first play. However, more than the liberties about the contact rules Mr.Don is the president's son (not of the league, of the U.S.A) so he might get away with a lot.
    • There is one attempt at a subversion during the Death March arc. Sena accidentally enters a tryout session for an American football club. Once he demonstrates his speed and evasion skills, the opposition gets obsessed with crushing him, literally. The examiner has to point out that they would get disqualified if they tried to carry out their threats — not that Sena lets them try.
  • Hungry Heart: Wild Striker: Tenjin High is full of aggressive players whose favorite tactic is crippling their opponents. To illustrate, five of them simultaneously slide-tackle on Kyosuke to injure his leg, leaving Akanegaoka without their key striker for three months. They try it again during the regional championship, but by then Kyosuke has gotten wise and dodges their attempt.
  • In Initial D, Shingo Shoji of the Myoji Night Kids is a major Jerkass who won't hesitate to bump his opponent's car with his own to try and cause them to crash (facilitated by his signature challenge being a "Gumtape Death Match" where both drivers have one hand firmly taped to the steering wheel, making the car dangerously hard to control at high speed). He causes Itsuki (who he wasn't even racing against) to have an accident this way when he bullies him off the road to goad Takumi into accepting his challenge, but when he does it during the race Takumi is able to recover even after his car does a full 360 degree spin. When it's apparent he can't beat Takumi, he attempts to end the race in a draw by slamming directly into Takumi's AE86, causing a double crash, only for Takumi to swerve out of the way, causing Shingo to slam into the rail and crash out on his own.
  • In Kuroko's Basketball the school Kirisaki Daiichi is known for this, except in a way that the refs won't notice.
  • Invoked in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun by various sport coaches in Romance Academy by calling Seo, who has terrible and often aggressive sportsmanship, up to trainings so that the team members know how to deal with this trope in actual games.
  • 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 starter's pistol goes off, causing him to trip- so Masamune grabs the guy's heel and drags him down as he gets up to run.
  • Even in a franchise that is basically G-rated dogfighting, Pokémon: The Series does have lines to draw when a battle gets out of hand. In particular, "Showdown at Dark City" shows two Gyms in the same town competing for official status only for both to be immediately denied because the rivalry had turned into gang warfare.
  • Slam Dunk: Team Toyotama in the nationals is known for this, as their players often hit and push their opponents in ways the referee can't notice. The one who takes the cake is their ace player, Tsuyoshi Minami, who lives up to his nickname "Ace Killer" by elbowing Rukawa in the eye, and when that doesn't stop him, tries to jump and knee him in the face, but this attempt backfires and he ends up getting a head injury for his trouble.
  • Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note series: Onozuka, a leader of Japanese Delinquents in The Valentine Knows, was a member of KZ Soccer Team half a decade prior to Present Day. At the time he was infamous for this and was forced out of the team as a result.

    Comic Books 
  • The climax of Asterix 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.
  • Anytime a group of superheroes decide to have a "friendly" game during their downtime then eventually they break out the superpowers and violent Hilarity Ensues. A specific example would be the Students vs Teachers football game in Avengers Academy.
  • The Rowdyruff Boys challenge The Powerpuff Girls to a football game in "Anything Boys Can Do, Squirrels Can Do Better" (Cartoon Network Action Pack #1). After Bubbles is sidelined following a rather vicious hit from the Rowdyruffs, Twitchy (the squirrel Bubbles rescued in "Squirrely Burly") fills in and runs rings around the boys.

    Fan Works 
  • AAML: Diamond and Pearl Version: Paul proves himself to be nothing more than a Barbaric Bully when he resorts to this during his Full Battle with Ash at Lake Acuity, intentionally aiming to cause as much damage to Ash's Pokémon as possible. When Ash calls him out on it, Paul mockingly suggests that if his rival's teammates aren't prepared to face such brutality, then Ash should rethink his training methods. Up to this point, Ash had given Paul the benefit of the doubt, believing that he was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who just took battling too seriously; afterwards, he declares that ""I've never met any trainer who was as cruel to Pokémon as you."
  • Dragon's Dance: Lance is disturbed by how unnecessarily painful Giovanni's takedowns are during his gym battle with him, including having his nidoking force Archer to swallow poison and having his marowak dislocate the bones in Kana's wings to stop her from flying. He never technically breaks any rules for the matches, as all the damage is non-permanent, but Lance realizes it's an intimidation tactic, intended to show him just how easy it would be for Giovanni to cause that permanent damage.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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..."
  • Done repeatedly in Cars by Jerkass 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The rival baseball team in 3 Ninjas: Kick Back.
  • The parish basketball game from Angels with Dirty Faces descends into kids tackling and hitting each other no matter how much Father Connolly tries to intervene. It is only when Rocky takes over as referee that they start to follow the rules of the game, and even then only because he hits them back just as hard whenever they start getting rough with each other.
  • The chariot scene in Ben-Hur (1959) 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.
  • 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 Escape to Victory, 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.
  • During the championship game in Facing the Giants, early in the 2nd half the Giants commit a blatant roughing the kicker penalty that leads to the Shiloh Eagles' regular kicker leaving the game with an injury. This comes back to bite the Giants at the end when the Eagles' other kicker, David Childers (who up to then had only been used sporadically on shorter field goals in an attempt to build his confidence) kicks a game-winning 51-yard field goal as time expired.
  • During the dirt bike race in Happy Birthday to Me, Etienne and his rival attempt to force each other off the track. Etienne eventually wins the scuffle (forcing his rival into a ditch) and the race.
  • 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.
  • In the opening game of Kicking & Screaming, a player on the opposing team sticks his arm out in order to knock a defender down as he rushes past him.
  • Played straight and inverted in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Ladybugs, where one of the girls from the Opposing Sports Team at the end covertly trips up one Ladybug and is immediately assaulted by one of her teammates (the girl who started fighting gets ejected from the game). Inverted a few scenes later, where another Ladybug player very roughly and aggressively shoves an opposing player to the ground while making a goal, but inexplicably receives no penalty or even a warning for doing so.
  • The Last Boy Scout takes the trope 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. The investigation on said events by the good guys leads to the revelation of how crooked the team's owner (a Mafia kingpin) is, culminating with saving an equally crooked Senator from assassination because it was cheaper than paying the bribe the Senator wanted to legalize gambling.
  • 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. For their own part, the Giants commit so many fouls of their own (Not even a false start for Zoltec turning around and farting?) that it makes you wonder what the refs were even doing.
  • 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 example's 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 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.
  • 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. One such dirty hit ultimately leads to Maggie's Career-Ending Injury.
  • 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.
  • In Necessary Roughness, a loudmouth defensive lineman on the opposing team takes a cheap shot at kicker Lucy Draper (played by the lovely and talented Kathy Ireland). She gets even.
    Kansas Player: 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.
    • There's also the practice match between the team and a team from the local prison. The catch? 1) The people playing the prisoners are all former NFL pros, such as Jim Kelley, Too-Tall Jones, Jerry Rice, etc. 2) The Dean who wants to shut the team down arranged it to get players hurt. "Man, I don't feel well. I think I swallowed a finger".
  • Played for Laughs in The Replacements (2000), in which the title team racks up over fifty yards of Unnecessary Roughness penalties in one play purely to boost their own morale.
  • 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.
  • 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 that culminates in one of the home players stripping themselves, which causes someone on the away team to hit the ref, who disqualifies them.
  • 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 game plan 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.
  • The Monstars employ this 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 adaptations of St. Trinians like to show how the girls from that Boarding School of Horrors vent off with field hockey. The Bells of St Trinians has a succession of adversaries leaving in stretchers, while St Trinian's (2007) has the other team equally willing to beat up players.
  • Done in a potato sack race in Uncle Sam.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of The Waterboy.
  • In The Wave (1981), 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.

  • Subverted in the BattleTech short story Three Points of Pride. When Clan Ghost Bear invaded a planet with no armed forces, the local All-Star American football team challenged them instead, thinking that the Clanners wouldn't know how to play and lose the game through fouls. Unfortunately for them, it turned out Clan Ghost Bear's Super-Soldier Elementals regularly play American Football to keep in shape and were well-acquainted with the rules and how to play. The resulting game is extraordinarily clean because the Clanners refuse to get rough (not that they'd need to; the elementals are 250 cm, 100+ kilo slabs of solid muscle, and pretty much plow through the defenders by default).
  • Discworld:
    • 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).
  • In the Harry Potter books and movies (especially the latter), the Slytherin Quidditch team has a ruthless and aggressive playing style-and occasional outright cheating, but it's all considered part of the game. While the referee Madam Hooch winds up screaming virtually non-stop at the Slytherin team and awarding Gryffindor half a dozen penalty shots, 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. Fred and George meanwhile, are known to make attack Slytherin players in retaliation for attacks on their team-which tends to leading to both teams being given penalty shots. 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).
      • There's also "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. Since a total ban would infringe one of the Wizarding World's most basic human rights, the rule is limited to stating that wands can't be used to attack other players, the crowd, or the balls in play; it's still perfectly legal to use them if an outside danger or interference comes up, like the time Harry used a Patronus to drive away what he thought were some dementors coming after him.
  • In Hover Car Racer, Fabian and Trouveau have a strategy of crowding Jason on the course, trying to bump into him to force him to crash.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded in El Chavo del ocho during this exchange between the title character and Quico:
    Chavo: Why don't you bring your football so we can play lucha libre?
    Quico: Lucha libre?
    Chavo: Yeah. Haven't you noticed that's what's being played in football pitches lately?
  • In Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (episode "Travelling All Stars") we see a baseball game where the professional team's players deliberately injure members of the Colorado Springs team and receive no penalty. (Naturally, Colorado Springs wins anyway.)
  • Father Brown: In "The Last Man", a vital cricket match comes down to three balls left and six runs to win. The opposition bowler deliberately bowls a ball at Kembelford's star player's head to knock him out.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 knee 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.
  • In Letterkenny this along with Trash Talk is the defining trait of Shoresy's ice hockey career, with tons of snowing and dirty hits. His self-titled spin off starts with a group of sports commentators listing his various assaults with a montage of footage.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Hot Wheels of Thunder", Miss James is competing against the Buffalo Queens roller racing team. During the first race, Miss James is unfairly knocked out of the race with an ankle injury.
  • 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.
  • Played for laughs during Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl events, where the referee steps in if a couple of pups are playing a bit too hard and punishes the main offender with "unnecessary ruffness".

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Where to begin? Well...closed fists, attacking before the bell, small joint manipulation, scratching, hair pulling, eye-poking, facial stretches (fish hooking the mouth, bending the nose, pulling the ears), biting, airway chokes, grabbing the opponent's ring gear, and contact with a wrestler in contact with, below, or above the ropes, are generally considered illegal. You could watch wrestling matches constantly for 50 years and not see a single instance where any such action resulted in a disqualification. At most, a referee will just get between the two wrestlers and admonish the offending one not to do it again. Greasing your skin, groin strikes, removing your opponent's ring gear, foreign objects, and outside interference generally do get the referee to call for a DQ, though. If they see it happen.
  • One that almost all promotions not affiliated with The National Wrestling Alliance have retired is knocking or throwing your opponent over the top rope.
  • In the American Wrestling Association, sending your opponent into the ring post generally got you disqualified. In the WWF, by constrast, throwing your opponent's shoulder into the post was considered dirty, but wouldn't get you disqualified unless it was done repeatedly. In the promotions that stuck with the NWA, pushing or whipping opponents into the post head first was a common source of blood. Whether the referee needed distracting or not varied.
  • 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 "babyface" 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's damn head while the man was handcuffed (normally to take a chair to the head you throw your hands up to soften the blow, none of that here).
  • 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 kid named Eric Kulas who had lied about his age and about being trained by Killer Kowalski 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 wood chipper 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.
  • It's Randy Orton's M.O., regardless of his alignment at the time. If we listed all the examples, we'd be here all day.
  • Starting in 2008, The Undertaker modified his triangle choke into a gogoplata, a legitimately dangerous submission maneuver, which caused the victim to cough up blood. Then-GM Vickie Guerrero banned the move both for petty reasons as well as the safety of the superstars. Later on, after the ban was lifted, the move was named the "Hell's Gate" and Undertaker routinely uses it to finish matches, though it no longer causes the opponent to cough up blood.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Blood Bowl (itself a Fantasy version of American Football), this trope is inverted: the roughness is the only thing necessary, everything else is situational, at best.
  • Lampshaded in Munchkin in the Unnatural Axe Expansion with a card named "Unnecessary Roughness", featuring a Dwarf wielding a hockey stick.

    Video Games 
  • In Base Wars, it's not sufficient to tag a runner out. Instead, the two robots fight to the death.
  • 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 they also beat Wakka up so badly he collapses. Considering how absurdly high the Psyches' blitzball stats are, this comes off as unnecessary, although it turns out that they really kidnapped Yuna to prevent her from completing her pilgrimage.
    • Tidus can get in on the action if he figures out the Jecht Shot, which consists of bouncing the ball off the blockers' guts and back into Tidus's control, ensuring that it comes down to just Tidus and the goalie when the time comes to actually make the shot.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
    • Blitz: The League encourages this, as not only do late hits, beat downs, dirty hits, and injuries contribute to the Clash meter, injuries (from a pinched nerve to a season-ending punctured lung) grant additional money at the end of a match.
  • Mutant Football League is the Spiritual Successor to Mutant League Football and carries on in its tradition. Some dirty plays involve guns and chainsaws, and most tackles are made with pro wrestling slams. You can force a forfeit by killing enough opposing players! One of the very few penalties in the game is the equivalent of unnecessary roughness: unnecessary manslaughter. It's rarely even called. According to Brickhead Mulligan, late hits are one of the leading causes of death for mutants over 25.
  • Omega Strikers: Beyond the simple rules of "hit the Core into the goal", anything goes. Players are routinely punched, kicked, sliced, and bombarded. Drek'ar even carries a laser shotgun into the field.
  • Most hockey minigames in the Spyro the Dragon-series involve 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 Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars, it's possible to run over other players' basketball and soccer games with a car.

  • Nebula: Done accidentally (presumably), when Earth manages to nail Venus right in the face with a rock while playing a game of catch.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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''.
  • Hey Arnold! gives us this during a football game between the 4th and 5th graders.
    Eugene: (picks up a fumble) I got it! (immediately gets dog piled by all the 5th graders) Ow...
    Arnold: Hey, this is touch football!
    Wolfgang: Oops, I guess we forgot.
  • This comes up in at least two different games of Pro Bending in The Legend of Korra:
    • Since she never learned the rules of the game, Korra gets penalized for illegal moves like using the large pool of water under the stage to attack or using multiple elements.
    • In the finals against the Wolfbats, the Wolfbats cheat all over the place with illegal head shots, ice, and mixing rocks with water. Since they bought off the ref, the Fire Ferrets can't retaliate because he'd surely call them out in a heartbeat. The Fire Ferrets lose because of the cheating, but the Equalists attack the arena immediately after the match. Amon even uses the Wolfbats' blatant cheating as fuel for his anti-bending propaganda and removes the Wolfbats' bending abilities.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The short "Gone Batty" has the entire lineup of the Sweetwater Shnooks knocked out by comically over-the-top violence on behalf of the opposing team, one of whom breaks a bat over the head of a Shnook baserunner in front of the umpire, whose only action is to call the runner most definitely "out". In "Baseball Bugs" the Gas House Gorilla's catcher punches out the umpire for calling a pitch a ball, the ump has just enough time to apologize and change the call to "strike" before he falls unconscious.
    • In "To Duck or Not To Duck," Daffy challenges Elmer Fudd to a boxing match. The referee physically demonstrates on Elmer some of the things not allowed in the match. Daffy does as well inquisitively, and at the end, Elmer does this to both Daffy and the referee.
  • In Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series, the eponymous characters go up against a hockey team called the Destroyers, who were banned from the NHL for this, in a practice game.
  • In an episode of Pinky and the Brain where Brain becomes a basketball player, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 

American Football

  • 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 (such as striking blows/fisticuffsnote ) result in player ejections, and usually suspensions or supplementary fines.
  • While many players have drawn penalties of this type at one point or another in their career, some players have developed a reputation for making these kinds of plays far too often. The most notorious of them all is likely Vontaze Burfict (Cincinnati Bengals/Oakland Raiders), whose NFL career ultimately ended because of his propensity for drawing costly penalties (including one which infamously cost the Bengals a playoff game they otherwise had in the bag) and lengthy suspensions meant that no team would sign him. He was so known for this that when he ended up on the receiving end of a dirty hit in a 2017 game, many called it an act of Laser-Guided Karma.
    • Another player who became infamous for this is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh; he ranks slightly below Burfict on the notoriety scale because he wasn't endangering his opponents (almost all of Burfict's incidents involved potentially dangerous hits to a player's head, which is the one thing Suh never did), but he had more than his share of dirty acts, mostly in the form of kicking or stepping on opposing players, often long after a play was blown dead. Suh did ultimately start keeping it clean in the later years of his career, but by then he was so known for dirty plays that he may never be able to fully shake off that reputation even if he never commits another ugly penalty again.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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. Despite 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!"
  • Former Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum once mused: "I like to think my best hits border on felonious assault." Although he would also indicate that he never actually intended to hurt anyone (something other players have been caught doing); the one time that one of his hits did lead to a serious injury, he was genuinely horrified.note 
  • 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.
  • A case of this led to one of the most classic referee calls of all time when referee Ben Dreith decided to explain in a little more detail than just name-dropping the trope what had drawn the penalty call (the defender threw a couple of punches after taking down the quarterback), complete with miming the offending action. Hilarity Ensued.
    Referee: We have a personal foul on number 99 of the defense. After he tackled the quarterback, he was (punching fist gesture) givin' him the business down there, that's a 15-yard penalty!
  • Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown kicked Cleveland Browns punter in the face trying to leap over him. Comparisons to Mortal Kombat were swift and immediate.
  • In 2012, an illicit arrangement in which Washington players were paid bonuses for deliberately injuring opposing players to take them out of the game was discovered. 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 money fines, lost draft picks, and coach\player suspensions that at times extended to the entire 2012 season.
  • While American Football as played outside North America has a reputation of being less physical (as evidenced by media commentary on the drafting of a German player without college experience along the lines of "Wait till he gets hit by an NFL tackle") rough play and injuries are a common occurrence in the European leagues as well. The fact that teams, that play in "stadiums" no US high school team would be caught dead in, have an ambulance on call (and facilities to allow it to drive onto the field) should tell you all you need to know.
  • In November 2019, during a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped the helmet off of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, then hit Rudolph in the head with Rudolph's own helmet. The act caused Garrett to be suspended indefinitely the following day, making him miss the rest of the regular season. At the time, it was the longest suspension in NFL history for a single on-the-field action (later eclipsed by Vontaze Burfict, see above.)

Association Football

  • The page image is instead from Association Football (Soccer). Namely, Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands kicking Xabi Alonso of Spain during the 2010 World Cup Final. A highlight of an otherwise not especially enjoyable game (despite the fact that it was between two of the most technically gifted teams on the planet, it mostly devolved into violence) that on Twitter, made Shaolin Soccer and Mortal Kombat into Trending Topics.
  • The Merseyside Derby, contested by Liverpool and Everton, used to be known as 'the friendly derby' up until the mid-eighties. It helped that fans of both teams are often drawn from the same families - indeed, local players have sometimes grown up supporting the other team, with the most notable recent example being former Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher, and in the most extreme cases, the same family has actually produced players for both teams (as seen with legendary Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, and his cousin, Anthony Gerrard, who came through the Everton academy, but never played for the first team). As a result, it's one of the few that doesn't enforce total fan segregation. This has since changed dramatically and is now a twice-annual fixture that generally consists of nothing but this trope, to the point where it has racked up the most red cards in the Premier League era and has been referred to as "the most ill-disciplined and explosive fixture in the Premier League." This comment was made after a match in 2010 when both sides had a player sent off. Both sides are usually expected to collect at least two yellow cards apiece, and it is rare for a season to go by without at least one player being sent off in at least one of the two meetings. As of January 2022, the last fixture was a bad-tempered Liverpool victory at Goodison Park, where Liverpool took revenge for two players (star centre-back Virgil van Dijk and new midfielder Thiago Alcântara) being very badly injured in the previous derby at Goodison. The latter earned a rightful sending off. The former didn't even get a booking, as the referee and VAR official both seemed to be convinced that the fact that van Dijk was narrowly offside obviated the small matter of Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford almost destroying his leg, to the bafflement of ex-officials everywhere (there is a long precedent of players being punished for infractions after the whistle has blown).
  • The Liverpool-Manchester United derby isn't quite as violent, but it lacks the Morality Chain of shared family ties that the Merseyside Derby has and is the footballing equivalent of It's Personal on the grounds that United and Liverpool are the two most successful teams in English history and the rivalry between the two cities is older than the clubs, going back most of two hundred years to the Industrial Revolution. In Spain, it is widely considered to be the equivalent of the Barca-Madrid 'El Clasico' for both these reasons, and it's nicknamed 'El Vitriol'. Fans usually end up taunting one another with the Munich Air Disaster of 1958 (which essentially destroyed the legendary 'Busby Babes' United side) and the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster of 1989 (which over-crowding aggravated by police incompetence killed 97 Liverpool fans and led to the Taylor Report which enforced all-seater stadia and banned fencing around fans. The youngest victim, 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, was the cousin of legendary future Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard). Meanwhile, notable on-pitch incidents have included racial abuse by Luis Suárez against Patrice Evra, and John-Arne Riise absolutely destroying Alan 'Smudge' Smith's leg in such a way as to sideline him for eight months, breaking it in two places - the original estimate was twelve months, and frankly, Smith was never quite the same afterwards. The latter, unbelievably, was actually by accident note . To add insult to injury, Liverpool fans were singing about Riise's shooting power while Smith was treated (though they stopped when it became apparent how serious the injury was). It should be noted that both of these happened in the last fifteen years. It should also be noted that the fans are generally worse than the players.
    • The Manchester United - Arsenal fixture got this reputation in the 1990s and 2000s, with one game in particular degenerating into a mass fight. It does seem to have calmed down in the second decade of the new century, though.
    • The Liverpool-Manchester City rivalry of the late 2010s and early 2020s was initially a quite pleasant Friendly Rivalry, with both teams being united in their loathing of United/gloating at United's downfall. Despite the intensity of the rivalry, with the title twice being settled by a single point - between 2017 and 2022, no other Premier League team could get near them, they racked up the 5 highest league points totals of all time, and between them they reached 4 of the 5 Champions League Finals, it's not so much of a problem on the pitch. Both teams themselves don't seem to have any particular issues with one another, and the managers for that time, Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, get along famously (and as recently as October 2022, Guardiola was at pains to both apologise for a particularly vile bunch of chants from the City faithful and insist that the rivalry was not toxic). The fans, however, have different opinions - the City team bus has been damaged more than once, and anti-Liverpudlian/Hillsborough related slogans have been graffitied in the away sections of Anfield (Liverpool's home ground). And then there's the singing.
  • The London derby of Chelsea-Tottenham is also particularly violent, with one recent edition also devolving into a mass brawl.
  • Subverted whenever a player dives, going over like they've been shot from the very slightest contact or no contact at all. As a result of this, 'simulation' is now a bookable offence, but it can be very difficult to catch players at it.
    • However, it should also be noted that players can move at incredible speeds (the fastest, now-retired Wales winger Gareth Bale, has been clocked at 36.9 kilometres per hour. With the ball. For context, Usain Bolt's world record time was set at 37.6 kilometres per hour) and even the slightest touch on their standing leg can knock them off-balance and send them flying and, well... hitting the ground at speeds that would get you a speeding ticket in most metropolitan cities isn't exactly fun. The rolling around and screaming, however, is usually faked.
  • While many soccer defenders are known for being aggressive (See These guys. And these ones), 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 Intercontinental Cup (a competition contested between the winners of the Copa Libertadores and UEFA Champions League to decide the "world champion") in the 1960s became infamous for its amount of violence in the field, especially by the Argentinian and Uruguayan teams. The 1967 match between Argentina's Racing Club and Scotland's Celtic resulted in three players from Celtic and two from Racing being sent off (a fourth from Celtic was sent off but managed to stay due to the chaos). The 1969 match between Milan and Estudiantes became especially infamous: Estudiantes fans started by pouring hot coffee on the Italians leaving the tunnel, and their players kicked and threw balls into Milan players during warm-ups. After the game started, Estudiantes' Eduardo Manera pushed around Milan's goalkeeper Fabio Cudicini, then he bit Milan's Saul Malatrasi. Aguirre Suárez (one of the most violent players) assaulted three players before he was sent off, one was Néstor Combin, who was pummelled by Suaréz and his bloody unconscious body had to be removed by stretcher. On his way to the hospital on a stretcher, the police arrived and arrested him for draft-dodging note . On their way back in the tunnel into the locker room after the first half, the players exchanged punches and kicks. Estudiantes goalkeeper Alberto Poletti kicked Italian striker Pierino Prati into the ground — the latter would also be headbutted by Suárez later in the match, which resulted in him getting a mild concussion and being unconscious for 20 minutes; many other Estudiantes players would also push, punch and kick their opponents. At least 3 players from Estudiantes got arrested and charged for assault after the game.
  • The Battle of Santiago (Chile vs. Italy, 1962) has to be one of the finest examples. You know things got bad when one player legitimately punched out another (after eating several kicks to the leg). Eight years prior, there was also the Battle of Bern (Hungary vs. Brazil, 1954).
    • There's a REASON why the infamous Portugal vs. Netherlands match in the 2006 Germany World Cup was nicknamed The Battle of Nuremberg. Four red cards, sixteen yellow cards, Luís Figo headbutting the hell out of Marc van Bommel...
    • Earlier in that same tournament the 1-1 draw between Italy and the US in the group phase had three ejections and the first being caused by a particularly egregious elbow to the face incident that drew blood. At least one local newspaper punned about a "Battle of Betzenberg" being added to annals of American military history due to the location of the stadium in which the match was held.
    • Also, the Battle of Santiago was so violent that it is the catalyst for the creation of the red and yellow cards.
  • 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.
    • Wimbledon's reputation was enhanced by the notorious and direct tackle committed by hard nut enforcer Vinnie Jones note  when he memorably shut down Newcastle and England striker Paul Gascoigne... with a Groin Attack!
  • Brazilian defender Júnior Baiano 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.
  • In the 2014 World Cup quarter-final between Brazil and Colombia, a record 54 fouls happened (with only 4 yellow cards, showing the referee was condescending). The defeated Colombians had both the game's punching bag in James Rodríguez (who even managed to get a penalty kick, which he scored) and the dirtiest player in Juan Zuñiga (who stomped Hulk's knee, and kneed Neymar's back, breaking his vertebra and sidelining the striker from the remaining games).
  • In the first round of the 2012 Olympic Games 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 banned Andrade from her next two matches - which amounted to an Olympic ban as Colombia failed to win any of their group games and did not advance to the next stage.
  • A "friendly" match between Portugal and England in May 2016 saw Bruno Alves jump-kicking Harry Kane in the head.
  • One Mexican championship game had this "vasectomy tackle".
  • Former Real Madrid defender Pepe is an infamous example of this. During the 2008-2009 season La Liga home match against Getafe, after committing a foul by pushing Javi Casquemiro down in the penalty box, he then kicked the already down Getafe striker twice, pushed his head on the grass and stamped on him several times. Then in the following brawl, he punched another Getafe player's face before having to get escorted off the pitch by his teammate as he received a red card. In the aftermath of this match, Pepe received a ten-game suspension, which is a record length in the history of La Liga.
    • Another Real defender, Sergio Ramos, also tends to be violent. Most notably, he basically won the 2018 Champions League Final against Liverpool, first by dislocating star Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah's arm in a judo flip. And not just that - it was an illegal judo flip. The European Judo Union and other Judoka commenting on the match made that very explicit - even MMA analysts were appalled. Then, he elbowed goalkeeper Loris Karius in the side of the head. Karius was later diagnosed with a concussion and subsequently went from a confident keeper with the best defensive record in the Champions League, holding Real at bay to making two of the worst howlers in Champions League history (he conceded a third goal, but it's generally accepted that no one would have stopped Gareth Bale's bicycle kick) in the following minutes. Ramos, meanwhile, got away clean with another winner's medal.
    • To make matters worse, Karius looked so miserable afterwards that no one could bear to blame him: when he went to the Liverpool fans to tearfully beg forgiveness, they responded by singing the club anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' at him. While Salah recovered and Liverpool went on to win the Champions League the next year - in Madrid, no less, at the home of Real's arch-rivals (this was felt to be poetic justice) - Karius was not so lucky. Instead, he went from a promising (if raw) young keeper with a bright future in one of the most exciting young teams on the planet to a shattered wreck who even after the departure of Liverpool's other senior goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, dropped down the pecking order to become Liverpool's fourth choice goalkeeper behind the newly acquired Alisson Becker, veteran Adrian, and promising academy keeper Caomhin Kelleher, going out on loan to increasingly obscure clubs in the Turkish and German Leagues, before finally leaving the club when his contract ran out in 2022. It's got to the point where even his most staunch critics among the Liverpool fanbase just feel kind of sorry for him.


  • 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. And Kevin Kunnert, who by most accounts started the brawl, got off with neither injury nor punishment.
  • 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, 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 1 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 versus 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.
  • In college basketball, Duke University's Grayson Allen became synonymous for tripping opponents. He did it at least twice in the 2015–16 season, and after another instance in December 2016, he was suspended from the team indefinitely... which apparently meant one game.

Ice hockey

  • 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" and the only punishment is that five-minute trip to the box. Other sports would charge players openly fighting with violating more generalized personal misconduct rules and almost certainly eject them.
    • One of the various Unofficial roles in a Hockey team is the "Goon" or "Enforcer" whose 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". Among them is the following example, "at the risk of permanently losing my Canadian passport"...
  • A very common accusation from the Soviets during the 1972 Summit Series, exacerbated by the frou-frou no contact rules of Russian Hockey, as opposed to the genuine physicality of proper North American hockey, Soviet players, unprepared for any serious checking, were trying heavily to avoid the parts of hockey they couldn't compete in and only playing the way they wanted to play.
    • 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.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers for some time in the 1970s 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 February 18, 2004, Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche checked Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund 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, and would later sue Bertuzzi for damages (which was settled out of court). Bertuzzi pled guilty to assault causing bodily harm and got probation, and was suspended from playing hockey for 17 months.
  • Behold, Vancouver Canucks versus Calgary Flames, January 18, 2014. The second the puck hits the ice, instead of going for the puck, the Flames tackle the Canucks, who respond in kind with fists. Notably, the Flames were planning this and Vancouver saw it coming as Calgary started the game with their fourth line, leading them to respond in kind, expecting dirty play. Similar events happen often enough for there to be a term for it, "line brawl".
  • Funnily enough though, the Vancouver/Calgary fight is not a line brawl notable enough to get its own entry on The Other Wiki; no, that dubious honor goes to these five fights (in chronological order):
    • The Good Friday Massacre in 1984 between heated rivals Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques, particularly notable as some players didn't find out they were ejected until after the intermission, prompting them to start more fights to take other players out with them.
    • The Punch-up in Piestany, a bench-clearing brawl between the Canadian and Soviet teams in the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships that lasted for 20 minutes and had the officials literally turn out the lights on the arena to try and stop the brawl. Both teams ended up disqualified from the championships, which cost Canada a guaranteed bronze and possibly better (which led to speculation that the Soviets, who were already eliminated from contention, and had cleared the bench first, deliberately did so to sabotage Canada's chances).
    • The 1997 Avalanche/Red Wings brawl, aka "The Brawl in Hockeytown", which was the revenge match of an incident in the previous season between Red Wing Kris Draper and notorious Avalanche enforcer Claude Lemieux, and sparked the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry of the late 90s and early 00s. Notable both for drawing a lot of blood on the ice (leading to another nickname, Bloody Wednesday), but also for leading to another fight almost exactly a year later (and combined produced two of the greatest goaltender fights in hockey). note  Some of the blood was from Lemieux, who was getting pummeled from behind by Darren McCarty, and another player to bleed was Patrick Roy, who brawled with Mike Vernon after Brendan Shanahan intercepted his bid to aid Lemieux.
    • The 2004 Flyers/Senators brawl, which still holds the record for most penalty minutes awarded for a fight.
    • The Penguins/Islanders brawl in 2011, an act of revenge on the Islanders' part after a previous game left one of their players concussed and the Penguin that did it unpunished.
  • It takes something especially heinous to have the incident overshadow the fact that a rule was named after them, but Marty McSorley (he of the McSorley rule) managed it when he viciously slashed Donald Brashear from behind, clocking him in the head and knocking his helmet off, causing Brashear to have a seizure on the ice and a Grade III concussion. It resulted in charges for assault with a weapon for McSorley (which ended with a suspended sentence) and ended McSorley's career.

Other sports

  • The 1956 Hungary-Soviet Olympic water polo match is a classic example of this trope. The Other Wiki has details, but the simple fact that it's known as the "Blood in the Water match" gives an idea of what happened.
  • In a case that crosses with Sore Loser, after a 2008 Olympic taekwondo match, one Cuban competitor got so angry at losing that he kicked the umpire's face.
  • 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 were notoriously filled with violence (with violence by the Springboks willfully ignored by the South African referees), 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 and was unwilling to cancel the match by sending off the entire team. (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 McBride's wife. McBride 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 the 2005 tour of New Zealand. O'Driscoll dislocated his shoulder because of it, ending his tour, and commentators observed that it could have killed him. 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.
  • In Australian Rules Football, players can be reported for "Rough Conduct" (formerly "Unduly Rough Play"), which covers any incident that isn't a specific offence (such as striking).
    • A case of this is why AFL now has trial by video, in 1985, then-Hawthorn captain Leigh Matthews broke opposing player Neville Bruns' jaw behind the play, sparking a brawl in which he himself received a broken nose. Because it was behind the play the umpires weren't watching, but it was caught on film, showing the brutality of the hit. The public was outraged and the AFL responded by bringing in the AFL Match Review Panel. Matthews retired at the end of the season and was criminally prosecuted for assault, being initially convicted but later having it quashed on appeal.
  • 1996 Olympics, Brazil-Cuba in the women's volleyball semifinal (ESPN Brazil even made a documentary on that game). Seeing the adversary build an advantage, Cuba resorts to Trash Talk, spitting, and all sorts of intimidation. Once the Cubans win the hard-fought game in tie-breaker set, a brief scrum happens in-court (helped by the "tough gal" attitude continuing, making the Brazilians fed up) and reportedly continued on the way to the dressing rooms. Though Cuban star Regla Torres denied punching a Brazilian - Torres declared the game had her so fired up/pissed "that if I had punched Ana Paula that day, she would've never played volleyball again!".
    • This is also a more serious threat than one might imagine; volleyball is a non-contact sport and has a less-than-tough reputation, but top female volleyball players can spike the ball at about 100 kilometres per hour, and top male players at almost 130. A punch from a volleyball player is no joke.
  • Even Baseball can get in on this:
    • Pitchers hitting players with the ball (usually a 100+ MPH fastball) earns the hit batter an automatic advancement to first base. That is, if the batter doesn't then charge the mound, swing a few punches at the pitcher, and incite a bench-clearing brawl among both teams, which isn't as rare as it sounds.
    • There's also the numerous baserunners who have used their cleats as weapons of war. Ty Cobb was particularly famous for this.
    • Perhaps the worst example in this sport came in an April 2022 junior college game in Texas. In the top of the sixth inning of a scheduled seven-inning game between North Central Texas College and Weatherford College, NCTC's Josh Phillips hit a go-ahead home run. As Phillips was nearing third base, the pitcher who had given up the homer, Owen Woodward, threw down his glove and sprinted toward Phillips, violently tackling him just after he rounded third. A bench-clearing brawl ensued, umpires immediately suspended the game, and the game was declared a forfeit for both teams. The pitcher was suspended for 4 games, which became (mostly) a moot point when he was kicked off the team, and received additional undisclosed discipline from the school. The batter was ejected for taunting, which resulted in an automatic 2-game suspension. Almost all of the NCTC team and coaching staff drew automatic 2-game suspensions for going onto the field, as did four other Weatherford players and coaches. Story (with video) here.
  • Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher had a pair of these incidents in his early career - first at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, where he attempted to force Damon Hill off the track, breaking Hill's suspension and putting them both out of the race and granting him the championship, and again at the 1997 European Grand Prix where he attempted the same move, ramming his car into Jacques Villeneuve to keep him from finishing the race. The latter move was in fact so blatant that when Villeneuve was able to pull away leaving Schumacher beached in the gravel with broken steering, commentator Martin Brundle remarked simply "That didn't work, Michael; you hit the wrong part of him," and it led to Schumacher being disqualified from the entire season.
  • The Unified Rules Of Mixed Martial Arts established in 2000 have almost every restriction seen in the professional wrestling folder, with the same reluctance from referees to actually disqualify the violator. Where Unified MMA differs however is that every fighter is given ten points by default at the start of each round, loses a point for every foul caught by the referee during the round, and is not allowed to drop below seven points, meaning the referee, in theory, disqualifies a fighter if they acknowledge more than three fouls by one in a single round and the judges will in theory give the cleaner fighter the round by decision after two fouls since the round's losing fighter is allowed up to nine points for surviving. While Unified MMA doesn't share professional wrestling's restriction on closed fists, it adds restrictions to headbutts, which were notoriously used by wrestlers in early MMA and often caused severe lacerations that forced fights to end early. Downward pointing elbow strikes, strikes to spine, strikes to back of head, and strikes throat are also fouls. Similar to rope rules, grabbing the fence in any manner is barred as is moving the opponent outside of fighting area, cage or otherwise. In addition to biting, any offense relying on the mouth is barred, including spitting (fighters can even be fouled for "foul language" though they almost never are). In addition to eye pokes, a finger in any orifice or cut is illegal, and all forms of eye-gouging are fouls. In addition to facial stretches, raking is also a foul. Curiously, scratching specifically is not banned by claw holds of all kinds, any kind of clawing motion, pinching, and twisting of the flesh, including Indian burns, can lead to point deductions, as can grabbing the trachea. Kicks and knees to head of grounded opponents were barred due to the prevalence of soccer kicks in Japanese MMA and stomping a grounded is also a foul. All head drops, including piledrivers, were made illegal. Should the referee force a break, an opponent cannot attack until told to resume. Any attacks after the round bell can lead to point deduction and disagreeing with the referee can earn a foul(though it rarely does). Finally, Unified MMA encourages fouls on all instances of unsportsmanlike conduct, including the groin strikes that are worthless due to a combination of glove, foot wrap, and protective cup requirements. Needless to say, there were many fighters who were highly displeased with these unified rules, but use of them has been steadily spreading since their adoption by the California athletic commission. They were the most common ruleset of mixed martial arts by the mid-2010s.
  • Kyle Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution at a NASCAR Truck Series race in 2011, and the announcers were furious with Busch, saying he should be parked for the rest of the year. He was inevitably parked for the Cup race at the track the same weekend. This was even worse, as it potentially cost Hornaday the title as a result.
  • Kevin Harvick intentionally spun Coy Gibbs at Martinsville in 2002, resulting in a suspension for the Cup Series the next day.
  • In 2015, Matt Kenseth was put out of contention in a race at Martinsville due to an early wreck severely damaging his car. When Joey Logano later went to pass the off-pace Kenseth, he deliberately turned in on Logano and both cars went hard into the wall, knocking them out of the race completely. While the incident earned Kenseth a 2-race suspension, it had the desired effect of also ruining Logano's chance at the Championship that year. Given how the fans in attendance cheered as it happened, consensus was that Logano had it coming since he'd spun Kenseth out for the lead at Kansas earlier in the year.