Mike Tyson in 1997. Perhaps no boxer has had to overcome so much to gain first great success and then great notoriety in the ring bitten on the ear by Tyson, Holyfield first wanted to bite back. That ran across my mind, he said. But Holyfield was in so much pain, jumping around the ring, that it allowed me to think about how to get my composure.
And yet, even composed athletes may be susceptible. As an up-and-coming boxer in 1980, Holyfield bared his own teeth, according to his opponent Jakey Winters. It allegedly came during a Golden Gloves tournament in Atlanta and Holyfield later admitted he had bitten Winters. I dropped him with a left hook to the body and doubled up to the head in the second round of a scheduled three rounder, Winters said. At that point, he was hurt and angry. After Holyfield got up, composed himself and withstood another round of punches, he spit out his mouthpiece and bit Winters on the shoulder, breaking the skin and causing bleeding, Winters said. It’s hard to spit a mouthpiece out, but he was desperate Evander is no angel. It can happen to anybody. A fighter is oblivious. Holyfield later admitted his mistake.
Defense of their livelihood can send an athlete into a rage. In 1997 near Pittsburgh, an amateur golfer trying to qualify for the Professional Golfers Association scored a very damaging quadruple bogey.
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For a few moments, he wasn’t a good person to be around, PGA official Thomas Beeler quickly found out when he warned the golfer about slow play. The golfer called the official names, then slugged him in the face. He was disqualified from the tournament and charged with assault. I’m required to tell a player when they are moving slow, but I guess I shouldn’t have done it after he shot nine on a par-five hole, Beeler said.
In 1996, competitive pressures described as scorching lay behind an attack on a hockey referee by members of the University of Moncton (New Brunswick) Blue Eagles following a controversial goal. Eight Moncton players swarmed the referee, backing him into a corner and taking turns throwing punches. The players issued an apology, saying they had lost control of their emotions. A study of the incident revealed that pressure was high for the Eagles to win, partly because of the competitive university recruiting system for hockey in Eastern Canada.
Fans may be getting tired of the antics of many athletes. In a 1997 USA Weekend poll, 86 percent of the 51,286 respondents said they believe misbehavior by players both on and off the field was the biggest problem facing sports. High-ticket prices (11 percent) were far behind, as was owners who move their teams (3 percent).
Maybe it’s just an athlete’s fierce desire to win which can obliterate his good sense when the pressure is on and the arousal hormones are pumping. Boxer Vinny Pazienza decked referee Tony Orlando during his 1996 bout with Dana Rosenblatt. I wanted to knock everyone out, Pazienza said later. Tony just got in the way.
Most incidents occur just after competition when noradrenaline levels are still high in an athlete’s system, Williams said. More of these post-competition incidents are being reported these days because media are on the spot with their microphones and notepads. A special 150- meter race in 1997 between Olympic gold medallists Donovan Bailey and Michael Johnson was to decide who was the world’s fastest man. Johnson pulled up lame early in the race, which angered the winning Bailey. Seconds after he crossed the finish line, TV reporters interviewed Bailey, who sneered that Johnson was faking his injury because he knew he was going to lose anyway. Bailey said they should run the race over so that I can kick his ass one more time. A day later, Bailey apologized for his remarks, but the damage was done and conservative Canadian fans were shocked.