Tennis

John McEnroe Is the Owner of the Biggest Tantrum in Professional Sports

We’ve all seen the freakouts in the court, on the field, and one the ice. Many players, coaches, and managers have been guilty of having their in-game meltdowns, whether it be due to a bad call, giving up a home run, or allowing the game-winning goal. Emotions play a part in all sports. We’ve seen Bobby Knight and Mike Gandy lose their cool at the collegiate level. At the professional level, we’ve seen Earl Weaver, Lou Piniella, and Dennis Green snap, but nothing compares to John McEnroe’s epic Wimbledon meltdown in 1981.

A look at some memorable Major League Baseball tantrums

It was only last season when then-Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer completely lost it on the mound. After the Indians had staked Bauer to an early 3-0 lead, Bauer found himself struggling on the mound. By the fifth inning, Bauer had surrendered seven runs and blew the lead. He also blew his cork. First, in a fit of frustration, he chucked the ball into the netting behind the plate. Then, as manager Terry Francona came out to change pitchers, Bauer turned around and launched the ball well over the center-field wall. Bauer apologized after the game.


“I’m an intense competitor and that fire is what drives me. Today it completely consumed me and took over. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for how I behaved. It won’t happen again.”

Trevor Bauer

Former manager Lou Piniella also had himself quite the meltdown at Wrigley field back on June 2, 2007, as the manager of the Chicago Cubs. Piniella was ejected and suspended indefinitely for a dirt-kicking, hat-throwing episode in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Piniella’s tantrum caused a delay in the game as Cubs fans littered the field with hats as Piniella argued.

Dennis Green and Jim Mora lost it in post-game press conferences

Not all meltdowns have occurred in the field of play. There have been several that have taken place after the event, mostly during press conferences. The late Dennis Green, then the head football coach of the Arizona Cardinals, lashed out after letting a game slip away against the Chicago Bears in November of 2006.

The 1-4 Cardinals were facing the 5-0 Bears and held a surprising 23-10 lead after three quarters. The Bears, however, scored a pair of touchdowns in the final five minutes, one on a fumble return and the other on a punt return, to win 24-23.

“The Bears were what we thought they were,” Green shouted. “What we thought they were. We played them in preseason. Who the hell takes the third game in the preseason like it’s (expletive)? We played them the third game, everybody played three quarters. The Bears are who we thought they were. That’s why we took the damn field.

“If you want to crown them, then crown their (expletive),” Green added before storming off. “But they are who we thought they were. And we let them off the hook.”

Green’s rant was reminiscent of the time when Jim Mora, then the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, vented after a 2001 loss, responding a reporters question about a possible playoff run. “Playoffs?” he famously asked. “Don’t talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs? I’m just hoping we can win a game, another game.”

John McEnroe’s epic Wimbledon rant is the king of tantrums

While there have been numerous sports tantrums, including the George Brett pine tar incident in 1983, Serena Williams’ outburst at the 2009 US Open, and Robbie Ftorek’s bench-throwing moment during a Devils vs. Red Wings game in 2000, the top tantrum goes to tennis star John McEnroe.

No stranger to outbursts, McEnroe saved his best one for Wimbledon in a first-round match against Tom Gullickson back in 1981. After one of McEnroe’s shots was called out by umpire Edward James, McEnroe argued the call. “Chalk came up all over the place,” McEnroe said. “You can’t be serious, man.” He then stressed it again. “You can’t be serious.”

The rant went on throughout the match and got to the point where he looked at James and said, “You guys are the absolute pits of the world.”

The umpire, who thought McEnroe had said “the piss of the world,” deducted him a point for an obscenity. Pointing at James, McEnroe told Fred Hoyles, the referee: “This guy is an incompetent fool”

McEnroe later told ESPN, “I know I can see the ball better than the officials. I can ‘feel’ when a ball is out or not. What’s so frustrating is to know you’re right and not be able to do anything about it.”