Athletes have always feuded, but thanks in part to nifty new social-networking media, the amusement factor has reached record heights. MATT TAIBBI on his seven favorite tiffs.
BILL PARCELLS VS. EVERYONE
The illustrious coaching career of the Big Tuna has had a hauntingly dark, Ibsen-esque quality to it, mimicking kaleidoscopic time-travel relationship dramas like Synecdoche, New York and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — where the protagonist is caught in an endless loop of his own predestined behavior and continually forces all the new people in his life to help him play out the same destructive patterns over and over again. The Tuna template: He seduces a bold, big-pocketed owner with manly friendship and early wins, joins said owner in lifting the franchise and fan base to meteoric heights, then brutally leaves his partner at the altar at the moment of their keenest triumph, amid a blizzard of painful and unnecessarily public mutual recriminations. First it was Wellington Mara of the Giants, who didn’t offer him a contract fast enough after Super Bowl XXV (“They’re treating me like a player,” Parcells sneered). Then it was Bob Kraft of the Pats, whose crime was forcing Parcells to pick fragile wideout Terry “She” Glenn instead of pass-rushing terror Simeon Rice in the draft (Tuna: “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries”). The Tuna’s later flameouts with Woody Johnson of the Jets, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys (Jones, post-breakup: “Bill’s not worth a shit”), and now Stephen Ross of the Dolphins (Parcells abruptly stepped aside a week before the start of this season) were less dramatic, if only because, as with a Liz Taylor marriage, everyone knew what was coming.
YANKEES VS. RED SOX
This is the American version of ethnic warfare. The only difference is, when Serbs and Albanians get hot with each other it means razed villages, mass rapes, and emergency meetings of the U.N. Security Council; when tempers rise in the Yankees–Red Sox war, the Yanks drop $20 million on fish-faced Kei Igawa and his 88-mph heater. Yankees–Red Sox could happen only in the northeast of our country — Southerners have ethnic racism to keep this particular itch scratched, while West Coasters are too sexually satiated to understand it — and the century of vicious and unrelenting mutual hatred of the two teams has provided the world with some truly iconic images of American stupidity and smallness. Pedro Martinez shoving an elderly Don Zimmer comes to mind, as does Theo Epstein allegedly destroying his Nicaraguan hotel room after the Yankees signed Cuban lazy-ass Jose Contreras from under his feet. And then of course there was the Yankee decision to dig up the foundation of their new ballpark to remove a David Ortiz jersey buried there by a Boston-loving construction worker. The feud claimed its first fatality in 2008, when a woman in New Hampshire ran over two Sox fans who had chanted, “Yankees suck!” at her outside a bar. By the year 2100, when America is a Chinese colony with a third-world economy, massacres and acts of terrorism should be commonplace in this feud.
MANNY PACQUIAO VS. FLOYD MAYWEATHER
You can do pretty much anything to promote a boxing match in the name of good business. You might pull your monster cock out during the weigh-in (a proud-looking Mike Tyson before the 1996 Frank Bruno fight), or say your opponent’s face is so ugly it should be “donated to the U.S. Bureau of Wildlife” (Muhammad Ali to Joe Frazier), or even give the other guy’s wife the finger (Roberto Duran before the first Sugar Ray Leonard fight). It’s about as hard to go overboard in prefight trash talk as it is to gross out a horse-porn addict — but that was before Mayweather took to social-networking media to issue racist tirades at Pacquiao while shamelessly ducking him. Apparently unaware that Japan and the Philippines are different countries, Mayweather called him a “yellow chump” and squealed via Web-video service Ustream that “I’ll make that motherfucker make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.” Pacquiao’s camp has said only that the video “speaks for itself,” but if this fight ever comes off, it will be the most real hate we’ve seen in the ring since the Thrilla in Manila, when Ali and his vile “come on, gorilla, we in Manila” race-baiting against Frazier led to both men nearly killing each other in front of a live worldwide audience.
CHAD OCHOCINCO VS. SHAWNE MERRIMAN
When it comes to sports feuds, Ochocinco is a volume operator all the way. Every year without fail, he mass-Twitters preposterous insults to half the sporting world (particularly big-name players of teams on the Bengals schedule), then waits to see how many are dumb enough to take the bait. Chargers linebacker Merriman isn’t called “lights out” for nothing; he has been biting the hook for over a year now. Before last season, Chad tweeted, “Somebody please tell Shawne Merriman that’s his ass on Dec. 20th,” and “Shawne Merriman tryin’ to stop Ochocinco… better chance at finding Osama!” Merriman responded with a totally unironic 13-second Web video promising to “wring your neck.” Multiple mutually traded empty threats later, the two played a game that winter in which no punches were thrown, and then the chest-puffing started all over again this spring. “I’m sick of that damn Mohawk, cut that shit off,” tweeted Chad, adding that he would “beat your ass in a heartbeat UFC-style” in their next meeting; Merriman responded by comparing Ocho to “Goomba off Mario Bros.” Welcome to sports feuds in the internet age — all talk, no tackles.
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Men’s Journal.