Coaches are always trying to be No. 1, whether it's in the polls, the standings or the papers. But sometimes, being No. 1 isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes, it's the last place in the world you want to find yourself.
It's with that in mind that we recognize Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who essentially flipped the verbal bird to Cornhusker football fans by telling them to screw off on an audio recording that made its way to Deadspin this week, two years after the fact. It was strong stuff, no doubt, and if he doesn't win soon, Pelini could get fired because of it.
But that rant isn't No. 1. It's not the best rant by a coach or manager of all time, and actually, it's not even close. Pelini has lots of competition for this title, because history is loaded with this type of meltdown, usually directed toward reporters or fans and almost always after a tough loss, when emotions are raw. Coaches simply lose it sometimes, although perhaps less often than they uesd to, since teams now go great lengths to orchestrate post-game press conferences and ensure the coach has cooled off first.
Before we list the Top Ten, here are three honorable mentions.
(It probably goes without saying that many of these clips will contain some questionable language.)
Mike Singletary Wants Winners: When former San Francisco coach and Chicago Bears linebacking legend Singletary went off on 49ers tight end Vernon Davis in 2008, it was seen as an old-school coach trying to instill values in the modern-day player. But today, Davis is a 49ers Pro Bowler, while Singletary was fired prior to the final game of the 2010 season. (He is now the linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings.)
Kevin Borseth Loves Paper Planes: The former Michigan women's basketball coach began his press conference by throwing the stat sheet at the podium, and miraculously, the paper didn't flutter away. He then began screaming about offensive rebounds and other issues and kept flapping that stat sheet, while reporters in the room looked on incredulously.
Rick Pitino says "Larry Bird is not walking through that door": Pitino is on top of the college basketball world now, and college basketball is where he should stay, because the NBA wasn't kind to him. Fans increasingly became frustrated that Pitino couldn't work magic, and the coach grew tired of the discontent. By raising the names of Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Pitino was saying the Celtics couldn't possibly recreate their storied history -- not with Vitaly Potapenko at center, anyway -- and were destined to be rather ordinary. No, Bird and McHale and Parish didn't walk through that door, but Pitino walked out and back to campus.
Here's our Top 10:
10. Tommy Lasorda: "He couldn't hit water if he fell out of a freaking boat." (NSFW)
When people say Lasorda bleeds Dodger blue, they're also referring to his language, as the unedited Lasorda will make your ears bleed and your stomach hurt from laughter. Lasorda probably could curse in six different languages, but one of his greatest rants -- though not his best, as you'll see in a minute -- was when he was accused by Kurt Bevacqua in 1982 of ordering a beaning, with Bevacqua calling Lasorda "that fat little Italian."
That set Lasorda off, saying Bevacqua -- not exactly a terror at the plate, with a .236 career batting average over 15 seasons -- couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. Lasorda used the F-word 10 times in less than a minute, which by his standards was about right.
9. Billy Martin: "One's a born liar, and the other's convicted."
The year 1978 was a fiery one, for a fiery manager who didn't take anything from anybody, not even his star player or his boss. Martin and Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson went nose-to-nose that year, with Martin at one point attempting to get Jackson suspended. When he learned George Steinbrenner was plotting to get rid of him, Martin had had enough. That's when the "liar" and "convicted" rant happened, with Martin saying "they deserve each other." (Steinbrenner had been charged with making illegal donations to Richard Nixon's campaign.) It's too bad that Martin managed decades before the digital age, because we'd surely be bombarded by the Best of Billy. Unfortunately, this rant wasn't recorded, but it still became well known, because Martin publicly criticized his boss and eventually lost his job over it. Not, of course, that such an offense prevented Martin from getting that job back. And back. And ...
8. Bob Knight: "I'm tired of losing to Purdue." (NSFW)
Knight, meldowns and rants? So much to choose from, so little time. We'll go with his ballistic "speech" during a practice in 1991 which fortuitously was somehow caught on tape. The clip below is audio-only, but it is everything you know Knight to be: rude, crude, profane and to the point. He comes across like a big bully who is angry that his players are ruining his record -- not the team's record, but his. He names one player in the rant (Greg Graham) and sends the players back on the floor to prepare for the Purdue game by telling them to get their heads out of their … well, the part of the anatomy that can be used to describe Knight.
7. Hal McRae: "Put that in your pipe and smoke it."
Please, do yourself a favor and spend about 90 seconds watching this clip of McRae's 1993 rant. It might be the funniest one here, and it's definitely the bloodiest. Yes, bloodiest, because Alan Eskew, who wrote for a Topeka newspaper, is shown leaving McRae's office with a red Nile River rolling down his cheek. Eskew was hit by a telephone, paper clip or perhaps a curse word, all thrown by an irate Kansas City Royals manager.
McRae began the interview in the calm manner for which he was known, but he was pushed over the edge when asked why he didn't pinch-hit George Brett. McRae stood, still wearing his underwear, and began throwing everything in sight. He didn't need to toss any reporters; they left his office by themselves, some healthier than others.
6. Jim Mora: "Playoffs?"
No other rant can be whittled down to a single word, and it's almost certainly the only one with a full site -- http://jimmoraplayoffs.com/ -- dedicated entirely to keeping the memory alove. It became a punch line, used mockingly to assess a team's hopes. "Playoffs?" It must be recited in the same manner he used it, with incredulity. "Playoffs?" It is best repeated with an expression of shock, with eyes as big as a sumo wrestler's dinner plate. "Playoffs?"
Even now, 12 years later, the rant is more popular than the coach who created it. Mora was always a brutally honest coach in these post-game situations, once calling out his Saints for being as bad as "diddly poo." But after this particular loss to the 49ers, the ex-Marine said the Colts were "disgraceful," "threw that game" and "gave it away." And then Tim Bragg, a local television reporter, asked the first question, pondering if the Colts needed to win out to make the playoffs. You're reading this article, so you probably already know where it went from there.
The Colts won only two more games in 2001. There were no, ahem, playoffs. Are you kidding me … playoffs?
5. Herm Edwards: "Hello! You play to win the game."
The Jets were 2-5, headed for yet another unsuccessful season, and Edwards was asked if his team was giving up. "Oh, no," Edwards said. "They're not going to do that." And then, in typical Edwards style, the press conference turned into a fiery sermon. What sets this rant apart from the rest is Edwards' oratory style, the way he emphasized certain words and injected a brief pause between others. Also, despite his anger and irritation, Edwards didn't curse, not once, sticking to his personal pledge. More than a few observers wondered if this was all a well orchestrated method of reaching his players through the media because, at that time, Edwards didn't have full support of his locker room. But if nothing else, he got everyone's attention. Hell-looo!
4. Lasorda: "What's my opinion of Kingman's performance?" (NSFW)
Yes, Lasorda gets two entries on the list, because the man never could control himself. Nor did he want to, especially when asked about slugger Dave Kingman clubbing three homers in a game against the Dodgers in 1976. The question to Lasorda was a rather obvious one, and the profanities flew. Lasorda was loud and even stuttering at one point, he was so angry. Only Lasorda could mention, or would dare mention, "Jesus Christ" (four times) and the F-word (seven times) in the same breath. "That's a tough question to ask me," Lasorda said. And a tough answer to listen to.
3. Mike Gundy: "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!"
Perhaps never before or since has a coach melted down like this after a win. Gundy used his entire press conference to attack a story in the previous day's Oklahoman that surmised (perhaps wrongly) why former starting quarterback Bobby Reid was dropped to second string. The subject of the rant was totally lost in the reaction itself, because Gundy was never really in control of his emotions. His face went from turning red to, well, Oklahoma State orange, or maybe the color of "puke," which is what he said the story made him want to do.
Gundy immediately became a hero among his fellow coaches, some of whom applauded him for doing what they wouldn't have the guts to do, and for "backing his players." It created a debate about media coverage of college athletes, and whether they should be judged as harshly as pro athletes. Here's the kicker, though: when Sports Illustrated detailed alleged drug use, sexcapades and grade-fixing last week in its report on Oklahoma State, Gundy calmly said he had no comment. He is now 46.
2. Dennis Green: "They are who we thought they were!"
This isn't the best rant, but it's among the most famous, because the phrasing breathed a life of its own. That rant went viral right when the internet and YouTube began to expand, and it found a place in the hugely successful Coors Light commercial series that mocked press conferences (along with those by Mora and Edwards).
Let's recap, though. The Cardinals blew a 20-point lead to the Bears in just under 20 minutes, on a nationally-televised Monday Night game, and lost in typical Cardwellian fashion by basically choking the game away. The Bears had six turnovers and no business stealing a 24-23 win, so all it took was a few questions to set Green off, which you could understand, given how "we let them off the hook." One day later, Green fired offensive coordinator Keith Rowen; after the season, Green himself was sent packing. Two years later, the Cards won the NFC title. Crown 'em.
1. Lee Elia: "Eighty-five percent of the world is working. The other 15 percent come here." (NSFW)
This is, without any doubt, the gold standard of manager/coach rants. It deserves its own plaque in the Hall of Fame (or maybe the Hall of F-word). There is no video of the rant (although the audio can be heard below), and maybe that's just as well, because perhaps Elia might have been a bit more careful and guarded had a camera been there. Instead, he let it rip, and we mean rip, destroying Cubs fans who showed up to boo him and his team. "They ought to get a job and find out what it's like to earn a living," he said.
The Cubs lost to the Dodgers that afternoon and fell to a familiar place for them -- last -- punctuated by one of the 9,391 fans in attendance throwing a beer at outfielder Keith Moreland. Elia didn't get fired right away -- perhaps because the Internet didn't exist in 1983 -- but did get the boot in August of that season when the Cubs were well on their way to a Cubs-like finish.
Remarkably, Elia is still in baseball, working part-time for the Braves at age 76, and he has a sense of humor. He smiles and laughs when asked about the rant, instead of cursing.