By Sports on Earth Staff
Bryce Harper caused a bit of a stir on Saturday night when he dragged his foot across the "A" behind homeplate at Turner Field (three times, actually), fanning the flames of a Nationals-Braves rivalry that has been gaining steam over the last couple of years.
Whether he owns up to it or not, Harper -- who has had his share of controversial moments in his young career -- is actually carrying on a well-worn tradition of athletes provoking the opposition without even having to say a word. With all due respect to the Muhammad Alis, Charles Barkleys and Richard Shermans of the world who perfected the craft of plain ol' trash-talking, this particular brand of heel-like behavior stands out for its silent, audacious flair.
So where does Harper's weekend transgression stack up against some of the best troll moves in sports? We came up with a list of some of our favorites.
Pujols and Trout shoot dem arrows
Mariners closer Fernando Rodney is known for shooting an imaginary arrow when he completes a game, but he drew the ire of the Angels when he shot an arrow after getting out of a jam in the eighth inning.
Albert Pujols and Mike Trout took notice, and they decided to shoot some arrows right back at Rodney after Pujols drove in Trout to tie the game in the ninth.
Gomez's home run sprint
Last September, Carlos Gomez incited a brawl in Atlanta when he took his sweet time during his home run trot and got reprimanded by Brian McCann and the fun police.
This year, the Brewers hosted the Braves for three games to open the season, and in the second game Gomez led off with home run to center and ran around the bases at full speed.
According to Tater Trot Tracker, Gomez got around the bases in 16.18 seconds on his sprint, which is the second-fastest trot this year. For context, the slowest trot of this season came by David Ortiz on April 9, at 33.39 seconds.
"Why always me?"
Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli has always played with a little troll in his game, and he also has a history of off-the-field misadventures, such as the time he set his house on fire while lighting fireworks in October, 2011.
Days later, while playing for Manchester City, Balotelli scored in the Manchester derby and revealed a shirt that said "Why Always Me" across the front, supposedly a message to the world that he was tired of getting so much unwanted attention.
Owens dances on the Dallas star
It's hard to believe now, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when NFL players could get away with ridiculous touchdown celebrations.
Case in point: Sept. 24, 2000, 49ers at Cowboys. Terrell Owens celebrates a second quarter touchdown catch by running to midfield and preening on the Dallas star (Bryce Harper was a lot more subtle). Emmitt Smith scored on the Cowboys' ensuing drive and pulled off a similar stunt. Note: Neither Owens or Smith received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter. Owens hauls in another touchdown catch to make it 40-17 in favor of San Francisco, and he goes right back to the star at midfield, where he is leveled by Cowboys defensive back George Teague. At this point the officials have no choice but to flag Owens for taunting and eject Teague.
Epilogue: Owens subsequently received a one-game suspension from the 49ers for his actions.
Reggie vs. Spike
Reggie Miller has many memorable troll moments, but the one that takes the cake took place during Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, when Reggie Miller scored 25 fourth quarter points to stun the Knicks at home. Along the way, Miller was talking trash with celeb-fan Spike Lee, and went so far as to give the choke sign to Lee (at the 2:15 mark in the below clip).
In the end, one could argue it was the Pacers who ended up choking: They failed to close the Knicks out at home in Game 6, and lost Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden.
Sugar Ray Leonard lost to Roberto Duran in June of 1980, but he made a mockery of the then-WBC Welterweight Champ in their rematch that November.
In the seventh round, Leonard started daring Duran to clean his clock, sticking out his chin while shimmying in place. Later in the round Leonard hit Duran squarely in the chin with a bolo punch.
A round later, Duran gave up with his infamous "No mas," and Leonard was champ once again.
In the 1991-92 season, legendary enforcer Tie Domi scored two of his 84 career goals while playing for the Rangers, and he made one of them really count by "riding" his stick in celebration.
Domi, who would finish his career with the third-most penalty minutes in NHL history, was seemingly paying homage to another legendary enforcer, Tiger Williams, the all-time leader in penalty minutes.
Stephenson blows into LeBron's ear
Lance Stephenson -- one of the more enigmatic NBA players in the league -- provided a spark to the Pacers as they challenged LeBron James and the Heat during the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. One of the strangest moments, though, was when Stephenson -- who had been pestering Miami all night, including a moment when he tried to butt into Erik Spoelstra's huddle -- puffed into LeBron's ear in an apparent attempt to throw James off his game.
The strategy didn't quite work. Though Indiana won that night to stave off elimination, the Heat blew out the Pacers in Game 6 117-92, with LeBron scoring 25 points.
Of course, trolling doesn't have to be limited to the pros. In the 2009 America East soccer tournament, Stony Brook and Hartford needed to go to penalty kicks to determine a winner.
Hoping to get in the head of Stony Brook shooter Collin Geoghegan, Hartford goalie Nenad Cudic decided to do a few cartwheels while Geoghegan prepared to kick. He was clearly unfazed, and gave Cudic a taste of his own medicine after the ball hit the back of the net.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but some of the ones we loved from recent memory, sprinkled with a few classics from the past.
Which ones would you like to have seen mentioned? List your own favorite athlete trolling moments in the comments...