Moments in history
Sport is nothing without its controversies. They are the moments that create discussion for generations, piquing the interest of even the most apathetic among us. Some controversies can turn a sub-par event into a spectacle for the ages, while others can make fans and athletes question the very integrity of their favorite competitions.
From doping to questionable officating and ear biting
VegasSlotsOnline News has utilized Google Search data for keyphrases to assess which historically controversial moments are still creating the most buzz. By using global monthly search volume for the past four years, we have created a list of the most talked-about controversies in world sport. From doping to questionable officating and ear biting, it has everything a sports fan could want.
6. Tom Brady and ‘Deflategate’
Monthly keyphrase search volume: 390
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is considered by many as the greatest American football player of all time, but the NFL’s golden child is not completely free from controversy. A scandal related to deflated footballs branded ‘Deflategate’ has made VSO News’ list with a total of 390 monthly searches on average for our keyphrase.
11 of the 12 were under the minimum PSI required
The controversy centered around a 2014 AFC title game between the Indianapolis Colts and Brady’s former team the New England Patriots. In an unprecedented occurrence, officials tested the game balls at halftime and found that 11 of the 12 were under the minimum PSI required in the rules.
The findings resulted in a 253-page report from the league which ultimately found the Patriots at fault. It also alleged that Brady was “at least generally aware” of a plot to deflate the footballs. A legal battle ensued after the investigation, resulting in a $1m fine for the Patriots and a four-game suspension for Brady in the 2016 season.
Brady has consistently denied any involvement in the ‘Deflategate’ controversy, stating in 2015: “I didn’t alter the balls in any way.” However, the GOAT destroyed his mobile phone prior to the investigation – something NFL commissioner Roger Goodell labeled a “willful obstruction of evidence.” Regardless, the scandal still creates a buzz to this day.
5. Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal
Monthly keyphrase search volume: 1,000
Next up is the controversy probably in need of very little introduction. The doping scandal of professional cyclist Lance Armstrong still generates discussion, with a total of 1,000 monthly Google searches on average over the past four years.
Armstrong won everything there was to win in the world of professional cycling. Between 1995 and 2005, the Texan became the first cyclist to earn seven Tour de France titles. Perhaps even more impressively, he defeated cancer at the same time after months of treatment for the disease that had spread to his lungs and brain.
he lost his titles and received a lifetime ban
During these peak years, Armstrong consistently denied allegations of doping that surfaced in the press. In 2010, however, his teammate Floyd Landis revealed the truth behind the allegations. By 2012, the evidence of Armstrong’s doping became so overwhelming that he lost his titles and received a lifetime ban from professional cycling.
One year later, Armstrong finally admitted that he had used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
He ultimately had to pay $5m to settle a lawsuit brought against him by the US government alleging that he had committed fraud by lying. Some say the cyclist got off lightly, with potential damages for the whistleblower lawsuit reaching up to $100m.
4. F1 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Monthly keyphrase search volume: 1,600
It doesn’t get much more controversial than the end to the 2020/2021 season of the Formula One Championship. Young Dutch Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s victory after some questionable officiating has racked up 1,600 monthly Google searches on average since the day of the event.
If Hamilton won he would break Michael Schumacher’s record
After a stunning season long battle, Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton entered the final race of the season on the same number of points. It all boiled down to the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi with whoever crossed the line first claiming the Championship. If Hamilton won he would break Michael Schumacher’s record for Championship titles, and if Verstappen won he would claim his first.
At first, the highly-anticipated battle didn’t seem to meet expectation. Hamilton was comfortable out in front for much of the race with Verstappen trailing in second. However, things took a strange turn in the latter stages when race director Michael Masi allowed the lapped cars separating the title contenders to unlap themselves during a safety car.
This set up a one-lap battle in which Verstappen, on much fresher tyres, had the clear upper hand. When officials gave them the green light to race again the Dutchman made light work of Hamilton, snatching the Championship trophy in the last minute. Mercedes appealed the decision to no avail.
3. Mohammed Ali’s ‘Phantom Punch’
Monthly keyphrase search volume: 2,400
VSO News’ third-ranked controversial moment ocurred more than 50 years ago, but many boxing fans and analysts are still scratching their heads over Mohammed Ali’s knockout of Sonny Liston in May 1965. Our keyphrase has generated 2,400 monthly searches on average since 2018.
The fight was the second between the pair, with Ali dethroning Liston the prior year to claim the world heavyweight boxing title. Liston was still the favorite going into the rematch despite this, meaning many were left stunned when Ali knocked the former champion down just one minute and 44 seconds into the first round.
couldn’t have crushed a grape.”
Perhaps more shocking than the result was the fact that no one saw a punch that could have knocked Liston to the canvas. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, who was ringside at the match, said the hit that floored Liston “couldn’t have crushed a grape.” Fans and boxing experts alike have called into question the legitimacy of the bout, with the moment subsequently labeled the ‘Phantom Punch.’
There are various theories as to why Liston may have taken a dive during the bout. Some claim that he took the fall so the mafia could earn a profit in a bet placed against him, while others believe the Black Muslims with who Ali was affiliated had made threats on Liston’s life. Either way, the incident has earned its place in the history of controversial sporting moments.
2. Tyson bites Holyfield’s ear
Monthly keyphrase search volume: 9,900
Evident from our previous entry, the world of professional boxing has played host to some strange events in the past, and it doesn’t get much more bizarre than one athlete biting a chunk out of another. Mike Tyson’s cannibalistic behavior against Evander Holyfield in 1997 has made VSO News’ top two most controversial moments, still clocking up 9,900 monthly searches.
By the mid-90s, Tyson had already etched his name into history by becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of all time at just 19 years of age. He had also made a name for himself for less favorable reasons; taking part in various street brawls and spending three years in prison for rape. That reputation worsened after his 1997 bout against Holyfield.
bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear
The fight didn’t go to plan for Iron Mike, with a head butt opening a cut over his eye in the second round. To everyone’s shock, Tyson lost his composure in the following round, spit out his mouthpiece, and bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear. After a brief stoppage, the fight continued but Tyson was disqualified when he took another bite out of his opponent’s other ear.
Commenting in an interview with Fox News in 2020, Tyson explained his reasons for the bizarre behavior. “I bit him because I wanted to kill him,” he said. “I was really mad about my head being bumped and everything. I really lost consciousness of the whole fight. It took me out of my fight plan and everything.” Whatever the reason, the bite will forever remain a historic moment in world sport.
1. Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’
Monthly keyphrase search volume: 74,000
The late Diego Armando Maradona is undeniably a legend in the world of soccer. Some consider the Argentine the greatest player of all time thanks to his unbelievable skill and incredible goals, but it is a goal scored in an alternative way that has made VSO News’ number one spot with a total of 74,000 monthly searches since 2018.
Argentina faced England in the quarterfinal of the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. The game remained tied at 0-0 until 51 minutes in when Argentina captain Maradona lept up to head a miscued clearance from England’s Steve Hodge. England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out to punch the ball clear, but Maradona reached it first with his left hand, tipping the ball past Shilton and into the net.
To the astonishment of the players, fans, and even Maradona himself, the referee said he did not see an infringement and allowed the goal. Argentina sealed the deal after a truly sensational (but perhaps overshadowed) goal from Maradona just four minutes later and ultimately won the tie 2-1. England left the competition feeling cheated, while Argentina would famously go on to lift the trophy.
When an English reporter asked Maradona if he had touched the ball with his hand after the game, he told them: “A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” The moment has since been dubbed the ‘Hand of God’ and has truly earned its place at the top of the list of most controversial sporting moments.