THE NEWS THAT
Hawks forward Josh Smith was recently fined $25,000 for making an obscene
gesture at fans in Charlotte makes you want to say, "Athletes today,"
right? But Smith was merely carrying on a tradition of vulgarity that dates to
at least 1886, when Old Hoss Radbourn livened up the Boston Beaneaters' team
photo by flashing the ol' one-finger salute. (Old Hoss also let a bird fly the
next year on a baseball card.) In the interim there's been more flipping than
you'll find at your local IHOP.
? 2005 Reds
pitcher Danny Graves broke out the double-barrel bird on a heckler in
Cincinnati. "Obviously, I overreacted," Graves said. The fallout: He
soon became ex--Reds pitcher Danny Graves. The club released Graves—who saved
41 games in 2004—10 days later.
? 2000 After
losing a doubles match, Natasha Zvereva gave the strawberries-and-cream set a
bit more than they bargained for when she raised both middle fingers at a rowdy
group of Wimbledon fans. The fallout: The ump missed the gesture, but thousands
of fans who saw it on TV—and on the back page of the paper—alerted officials,
who fined Zvereva $1,000.
? 1995 As he was
leaving the mound to boos at Yankee Stadium, Jack McDowell (right) raised a
digit at the fans. The fallout: Black Jack was fined $5,000 and was pilloried
by the media (YANKEE FLIPPER, cried the Post) and the mayor: "There are
better ways to communicate frustration," said Rudy Giuliani.
? 1993 After
hearing what he said was racial abuse, Dolphins linebacker Bryan Cox let fans
at Buffalo's Rich Stadium have it. The fallout: The NFL fined Cox $10,000—and
Cox sued the league, claiming its failure to control fans led to a hostile work
environment. The NFL agreed to crack down on offensive fans, and Cox's fine was
lowered to $3,000.
? 1972 A banner
year for the finger: It started in the spring, when Topps released a Billy
Martin baseball card on which the Tigers manager was slyly extending his middle
finger (below). In August, Dolphins running back Larry Csonka did the same on
the cover of SI (above). Then, at the Summit Series between Canada and the
Soviet Union, Alan Eagleson—who helped organize the hockey tournament—did his
part to slow d�tente by flipping off the Soviet crowd, which was dotted with
Red Army members. (Some claim that one of Eagleson's assistants was the actual
Even the fans got
into the act. During a Monday Night Football broadcast in Houston, cameras
caught an Oilers fan napping during a blowout. As the camera zoomed in, he
awoke and unfurled his middle finger, prompting commentator Don Meredith to
offer one of the few plausible excuses for such indelicate behavior:
"That's his way of saying, We're No. 1."