Sean Pendergast

Four Houston Sports Incidents That Mirror "Will Smith vs Chris Rock"

Andre Johnson once had a "Will Smith on Chris Rock" moment with Cortland Finnegan.
Andre Johnson once had a "Will Smith on Chris Rock" moment with Cortland Finnegan. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Three days later, the world is still buzzing about the "slap heard around the world." What some called a shocking incident, and what I called "just what the boring Oscars needed," the slap by Will Smith defending the honor of his wife against a hair joke from Chris Rock still has everyone talking. It was so noteworthy that it overshadowed Will Smith ACTUALLY WINNING AN OSCAR later in the night.
If you were having some Pavlovian reactions to Smith's big swing, you might be a Houston sports fan, because we've had our fair share of "big swing" pugilism through the years. Let's relive the magic of four that immediately come to mind.

Back in 2018, with Astros closer Ken Giles barely hanging onto his job, he gave up a home run to Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez. This came one pitch after a mound visit from his pitching coach Brent Strom, where I am guessing Strom told Giles "just don't give him anything to hit." Well, Sanchez hit a ball that is still traveling, and the reaction to being removed from the game for the unhinged Giles was to punch something, in this case HIMSELF in the face. I miss Ken Giles.

Probably the most famous fight in Houston sports history, Finnegan spent the entire Sunday afternoon agitating Johnson, until things blew up in the second half of the game, and Johnson just began raining blows down on Finnegan. I was in the club area at this game, sufficiently liquored up, in the second half, not really watching the game, and I can tell you first hand that when this fight broke out, the buzz in the stadium was like there was some sort of terrorist attack. It was bananas. At least that's what I remember. Again, I was VERY drunk. If they put up statue for Andre Johnson someday, it should be one of him murdering Finnegan with his fists.

Now, we are getting into two incidents that actually MOST closely mirror Smith vs Rock, because each of these was just ONE swing. The first one was late in the 1993 NFL season, where Buddy Ryan was making snarky comments about the Oilers run and shoot offense. OC Kevin Gilbride took exception, said something to Ryan, and the cantankerous Ryan took a poke at Gilbride. The audio is the best part of this footage. Joe Theismann is in rare form.

This Vernon Maxwell punch is easily the incident that most closely resembles "Smith vs Rock." This happened almost 30 years ago, when a Portland fan was heckling Maxwell about a recent miscarriage his wife had had. (NOTE: How bad a human being do you have to be to heckle someone about THAT?) So Maxwell did what most of us would do — he marched into the crowd and walloped the guy in the face. Maxwell was suspended 10 games and got a then-league record fine of $20,000. Why is this the best doppelgänger for "Smith vs Rock"? Well, let's do the checklist. Derogatory comments being hurled about a man's wife? CHECK. Man strolls a fair distance to defend his wife's honor? CHECK. One swing? CHECK. Puncher walks back and sits down in his chair? CHECK.

Case closed.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast