Every year, the sports world at large gives fans plenty of everything—upsets, dramatic finishes, great games, great individual performances, and so on. The same thing goes for bizarre, strange stories and moments. There was no shortage of both in 2022, so from Antonio Brown’s exit from the Bucs to a baseball fight about…fantasy football. Let’s take a look at the most bizarre sports moments in 2022.
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1/1/22: Hot as ice: Extreme cold forces NHL to warm up ice
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
You read that right: 2022’s Winter Classic, contested at Target Field between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues, was so cold that the NHL’s operations crew was forced to warm up the ice. In case you’re curious, the optimum temperature for ice is evidently 22 to 24 degrees; any colder and said ice is prone to chipping more easily, creating an uneven playing surface. The warming was necessary because the temperature at puck drop was -8 degrees, with wind chills sitting around -20 degrees. Not that it wasn’t already obvious, but the game, won 6-4 by the Blues, was the coldest in NHL history.
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1/1/22: Lifesaver: Kraken fan’s quick thinking a big save for Canucks equipment manager
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Technically, this story unfolded in 2021, but it did not become public knowledge until New Year’s Day. Nadia Popovici is a 22-year-old med student who was in attendance for the Kraken’s first regular-season home game on October 23rd. She had great seats, too. Right behind the Vancouver Canucks’ bench. While at the game, she noticed what she believed to be a concerning mole on the back of Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton’s neck. Popovici managed to surreptitiously alert Hamilton to the issue. Subsequent tests showed that the mole was, in fact, a malignant melanoma, which team doctors were able to remove. Hamilton sent out a New Year’s Day message through the team’s Twitter feed in an effort to find the Good Samaritan fan and was able to meet with Popovici, who received a $10,000 medical school scholarship from both teams.
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1/2/22: The shirt off his back: Brown ditches Bucs, and his uniform
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
You’d have thought Brown would be on his best behavior for Tampa Bay after the team stood by him during his fake COVID-19 vaccine card fiasco. The honeymoon didn’t last long. In Week 17 against the Jets, his second game back, Brown repeatedly refused head coach Bruce Arians’ requests to enter the game, so Arians told him to “get out.” Brown responded by taking off his jersey, pads, and undershirt, tossing his shirt and gloves into the stands, and running across the field and into the tunnel. Arians said after the game that Brown was “no longer a Buc.”
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1/2/22: Off the railings: FedEx Field nearly succeeds where Football Team failed
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Hurts had to dodge a game Washington defense all afternoon as he guided the Eagles to a crucial 20-16 win, but his biggest brush with danger came after the win was secured. As Hurts trotted off FedEx Field, several Eagles fans leaned over the railing near the tunnel when it suddenly gave way, sending a pile of bodies falling to the ground, nearly taking out Hurts in the process. He wasn’t injured, however, and none of the fans who fell were seriously hurt, either. Imagine that; Daniel Snyder’s stadium is a dilapidated, dangerous mess. Knock me over with a feather.
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1/16/22: Unforced error: Djokovic eliminated from Australian Open by a surprise opponent
Peter van den Berg
Djokovic has more or less cemented himself as the greatest male tennis player in history, surpassing even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He got bounced from the 2022 Australian Open, however, by the Australian government, which deported him because he “tried to breach entry rules” at the border. The whole thing boiled down to Djokovic not being vaccinated and having no intention of getting vaccinated. With the rules that kept him out last time having been lifted, Djokovic is back in Australia already and will participate in the 2023 iteration of the tournament.
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3/13/22: Not for long: Tom Brady retires…then doesn’t
Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK
What seemed like it would never actually happen finally did when Tom Brady announced his retirement not long after the Buccaneers were bounced from the 2021 NFC playoffs by the eventual champion Rams. Hahaha, just kidding. Reports surfaced almost the next day suggesting that the retirement might not last, and on March 13th, Brady formally announced his return to the sport that he never really left. Brady has already said that the next time he retires, it will be for good. Call me crazy, but I don’t actually believe that, either.
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3/18/22: Not monkeying around: Showalter tells an all-time story
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Spring training is boring. It’s boring for the players unless they’re battling for a roster spot. It’s boring for the managers. It’s boring for the reporters. Really, it’s boring for everyone. What could spice up such a forgettable part of each season? How about a story about monkeys throwing and taking batting practice? Is that something you’d be interested in? Take it away, Buck.
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4/19/22: Wing and a prayer: John Daly II gets the perfect NIL deal
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Daly II has a long way to go before he puts together a career even close to his father’s, but even after a merely average freshman season for Arkansas, he scored himself an NIL deal. With which company, you ask? Hootėrs, of course. Daly, the elder, was also signed as part of the deal, and really, isn’t this picture all you need to see to feel like all is right with the world?
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5/27/22: Start ’em or hit ’em: Tommy Pham slaps Joc Pederson over…fantasy football?
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball warmups are usually pretty boring. The season is a grind, the players do more or less the same thing every day, and really, everything that happens before the game is just part of a routine. That routine got pretty spicy when Pham, then with the Reds, slapped San Francisco’s Pederson during warmups. Naturally, Pham was angry because he felt Pederson was cheating in their $10,000 buy-in fantasy football league. When asked about the incident, he said, “I’ve got no regrets. None at all. Joc deserved to be slapped.” Okay then!
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6/3/22: Russ, cooked: Wilson delivers comically awkward promo
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oh, just watch. I have nothing to add. Everyone in Denver should have known things were going to go sideways from the moment this video got out.
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6/28/22: Cup cometh over: Stanley Cup ends up at the wrong house
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Avalanche ripped through opponents to win the Stanley Cup in impressive fashion, and as captain of the team, Gabriel Landeskog likely couldn’t wait to have his day with the Cup. He got a late start, however, because the Cup handlers got lost on the way to his house – they had the wrong address – and so a gentleman named Kit Karbler and his husband ended up with the Cup at their house. Landeskog did live in their neighborhood, so they sent the Cup to its proper destination, but not before getting to touch it and snap a few pictures.
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7/28/22: Fine print: “Homework clause” humiliates Cardinals, Murray
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals agreed on a shiny new contract extension this past offseason. It was a $230.5 million extension, with $160 million guaranteed. What really got people talking was the presence of an “independent study” clause in the deal, one that required Murray to complete at least four hours per week of self-study, with potential chunks of the guaranteed money at risk. Fans and commentators rightly pointed out that it seemed a little ridiculous to throw a huge guarantee at someone without trusting their work habits, and the whole story blew up. Naturally, once that happened, the Cardinals removed the clause.
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8/25/22: General chaos: Twitter hijacks South Carolina mascot naming contest
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina has a live rooster mascot. South Carolina’s live rooster mascot was previously known as Sir Big Spur. South Carolina went looking for a new name for Sir Big Spur. Fans overwhelmingly wanted the rooster to go by “Cōck Commander.” Twitter got hold of the whole situation and amplified it, even more, turning “Cōck Commander” into a trending topic that was confusing and possibly naughty. What name did South Carolina ultimately choose? The General. Booooo-ring.
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10/6/22: Checkered past: Cheating scandal rocks chess
Erin Woodiel / Argus Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK
Hans Niemann pulled a huge upset when he beat grandmaster Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the possessor of the highest peak rating in chess history, and was immediately accused by Carlsen of cheating. Specifically, Carlsen accused Niemann of using computer assistance to gain an unfair advantage, then Niemann responded by filing a $100 million defamation lawsuit. Whether or not Niemann cheated to beat Carlsen is still being debated, but I think we can all safely say that more sports should have this level of pettiness.
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6/20/21 – 10/19/22: Ben better: Simmons takes a season off
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
We know Simmons can’t shoot, doesn’t like to shoot, and would presumably love it if basketball didn’t involve shooting at all. Simmons went well over a calendar year without playing in a regular-season or playoff game and alternately cited back issues and mental health issues as his reasons. He also reportedly had a herniated disc. He was traded from the Sixers to the Nets but still refused to play, which was strange, given the fact that videos leaked that appeared to show him very much in playing shape. The whole thing – and really, the arc of Simmons’ career – is truly strange.
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10/25/22: Phil!: Kessel sets NHL’s ironman record
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
Kessel isn’t known for his conditioning, let’s say. The speedy winger was one of the league’s most dangerous snipers in his prime, and most of his appeal comes from the fact that he looks like an Average Joe yet plays a sport at the highest level and does so very well. He’s also remarkably durable, at least in part due to a, shall we say, contact-averse style. Kessel played in his 990th-straight game against the Sharks, breaking Keith Yandle‘s record, and as of this writing, he has played in 1,018 consecutive games.
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12/6/22: Hot take: Judge-centric typo goes viral
Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports
MLB reporter Jon Heyman is one of the sport’s most-connected insiders, but he got things wrong in a big way when he reported that the San Francisco Giants had signed free-agent slugger Aaron Judge. Not only had no such thing happened, but Heyman’s tweet announcing the nonexistent move referred to the all-time American League single-season home run champion as “Arson Judge.” Heyman deleted the tweet, which is a bummer, but screenshots are forever.
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12/13/22: Ageless wonder: Jaromir Jagr comes back to pro hockey at 50
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jagr played in the NHL into his mid-40s, but after a few years away, he decided to get back onto the ice – for the Kladno Knights, the team he owns in the Czech Extraliga. An illness laid many Knights players low, so Jagr decided to jump into the lineup. Naturally, he managed two assists in 15:10 of ice time, but his team did lose 7-3.
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12/18/22: Shook and lateral: Patriots find truly inspired way to lose to Raiders
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Belichick‘s teams are known for rarely beating themselves and almost always making the heads-up play, regardless of the situation. That makes Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers‘ tandem screw-up at the end of a Week 15 battle with the Raiders that much sweeter. With the game tied at 24, the Patriots ran what looked like it would be the final play of regulation. Stevenson ripped off a surprisingly good run, then inexplicably lateraled to Meyers, who even more inexplicably did this. I could watch it 1,000 times.
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12/25/22: Planes, trains and Panthers: Pitt football players catch a ride to Sun Bowl
GABY VELASQUEZ/ EL PASO TIMES / USA TODAY NETWORK
Like many Americans, three Pitt Panthers – Samuel Okunlola, Jake Frantl and Hudson Primus – were left stranded by canceled flights while trying to make their way to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. The three players were stuck in Dallas, 635 miles from their destination, until Joe Golding, UTEP’s head basketball coach and also a stuck traveler, rented an SUV, loaded up his wife and kids with the players, and drove them across the state to get them to the team hotel on time.
Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.