10 Times Animals Interrupted US Sports Games · The Wildest

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10 Times Animals Interrupted Sports Games and Delighted All the Fans

A highlight reel proving once again that animals are the worldwide leaders in sports delays. 

by Sean Zucker
April 10, 2024
Man carrying dog off football field.
Photo Courtesy of FOX Sports

In 2016, a two-year-old Bloodhound named Ludivine snuck away from her Elkmont, Alabama, yard to investigate a large crowd of people forming nearby. Unbeknownst to the pup, this group was gathering to compete in the inaugural Elkmont Half Marathon. According to reports, shortly after arriving the race began and Ludivine, like any great athlete, felt the need to participate.

While her parents innocently believed she was just outside chilling, Ludivine ran the full 13-mile race, finishing seventh overall and first among all female participants. Her victory turned her into a local celebrity, and her story even got passed around the national morning news circuit . To honor Ludivine’s achievement, the Elkmont Half Marathon was also renamed The Hound Dog Half Marathon every year until the event fell victim to COVID.

Beyond reminding me that I’m less athletic than a sunbathing dog, Ludivine’s experience is proof that pets enjoy inserting themselves into human sports. While most are nowhere near as successful as Ludivine, that’s not important anyway. During a jiu-jitsu tournament in Chile last year, one participant’s dog ran onto the mat mid-competition thinking he was under attack. Of course, nobody seemed upset at the disturbance. In fact, it appeared to be the highlight of the evening.

As a long-suffering sports fan, I can confirm that animal interference is actually one of the only acceptable forms of interrupting games. I often demand hypothetical background checks on referees who take a bit too long to make calls. And consider the verbal violence that might ensue if somebody at a bar is standing too close to the TV. But if a cat cut all of the arena’s power during the Super Bowl, I’d probably never shut up about how great it was.  

These types of animal-induced intermissions aren’t exclusive to local events, nor are dogs the only culprits. Over the past few years, all kinds of cute creatures have caused delays or confusion during major sporting events. Below are 10 of our favorites.

A squirrel visits the National League Division Series.

The National Division League Series represents the playoff midway point for National League teams fighting to appear in the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals definitely had the World Series on their minds as they met for game four of their series in 2011. But Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt had to sacrifice some attention for local wildlife come the bottom of the fifth inning.

While on the mount with St. Louis’ Skip Schumaker at bat, Oswalt appeared a bit distracted as a squirrel emerged from the first base dugout before running across home plate mid-pitch. The animal then ran into the stands of Busch Stadium, giving bystanders a little extra excitement. Despite Oswalt’s visible frustration, he eventually forced a flyout on Schumaker, and all was well. Although maybe the squirrel was a Cards fan, because St. Louis went on to win not only that game and the NLDS, but the entire World Series. 

A dog snacks on a baseball in Philly.

Apparently, the city of Philadelphia has a history with these types of shenanigans. While facing Alianza in a Concacaf Champions League match last year, the Philadelphia Union welcomed a surprise guest onto the field. Around the 68th minute of the match, a dog burst onto the field and beelined straight to the ball.

After chewing on it (and presumably the sweet taste of victory) for a few seconds, the game was paused and a smiling official scooped up the pup before escorting them off the pitch. As they were carried away, the dog could be seen grinning ear to ear — a familiar sight to ball-obsessed pet parents everywhere. However, I’d implore the league to consider introducing more dogs into games, as it very well may be the only way to get people excited about American soccer, especially considering this game ended in a 0-0 tie. 

A squirrel enters No Man’s Land at the US Open.

For a few years during the 2010s, the US Open used “Nothing Beats Being Here” as their marketing slogan. It’s a declaration that a couple of squirrels may have taken a bit too literally. During last year’s US Open, one scurried across the court during a doubles match between the Belgian team of Greet Minnen and Yanina Wickmayer and the German-Russian team of Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva.

Siegemund and Zvonareva were visibly frustrated; they were about to win the match and move on to the next round when the squirrel appeared. They eventually walked away with the victory anyway, thankfully. The incident was reminiscent of a similar squirrelly interruption at the Open nearly a decade prior. However, 2015’s intruder was met with a much more positive response led by celebrity attendee Martha Stewart, who coaxed the squirrel up to her seat to say hello.

A black cat becomes an NFL omen.

As two storied franchises in the same division, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants endured plenty of memorable games throughout the history of their rivalry. But for those less devoted to the NFC East, one 2019 Monday Night matchup may have been the most enjoyable, though not because of the actual game. Instead, it was the appearance of one black cat in the second quarter mere days after Halloween.

I’d love to pin Dallas’s repeated playoff failures on bad mojo they gained that night but, unfortunately, the team’s owner, Jerry Jones, has been guaranteeing mediocrity for almost 30 years at this point. The Giants weren’t absolved from embarrassment, either; it was soon revealed that this cat was one of hundreds living at MetLife. Surely, by now the team has sorted out this issue and helped get these cats into shelters. That is, unless they’ve taken the same approach as they have in fixing issues with the quarterback position.

A kitty becomes the pride of the Yankees.

“This is faster than anybody on the Yankees.” That was play-by-play commentator Kevin Brown’s reaction to a cat that found themself running the bases during a New York Yankee’s home game against the Baltimore Orioles in 2021. After the game was paused, this poor kitty canvassed the extent of the outfield looking for a way out.

During the broadcast, Brown could even be heard pleading with Yankee employees to let the cat into the bullpen. Eventually, the animal was met with well-earned chants of “MVP” and “Let’s go, cat!” from those in the stands. 

Some basketball bats get spooky on Halloween.

The San Antonio Spurs have — somewhat quietly — been one of the most consistent teams in the NBA over the past 25 years. They’ve won five titles since 1999 under the tutelage of head coach Gregg Popovich, thanks to his extensive knowledge of the game and steady levelheadedness. During his tenure, Pop has instilled Zen-level calmness in his players so that they never get rattled.

It’s something that was on full display in a 2009 Halloween night game against the Sacramento Kings when reigning Six Man of the Year Manu Ginóbili causally caught a live bat in his hands Ozzy Osbourne-style (minus the decapitation, of course).

Seemingly not one for superstition, Ginóbili handed the bat off to security and resumed playing. But his battle with winged animals was far from over. Maybe he initiated a curse, or maybe flying creatures dislike non-American NBA players, but when he attempted to sign his next contract with the Spurs, it was literally stolen by birds . Not to mention, since Ginóbili’s retired, the bats have returned to San Antonio’s home games in droves

A deer frolics on the fairway.

As someone who’s felt like a deer in headlights anytime I’ve tried to play golf, having one pop up during a PGA Tour event came as little surprise. During 2022’s RBC Heritage, one emerged from the trees and ran across the course as Jordan Spieth was lining up to take a shot. Spieth would go on to win the event, so he couldn’t really complain about the short delay.

Alligators bring jump-scares to the PGA.

The PGA Tour and alligators — it’s truly a tradition unlike any other. Throughout the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2022, alligators were seen roaming around the course as golfers mostly ignored them and played on. That is, until Callum Tarren was standing near the edge of some water and caught the eye of one roughly five feet away.

He immediately jumped in a way that can best be described as a moviegoer watching the trailer for Paranormal Activity . In the year prior, another alligator actually crossed the course while Patrick Rada, Adam Long, and Cameron Tringale were mid-hole. However, this gator was met with less fear and more smiles because it was ( insert TikTok sound here) just a baby.

Collegiate football foxes run some memorable plays.

2021 was a strange time for college football. Coming off a season tempered by COVID, where the famously California-based Rose Bowl was played in Texas while Alabama somehow won the championship for the umpteenth time, attendance was still hampered. The interruptions had nothing to do with the virus but rather the frequent appearance of foxes at games.

During the Red River Rivalry game between Oklahoma and Texas , a cheeky fox sprinted down the sideline like he was looking to be noticed for the next NFL draft. Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams was still able to pull out a victory for his Sooners, proving his ability to strive under chaotically absurd circumstances — which is a great skill to have for someone about to be drafted by the Chicago Bears. Barely a month later, another fox showed up at a USC and Arizona State game before making their way into the stands

A cat spices up a dull fourth quarter.

What better way to display the benefit of these animal interruptions than with one that occurred during a 40-to-nothing defeat? In 2017, the Baltimore Ravens were putting the final touches on a masterclass beatdown of the Miami Dolphins when one cat hopped onto the field to save bystanders from the boredom of lacking competition.

More importantly, the kitty was adopted by a stadium worker named Yogi less than a day later. According to reports , Yogi had recently lost his senior cat and was looking to fill that massive hole in his heart. So, the game really became a positive experience for everyone involved, except Dolphins fans, of course.  

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.