Posted: Monday September 6, 2004 2:02PM; Updated: Monday September 6, 2004 2:48PM
Deion Sanders decided to return to the NFL with the Ravens despite the fear he may tarnish his legacy.
Maybe you haven't heard yet, but I have some very exciting news for you.
Deion Sanders is playing football again!
Personally, I am so fired up that I have already purchased my "You Can Never Dim the Neon" T-shirt. I mean, just think of all he can accomplish as a fifth defensive back! All those times he'll sprint down the sideline with his familiar cocky stride ... just in time to congratulate a teammate who's made a nice play. Think of all the camera time he will commandeer ... as he re-ties his bandanna on the sideline. Any man with the creative genius to think up what may be the finest line in rap history -- and here I speak of "I kick this like a game of kickball" off his underrated 1995 album, Prime Time -- must surely have something up his lycra sleeve. Man, am I curious as to ...
Wait, hold on, what's that I hear?
Michael Jordan is playing pickup basketball again!
Could this mean, as some have wishfully posited (hi, Chad Ford), that Jordan is considering a comeback with the Miami Heat? Think of it: Shaq and Riley and Wade and MJ. Oh boy, oh boy. Might Jordan do the utterly thinkable by returning from retirement and energizing the league by scoring 11 points a game while shooting scoop-shot layups? Please, say it is so. Just think: Shaq and Jordan on the same team, taking the same cortisone shots and working the same endorsement deals. There's no way ...
Wait. What's that? Hold the football phone!
I just heard from a very good source, the kind that those of us who work at giant sports magazines staffed with thousands of reporters are privy to, that JerryRice is planning on coming out of retirement and playing in the NFL this season! Just imagine, Flash 80 cutting across the middle. Just like old times! As they used to say in SF, "You Can't Hit What You Can't Catch." I wonder, though, will he be slowed by age? I mean, the man is 42 years old. That's ancient ...
Wait, what's that? Rice never retired?
Well that's no fun. What's the point of being exceptionally good if you haven't first teased the public by calling it quits? After all, we can't postulate as to how good Rice could have been if he already is. Doesn't he know that, to properly feed his ego in the time-tested American fashion, he should have retired at 36 so we could all plead for his return? Then even if he did fail upon his return, he would have a host of excuses to fall back on -- the time away from the game, the diminished physical skills. But if he returned and succeeded? Ah, well that would have burnished his brilliance beyond anything he could have accomplished simply by playing an uninterrupted career.
We are a nation obsessed with what-ifs. What if McCain were Kerry's running mate? What if Alien were to somehow be pitted against Predator? (As we found out, wooden acting would ensue.) What if Guns N' Roses were to reunite?
Well, what if G N' R had never broken up and had instead put out three crappy albums, been swallowed whole by grunge and were currently touring with Poison, Dokken and Motley Crue in a Rockin' Rehab tour? Why does nobody consider that side of it?
Come to think of it, how many times has a what-if comeback scenario done anything but diminish the former brilliance of an athlete/actor/band/movie/etc.? I'd say Godfather II and Jordan's first un-retirement off the top of my head, though I'm sure there are others. But, speaking metaphorically, there are a whole lot of Caddyshack II's out there.
In general, I'm all for athletes playing as long as they want to or can -- bionic Rickey Henderson being the poster child -- without concern for their legacy. If you're good enough to play pro sports, I say play every down possible if you're playing because you love the game. As a former Division III athlete -- and I use that term very loosely -- I'd have been ecstatic to play five minutes of any pro game, in any sport. I'd retire with a 27.00 ERA and tell everyone about it, loudly. I'd treasure my five minutes in the NBA, even if they included getting swatted by Earl Boykins and shooting two airballs. Because those would be my two NBA airballs.
In this vein, I do not begrudge a comeback by someone like Alonzo Mourning, who had no choice but to retire and, given his druthers, would probably play until he was so old he needed to be carted to timeouts in a wheelbarrow.
What I don't like is when athletes come back for the money or just because they love the attention. It feels like a rip-off and I hate that people get sucked in by it. MikeTyson's last fight is a perfect example, as are (and I say this pre-emptively) any future George Foreman returns. Now, maybe I'm wrong and Deion is returning for the love of the game, but something tells me I'm not wrong.
In the meantime, all I can do is engage in my own wishful thinking. So here's to hoping Deion gets drilled on punt returns, fumbles early and often and gets torched by any and all receivers. And especially Jerry Rice.
Calling all Nittany Lions
Last week, the New York Times Magazine ran a story on Joe Paterno that was, shall we say, less than aggrandizing. The writer, Pat Jordan, also once tore Bill Walton to shreds in the same magazine.
If any of you Penn Staters read the story (the JoePa one, not Hyperbolic Bill) and have some insight, let me know what you think.
1. I'm ready for Serena to just play tennis now. Shin guards are for soccer.
2. Who, exactly, is going to go out and buy Coors Light because Rich Eisen told them to?
3. Stephen Colbert is a funny, funny man. For many of us who lived through the convention in New York last week, The Daily Show held together our sanity.
Finally, this week's edition of Important Sports Thoughts from My Friend Owen. The topic is the Kobe fallout. This is excerpted (with permission, of course) from an e-mail I received last Thursday:
When rich, athletic Angelenos go to criminal court, it is a lead-pipe lock a goober will referee the whole freaking mess. If there is a unified title for biggest jackass to run a celebrity trial, then Terry Ruckriegle just took the belt from Lance Ito, who at least got things to a verdict.
Also -- what is this nonsense about Kobe suing the girl for lost income (endorsements)? That's another question dreamed up by frantic, MSG-addled assignment editors, for sure. If anyone should sue for lost income, it's the 12 jurors who no longer have book deals -- or who have to return advances already paid. Come on, you know someone already cut an insta-book deal.
And hell, I'd like to sue someone for the loss of MonicaNovotny's hotness beamed to my TV. Isn't that alienation of affection? Loss of consortium?
As always, Owen asks the important questions.
Hope all of you had a nice Labor Day weekend. Later.