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Posted: Friday April 15, 2005 9:32AM; Updated: Wednesday July 20, 2005 5:42PM
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6. Fran Tarkenton, Jan. 29, 1977: The first athlete to host the show, Tarkenton bravely launched into a rendition of Feelings in the monologue. In a fake commercial bit, he touted the benefits of "Anabolic Steroids Cereal," a full two decades before Bud Selig was shocked (shocked!) to discover that steroids might be a problem. He also appeared in what would today qualify as a very edgy skit with Garret Morris in which Tarkenton pretended to defend the thinking that blacks aren't qualified to be NFL quarterbacks. The show basically served as Tarkenton's successful audition for That's Incredible.

7. Jeff Gordon, Jan. 11, 2003: Gordon's hosting gig helped cement NASCAR's elevation into the mainstream. Gordon willingly humiliated himself for the sake of laughs, the quality most necessary in a sports-celebrity host. He gamely played an Air Force fighter pilot at a grade school career day and a waiter who beats up an actor playing Gary Busey. By the end of the show, his inhibitions gone, Gordon drew applause by gleefully playing air guitar to The Steve Miller Band while wearing a hideous mullet.

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8. Michael Jordan, Sept. 28, 1991: This show is best remembered for the segment in which His Airness meets up with self-affirmation guru Stuart Smalley. Smalley has Jordan repeat the line, "I don't have to dribble fast, or throw the ball into the basket" while the duo look into a mirror. Jordan also stopped by Bill Swerski's Super Fans, those Chicago guys led by George Wendt of Cheers fame with the tag line, "Da Bears." Still, this season-opening episode was stolen by Jesse Jackson's reading of Green Eggs and Ham.

9. Andy Roddick, Nov. 8, 2003: Roddick had his monologue interrupted by John McEnroe, who fumed, "I can't believe they're letting you host. You're a punk." Still, Roddick held his own, playing everyone from Andre Agassi to a hunky (and shirtless) gynecologist to himself, while soundly beating a 60-year-old Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes II. Fresh off a U.S. Open victory -- and with Roger Federer still just another name -- Roddick was never hotter.

10. Tie, Joe Montana and Walter Payton, Jan. 24, 1987; Alex Karras, Feb. 2, 1985: One critic called the Montana-Payton show the funniest SNL episode in six years. Both played against type effectively, with Montana as a geeky roommate to Phil Hartman and the gentle Payton boasting at one point, "Just the thought that I can kill the average guy on the street makes me smile." Karras earns his place on this list for the "White Guy Rap" he performed with Jim Belushi, which included this stanza: "I like your shirt/I like your tie/I like your wife/Just kidding, guy."

WORST PERFORMANCE: There's stiff competition here as well, with the emphasis on "stiff." Wayne Gretzky, Deion Sanders and George Foreman were all relative duds. But top honors go to Nancy Kerrigan, the ice queen who acted as if she was frozen solid on the March 12, 1994 show.


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