We rank 'em. You react. That's how the Daily List rolls.
5/09/2007 05:00:00 PM
Top Five Perfect Endings
The Great One had a classy send-off in his final game.
By Mike McAllister, SI.com
Retirement talk is in the air. Women's tennis star Kim Clijsters announced her intentions this week to hang 'em up at the ripe old age of 23. Floyd Mayweather said he will retire from boxing following his win over Oscar De La Hoya. New York Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan suggested he may be done following a 19-year NHL career that included 1,294 points and nearly twice as many penalty minutes.
Mayweather, provided he follows through on his plan (you'd get better odds on an Elvis comeback), will be one of those rare athletes who retires on top. Certainly, winning a championship in your final game is the best way to go out, but that's not the only script for the perfect ending for a sports star. As a bookend to the Daily List's five saddest comebacks earlier this week, here are my five favorite final chapters:
5. Wayne Gretzky ... Prior to the Rangers' game against the Penguins on April 18, 1999, the national anthems of both Canada and the U.S. were adjusted to reflect Gretzky's impending retirement. Gretzky then went out and assisted on the Rangers' lone goal in a 2-1 OT loss in his final game. Afterward, he was named the first, second and third stars of the game, only the second NHL player (besides Maurice Richard in 1944) to be given that honor.
4. Wrestlers ... When Rulon Gardner won the bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics, he finished his final match, then untied his shoes and left them in the center of the mat -- a nice tradition for wrestlers when their careers come to an end.
3. Pele ... In an exhibition match at Giants Stadium in 1977 between Pele's NASL team, the Cosmos, and Santos, his former club team in Brazil, the legendary soccer star split his time in his final appearance, playing one half for each side (Pele scored on a free kick for Cosmos in the first half). After the game, he acknowledged the crowd while holding an American flag in one hand and a Brazilian flag in the other.
2. Ted Williams ... In late September of 1960, the Splendid Splinter stepped in against Orioles reliever Jack Fisher in the eighth inning of a game at Fenway. On a 1-1 pitch, Williams delivered a home run in the final at bat of his career. The crowd was small (just 10,453) but the noise was ear-shattering. Even so, they couldn't entice Williams to come out for a curtain call. As John Updike wrote later in the New Yorker: "Gods do not answer letters."
1. John Wooden ... Players such as John Elway, Bill Russell, Ray Bourque and Rocky Marciano all ended their careers as champions, but in choosing one to represent them, I opted instead for a coach, the Wizard of Westwood. Following the Bruins' national semifinal win in the 1975 NCAA tournament, Wooden surprisingly announced his retirement -- which pretty much eliminated any hope of Kentucky beating UCLA in the title game. The emotionally charged Bruins won 92-85, giving Wooden his 10th title in a 12-season span.
OK, so what fond farewells or traditional send-offs do you most remember?
With any luck, Extreme Poker will soon be available on your local cable.
By John Rolfe, SI.com
All hail the human mind in its unceasing search for flavorful new combinations. Sports fans have long had biathlon, triathlon, pentathlon, and heptathlon -- events that serve up a grueling stew of cross-country skiing and shooting, or running, cycling and swimming, or shooting, fencing, swimming, horseback riding and cross-country running. In recent years, mixed martial arts have brought together assorted methods of beating an opponent's gray matter out in one wild, bloody and extremely popular spectacle. Perhaps the most mind-boggling hybrid sport of all is chess boxing.
The creation of Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh, chess boxing melds the cerebral acumen of chess with the visceral fury of the sweet science, alternating rounds in each discipline and allowing us to witness the compelling vision of punch-drunk pugs trying to make like Bobby Fischer. Matches can be won by knockout, decision, checkmate, or remaining lost in a fog of chirping birdies until your 12-minute limit on the chess game expires.
This got me to thinking that, hey, I can cook up a hot hybrid, too. Some sports just go together like salami and provolone, chocolate ice cream and garlic pickles, or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Pavarotti. Here are five I've cooked up off the top of my pointed head. I fully expect residuals once they take off.
1. Extreme Poker ... Artfully combining the two hottest sports of recent years, contestants square off in bare-knuckle, extreme bouts after each hand. What I like best about it is that it vents and stokes the animosity that builds during the customary steely eyed staredowns and come-on-chicky trash talk after the cards are dealt. Bouts are seeded accorded to the value of each contestant's preceding hand and will determine the seating for the next hand.
2. Footballroom Dancing ... The Chad Johnsons of the world will finally get an officially sanctioned stage for their end-zone celebrations, but in a dignified manner that soothes the sensibilities and concerns of the staid ol' NFL. Coaches will surely embrace, so to speak, the chance to score extra extra-points that are awarded by the on-field officials using the Olympic scoring system. I can just see NFL teams feverishly bidding for the services of those old hoofers Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice.
3. Grolf ... This scintillating sport combines the finesse and exquisite timing of golf with the brute strength of Greco-Roman wrestling, compelling each foursome to pair off and engage in a five-minute bout (without rest) on each tee to determine how many strokes will be shaved off each player's score on the ensuing hole: 1 stroke for a takedown, escape or reversal; three for putting an opponent on his back, etc. Wouldn't you just love to see how Tiger's putting holds up after he goes to the mat with John Daly? Of course you would.
4. Badhockey ... No, it's not what we witnessed during the days of the trap-drenched NHL. This employs a family-friendly new way to settle tie games without a shootout (too easy for pro hockey players) or endless postseason overtimes (too tough on fans who have to get up for work in the morning). Teams merely square off in a badminton game on skates. Sticks will be used in lieu of rackets. Checking is allowed only when a player strays into the other team's end of the court.
5. Bobsledarts ... A masterful blend of speed, reflexes and pub smarts. With an ostensibly sober designated driver at the wheel, the rest of the four-man crew is given pints of beer and a handful of darts to throw at round corkboard targets along the course in order to shave seconds off their final time. Seconds will be added according to the amount of suds spilled during the run. In the event of ties, a playoff run will be conducted in which crews must also pick up women who are stationed along the course -- without stopping.
OK, time for you to put on your chef's hat. What hybrids can you come up with? Let's hear 'em.
Being a professional athlete is like being in a famous rock band -- no matter what you look like, simply making it as far as you have opens doors you never dreamed of before. Saying you're a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys has a different ring to it at that flashy nightclub than saying you're a computer programmer for Microsoft.
We know this and yet we're still bewildered when we see an athlete nab a famous hottie (as if we somehow had a chance in the first place). With that in mind, we present to you the current five athlete/celebrity couples that have us shaking our heads.
1. San Diego Chargers long snapper David Binn & Pamela Anderson ... This is our favorite couple of the year if for no other reason than the fact that Binn is a deep snapper. Seriously, when was the last time a deep snapper made it into Page Six and US Weekly?
2. New Orleans Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic & Aleka Kamila ... With the divorce of Rony Seikaly and Elisa Benitez, this is now basketball's unlikeliest couple. The hairy Hornets sharpshooter somehow nabbed a Greek goddess who doubles as a model and the mother of their two children.
3. Chicago Bears safety Adam Archuleta & Jennifer Walcott ... Chances are Archuleta has been hooking up with beauties like Walcott back when he was at Arizona State, but we still have to put the couple on the list. Walcott is one of the hottest Playboy Playmates and Archuleta looks like a beefed-up version of K-Fed.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia & Carmella DeCesare ... So much for Terrell Owens' claims about his former San Francisco quarterback. Garcia married DeCesare, the 2004 Playmate of the Year, last month. That's not even the best part about DeCesare. She was charged with assault after a catfight in a bar with a woman whom she accused Garcia of having an affair with back in 2004. Now that's a keeper.
5. Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil & Natalie Nelson ... You could understand Nelson, the leader of the USC Song Girls, dating defensive captain Dallas Sartz while she was cheering on the Trojans. Yet she took everyone by surprise when she started dating Kalil, who wasted little time in proposing to Nelson in an elaborate setup at the Coliseum. He asked her to watch him pose for an SI photo shoot on the field before the stadium lights went off and a video of the couple was shown on the Jumbotron before he got down on one knee and asked for her hand. The couple plans to wed next March.
So who makes your list of sports' most unlikely couples?
Jim Palmer's comeback in 1991 didn't last past spring training.
By Mike McAllister, SI.com
Roger Clemens made it official Sunday -- he's coming back for another season, this time with the Yankees. While the Rocket's return has become an annual event following his first "retirement" from baseball in 2003, he has shown an ability to remain competitive despite his advanced age.
But other athletes haven't been as fortunate after deciding to return to their sport after a lengthy absence. With plenty of candidates to choose from, here are five of the saddest comebacks in recent memory:
1. Jim Palmer ... Retiring in 1984 after winning 268 games with the Orioles, Palmer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990. A year later, at age 45, he tried to come back as a non-roster invitee with the Orioles but quickly realized it was a foolish idea. Kind of like that underwear ad.
2. Michael Jordan ... We've got no problems with his comeback from his first retirement (after all, he did lead the Bulls to three more titles following his foray into baseball). But about that second retirement -- so what if he averaged better than 20 points during those two seasons in Washington. It was difficult to watch Jordan become mortal.
3. Jose Canseco ... In between admitting to steroids abuse, testifying before Congress and writing a controversial book, Canseco also has spent time trying to revive his career. It hasn't been pretty. Last summer, he signed on with the Golden Baseball League, and was traded from San Diego to Long Beach after one game. But hey, he did win the league's Home Run Derby.
4. Ricky Williams ... With rumors flying about a third failed drug test, the Dolphins running back retired just before the 2004 season. He returned a year later, and even had a couple of 100-yard days. But he eventually tested positive again for drugs and was suspended, eventually spending the 2006 season playing in Canada. He's currently awaiting word on his reinstatement to the NFL.
5. Boxers ... There have been so many ill-fated comebacks from supposed retirements in the fight profession that choosing just one doesn't do it justice. But I'm partial to Mike Tyson, who was more circus freak than legendary boxer after returning to the ring after serving three years on a rape charge.
OK, so who makes your list of the saddest comebacks in sports?