- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
At age 58 of a degenerative nerve condition, former Russian gymnast Nikolai Andrianov (above), who for 28 years held the record for most Olympic medals won by a male athlete. Robbed by the disease of his ability to speak or move his arms and legs in recent years, Andrianov in his prime was a titanic athlete—especially on the vault and in floor exercises—and a daredevil in his programs. In an era when other athletes limited their routines to double backflip dismounts from the high bar, the barrel-chested Andrianov showed a stock car driver's bravado by going after triples. He won 15 medals (including at least one in every discipline and seven golds) at the Munich, Montreal and Moscow Summer Games, from 1972 through '80, a total unsurpassed by any man until Michael Phelps earned his 16th at the 2008 Beijing Games.
By Bellarmine, the NCAA Division II men's basketball championship in the Kentucky school's first title-game appearance, a 71--68 victory over BYU-Hawaii last Saturday. Justin Benedetti led Bellarmine in scoring with 15 points and made two steals in the final 1:14 that helped the Knights (33--2) extend their lead to 69--65. Jet Chang became the first player in 13 years from a losing team to be named Most Outstanding Player after scoring a game-high 35 points for BYU-Hawaii (22--9). The Seasiders, who made just 25% of their second-half shots after topping 60% in their previous two games, pulled within 69--68 on a three-pointer with 10.6 seconds left and had a chance to force OT after two Bellarmine free throws. But the Knights broke up a long inbounds pass with 2.1 seconds remaining, and time expired before BYU-Hawaii could get off a shot.
With an undisclosed type of cancer, 77-year-old former NFL coach Buddy Ryan, whose defensive innovations dramatically influenced the NFL. Ryan came to prominence as the coordinator of the Vikings' Purple People Eaters defense of the late 1970s. Later, as the coordinator on Mike Ditka's Bears of the '80s, he perfected his staple 46 Defense, which created havoc by rushing five to eight defenders on any given play. That system became the driving force behind Chicago's Super Bowl XX title, in '86, and that team's place among the greatest defenses in NFL history. Ryan continued to use the scheme in later coaching stints in Philadelphia, Houston and Arizona before retiring in '95 to breed horses. Said Jets coach Rex Ryan, one of Buddy's twin sons (along with Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan), of his father's illness, "It's going to take more than this to get rid of him.... He's a tough old guy."
In his attempt to impersonate his identical twin brother, Jose, at a celebrity boxing match, Ozzie Canseco, whose lack of tattoos exposed the attempted masquerade. Jose, the former major league slugger who mashed 462 homers before admitting in 2005 to having used steroids during his career, was originally scheduled to fight Billy Padden at a nightclub in Seminole, Fla., last Saturday; and Celebrity Boxing promoter Damon Feldman claims to have paid Canseco half of a $10,000 fight fee in advance. But Jose—whose postbaseball boxing career includes fighting to a draw in '09 with Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce—pulled a switcharoo by swapping in Ozzie (below, with celebrity ringman Michael Lohan), a move the twins are alleged to have used at past autograph sessions. This time Ozzie's tatless arms blew the twins' cover, and a Celebrity Boxing employee alerted Feldman to the ruse. "A bait-and-switch," Feldman told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel afterward. "I'm disgusted."
With the NFL owners' vote to move kickoffs to the 35-yard line, Bears return specialist Devin Hester, who believes the change will render the kickoff obsolete. On March 22 owners voted 26--6 in favor of the change, which moves the placement of the kick from the 30- to the 35-yard line in an effort to prevent injuries by increasing touchbacks and limiting running starts on tackles. Hester, who has returned four kickoffs for scores (and who holds the record for combined return TDs, 14), complained about the change later that day on a Chicago radio broadcast: "They're changing the whole fun of the game," he said. "It's like you're taking the whole return game out of the picture." Similar complaints were posted on Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs's Twitter account. But Saints coach Sean Payton said player safety was more important, calling kickoffs "the highest-risk-of-injury play."