tom jones' two cents
Another chance. That's all they want. One more chance.
For some, it's a chance to reclaim past glory. For others, it's a chance to get back to the winner's circle. For one in particular, he just wants to be able to play.
Today we look at those athletes who want one more chance.
Marty St. Louis
If there's one guy you should feel sorry for when it comes to the NHL lockout, it's Lightning forward St. Louis. Let's say this season is lost to a lockout. What kind of rust builds up on a 37-year-old body if he sits out an entire NHL season? In fact, at the start of next season, St. Louis will be 38.
St. Louis keeps himself in incredible shape and one could argue that the year off could do his bones some good. But your skills do not sharpen in your late 30s when you're a professional athlete.
But here's the really sad part for St. Louis: When he retires, he will be a borderline Hall of Famer. Imagine the numbers he would have put up had it not been for, potentially, two lost seasons. We're talking, perhaps, 60 or 70 goals and as many as 200 points. Hopefully future Hall of Fame voters will keep that in mind.
I have to be honest here. I still think Manning needs another Super Bowl ring before I put him among the truly elite quarterbacks of all-time. He has a ton of regular-season records and he does have a Super Bowl championship. You can probably find plenty of people who consider him the best QB who ever played the game. But Manning has been surrounded by as much skill as anyone over his career and he still has only one title — that's fewer than Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and little brother Eli. And that's just of the active quarterbacks.
All-time, he doesn't match up with Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, John Elway and Jim Plunkett. Then there are guys who won the old NFL (pre-Super Bowl) championships, such as Johnny Unitas.
The bottom line is Manning is 9-10 in the postseason and four victories came in one postseason. Throw out that one Super Bowl run — and, sure, I realize that's not totally fair — and his postseason record would be 5-10. Sorry, that doesn't equate to elite, particularly when he has been on teams more than good enough to win it all.
His comeback this season with the Broncos has been remarkable and a championship would elevate his career alongside the best QBs ever.
It's interesting to follow the arc of the Yankees slugger's career. Once upon a time he seemed on his way to being the greatest baseball player who ever lived. These days, his reputation is in tatters. A steroid scandal has tainted his numbers. His need for attention and acceptance, as well as his postseason failures, have tainted his legacy. And, no matter what he does, he always will be seen as the opposite of longtime teammate Derek Jeter, who will go into history as a classy and dependable leader and winner.
A-Rod's past few years have been marked by injuries. The third baseman hasn't played more than 138 games in six years. Now a major hip surgery will keep him out of the lineup for half of next season. He turns 38 in July, and you wonder if he will ever be the same player again.
Can he stay healthy enough for one more whack at repairing his image?
The Swiss tennis star is 31 years old. In tennis years, that's like 76, isn't it? Rarely, anymore, do you see a male player over 30 continue to be so relevant. It appeared his time of winning majors was just about over, then he showed he had another punch left in him when he beat Andy Murray to win Wimbledon back in July. But Murray rebounded to beat Federer for the Olympic gold in London.
Now it would appear that Federer is starting to lose ground to Murray, and he's probably already behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, as long as Nadal is healthy. Even one more major would be quite the accomplishment. After all, Federer only won one of the past 11 majors.
I still find the story of Woods — from his phenomenal success as a teenager to becoming the best golfer on the planet to his fall from grace — to be the most fascinating sports story of our generation. And now we are getting into the later chapters.
Will he ever win another major? Will he win five more to break Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 majors? Will he go down as the no-doubt-about-it greatest golfer who ever lived?
Hard to believe that he hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He turns 37 a week from today. Time is getting short for Woods to make his move.
Will he get there? Who knows, but it sure will be fun to watch.
This is in no way to suggest that Bryant can no longer play the game of basketball. He remains an elite player, averaging nearly 30 points a game to lead the league and still fully capable of going off for 50 anytime he takes the floor.
But here's the thing about Bryant: He's 34 years old, and it's an old 34. Incredibly, this is his 17th season in the league. Throw in another 220 postseason games and it's like he has played nearly 20 NBA seasons. Think of the wear and tear physically.
Meantime, with the Lakers struggling to find a winning recipe, Bryant says this is the most mentally gruelling season he has endured.
Does he have the energy to withstand what it will take to get the Lakers back in the NBA Finals?
When the Pac-man was punching his way through Sugar Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya over the past few years, he not only was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but one of the best fighters the sweet science has ever seen.
But now he has lost two fights in a row, including just two weeks ago when he was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Marquez. Certainly, Pacquaio has enough cache and probably just enough skills left to get back in the ring for a fifth fight against Marquez. Then again, you have to wonder if a 34-year-old can ever be the same fighter after the type of knockout he suffered.