When a great athlete's career comes to an end, the moment itself is often bittersweet, but their life and career thereafter has just as much potential to be a train wreck as it can be a swan song. Athletes not only have to contend with the new reality of living outside of the sport that largely defined their identity, they face the burden of getting older.
For many former athletes, years of physical conditioning, strictly regimented diets and injuries give way to gravity and a life without a trainer on demand. If life after the game includes a career in sports broadcasting, fans could very well watch a beast of a man transform into a blubbery shadow of his former self.
If they don't put on the pounds, then they gradually become old men who were once uniquely, physically talented young men.
However, there are plenty of aging athletes who never truly lose that edge that made them an intimidating force on the field, court or ice—whether they keep themselves in peak physical condition or simply keep hold of their fearsome presence (or both.)
After consulting with science, it's been determined that there's no better measure of a retired athlete's ability to maintain this edge than by speculating whether they could still kick an average dude's ass. Conclusions were drawn and the following old athletes were deemed more than capable of opening a good ol' fashioned can of whoop ass, if called upon.
Who He Is: One of the true heavyweight contenders during one of pro boxing's most popular eras, George Foreman's life and career intersected with some of the greatest moments of the sport...or sports, period. The unfortunate victim of Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope strategy in the historic "Rumble in the Jungle" title fight, Foreman nevertheless was 86-5 over his 29-year career, with an Olympic gold medal to boot.
Today, George Foreman is a pseudo-grill master—or so you would think, based upon his ubiquitous brand of electrically heated grills. Great for nasty dorm rooms or those folks who love leathery hamburgers.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: George Foreman was at times great and at others a disappointment; but he could throw a devastating punch. He was still boxing at 48 and I don't care if he's just a year shy of 65, George would knock you out.
Maybe you're an aspiring young boxer or MMA fighter and know how to strike first (and effectively), but for most of us...it would be lights out.
Who He Is: One of the most beloved players of Boston Bruins lore, winger Terry O'Reilly was the quintessential over-performing grinder who used pure piss and vinegar to overcome any athletic deficit between him and the stars on the ice.
His Irish roots resonated with Boston fans and though injuries ended his 14-year career in 1985, O'Reilly walked away with three Stanley Cups and his jersey hanging in the rafters.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Referring to O'Reilly as a "grinder" really does the man a disservice when it comes to describing how much violence shaped his play; he fought 234 times in his career.
Have you broken the century mark?
He was also suspended eight games in 1979 when he scaled the glass and beat the snot out of a New York Rangers fan. He may be 62, but he can't turn off the Irish.
Who He Is: Along with fellow teammates Jack Lambert and Jack Hamm, retired Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Green helped turn a hapless franchise into a dynasty under head coach Chuck Knoll in the 1970s.
The "Steel Curtain" defense fueled a run of four Super Bowl victories from 1974-1980, with fierce personalities like Green's creating rivalries and game-changing plays that remain a staple of NFL Films. His Hall of Fame career not only helped shape the enduring identity of the Steelers, but it influenced pop culture as well.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: It's been 32 years since Greene packed it in, and you know after three decades there's still some dim, but persistent, longing to just destroy someone, like in the old days.
He's active and in shape, and if you're willing to oblige, I bet he could recapture some of that 70's magic—shattering bone in the process.
Who He Is: Bill Laimbeer always prided himself on playing the role of most infuriating member of the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys," who made life miserable for the rest of the NBA en route to consecutive championships in 1989 and 1990.
The 6'11" center elbowed, gouged and goaded his way to earning the reputation as the NBA's dirtiest player—inspiring what some consider to be one of the worst sports games ever, Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball.
Today, he's a successful WNBA coach who was hired last October by the New York Liberty to serve as head coach and GM.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: He's Bill Laimbeer; unless you happen to be a hair under seven feet tall and experienced in fist-a-cuffs, he's dominating you in both reach and rep. He kills animals and eats them.
In a mere moment, one of those hamhock-like arms would be initiating a brutal headlock and the fight would be over before it even really began.
Who He Is: While former Miami Dolphins running back Eugene "Mercury" Morris is not afraid to make headlines on his own volition, his place on the roster of the 1972 Dolphins—the last NFL team to go undefeated—ensures he'll be in the news each year as some team flirts with a perfect season.
A two-time Super Bowl winner and solid back, his football career is forever tied to that '72 Dolphins team and overshadowed by a three-year stint in prison after being convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1982.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: At 66, the man looks damn fit for his age and there is no questioning his tenacity. Squaring off against a former pro athlete makes you an underdog to begin with, but this is a ripped, feisty sexagenarian who not only did hard time, but he was freed after his conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.
You can add "sense of aggrievement" to the list of factors underpinning his desire to punch you in the face.
Who He Is: From 1980 until the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, retired U.S. Wrestler Bruce Baumgartner won a boatload of medals and titles as an amateur competitor, including two golds, a silver and a bronze in four Olympic appearances.
He currently serves as athletic director of Edinboro University in the Pennsylvania town of the same name.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Wrestlers are like members of an ultra-exclusive secret society—those of us on the outside are nearly powerless in the face of the ancient wisdom unlocked through their rituals. They know how to twist and bend our bodies into excruciating pretzels of suffering.
Baumgartner may not be able to go toe-to-toe with an elite wrestler these days, but with his gravity-bending noggin, champion-level know-how and...rockin' mustache...he'll certainly make short work of you.
Who He Is: Considered by many to be the greatest pro running back of any era, the original athlete/renaissance man defined the Cleveland Browns franchise from 1957 until his controversial and unexpected retirement in 1967 to pursue a movie career.
Brown's career after football was largely a success, starring in The Dirty Dozen and several other well-received films before returning to the NFL as an advisor to the Browns.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: He may have proved to be a versatile talent on and off the field, but Brown also gained a reputation for having an explosive temper. He was accused of throwing his girlfriend off a frickin' second story balcony in 1968 and served a six-month jail term in 2002 for charges stemming from an incident where he smashed a window of his wife's car.
Now pair that rage with a trunk-like body that looks capable—at age 77—of absorbing a cannonball without much discomfort. Get into a fight with Brown and you'll be at the mercy of his brisket-fists.
Who He Is: A Hall of Fame tight end drafted by the Bears in 1961, Mike Ditka spent the latter half of his 12-year career on the Eagles and Cowboys, parlaying his reputation as a tough-as-nails leader into being named the head coach of his beloved Bears in 1981.
During his often tumultuous tenure, Ditka built one of the most dominant defenses in pro football, culminating in the second-most lopsided Super Bowl win in NFL history in 1986. Later, Ditka wasn't able to duplicate his success as coach of the New Orleans Saints and has since become a fixture on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Mike Ditka was born and raised in Aliquippa, Pa., one of those once-prosperous boroughs outside of Pittsburgh that's been devastated by the collapse of the steel industry. During Ditka's childhood, life revolved around the dangerous, unglamourous work.
The dude probably got in more fights before puberty than the average person will in their whole life—his hard-scrabble, tough-guy schtick defined the character of his Bears teams and inspired one of the best-running SNL sketches ever. The man fought constantly with another tough SOB, Buddy Ryan, and arguably won.
He would kick your ass and then drag you home to your mother for a whipping—despite the fact you're a middle-aged man.
Who He Is: The original "Mr. October" in Yankees pinstripes, right fielder Reggie Jackson's 20-year career began with the Oakland A's in 1967, where he spent eight years before signing with the Yankees in 1975—earning his nickname over four outstanding seasons.
The Hall of Famer is one of the most clutch sluggers to ever play the game as well as one of its most polarizing figures, publicly criticizing decisions made by management as well as having an infamously prickly personality.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Search keywords "Reggie Jackson Jerk" on Google and your screen will light up with thousands of results, from disenchanted fans to feature pieces on bridges burned. He is a man with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, and Jackson isn't afraid to let you know how much your presence displeases him.
Also, he nearly got himself banned by the club that reveres Jackson's No. 44.
He's a tough old diva who knows he's a badass and has long-parted with any desire to be patient. There are no psychological barriers to keep "Mr. October" from wailing on you—with gusto.
Who He Is: Hall of Fame guard Jerry Sloan made his mark as a tenacious, opportunistic defender over his 10-year NBA career. Drafted by the Baltimore Bullets in 1965, he spent only a year with the team before signing with the newly formed Chicago Bulls, where "The Original Bull" remained for the rest of his career.
After 23 seasons as coach of the Utah Jazz, Sloan resigned in 2011, walking away as the third-winningest coach in NBA history.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: The best basketball coaches almost always seem to be tireless list-makers with indestructible vocal cords and foreheads full of bulging veins. Sloan resigned in part because he was tired of dealing with then-Jazz star Deron Williams' combative attitude.
Over the decades as a player, and especially as a coach, this man reined in dudes bigger and tougher than you, including Jazz tormentor Sir Charles Barkley, who respects Sloan so much that he obliged his request to be his presenter for the Hall of Fame.
Sloan may have had enough of the NBA, but he certainly has enough left in the tank to slap you around.
Who He Is: Chicago Bears great and Hall of Famer Dick Butkus is one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers in NFL history. His legacy serves as a both a gauge and overshadows every great linebacker that has come along.
Over his nine-year career, his play produced some of the NFL's most iconic images. And let's not forget, he was the heart and soul opposite Paul Reiser on the sitcom My Two Dads.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: I would hope you penciled in "Got my ass kicked by Dick Butkus" on your calendar ahead of the date, based on the man's name alone.
He's still a big dude at 70, and something tells me that nothing would set him off more than some sass-mouthed punk with two good knees.
Age: 52 (62 in hard-livin' years)
Who He Is: Jointly named FIFA Player of the 20th Century with the legendary Pelé, the Argentine forward was a fantastic melange of great talent and forehead-slapping controversy. His career was defined by amazing plays on the pitch, brash outbursts...and rampant cocaine use.
After an 18-month stint as the coach of Argentina's national team, Maradona was let go when his contract expired in 2010. He recently landed a new gig as the sports envoy of Dubai.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: At 5'5", the 52-year-old Maradano may be diminutive and have a coke-ravaged body, but if there was ever a combination to never sleep on, it's short-man syndrome and ex-coke head.
His mind is a storm, his body a wreck and his life on the razor's edge of chaos—guys like Maradona don't end the fight on the ground.
Toss in his recent, virulent anti-American sentiment, and you're about to find out why you don't start a fight with a short guy sporting excessive jewelry and cinematic facial hair.
Who He Is: Hall of Fame MLB pitcher Nolan Ryan played for the Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers over his 23-year career, but there was one thing that remained a constant and shaped his legacy—the fastball. Regularly recorded near or even just above 100 mph, the right-handed pitcher could bring the heat like almost no other. Ryan also owns the record for no-hitters at seven and strikeouts with a mind-boggling 5,714.
Today, Ryan is the principal owner and CEO of the Texas Rangers.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Ryan is a "cattleman" and sells his own brand of beef products, but there is nothing about the man's personality that makes him particularly threatening.
What is key here is that arm: imagine getting punched or even slapped (*giggle*) by a limb capable of hurling a baseball 60 feet at 100 mph. Worse yet, imagine Ryan hurling baseballs at your head.
Who He Is: Retired Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary was a playmaking presence that anchored the smothering Chicago Bears defenses of the Mike Ditka-Buddy Ryan era of the 1980s.
His intense focus and knowledge of the game has provided numerous coaching opportunities in the NFL as an assistant. He served as interim head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2008 after Mike Nolan was fired midseason and was eventually made the team's official head coach—a two-season run that did not end well.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Singletary may have struggled in his first job as a head coach, but it wasnn't because he didn't look like a badass with no patience for your guff. He's 54 and looks like he's in better shape than most men his age.
Your beating would be coolly efficient and may or may not include a melodramatic pants-drop by its perpetrator.
Who He Is: Before Bill Cowher's successful and remarkably consistent tenure as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-2006, he got his start over a five-year NFL career as a solid special teams player for the (*gasp*) Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
From there, "The Chin" went on to work in assistant coaching positions for the Browns and Kansas City Chiefs before getting the call after the Steelers' Chuck Knoll retired.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Cowher is a large man, and there isn't a more fearless person—or less concerned about self-preservation—than the guys who go barrelling downfield on special teams. He got the reputation "The Chin" because of how rage makes it protrude.
He doesn't look 56, and I bet he doesn't throw punches like your typical 56-year-old, either.
Who He Is: If you're named Jack Youngblood, you're either destined to be a disruptive, menacing NFL tight end or an outlaw who's breaking hearts as often as he's holding up banks. For this Jack Youngblood, he went the way of the former over his 14-year, Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Rams.
The grizzled defensive end played in 201 consecutive games from 1971 to 1984, including a Super Bowl run in 1979 when he continued to play despite breaking his leg in the divisional battle against the Dallas Cowboys.
It was a legendary display of toughness that cemented Youngblood as one of the most revered players in the franchise's history.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: There are two very good reasons to avoid getting into a legit fist fight: fear and pain. If you go toe-to-toe with someone who feels neither, it doesn't matter what their age is—you're either going to get your ass kicked or have to go all in to emerge as a marginal victor.
Not only does Youngblood have a well-documented disregard for pain and fear of confrontation, but he's still a 6'4" beast at 63. And even if none of the aforementioned advantages applied, you simply aren't going win a fight against someone with the name Jack Youngblood.
Who He Is: Ukrainian-born winger Dave Semenko made his mark in the NHL when he joined the Edmonton Oilers in 1978 and took on the role of brawling protector of "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky during the team's ascent to becoming a dynasty during the 1980s.
As any hockey fan knows, few teams can resist the urge to send out a marginally talented goon to decommission an opponent's biggest scoring threat. In Semenko, Gretzky had a powerful counterpoint to such a strategy.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Considering the punishment the average pro hockey player endures over a career, fighting any retired hockey player would mean facing a guy who barely flinches when a tooth gets knocked out. However, this is Dave Semenko—the enforcer who fought Muhammad Ali to a draw in 1983.
Who He Is: Steve Spurrier is one of those people who has always seemed to be on an upward trajectory.
As the star quarterback of the Florida Gators, Spurrier the player won the Heisman Trophy 1966, and after a brief "meh" NFL career, he coached the lowly Duke Blue Devils to an ACC title before taking over the reins of the Florida Gators (winning a national championship in 1996.)
After a shaky start, the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks has turned the traditionally ne'er-do-well SEC East team into a national contender over the last seven years.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: "The Ol' Ball Coach" is one of those grizzled southern smart asses who doesn't look like much of a threat, but once things get real, the average guy soon realizes they're in way over their head.
Spurrier hates losing, and he's got old man strength—the kind that defies his floppy exterior, is born from decades of sun exposure and hardened by life lessons.
He'd knock you out, then hand you an ice-pack for the shiner and a cold one for your dignity.
Who He Is: A pass-rushing nightmare at defensive end, Carl Eller was a key part of the Minnesota Vikings' "Purple People Eaters" D-line that terrorized opposing offenses from 1967 on into the late 1970s. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, Eller has since become a leading advocate for improving the compensation and benefits provided to retired NFL Players.
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: Obviously, anyone who helped garner the nickname "Purple People Eaters" is going to be a dude who's big, strong and known for having a mean streak—even at 71. In Carl Eller's case, he does not need the benefit of the doubt.
When he was arrested on charges of making terroristic threats, assault and DWI in 2008, police described Eller as possessing "superhuman strength," absorbing multiple taser shots before he could be overpowered.
So, even if you entered the fight with a frickin' taser, the odds are well-stacked against you.
Who He Is: A cross between Andre Agassi and Happy Gilmore, John McEnroe is the original bad-boy star of U.S. men's tennis—and there is little doubt he relishes the role. While there is nothing unique about an athlete antagonizing his opponents (as well as linesmen, fans and [fill in the blank]), McEnroe is that rare specimen who was more than capable of backing up the smack.
The former World No. 1 claimed seven Grand Slam singles titles from 1979 until his retirement in 1992, but he continues to gleefully provide biting commentary about the game and its stars, most recently haranguing the Williams sisters for having a "bad attitude."
Why He'd Kick Your Ass: I imagine most people would walk into a fight with John McEnroe and suddenly be overcome by the stunning realization, "Holy @#$!, I'm about to get my ass kicked by John @#$! McEnroe!"
After regaining your composure, you'd be squaring off against a very angry, sinewy 54-year-old celebrity-athlete who can still move like a spider monkey. Who would you put your money on? Exactly.