Weekly Five Spot: Grand Finales

Nick NickelCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2007

As much as we'd like to hang out in perpetuity, the facts on the ground have dictated otherwise, this corporate ladder ain't gonna climb itself, after all, and besides that we've got the sneaking suspicion that the Spot has just about run its course. (Honestly, do you really want a list of the all-time greatest national anthem performances? Because between Carl Lewis and Roseanne Barr...) So it is that we bid adieu to the Bleacher Report with a rundown of the five grandest finales in sports history, pulled off by a quintet of aging jocks who knew, as it were, when to walk away. Like Keith Richards said, you gotta move while it's still fun, and us, Meat:
We're getting out before they make us run. Thanks for the company...

Number Five: Ted Williams

September 28, 1960: An aging Splinter, in the final at-bat of a splendid career, cowboys up and smacks a solo homer off the Baltimore Orioles' Jack Fisher before 10,454 fans at Fenway Park. That's pretty good. July 5, 2002: After a series of strokes, Teddy Ballgame finally kicks the bucket in Crystal River, Florida...and is then immediately transferred to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona by his son John-Henry, where his body is placed in cryonic suspension over the objections of his eldest daughter. That's really good, especially if you buy the bit about not going gentle into that good night. Or if, you know, you're a fan of Ted-sicles.

Number Four: Will Clark

Allow us: Will who? The sweet-swinging first baseman might go down as little more than a footnote in the grand sweep of baseball history, but anyone who was paying attention remembers the way he went out in 2000: by tearing it up in St. Louis, where his hot bat, a .345 average to go along with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs after a trading-deadline transfer from Baltimore, helped the Cardinals secure the NL Central title. That effort, of course, came in the stead of an injured Mark McGwire...and while we don't want to flog a dead horse on the steroid thing, we should probably point out that Clark is on record professing to have never ingested anything more performance-enhancing than 'Coors-Light-ostene.' Which, really: Who says the national pastime's lost its charm?

Number Three: Zinedine Zidane

Ignominy our derriere, for our money, Zizou ended his career on the highest of high notes. Sure, some critics might argue that he cost his side a shot at the Cup, or that he brought disgrace upon himself and his country...but for godsakes Meat did you see the way that Italian dude went down? Brilliant, that's just brilliant. And yes, we're well aware that there's probably a World War II joke in here somewhere, but we're gonna go ahead and let you find it for yourself. (A hint: Start with Benito Mussolini and work backwards...)

Number Two: Michael Jordan

Alas, alack, would that hypercompetitiveness weren't such a crippling disease. Things were so perfect in '98, weren't they?: the steal, the push-off, the image of an all-time great at his all-time greatest, frozen in time for once and forever. The follow-through alone would have been enough to secure Jordan the top spot this week, if only the fire that drives weren't also the fire that consumes, and if only he hadn't found his way back to the court as a Washington Wizard in 2001. In fairness to his Airness, it's worth noting that he could still throw down in his waning days...but somehow our memory of watching the old man impose a reign of psychological terror on poor little Kwame Brown doesn't quite measure up to everything that came before it. Oh well. At least he didn't completely embarrass himself with, say, another midlife baseball crisis. Yikes.

Number One: John Elway

You see Mike, that's how you do it. Elway knew when to leave well enough alone after winning Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, probably not least of all because he had plenty of prior experience losing the big one. (Niners fans are ya wit' me?) The bottom line, maybe, is that there's nothing like failure to make you appreciate success, and that quitting while you're ahead is something of an acquired skill. And as we've always been first and foremost in the business of education here at the Spot, we suppose that there's really only one note it could ever make sense to end on:

If you ever hear us talking about a comeback, Meat, do us a favor and buy us a Wizards jersey. Or a Birmingham Barons hat. Lord knows we wouldn't to go repeating the sins of our fathers, or anything like that...