>>> Balls to the Wall
By staff writer Dan Opp
March 22, 2006

Roger Clemens entered the World Baseball Classic claiming this would be his last hurrah…maybe. Now that the USA baseball team has been eliminated from the WBC andjoined our country’s basketball squad as the most underperforming prima donnas on the planet, the final chapter in the Rocket’s storied career is now officially closed…unofficially.

This isn’t the first time Clemens has tugged on baseball fans’ heartstrings. At the end of the 2003 season, he claimed he was walking away for good. This prompted a standing ovation from the home crowd at Fenway, of all places, after Clemens’ “last ever appearance” in Boston. Well, Clemens stuck to his retirement for all of two months before inking a deal with the Houston Astros. His buttboy, Andy Pettitte, soon followed. This huge douchebag maneuver by Clemens pissed off the Yankee faithful to no end and, therefore, caused me great delight. Considering the numbers that Clemens has put up for the past two seasons, it’s safe to say his decision to continue with his career was a good one.

But what about those guys who just wouldn’t admit that there was no gas left in the tank? What about the former greats who hung on just a little too long and ended their careers flailing around on the playing field like some sort of arthritic trout? I’ll tell you what. I’m giving them their due right here. That’s what.

It’s with great pleasure that I present to you…

The Balls to the Wall Sweet Dreams Team

(Or, the “Put a Bullet in Lenny’s Head for His Own Good” Awards. My English teachers were right. High school summer reading did come in handy. Once.)

Guard: Magic Johnson – After being diagnosed with AIDS and retiring from the NBA in 1991, a bloated Magic tried making a comeback for the 1996 season, much to the dismay of every player with breakable skin. His comeback lasted all of 32 games. It was probably the worst decision he’s made since that time he decided to go bareback.

Guard: Michael Jordan – Jordan’s basketball comebacks turned out pretty well. He led the Bulls to titles four, five, and six during Comeback #1 and, although he wasn’t the same Jordan as years past, he played at an all-star level for the Wizards during Comeback #2. Despite his ageless accomplishments on the hardwood, Jordan makes this list for his brief foray into minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons. Always one to live up to the “Air Jordan” nickname, he whiffed 114 times in a mere 436 at-bats and hit a putrid .202 for the season. To his credit, Jordan’s star attraction helped the Barons sell out games that year like they were kiddie porn matinees at a NAMBLA convention.

Center: Patrick Ewing – The sweatiest man in sports should’ve called it quits after 2000, his final season with the Knicks. Not one to retire with dignity, Ewing spent a season as a complementary player for the Sonics before languishing for a year on the bench of the Orlando Magic. After finally retiring from the NBA, Ewing didn’t have to stray far from the O-rena to find work, as Disneyworld was looking for a new Goofy.

Forward: Hakeem Olajuwon – While it’s a stretch to list Olajuwon as a forward, it was also a stretch to list him as a professional athlete during his forgettable stint with the Toronto Raptors. Like Jordan, Hakeem had a nickname to uphold, so “The Dream” did his best to ensure Toronto fans got a good snooze every time he stepped on the court.

Forward: Christian Laettner – Because he should’ve retired after college.

This is merely the first installment of what will eventually be three issues on this subject. So, be sure to check back next week for the baseball version and two weeks from now for football. Also, could someone please check Alonzo Mourning’s courtside bedpan? We don’t need him mopping up the mess with Jeff Van Gundy’s combover again.