Ten Ill-Advised Comebacks

10 Comebacks That Should Never Have Happened

As it says on the tin. This was the regular slot on Alpha‘s last editorial page, a chance for humour and sport to get together and talk, often uncomfortably.


Dennis Lillee
With a back pieced-together so many times it looked like Nanna’s old gravy boat and more dodgy joints than Bangkok’s red light district, Lillee gratefully retired from cricket in 1984 to take up full-time legend status. Thus, a snoozing Bellerive Oval crowd was startled to see him charging in for the Tassie team three years on. Then he tore all his ankle ligaments and that was finally that.

Diego Maradona
Maradona copped a 15-month holiday for coke abuse in 1991, and by his 1994 return to the international stage it was obvious the ageing genius was still running on more than talent and Gatorade. During Argentina’s second World Cup match, his scary, vein-popping goal celebration at a pitch-side TV camera looked like the Hulk yelling into a bucket, after which he was led away for the inevitable drug-packed urine sample.

Mark Spitz
Back in 1972, Mark Spitz was a god, an icon of big-moustached, hairy chested, gold-medalled American male; Burt Reynolds in tight smugglers. By 1992, Reynolds was thinking Cop and ½ might be a good idea, while Spitz was a 42-year-old embarrassing his kids, puffing up and down a pool two cruel seconds slower than the time he needed to make the Barcelona Olympics.

Tony Lockett
Brownlow Medal-winning, record goal-scoring, weeping virgins at his feet-falling, giant full forward Lockett quit AFL in 1999. After a couple of years breeding greyhounds, Lockett lumbered back into the game, now a gloomy bald Sasquatch with chronic injury and a broken goal-radar. Two games, three goals and a couple of bad TV ads later, he bit the bullet and went back to the only creatures who understood him.

Bjorn Borg
The Grand Slam Pacman of the mid-‘70s, Borg’s perfect life took a sharp right into Meltdown City following early retirement in 1982. He ticked failed relationships, an illegitimate child, drug overdose, attempted suicide and a catastrophic underpants empire off the shopping list, then got his old wooden Donnay out of the attic and spent the next few months being lambasted by journeymen, before hurrying off to the Seniors tour.

Evander Holyfield
Pig-headed warrior who could fill out this list practically on his own. With slurred speech, no reflexes, millions in the bank and a career that started in the age of disco, Holyfield’s boxing career continues, despite the pleas of fans and trainers. At 47, he will soon fight blundering Russian mountain Nikolai Valuev for some meaningless alphabet belt.

Ian Baker-Finch
Poor Baker-Finch. He won the British Open in 1991, after which his brain did the mental equivalent of running into a warm, dark room, slamming the door shut and lying under the bed whimpering, “Mummy want cuddle.” His game duly fell apart under any sort of stress, culminating in a harrowing 92 at the 1997 British Open and instant retirement. Four years later he screwed up his courage for a crack at the MasterCard Colonial tournament, missed the cut by a load and threw away the competitive clubs for good.

Ben Johnson
If stupid was a drug, Johnson would have won Olympic gold in six seconds flat. After getting the sack for turning up to the Seoul Games as a snorting yellow-eyed cannonball with tiny testicles, he was busted again in 1993 and yet again in 1999, not long after a meet in which he ran an 11-second 100m. Among other interesting career choices, he later surfaced as Diego Maradona’s trainer. The mind boggles.

Michael Jordan
He looked like Jordan; he was certainly as rich as Jordan; the trouble was he was in a Washington Wizards uniform and his game now looked like Mr Magoo had wandered into heavy traffic. This was not in the script fans wanted: if his career before 1999 was the equivalent of the first two Godfather movies, buying into the no-hope Wizards in 2001 was nothing more than D3: The Mighty Ducks.

Nigel Mansell
In his prime, dual Formula One world champ was searingly fast and massively popular, although handicapped by the personality of an old dog left out in the rain. He left F1 in 1993 for the easier pickings of IndyCar, only to return older and chubbier in 1994 for another crack at the top series. A season later, it was obvious that getting Mansell into his McLaren was harder than putting a sofa into the oven and two races in, he gave it up for good.


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