The Great 2015 SI Cover Countdown Continues with #49-40. I have to admit, I’m doing a lot of second guessing with a few of my selections but I’ll just keep it rolling. (Note: If you are just stumbling upon this, go to the post below to see #100-50.)
49A. Jerry Cooney: The Contender gets a Special 49A and 49B. This cover right here is a classic example of the influence SI had back in the day before unlimited information about anything in the Universe became available at our fingertips 24/7. Do you remember when we used to tap into something called imagination? I recall receiving this cover in the mail and thinking “WOW” this guy must the real Rocky Balboa and tearing into the pages to learn more. Being on the cover made you an overnight sensation and the subject of water cooler conversations across the land.
49B. Oops – Enter Larry Holmes: Unfortunately for Cooney or “The Great White Hope” as Don King aptly labeled him, he had to step into the ring with the great Larry Holmes in the most hyped fight ever at the time and received a good old fashioned walloping. Maybe his defeat was really just the result of the legendary SI cover jinx?
48. Heisman Battle: This cover always just seemed fun. Whoever set up the photo shoot and wrote the caption should have been awarded a prize. I’m willing to bet that in order to get Charles and Billy into the mood on the set they were blasting “Good Times” by Chic while the photog was snapping away. (In fact, I’m now dance-typing as I listen to Good Times and whoa boy YouTube just transitioned into The Brothers Johnson “Stomp”! 15 Min dance TO)
47. Hakeem or Akeem or just The Dream: After Kareem, The Dream is the most fun center that I’ve ever witnessed play the game. How could you not love The Dream Shake, where he would dance in the low block with his back to the hoop for 3- 4 seconds before choosing one of eight different exciting ways to score. As an added bonus, you get a little Martina/Chrissy corner with Chrissy sporting a look that could have fronted a band on the Sunset Strip.
46. Harry Chappas: Come on now with this cover! I’m turning the commentary over to the one and only Ham Chaput for his thoughts on ‘Lil Harry. Ham?
Ham: Chappas? Never heard of him. I mean it… never. I get the little guy thing (the Sox marketing people – aka Bill Veeck – have long history of journeying to the land of the little people to bring their circus acts to the people) and Lord knows, America loves its underdog, but c’mon man. I mean that may be the very definition of “warning track power.” The immediate reaction is to just laugh and the second is to hope that you’ll see more “the sky’s the limit” photos in the article – I can only imagine how this one goes… the baby photo (preemie, I’m sure) and high school (under-sized, but what he lacked in physical strength, he made up for in pure moxy and desire. Coach said he would clean the lockers if he got a chance, etc., etc.) and on with his young wife who just fell in love with the guy who wouldn’t quit. Baseball’s Rudy.
45. LT/Gastineu: I hope I’m alive to see the day when Gastineau’s look comes back into style. And check out the bodybuilder pipes. Do you think there was a little foul play involved in achieving those guns of glory that won the heart of Brigitte Nielsen? And spare a thought for LT, he had probably just gone to bed an hour earlier after an all nighter in a club when his handler arrived to shuttle him over to this shoot. Two incredible characters and amazing players.
44. 1985 Heisman: I always loved it when SI would play a little joke on us all. Sid Finch anyone? This cover is so outrageous that it’s worthy of a spot in the Top 50. On the one hand you have arguably the greatest athlete ever in Bo, shredding the SEC, and then you have the Midwestern, golden haired, corn-fed Chuck Long leading the glamorous Big 10, but SI selects Joe Dudek from Plymouth St? Love it! For the record, Dudek finished 9th in the Heisman balloting and did play to games for The Broncos during the ’87 players strike.
43. Walter Payton; RIP Sweetness! Toughest player ever? I’ll always have the visual of Payton high stepping and then lowering the boom on the guy trying to tackle him. And he likely could have stiff armed his way through a brick wall if it meant getting a 1st down. 13 years – 1 missed game. And of course, props for that tight jerry curl.
42. Howard Cossell: This is the epitome of a sports broadcaster. Incredible voice, style, look……etc. I used to live for the Monday Night Football half time show when Howard would recap the previous days games. Sounds totally boring now, but Howard (and the soundtrack) could make the likes of Dan Pastorini and Dan Fouts seem majestic and would send me sprinting around the house jumping for joy.
41. Danny Sullivan: The Kentucky Kid Spins and Wins! Man I miss the days when Indycar ruled the national racing landscape. So many great characters and drivers risking life and limb on a daily basis in their pursuit of finding the limit. This is Danny being chased by two of the all time greats, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.
40. John Elway: This cover has a little special meaning because I was at this game, solo, in my AYSO jersey on a rainy day after being dropped at the gate by my mom. Talk about a real fan! Growing up practically in the backyard of Stanford, I had a lot of exposure to Cardinal sports. My dad was one of those early joggers (or “Yoggers” with a soft J as Ron Burgundy would like to say) who used to zip around in Dolphin shorts with his mates and I would often tag along with him to Angel Field on campus, where Elway had to cross to go to and from practice. He would always stop and send me deep for a pass or two on his way back to the locker-room and the giddiness I felt after making the catch was just awesome. I can still picture him in this UW game scrambling all over the place for 5-10 seconds and then uncorking an off balance 60-70 yard rope to Kenny Margerum. I’ll bet every pro scout in attendance either passed out or raced for a payphone.