My ultimate list of sports’ CRASH, BANG, BOOM characters reads like a Planet Hollywood conglomeration.
What if I took superstars from every different realm, shoved them together to create one masterful project, and unleashed it upon the world?
Okay, well, Planet Hollywood brought together Hollywood’s heaviest action stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger (End of Days), Bruce Willis (Hostage), John Travolta (Hairspray), and Demi Moore (G.I. Jane).
It’s more like that restaurant started by Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, John Elway, Michael Jordan and that cast of characters in the 1990′s. Does anyone else but me remember that? I don’t remember the name of the chain, because it only lasted one year, but I feel a tad interested in combining sports today.
The CRASH, BANG, BOOM! team is inspired by the recent play of the Philadelphia Flyers. Their recent playoff success and their dogma of, “If I kill him, he can’t beat me” has seen a resurgence.
Even HBO is releasing an upcoming sports documentary titled, The Broad Street Bullies. Everyone’s getting in on the act!
There will no doubt be one specific member on this list:
C, BOBBY CLARKE, PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Flin Flon, Manitoba, CAN
Diagnosed in his early teenage years with diabetes, Clarke was viewed as a highly talented but unbankable risk. He even lost toes shortly after being diagnosed.
Clarke more than compensated.
He is known in some ways as a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and captain of those dominant 1970′s Flyers squads. He won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1973, 1975 and 1976, and was a a (vital) member of the 1972 Canadian Summit Series squad. One of the NHL’s most determined all-time players, Clarke was no doubt one of the greatest, named #24 on The Hockey News “The Top 100 NHL Players of All-Time” (1998).
And then… Clarke more than compensated. The leader of the Broad Street Bullies, the Flyers became the NHL’s all-time toughest (and perhaps dirtiest team). GM Ray Shero would send out flock after flock of physical assault on opposing teams – each wave led by their captain and his black and orange jersey.
This ability to put a win in front of everything was perhaps best recognized in the Summit Series, when Clarke broke the ankle of Russian superstar Valeri Kharlamov with a vicious slash to the ankle.
Clarke finished his career with 1,210 points and 1,453 penalty minutes, and turned the orange #16 into a recognizable sign of the 1970′s.
2B/3B/1B/OF, PETE ROSE, CINCINNATI REDS
One look at the clip of Rose barreling through catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 MLB All-Star Game is reason enough to put him on this list.
An endearing vision of dirty baseball (both from effort and ethics), Rose combined an unbelievable level of grit with staggering offensive numbers – a 0.303 lifetime batting average and 4,256 hits go well alongside three World Series rings.
Betting charges aside, as a player Rose is in the elite category of all-time great ball players.
There must have been something about those 70′s sports team, eh? Rose’s “Big Red Machine” units in Cincinnati were baseball’s equivalent of the NHL’s Flyers, although you could make the argument that they were really (Johnny) Bench’s machine.
He earned his nickname “Charlie Hustle” after he sprinted to first base on a walk as a rookie. That exemplifies CRASH and BANG. Most people don’t know that he was given his nickname by New York Yankees’ legendary pitcher Whitey Ford, however, and that there is the BOOM.
SF/PF, DENNIS RODMAN, CHICAGO BULLS
Trenton, New Jersey
Like Clarke, Rodman did not have a beautiful upbringing. While Bobby used his fighting spirit to score goals and break ankles, Rodman turned it into one of the NBA’s most famous under-the-rim profiles.
Rodman’s career is defined, perhaps, by his five NBA championships as a member of Jordan and Pippen’s (okay, Jordan’s) Chicago Bulls.
However, it was rebounding that turned “The Worm” into a household superstar. Rodman won two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the league in rebounds per game for seven straight years – an NBA all-time record.
Like both Clarke and Rose, it may not be a shock to know that controversial off-field/court/ice personalities will always have a place on this list.
To watch Rodman play gave you no doubt as to whether or not he belonged on the CRASH, BANG, BOOM list.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Smokin’ Joe was the sandpaper to Muhammad Ali’s lemon pledge.
While Ali danced around windows and picked the locks (with alarming efficiency and wonder), Joe simply broke the door down.
While Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, delivering timely knockout blows (with alarming efficiency), Joe ran up to his fighters – his head bobbing and his fists talking.
While it was Ali that chanted, “Rumble, young man! Rumble!” before his first title fight with Sonny Liston, you could argue that it was a Joe who was actually rumblin’ in his ring.
He moved like a freight train, and his determination – his CRASH – was unlike most fighters in history. One of the greatest boxers in its 1960-1970′s heyday, Joe owned the WBA’s World Heavyweight Champion belt for nearly three full years (1970-1973). He never backed down from Ali, instead relishing in them and going 1-for-3 against arguably the greatest heavyweight fighter of all-time.
“What happens when a boxer meets a brawler?”
Unfortunately for Ali, it wasn’t that easy for the boxer.
RB, EARL CAMPBELL, HOUSTON OILERS
He’s often forgotten among discussions of Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs, but Earl Campbell left the NFL after seven years and thousands of induced headaches.
Campbell ran like a locomotive, plain-and-simple. It’s a cliche to say so, but there is no other way to accurately recount #34′s bruising style.
He was the first running back since Jim Brown to lead the NFL in rushing for three straight seasons, and won the league’s Offensive Player of the Year honours in 1979.
His 1980 season included 1,934 yards, with four games above 200 yards, and a yards-per-carry average of 5.2 – all while carrying the ball a (then-record) 373 times.
It’s surprising to think of, but there may not be a more impressive list of numbers in the league’s memory bank.
His personal highlight reel looks less like a football player (or a human), and more like A&E’s Biography of Ford Motor Company. He single-handedly made a generation of young viewers forget who John Riggins was.
Earl Campbell was every bit the mantra of a CRASH, BANG, BOOM athlete.
White Cover Staff
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