Twilight of an NFL God

Ancient Jerry Rice could lend a mythic touch to the Broncos offense.

So, let's wait and see. Jerry Rice may very well be O.J. Simpson at Candlestick, poor old Archie Moore clambering into the ring one more time in the ballooning satin trunks his mother made for him, or owner/player Michael Jordan in Washington Wizards blue. Remember timeless Henry Aaron, the all-time home-run king, stuffed into a disorienting Milwaukee Brewers uniform for the 1975 and '76 seasons? Never made sense. For that matter, neither did Tony Dorsett, Denver Bronco. After eleven sparkling seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, the tough, 183-pound running back was eclipsed by the bigger, stronger, younger Herschel Walker in Dallas. After the 1987 season, he signed on for a twilight season in Denver, rushed for 703 yards and five touchdowns in 1988 and was ready to come back for more. But in a routine practice, Dorsett's right knee "crumbled like a piece of spaghetti," in his words, and that was it. Career over. All that remained was his election to the NFL Hall of Fame.

So it will be for Rice, if not this year, then next. For now, what does he impart? Whose soul does he touch? He may be Willie Mays circa 1973, delusional and deranged, but with talent as vast as his, who among the children who revere him won't cherish the laying-on of his magic hands?

Patrick Merewether

"ArenaBowl" sounds like a brand of toilet cleanser. But as soon as the Colorado Crush won eight-man indoor football's big prize in Las Vegas Sunday afternoon to cap just its third season in the Arena Football League, Crush players and principal team owner John Elway crowded into the cameraman's frame, sharing space with a big square trophy. They were grinning and cheering a last-second, 51-48 victory over the Georgia Force. Minority Crush owner Pat Bowlen got in the picture, too. But Bowlen's wistful, gazing-down-the-road expression suggested that he wasn't thinking entirely of the present glory.

Elway stood, toothy and dazzling, in the center of the celebration. Bowlen lingered quietly at the edge. Care to guess his thoughts? Odds-on he was remembering the last time he and Elway shared a shot with a trophy after a win over a team from Atlanta. And how long it might be until Bowlen's Elway-deprived Denver Broncos win a third Super Bowl. Think I'm wrong? Then feel free to substitute your own longing.

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