She wasn't just The Greatest Tennis Player of the 70s and one of the top 3 of all time...
...she was funnier than your favorite too.
When Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
hosts Saturday Night Live
this week, he'll be following in a long tradition of sports figures who have taken on that role. That tradition has been sometimes proud, sometimes painful. Here are our picks for the top 10 hosting jobs by sports figures.
1.Chris Evert, Nov. 11, 1989: Who knew that the stone-faced backhander who wore down opponents with her will could play the cut-up so well? Evert opened the show by playing against her stoic image, trashing her locker room after losing at Wimbledon to archrival Martina Navratilova. But the most memorable skit was one in which Nora Dunn, playing Navratilova, follows Evert around during retirement and quickly surpasses her in whatever field Evert tries, from real estate to growing tomatoes. Classic stuff.
2. George Steinbrenner, Oct. 20, 1990
: Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball at the time, but a game effort on SNL helped rally public support for his reinstatement. (One PR
maven later ranked it the year's best effort to turn around a public image.) The show debuted minutes after one of Steinbrenner's former Yankee skippers, Lou Piniella
, had clinched the World Series with the Reds. The Boss cleverly referred to that fact in the monologue by saying, "I just bought the Cincinnati Reds." His best turn, though, came in playing against type as Carl, a convenience store manager who can't bring himself to fire underperforming employees. "Where is it written if you don't get results right away, you fire people?" Steinbrenner's Carl asked. "What kind of asinine policy is that?" Steinbrenner even dropped his pants during the show, but it was his willingness to play the butt of jokes that made the episode work.
3. Charles Barkley, Sept. 25, 1993
: Sir Charles deserves a prominent spot on the list solely on the strength of his monologue, in which he went one-on-one with Barney, the perplexingly popular purple dinosaur. Barkley showed Barney the same amount of respect as an Angolan player at the Olympics, talking trash and dunking fiercely in Barney's face until the dinosaur was literally coming apart at the seams. Barkley also confessed to Stuart Smalley (Al Franken
) that he felt incomplete without a title, whereupon Muggsy Bogues
, in a terrific cameo, came out and gave him a hug .
4. Billy Martin, May 24, 1986
: Martin was a natural in a sketch in which he played a high-rolling drunk at a casino, cradling a huge drink while telling a woman, "It doesn't matter how much you drink, as long as you drink as much as you can." The fiery manager was no natural actor, though, which SNL honcho Lorne Michaels
played to great effect by "firing" him during the show. Martin then burned down the cast party in the last scene, which was also ended the show's season. The faux fire helped build offseason drama as Michaels remade a ho-hum cast, as only Jon Lovitz
, Dennis Miller
and Dunn survived the "blaze."
5. Derek Jeter, Dec. 1, 2001
: Jeter's most memorable turn came when he donned drag to play the wife of Alfonso Soriano
, watching the game with the other Yankee "wives." It's Jeter's character, Candy Soriano, who disses Jeter the player, saying, "He looks like The Rock
had sex with a muppet." The sketch ends with David Wells
and David Cone
also appearing in drag as Skank No. 1 and Skank No. 2. Jeter also played the owner of a taco store and Roberto Iglesias, the older and less attractive brother of Enrique
6. Fran Tarkenton, Jan. 29, 1977
: The first athlete to host the show, Tarkenton bravely launched into a rendition of Feelings
in the monologue. In a fake commercial bit, he touted the benefits of "Anabolic Steroids Cereal," a full two decades before Bud Selig
was shocked (shocked!) to discover that steroids might be a problem. He also appeared in what would today qualify as a very edgy skit with Garret Morris
in which Tarkenton pretended to defend the thinking that blacks aren't qualified to be NFL quarterbacks. The show basically served as Tarkenton's successful audition for That's Incredible.
7. Jeff Gordon, Jan. 11, 2003
: Gordon's hosting gig helped cement NASCAR's elevation into the mainstream. Gordon willingly humiliated himself for the sake of laughs, the quality most necessary in a sports-celebrity host. He gamely played an Air Force fighter pilot at a grade school career day and a waiter who beats up an actor playing Gary Busey
. By the end of the show, his inhibitions gone, Gordon drew applause by gleefully playing air guitar to The Steve Miller Band while wearing a hideous mullet.
8. Michael Jordan, Sept. 28, 1991
: This show is best remembered for the segment in which His Airness meets up with self-affirmation guru Stuart Smalley. Smalley has Jordan repeat the line, "I don't have to dribble fast, or throw the ball into the basket" while the duo look into a mirror. Jordan also stopped by Bill Swerski's Super Fans, those Chicago guys led by George Wendt
fame with the tag line, "Da Bears." Still, this season-opening episode was stolen by Jesse Jackson
's reading of Green Eggs and Ham
. Should have been #2; he hocked Porn Videos and feminine hygiene products in one skit on the show
9. Andy Roddick, Nov. 8, 2003
: Roddick had his monologue interrupted by John McEnroe
, who fumed, "I can't believe they're letting you host. You're a punk." Still, Roddick held his own, playing everyone from Andre Agassi
to a hunky (and shirtless) gynecologist to himself, while soundly beating a 60-year-old Billie Jean King
in Battle of the Sexes II. Fresh off a U.S. Open victory -- and with Roger Federer
still just another name -- Roddick was never hotter. He did much better than expected.
10. Tie, Joe Montana and Walter Payton, Jan. 24, 1987; Alex Karras, Feb. 2, 1985
: One critic called the Montana-Payton show the funniest SNL episode in six years. Both played against type effectively, with Montana as a geeky roommate to Phil Hartman
and the gentle Payton boasting at one point, "Just the thought that I can kill the average guy on the street makes me smile." Karras earns his place on this list for the "White Guy Rap" he performed with Jim Belushi
, which included this stanza: "I like your shirt/I like your tie/I like your wife/Just kidding, guy."
: There's stiff competition here as well, with the emphasis on "stiff." Wayne Gretzky
, Deion Sanders
and George Foreman
were all relative duds. But top honors go to Nancy Kerrigan
, the ice queen who acted as if she was frozen solid on the March 12, 1994 show.