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I made it. I marched past my 75th birthday in June with relative ease and today marks my annual return to the Daily Herald.
After retiring in December of 2008 following 50 years at the Herald, I decided to stop writing completely — with one major exception.
I'm not even sure when I launched this annual column of best sports quotes, but it developed into a labor of love that I didn't want to see abandoned.
The challenging part always is deciding what stays and what goes. I only saved quotes for 12 months I thought were worthy of consideration. However, space dictates.
You now are going to read the quotes that survived my dreaded cuts. I hope you enjoy the winners for 2011.
The envelope, please.
Tom Izzo, Michigan State basketball coach, when asked if he regretted turning down the Cleveland Cavaliers job: "Only when I go to the bank."
Bert Blyleven, former pitcher: "Getting into the Hall of Fame won't change me. I'm still going to pass gas and pick my nose like I always do."
Shaquille O'Neal, during his retirement announcement from the NBA: "And I'm really going to miss the free throws."
Mike Quade, former Cubs manager who has been bald nearly his entire life, when he returned to his alma mater Prospect High School for an assembly: "I gotta be honest. The last time I was in an assembly like this I got the award for best hair."
Ozzie Guillen, former White Sox manager, asked if he would take his coaches to his new job as manager of the Miami Marlins: "Hell, no! They got me fired."
Guillen, again: "I named my bulldog DH because he's lazy."
Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers' general manager and ex-Blackhawks' GM, when he was not invited to the White House with the Hawks to meet President Obama: "That's fine with me. I'm a Republican anyway."
Tom Zbikowski, Buffalo Grove High School product with the Baltimore Ravens and an occasional boxer away from playing in the NFL, on potentially fighting receiver Chad Ochocinco for charity: "I'd let it go for about 45 seconds. I'd let him know what a real jab feels like."
Bruce Weber, Illinois basketball coach, after a victory over Wisconsin: "I have to throw chairs, yell at them and do stupid things. I've learned you can't be nice to them."
Donald Trump, real-estage mogul, when asked why he has become so interested in acquiring golf course properties: "We have a lot of cash."
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke basketball coach, after losing at Ohio State, 85-63: "I've had my butt kicked before, and we've kicked some butt. Tonight my butt is sore."
Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs coach, after a 13-point NBA loss to the New York Knicks: "I asked them if they wouldn't mind playing a little better tomorrow. They said they'd think about it."
Joe Buck, pro football announcer, on the inability of Philadelphia Eagles' coach Andy Reid, who weighs over 300 pounds, to call a timeout: "Took the officials a while to see him. Hard to believe."
Aramis Ramirez, now a former Cubs third baseman, after hitting a home run on a 0-0 count for the 12th time in the season: "I'm Dominican. We don't walk much."
Serena Williams, chastising the umpire during her U.S. Open loss: "Don't even look at me. If you ever see me walking down the hall, walk the other way."
Jon Lester, Red Sox pitcher, on finishing the MLB season 0-4 with an 8.24 ERA in four starts: "I picked a terrible time to stink."
Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins manager, explaining why his foot was bandaged: "My Achilles is sore. Too many trips to the mound."
Phil Mickelson, pro golfer and lover of hamburgers, on the end of his five-month, strict vegetarian diet he followed after being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis: "Ultimately, it was doomed to fail."
Alan Shipnuck, Sports Illustrated writer: "You know who would be great on Twitter? Phil Mickelson. He has an opinion on everything."
LeBron James, Miami Heat superstar, on the intensity of the NBA playoffs: "Playoff sweat is different than regular-season sweat."
Cam Newton, Auburn's quarterback, when asked before the national title game if he knew anything about the state of Oregon: "That's where NIKE is."
Newton, commenting on the simplified version of the Carolina Panthers' offense he received during the lockout compared to the full playbook he was given when the NFL training camp actually began: "That was Dr. Seuss compared to doggone Shakespeare."
Andy Murray, after winning a round of 16 match at Wimbledon in front of a crowd that included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: "If I'd known they were coming, I would have shaved."
Joshua Smith, UCLA basketball player, on facing questions about his weight loss: "I'm not Jared from Subway, man. I'm not some inspirational story."
Caroline Wozniacki, top-ranked women's tennis player, responding to criticism that her press conferences were boring because she always gives the same answers: "I find it quite funny because I always get the same questions."
Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning coach, on the status of injured players Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina, in the NHL playoffs: "They're day to day, except for today and tomorrow."
Keith Bullock, Giants linebacker, after New York lost its final three games to miss the NFL playoffs: "We were in the driver's seat, and then we were in the passenger seat. And now we're in the back seat."
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin basketball coach, joking about a terrible first-half shooting performance at Iowa: "I heard some Iowa students behind us taking up money for a collection to play HORSE against our guys."
Kevin O'Neill, USC basketball coach, on Arizona's Derrick Williams: "He's the most protected dude I've seen since Michael Jordan. If he walks across the court it's a foul."
Jerry Sloan, resigning after 22 years as coach of the NBA's Utah Jazz: "I entered every day knowing this could be my last day. I know that sounds corny. I'm a corny guy."
Bill Murray, comedian, after teaming with D. A. Points to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am: "I'm thinking of turning pro. I probably won't."
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers superstar, on Paul Gasol's occasional lack of aggressiveness in the NBA: "He's a very white swan. I need him to be more black swan."
Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche coach, after a 3-0 NHL loss to the Anaheim Ducks: "You get zero goals, it's going to be difficult to win."
B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers tackle, on his first thought when seeing Dallas Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl week: "What did he pay for this?"
Bubba Watson, pro golfer, after a third-round victory in the WGC World Match Play: "Bubba did good."
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher, defending his meeting with embattled TV star Charlie Sheen: "I don't judge a person by what they've done and what they're going to do."
Wilson, after giving up 2 runs in the ninth and then hitting a dugout cooler with a bat: "My arm is fine. Ask the wall."
Rick Reilly, columnist and occasional television host for ESPN, referring to the struggles of Tiger Woods and the five-hole course he built on his new estate in Jupiter, Fla.: "He played it alone the other day and finished tied for 37th."
Geno Auriema, Connecticut women's basketball coach, after they won their 112th game out of 113 but drew only 5,700 fans at home for a tournament game: "I think we need to win more. Maybe free parking, more giveaways."
Phil Jackson, former Los Angeles Lakers coach, when asked whether he liked New Orleans: "I refuse to comment on the basis it might incriminate me. Just don't drink the water."
Dan Donatello, caddie for Kevin Na, who shot a 16 on one hole at the Texas Open: "Next time, I say, 'Let's go back to the tee,' let's go back to the tee."
Tim Belcher, Cleveland Indians pitching coach, on what he said to pitcher Justin Masterson: "I told him to throw the little white thing across the larger white thing as much as you can."
Ilya Byrzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes goalie now with the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL, after a four-game first-round sweep by Detroit: "Goalies have two ways to be — a hero or a goat. I am a goat."
Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks forward, after Vancouvers' Maxim Lapierre refused his invitation to fight during the Western Conference hockey finals: "I played with him as a junior. He was a coward then, too."
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern football coach, on the breakdown in communications when the team struggled: "I think we're turning algebra into calculus right now."
Terry Francona, former manager of the Boston Red Sox, on how his team prepared for the 100-degree heat at a game in New York: "We try to stay liquidated."
Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers outfielder, after Angels' pitcher Jared Weaver objected to the way he watched a home run: "He was yelling at me to run faster. So I told him that I'm old and that's as fast as I can run."
Nick Pratto, after getting the hit that clinched the Little League World Series for Ocean View, Calif., over Japan and getting buried in his team's celebration: "I was claustrophobic."
Nick Faldo, CBS golf analyst, commenting on the fact that three of the four leaders in the WGC Bridgestone tourney were 23 or younger: "I wondered why they had a petting zoo in the car park."
Shannon Sharpe, during his induction speech, giving a plug to his brother Sterling: "I'm the only person who has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is the second-best player in my family."
Ross Grimm, legendary offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins, during his induction speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: "There's no greater feeling than moving a man from Point A to Point B against his will."
Byron Scott, coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 6-handicapper, on the amount of golf he has played during the NBA work stoppage: "If this lockout continues much longer, I'll be down to a 2."
Alexi Kovalev, former NHL forward, on the sports writers who cover the Ottawa Senators: "They don't watch the game at all. When they fly with the team and go through the metal detector at the airport, their bags are filled with beer."
Dick Vitale of ESPN, when told he can't be a guest on any CBS NCAA tournament basketball games: "The reality is you can't have everything you want. If I could, I'd have hair, be as smooth as Bob Costas and have a body like Schwarzenegger."
Ken Mangum, superintendent of the Atlanta Athletic Club, after a mower accident defaced the 14th and 17th greens at the PGA Championship: "It's a little like cutting yourself with a razor on your wedding day."
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland grad and former Maryland football coach, when asked if he still follows his alma mater since he was fired: "I could care less. I burned my diploma."
Rich Eisen, NFL Network host, on how thin programming became during the lockout: "I did a seven-minute segment on the sandwich Mark Sanchez ordered when he came to visit."
Matt Miller, Boise State receiver, after scoring a touchdown with his first career catch in a win over Georgia: "It's like getting your first kiss times a thousand."
John Daly, pro golfer, congratulating Bryce Moler on winning a six-hole playoff over Briny Baird at the Fry's.com Open: "That playoff lasted longer than my four marriages."
Michael Martin, LSU chancellor, on conference expansion: "I think we could ultimately end up with two conferences, one called ESPN and one called Fox."
David Foster, Utah center, on what he'll miss after Utah left the Mountain West for the Pac-12: "I am not going to miss that trip to Laramie, Wyoming."
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers catcher, on whether he would be healthy enough to play the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series: "The only way I won't play is if I wake up and I'm dead."
Hunter Mahan, when NBC announcer Roger Maltbie offered his condolences after Mahan lost a sudden-death playoff for the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup to Bill Haas: "Condolences? I didn't die today. Geez!"
Colin Montgomerie, pro golfer, on why he doesn't work out: "A lot of people have been injured in gyms over the years, and I'm not one of them."
Hal Gill, Montreal Canadiens defenseman, on his then five-day-old son Talon: "He eats, poops and sleeps — the dream job for any guy."
Did you smile a few times while reading this column? If you did, mission accomplished. That's always my goal with this annual project.
If you didn't smile, I'll have to try again in 12 months when I'm a spry 76.
Happy New Year!