Sports

It's wild, but it's Herschel Walker ...

When Herschel Walker comes up with a wild idea, there's a good chance he's serious about it... no matter how unlikely the idea might seem to others.

So when the 48-year-old former running back was asked last week about football, he didn't rule out an attempt at a return to the NFL.

He claims to have run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash within the past year.

"I think if I can get back to my track work, I can run it pretty fast," Walker said during a teleconference. "I know I can run it better than a 4.5."

Hmmmm.

Since taking his last handoff with the Dallas Cowboys in 1997, Walker has stayed in excellent shape. He's reportedly a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do. On Saturday, Walker earned his second mixed martial arts victory, a first-round TKO of Scott Carson in a Strikeforce event in San Jose, Calif. Walker won his debut with a TKO against Greg Nagy in January 2010.

"I think I'm a better-conditioned athlete right now than I was when I was playing (football)," Walker said. "I'm 48 now, and I'm in better shape now than I was in my early 20s playing football. . . . If I continue to stay in the shape I'm in now, I know I can play when I'm 50."

Walker is nothing if not diverse. Don't forget his world-class speed took him all the way to Albertville, France, where he represented the U.S. in the bobsled at the 1992 Winter Olympics. He even danced with the Fort Worth Ballet in 1988. And he wasn't afraid to take his Heisman Trophy with him to the USFL instead of the NFL coming out of college.

Look, I don't expect to see Walker run out of an NFL tunnel with a star on his helmet any time soon. Or an eagle wing. Or a Viking horn. Or a big NY. He'd be lucky to get a tryout with the Panthers' practice squad. But if there were ever a gray-haired running back who could pull it off, he'd be the one I'd bet on... unless 74-year-old Jim Brown considered a comeback. Then I'd bet on him.

If football doesn't work out, maybe Walker can try tennis. The Americans didn't fare very well at the Australian Open.

Football is king _ Nearly one out of three sports fans prefers pro football over all other options. That's what a Harris Interactive poll showed when people were asked recently which single sport they prefer.

Part of me wonders how, with all of the options at our fingertips, so many people would choose to watch the same thing. The reality is that football has everything we're looking for:

Violence — Even the crackdown this season on head-to-head hits increased interest and created controversy. Nobody wants to see devastating injuries, but most of us still marvel at the big hits.

Interactivity — Fantasy football has changed the way we watch the sport. Few other sports can say that. The NFL's popularity is up 7 percent in Harris' poll since 1985. A big part of it is having a vested interest in players we otherwise wouldn't care much about.

Anticipation — With teams playing one game per week, there is plenty of time for buildup. And with an offseason that lasts just long enough for us to miss football, we look forward to it every August. I love baseball, but 14 weeks just isn't enough time between the World Series and spring training for me to feel like I'm missing something. I'm just as big a fan of golf, but that sport doesn't really have an offseason unless Tiger Woods takes a few months off.

Armchair quarterbacks — It was sad to see Jay Cutler receive so much flak for leaving last week's NFC Championship Game in the third quarter after injuring his left knee.

I'm not a big Cutler fan the way I was when he entered the league. I, like many people, believe he's let his arrogance overshadow his talent.

But I refuse to believe he was trying to find a way off the field in Chicago. He's worked his whole life for a chance to reach the Super Bowl. He hurt his knee and couldn't play. It must be nice to sit back and criticize from home, with two healthy knees.

It's all in a name — Chad Ochocinco said Tuesday during an ESPN interview that he'll change his surname back to Johnson. He said, "I've done enough with the Ocho thing."

Maybe he thinks the name change will result in more production on the field. Since changing his name just before the 2008 season, his numbers have dipped.

And if quarterback Carson Palmer finds a way out of Cincinnati before the start of the 2011 season, Chad may want to consider changing his name to "ZeroAndSixteen."

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