Photo illustration (Wireimages/AMC)
The Steelers failed to make the NFL playoffs, but former Pittsburgh icon Hines Ward still generated news in the run-up to the Super Bowl, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he'll be a zombie extra when AMC's The Walking Dead returns Feb. 10.
This makes perfect sense. Ward and former Dead cast member IronE Singleton played football together at Georgia, so Ward had an easy in; Ward made a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, but needs to grow his Hollywood résumé; and Ward once topped SI's "dirtiest player" poll, which means he's an experienced flesh-seeking vehicle of destruction.
Naturally, this nugget got us at Extra Mustard thinking: Which other players or coaches belong on the small screen? We channeled our inner casting director and came up with 10 ideal (and totally imaginary) guest spots for active sports figures.
Spoiler warning: Hypothetical scenarios include some actual plot points.
1. Tom Brady on Mad Men
Teetering on the brink of a complete existential break, Don Draper locks eyes with a lonely blonde at a bar. But just as Don is about to compromise his newfound moral code, Chadwick Baker (Brady) swoops in to put the moves on the broad. Don’s relief masks his jealousy -- until the following morning, when Don sees a smiling Baker exit the Jaguar offices after stealing SCDP’s business. Throughout the season, Baker emerges as Don’s Madison Avenue rival: young to Don’s old, spirited to Don’s jaded, handsome to Don’s, well, handsome.
2. Nick Saban on Game of Thrones
Never entirely bound by George R. R. Martin's cannon, the showrunners elect to turn the "War of Five Kings" into the "Showdown of Six," introducing Dynasty Winsalot (Saban) as the long lost Lord of Lys. Fueled by the power of the red priests he renames the Crimson Cloaks, Ser Winsalot storms King's Landing. After running down Tywin Lannister's notorious horse with a majestic elephant, Winsalot sacks the city. In light of his long history of dethroning Tigers and Gators, he sees no reason to fear the direwolf or dragon.
3. Alex Morgan on Girls
After booting Elijah from their apartment, Hannah visits her ex’s new pad, where she meets his current roommate, Emma (Morgan). Insecure about being replaced by a Marnie clone, Hannah attempts to appear superior by bragging about her first-person online essay on trying cocaine for the first time. Emma, having just changed into mesh shorts and a sports bra for her trip to the gym, replies by showing Hannah her “most recently published” New Yorker short story. In an effort to prove she believes in herself, Hannah takes off her shirt. Again.
4. Brian Urlacher on Shameless
After alienating his last loyal progeny, Frank stumbles over to The Alibi Room to bum a beer and a bite. But when Kev, Kermit and the others shun him, Frank decides to swipe a pickled egg from new guy Bill (Urlacher), who seems too occupied arguing about the Bears' prospects to mind his meal. Frank realizes his mistake as soon as Bill’s fist connects with the side of his face. Frank breaks his jaw; South Side tough guy Bill breaks his wrist and misses the rest of the season.
5. John Calipari on Justified
Move over Wynn Duffy, there’s a new Dixie Mafia middle man in town! After Duffy finally gets that fast bullet Raylan’s been promising, Lyle Creed (Calipari) emerges as the new thorn in our favorite Deputy’s side. While Duffy was no slouch, Creed thrives in his position of power, recruiting all of the 18-year-old talent in Harlan and Lexington to his cause. Consider the Kentucky banners that already appear in seemingly every bar scene a bonus.
6. Russell Westbrook on The Big Bang Theory
Lured by the promise of a Stan Lee autograph, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj agree to participate in the university’s softball challenge. When the science department faces the philosophy department, the Fab Four meets Vance Warfield (Westbrook), a bespectacled jock they immediately take for a ringer wearing sports goggles in order to pass as an intellect. In an effort to out Warfield, Sheldon challenges him to share his favorite philosophy -- minus the “obvious” guys. Without missing a beat, Warfield espouses the virtues of John Rawls’ “Original Position.” He eventually wins the game for the philosophy department by throwing Raj out at first base on a single to right field.
7. Robert Griffin III on Homeland
With the CIA in tatters and Carrie on increasingly thin ice, Saul is forced to pull an Estes and plant a mole in his own camp. Enter Peter Roe (Griffin), a do-it-all wunderkind tasked with simultaneously saving the world, spying on Carrie and embedding with Brody's family in order to gain intelligence. Roe wins Carrie's trust with white wine, Dana's with a long-armed zip-up hoodie. After eventually locating Brody in the woodsy abyss, Roe secures his captive with a well-timed Heisman stiff-arm.
8. Bryce Harper on Breaking Bad
After sacrificing Todd in order to win back Jesse’s trust, Walt enlists eager Vamonos Pest employee Randy (Harper), who until that point had only worked night and weekend shifts for the exterminator. When Walt asks Randy about his newfound scheduling flexibility, he learns that the youth recently left high school. Which high school? Why, the one Walt’s son, Flynn/Walt Jr., currently attends. Walt presses Randy to make sure he’ll stay true, asking if Randy would ever use his connection to Walt Jr. as leverage against Walt Sr. Randy's answer? “That’s a clown question, bro.”
9. Blake Griffin on Louie
After failing to land the gig as Letterman’s replacement, Louie hits the tour circuit hard, determined to reconnect with his comedy roots. Just as Louie begins to rediscover his confidence, he shares an L.A. stage with Trent Smiley (Griffin), an up-and-comer who boasts the authenticity and ability Louie is forced to admire as well as the mass-appeal Louie is forced to resent. Trent gets bigger laughs on stage and more numbers at the after party (37 for Trent, one for Louie), but the ultimate indignity comes when Louie returns to his hotel room and discovers Trent’s comedy album on daughter Lilly’s iPod. Louie attempts to soothe his soul by purchasing some Haagen-Dazs chocolate chip ice cream from the lobby’s mini mart, only to discover Trent has just purchased the last pint.
10. The Harbaughs on Modern Family
With Luke and Alex poised to face off in the semifinals of the community talent show (Luke for burping the alphabet, Alex for reciting every element on the Periodic Table in reverse alphabetical order), Claire and Phil seek guidance on how to handle their rooting interests. But in an effort to earn the empathy of their fellow assembled parents, the Dunphys instead earn the wrath of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, whose children are also going head-to-head … in the Super Bowl. Hey, sometimes fiction can’t beat reality.