My question is always simple: When were you happiest? The answer
is always good.
Jack Nicklaus: "Probably the day Barbara called and said, 'You're
a daddy!' I was playing in a tournament in Cincinnati, but when I
got to the hospital in Columbus, I said, 'Which one's mine?' They
pointed to Jackie, and I fainted straight away. I passed out when
all my kids were born. I learned to bring a pillow and smelling
Yogi Berra: "The day I became a big league ballplayer. I drove up
from the minors in my car. The first pitcher I caught was Spud
Chandler. Man, I always wanted to be a big leaguer."
Martina Navratilova: "It was when I was nine, living in Prague
with my grandmother. She would bring me sliced carrot salad so I
could see the ball better. She didn't own a TV. We'd do crossword
puzzles and listen to the radio. I was her golden little girl.
She saw me play once in Dallas and passed away not long after
that. I can never have those years back."
August 19, 2001
Chris Evert: "I'm 17 years old, I meet Jimmy Connors, and I'm in
love for the first time in my life. We had all of Europe lying in
front of us for the whole year. We played Wimbledon, Paris, Rome.
I was escorted by my mom, and he was traveling with his mom, so
we'd sneak out and go to, like, the Eiffel Tower. One time we
snuck away to go to the Vatican. Jimmy went to confession. He
came out and said, 'I had so much to confess, the priest told me
to come back and finish tomorrow.'"
Larry Bird: "In 1986, for sure. I was happy as hell because I
knew we [the Celtics] were going to win it. We simply were way
too talented. Bill Walton was there. Robert Parrish was playing
great. We just knew. Even in the Finals, we knew."
Pat Riley: "I can't think of any year when I've been totally
happy. Even when you're winning, you're not really happy."
Kurt Warner: "It wasn't the Super Bowl season; it was two years
before that. I got married, we got pregnant, and I got signed by
the Rams. I remember Brenda and I had finally scraped up enough
money to buy a house together, so we went out to a nice dinner.
While we were out, I had a buddy come and throw rose petals on
our walk. I had written WILL YOU MARRY ME? in Christmas lights on
the house. Then I turned to her two kids and said, 'Will you all
marry me?' and they all said, 'Yes.'"
Jim Brown: "The year we filmed The Dirty Dozen in London .
It was such a scene, man. The film had so many stars in it, the
Beatles and the Stones were hot, the civil rights movement in
America was cooking. I'd just played in the championship game.
Everybody thought I should still be playing, but I was very happy
to leave the NFL on my own terms. I never had a serious injury in
my career, never had an operation, brother. I don't walk with a
limp now. My neck's not stiff. When I went back and watched my
first game, I was smiling."
Mario Lemieux: "The year we won our first Stanley Cup, in
1990-91. I was coming off back surgery. I had spent three months
flat on my back, plus I had a staph infection. I didn't know if I
would ever walk again, much less play. I remember I took the Cup
home that night. I took it into bed with my wife, and, well, I
can't go on much further about that."
Chris Mullin: "Maybe right now. When I was drinking, I was never
happy. I was always on edge, guilty, knowing I was supposed to be
somewhere else, and instead I was drinking. Now I'm calm. My
family's healthy. It's great to be sober."
Charles Barkley: "I haven't had it yet. Maybe when it's all said
and done, I'm rocking on my porch, two or three great-grandkids
around, everybody's healthy--that's when I'll be happiest. Because
this life isn't about you, man, it's about the people you love."
Mike Schmidt: "It had to be 1980. Donna and I had our second
child, Jonathan. There was a strike during spring training, so a
bunch of us--me, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw--lived on a 50-foot
fishing boat in Clearwater [Fla.]. We fished and laughed the
whole time. I had a great year: MVP of the league and the World
Series, too. Tells you how crucial spring training is."
Larry Walker: "The year I was born, 1966. Everything has been so
much fun ever since. I want to thank my parents for whatever they
did that one night, because this life has been a blast."
Tiger Woods: "I was 11. I got straight A's, had two recesses a
day, had the cutest girlfriend and won 32 tournaments.
Everything's been downhill since."
"I'm 17 years old, I meet Jimmy Connors," says Evert, "and I'm
in love for the first time in my life."