Hines Ward, Chris Jericho on 'DWTS'
In past years, before the first night of action on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," it was easy to figure out who likely would make the finals of the ballroom competition.
Jennifer Grey. Nicole Scherzinger. Apolo Anton Ohno. All were mentioned as favorites. And all won.
Now this spring, in Season 12, it's really not so easy.
Let's look at the roster ready to dance, starting Monday night:
• Kirstie Alley, actress and comedian, paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
• Michael Catherwood, radio talk show host, paired with Lacey Schwimmer.
• Chris Jericho, pro wrestler and rock star, paired with Cheryl Burke.
• Chelsea Kane, Disney network star, paired with Mark Ballas.
• Sugar Ray Leonard, retired boxing legend, paired with Anna Trebunskaya.
• Ralph Macchio, former "Karate Kid," paired with Karina Smirnoff.
• Romeo Miller, rapper and actor, paired with Chelsie Hightower.
• Petra Nemcova, model, paired with Dmitry Chaplin.
• Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, paired with Kym Johnson.
• Kendra Wilkinson, Playboy model and reality TV star, paired with Louis van Amstel.
• Wendy Williams, TV host, paired with Tony Dovolani.
Even the competitors aren't sure how the season will go.
"At this point, we haven't really seen anybody dance, so I can't really figure out who will do the best," Jericho said. "My biggest competition will be with myself. I'm going to do the best I can do. On Monday, no one is going home. It's time for us to get our feet wet and build our confidence. After that first show, you make your battle plans and figure out who needs to be destroyed."
The premise of the show is simple: Each couple performs predetermined dances and competes for judges points and audience votes. Whichever couple receives the lowest combined total of judges points and audience votes is eliminated. There are nine weeks of competitions and two nights of finals.
Athletes have always fared well because of their high levels of conditioning. Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (Season 3), skater Ohno (Season 4), race car driver Helio Castroneves (Season 5), skater Kristi Yamaguchi (Season 6) and gymnast Shawn Johnson (Season 8) all have won, while football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (Season 2), football players Jason Taylor (Season 6) and Warren Sapp (Season 7) and skater Evan Lysacek (Season 10) all finished second.
But it's not as easy for the current set of athletes as you think.
"It's five hours a day, six days a week," said Ward, who was training in his hometown of Atlanta. "I'm having to apply my football ethic to my dance. I've watched other football players compete in the past so it's like watching film to prepare."
Ward said, after watching buddy Warren Sapp dance well on the show, he thought he could do it.
"I was shocked. I knew I could dance a little. But this is a lot harder than I thought," he said. "I brought my friend Jerome Bettis out with me. If I turn his head as my worst critic, then I think I have a chance."
For Jericho, he understands the similarities of athleticism and dancing. And he also has the added benefit of being a rock star as lead singer of hard rock band Fozzy.
"It's leverage and balance and it's a live performance," Jericho said. "And don't forget the spandex and the rhinestones."
Lynn Hoppes is Senior Director of Page 2 and Commentary for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.