By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald Commentary
2019 arrived and departed in a flash, more quickly than the pages of a calendar flipping in the breeze in an old black-and-white film. In honor of my dad, who each year in The Times-Picayune would compile a list of sports predictions for the coming year, what follows is a baptized version of Nostradamus-on-demand. Red-crayon Xs for the misses; green-crayon checks for the hits. (Nostradamus of the Bayou is in such a festive Christmas mood he offers some bonus picks, starting Dec. 28, 2019.)
DECEMBER: In the Peach Bowl, Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow throws four TD passes and Clyde Edwards-Helaire scores twice as LSU advances to the national championship game with a 42-20 pasting of Oklahoma. … The No. 1 Tigers will meet Clemson, a 38-24 winner over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. … Saints clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a 30-10 win at Carolina, the first game in NFL history in which a team scores five touchdowns but misses the two-point conversion every time. Sean Payton says he got the idea by watching an old Jim Haslett VHS tape. … Whole Foods does damage control for its mouthy butcher by offering Payton a deal on organic prime rib: buy one, get one free.
JANUARY: Instead of firing himself as GM, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fires coach Jason Garrett and signs Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to a five-year, $45 million contract. … Tulane slips past Southern Miss 24-21 in the Armed Forces Bowl. Vince Liberto of J.S. Paluch takes out the back page of every church bulletin, demanding that LSU play Tulane to prove itself, once and for all. … In the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the Superdome, the greatest season for a quarterback in college football history culminates with Burrow throwing five TD passes and scoring on an 8-yard quarterback draw to lift LSU to its third national championship in 16 years with a 45-21 rout of Clemson. … Burrow becomes the most significant Ohio émigré to Louisiana since Lafcadio Hearn, who once wrote of New Orleans: “It is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.” … Aware that he turns 25 in 2021, Burrow opens an exploratory PAC in Baton Rouge with an eye on the 2023 governor’s race. … Kansas coach Les Miles announces he is ditching the skinny pitch from the I-formation “because it just doesn’t seem to be working anymore.” … LHSAA principals, most of them public school execs, vote to maintain the status quo in its public-private rift. … After a first-round bye, the Saints dispatch the Packers, 28-20, in the divisional playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco. … The Saints’ dream of another Super Bowl title in Miami is squashed by the 49ers, who sail 75 yards in six plays in the final 1:45 to pull out a 30-28 victory on tight end George Kittle’s leaping 25-yard catch in the back of the end zone. On “The Catch II,” replays show safety Marcus Williams slipping in the northern California dew despite being told by Payton earlier in the game to change his cleats. … In the AFC Championship Game, Baltimore outscores Kansas City, 35-31, behind Lamar Jackson’s 127 yards rushing. … On Jan. 31 – in his long-awaited NBA debut for the Pelicans – Zion Williamson scores 21 points and grabs eight rebounds. The good news: Zion is still on two feet after the 125-121 victory over Memphis.
FEBRUARY: The Ravens turn back the clock, rushing for 235 yards in a 28-17 victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. … NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspends Patriots coach Bill Belichick for the first eight games in the 2020 season for his role in Spygate II – illegally filming the sideline signals of the Cincinnati Bengals. Goodell refuses to buy Belichick’s alibi – that he needed the video footage for the Salvation Army course he teaches in the offseason in American Sign Language. … After dropping 23 of 25 games, the Pelicans change their marketing slogan from “Won’t Bow Down” to “Pardon Our Process.” Pre-game “Won’t Bow Down” drum-beater files for unemployment and sues team for contributing to his carpal tunnel syndrome.
MARCH: Realizing they would have to eat $21 million in dead money if he were not on the roster, Saints re-sign 41-year-old Drew Brees for two more seasons. … Free agent Teddy Bridgewater finally gets his starter’s chance, choosing the Los Angeles Chargers, who part ways with Philip Rivers. … LSU basketball finishes 20-9 overall and 11-7 in the SEC to earn a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. … Tigers lose in the second round to Memphis. … Les Miles gives keynote address to the National High School Coaches Association on the intricacies of the fake field goal. “Don’t do it when you’re down 47-3 to Oklahoma,” he cautions.
APRIL: Brooks Koepka holds off Tiger Woods’ two back-nine eagles on Sunday to win the Masters. … The Final Four boils down to Ohio State, Louisville, Kansas and Gonzaga. Kansas sophomore guard Devon Dotson scores 25 in an 85-78 victory over Louisville to win the title. “I really hope we can beat Louisville one day,” Les Miles tells Jim Nantz. … The Bengals grab Joe Burrow No. 1 overall. In the green room, Joe’s mom Robin gives her son a big kiss and an orange-and-black-tiger-striped flak jacket. … Without second- or seventh-round picks as bargaining chips, the Saints still trade up for the 18th time in 13 seasons under Sean Payton, offering their 2020 and ’21 first-round picks to move up to No. 10 and select Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. … Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia team up to win the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana. … Zion nails down his 10th national endorsement, this one from Bubble Wrap©. … Pelicans finish 24-58, but VP of basketball operations David Griffin channels Jim Finks, the greatest Tom Benson hire ever: “When times are tough, you just keep sawing wood.” … However, the limb holding Alvin Gentry finally snaps, and Griffin taps Dave Joerger as the new coach. … Mr. Monomoy nips Sharecropper in a photo finish at the Louisiana Derby.
MAY: In a Kentucky Derby thriller, Sharecropper runs down Anneau d’Or in the final furlong. … Koepka keeps his grand slam hopes alive with a two-shot victory in the PGA Championship over Xander Schauffele at Harding Park in San Francisco. … Despite a shaky start, Dennis’ Moment recovers to easily win the Preakness. … Rising Japanese star Takuma Sato wins the Indy 500. … In an eerie preview of the first Tuesday in November, Les Miles is elected mayor of Fansville, but his main challenger, Flo from Progressive insurance, immediately challenges the results. Exit polls indicate 135 voting machines were short-circuited after being sprayed surreptitiously with Dr. Pepper.
JUNE: New York-bred Tiz the Law captures the Belmont. … Patrick Cantlay’s radar driving tames Winged Foot to win the U.S. Open. … Giannis Antetokounmpo averages 31 points and 12 rebounds in powering the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA championship in six games over the Los Angeles Lakers. After being scolded by LeBron James, Anthony Davis sits out Game 6 with a tweaked ego. … The XXXII Summer Olympic Games open in Tokyo. Gymnast Simone Biles mesmerizes the world with her second straight Olympic gold in the all-around, Katie Ledecky leaves the world in her freestyle wake and Noah Lyles becomes the first American man since Carl Lewis to win the 100- and 200-meter sprints. … In a political masterstroke, Les Miles does a live, split-screen interview with Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, releasing his Dr. Pepper dossier that proves collusion at the highest levels of Progressive’s ad agency team.
JULY: Novak Djokovic bests Rafael Nadal in four sets to win his third straight Wimbledon. … In the Open at Royal St. George’s, Rory McIlroy atones for his missed cut at Royal Portrush in Ireland last year and holds on to win by a shot over Tiger Woods and Tommy Fleetwood.
AUGUST: With a bumper crop of the No. 1 recruiting class on campus, Ed Orgeron says Myles Brennan has the arm and the smarts to get LSU back to the CFP playoffs, although he can’t expect a Burrow-like repeat performance. … Alvin Kamara is 100% healthy and vows to redeem his disappointing 2019 season. … After watching grainy films of Jim Thorpe win the Olympic decathlon in 1912, Sean Payton gives QB-WR-TE Taysom Hill practice snaps at outside linebacker, defensive end and strong safety. “You never know when we’re going to need him to stop a two-point conversion,” Payton says.
SEPTEMBER: The Brennan era starts at LSU, with the Tigers sweeping Texas-San Antonio, Texas, Rice and Ole Miss. … Tulane opens by beating Southeastern Louisiana but loses back-to-back-road games against Northwestern and Mississippi State … The Saints start 3-1 with wins over Tampa Bay, Oakland and Carolina and a loss at Dallas. … Les Miles finds his “smoking gun” in the Fansville election scandal: Videotape shows Flo using her price-changing pistol to change the results of 3,015 hanging chads.
OCTOBER: LSU dispatches Nicholls, Florida in the Swamp, Arkansas and Mississippi State. … Tulane Greenie lifer John Serio goes into hiding after an 0-4 month. Rouse’s tries to help in a nationwide search by placing his mugshot on every milk carton they sell. … The Saints put together another 3-1 stretch to get to 6-2. … Bill Belichick’s eight-game NFL sabbatical evolves into a part-time GM job with the Houston Astros, where he teaches Astros execs about the beauty of the dog whistle. “No one can hear us tipping off pitches except us,” Belichick says, inserting a plastic decoder from a Cracker Jack box into his ear. … Astros win the World Series in six games over the Braves.
NOVEMBER: Every four years – and this will happen in 2020 – the first Wednesday in November is designated as “Thomas Merton Wednesday,” a spiritually therapeutic effort requiring 24 hours of silence to restore the human soul. … Nick Saban gets his revenge for losing to LSU in 2019 with a 35-34 victory over the Tigers in Tiger Stadium, but LSU wins out to go 11-1 and qualify for the CFB Playoff as the No. 4 seed. … Tulane finishes 4-7. … The Saints defeat the Vikings but lose to the Chiefs and Bears to enter December 8-4.
DECEMBER: The Saints finish with a 3-1 stretch to get to 11-5, good enough to clinch their fourth consecutive NFC South title. … LSU nipped by No. 1 Clemson, 28-27, in the semifinals… The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans announces it should have the Claiborne Avenue power turbine, which exploded 12 months earlier, ready for the 2024 hurricane season. … HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached, without crayons, at firstname.lastname@example.org.