It's the lamest gimmick known to journalism (print, TV, Internet): the end-of-the-year prediction column.

Hey, what can we say? As Picasso once put, "A genius can steal anything he needs." So the Writers' Bloc stole this lame gimmick. Enjoy.

Happy New Year.

The no-brainers | From David Schoenfield
Predictions are for idiots. Thus I shall state only what we all know will occur:

  • The Cubs will not win the World Series. And neither will the Red Sox.

    Brian Cashman
    Brian Cashman is already thinking about which sad-sack franchise to fleece in 2004.

  • The Yankees will make a midseason trade with some sad-sack franchise and somewhere a grouchy old sportswriter will pen words that the Summer Game is going to hell and it ain't like it used to be in the '50s ... you know, when the Yankees won every year and kept making trades with sad-sack franchises.

  • The Clippers will not win the NBA championship.

  • The Pistons will win a playoff game 68-65 and a grouchy middle-aged sportswriter will complain that the NBA has gone to hell ever since Larry Bird retired.

  • An NFL TV analyst will say, "You gotta have a running game!" Yet, come NFL Draft time, all the crummy teams will be looking to draft a better quarterback.

  • Alex Rodriguez will make a lot of money.

  • Mats Sundin will continue to be the most underappreciated superstar in the four major pro sports.

  • Somewhere, a grouchy young sportswriter will complain about the BCS, Barry Bonds, cupcake college football schedules, steroids, all this statistical bullcrap in baseball, kids going straight from high school to the NBA, Oregon's glow-in-the-dark uniforms, soccer, too many bowl games, NFL preseason football, Pete Rose, the hypocrisy of the NCAA, George Steinbrenner and women playing on the PGA Tour.

  • And, at some point, some young female tennis player will wear a little-too-revealing outfit and somewhere a grouchy old, a grouchy middle-aged and a grouchy young sportswriter will write that women's tennis is better than ever.

    We're all going to be big, big stars | From Shaun Assael
    ABC's fortunes are saved by a sit-com about a bunch of frustrated but wacky writers who are corralled by a crusty but loveable editor named Sarge to write on topics that they know precious little about. Lots of wacky mayhem follows.

    In February, a reality show is spun off that follows Sarge as he tries the same thing with people who actually know what they're talking about. Alas, ABC's fortunes tumble when ABC programming chief Susan Lyne discovers that people who know what they're talking about aren't nearly as wacky or loveable as the original crew.

    "WB: The Show" is renewed for the 2004-05 season, but without The Lip, whose demand for a seat cushion is seen as dangerously militant. He's replaced by George Lopez, with no obvious negative effect.

    The Big Dance ... in February! | From Alan Grant
    Torry Holt
    Torry Holt will need to top this if he's going to go for a record fine.
    Fully aware that the No. 1 issue at this spring's NFL owners' meetings shall be premeditated touchdown celebrations (the league's ultimate goal is to levy the first $1 million fine), one participant in the 2004 Super Bowl shall perform the most outlandish celebration heretofore known to mankind. I predict that someone shall be a member of the St. Louis Rams.

    Love the Drake | From Robert Lipsyte
    When the power failed just before the scheduled start of the NCAA championship basketball game on April 5, 2004, the officials immediately blamed the Drake Group, a ruly bunch of faculty members practicing a little mild civil disobedience outside the Alamodome. The Drakes were protesting the "dumbing down" of higher education, thanks to the "emphasis on commercialized intercollegiate sports." They were handing out pamphlets they had written containing the grades of varsity athletes, possibly a federal crime.

    While the Drakes didn't look as though they could short a circuit, much less black out an arena, they were quickly rounded up and taken into custody. Actually, as Luke Cyphers and Shaun Assael subsequently revealed in ESPN: The Printed Thing, the officials pulled the plug themselves to buy more time in their negotiations with the captains of the two title teams. The "student-athletes" had demanded $25,000 per starter and $15,000 for the other members of their college teams as appearance money. No cash, no title game.

    While less than a half-million dollars for such an event seems paltry, NCAA President Myles Brand was afraid it would set a precedent that could change the course of western civilization, not to mention the many fine Division I teams that field universities. In five minutes, he had the NCAA pass a retroactive regulation in which "scholar-ballers" could be given "loans" that only needed to be paid back from multi-million dollar pro contracts, and then only if they wanted to. The lights came back on and, as you remember, the game was bookmarked for ESPN Classic. If it wasn't for the Luke and Shaun piece, the Drakes would still be in jail.

    Order up the straitjacket | From Melanie Jackson
    My husband essentially grew up in the Seattle area. Yet over the more than two decades he lived in the Emerald City, none of "his" teams -- the Seahawks, Mariners or Sonics -- were able to bring home a title.

    And that's why, after living in Connecticut less than five years, I will be forced to add a room with padded walls to our house in 2004 when all the teams he loves to hate in our "new home" win this season -- the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and the UConn men's and women's NCAA basketball double.

    The amazing (thing about) race | From Ralph Wiley
    Remember when Kermit Washington punched Rudy T.? You must remember. Nobody will let you forget. Remember when Spree choked P.J.? Remember how we were lead to believe these events were of meaningful sociological import, and basically, if we weren't careful, it meant the end of civilization as we knew it? Remember how Romo sought out a teammate who successfully blocked him in practice, snatched off the dude's helmet, then shocked him by breaking his face and ending his career, only to be sent home for the day and later get a position as football analyst for Fox? Remember?

    For yet another year, many people will believe this is the greatest basketball coach to ever live.
    We predict absolutely no correlation will be drawn between these events. Again. We feel we are Nostradamusian here.

    We predict, furthermore, that Gene Hackman will remain a more famous hoop coach than the recently deceased Ray Crowe, even though Ray Crowe actually did coach the winners of two Indiana state high school basketball championships, in '55 and '56, having had the luck, privilege and responsibility of coaching the Big O in the years right after Brown v. The Board of Education.

    We predict that right now, at this very moment, somebody is thinking, "So? Why does everything have to be about race?"

    We predict the same somebody owns a DVD of "Hoosiers."

    Some things are inevitable | From Steve Wulf
    Given the surprises of the past year -- the Marlins, the Panthers, the evidence that Charlize Theron could act -- we hesitate to make any predictions for 2004. But this much we do know: George Steinbrenner will fire Joe Torre on July 14 and replace him with Billy Martin. Oh right, he's dead. Make that Stump Merrill then.

    The French will still be rude | From Chuck Hirshberg
    I predict Lance Armstrong will win No. 6, and stick it to the French, right where they don't like it, which is anywhere an American puts it. And, boy, am I rooting for him.

    Lance Armstrong
    Hopefully, "Il" will leave the French feeling "ill" again.
    I never thought much about France either way until a couple of years ago, when a remarkably dumb and humorless Ohio Congressman named Bob Ney became upset over France's opposition to the Bush Administration's Iraq policy and caused a disturbance in the Congressional Cafeteria. Locking himself in the deep-freezer with a box of donuts and a thermos full of hot coffee, Congressman Ney refused to open the door unless two demands were met:

    First: Henceforth, "French-fried" potatoes could not be served at official state functions unless they were called "Freedom Fries"; and

    Second, Congressmen and their interns would be prohibited from enjoying a certain sex act involving the lips and tongue, unless they referred to it as a "Freedom Kiss."

    Incredibly, Ney thought he could discredit France by reminding Americans that the French invented both fried spuds and tongue kissing. That's Washington, D.C. for you -- completely out of touch with average citizens. But Ney, a true Machiavellian, had chosen his deep-freeze well -- he'd snagged the one in which the Congressional supply of chocolate eclairs and Canadian bacon is kept. So his demands were met.

    Meet the Bloc
    Here's the full Writers' Bloc roster:

    From Page 2: Jim Caple, Patrick Hruby, Eric Neel, David Schoenfield, Dan Shanoff, Ralph Wiley.

    From ESPN The Magazine: Eric Adelson, Shaun Assael, Luke Cyphers, Alan Grant, Tom Friend, Peter Keating, Tim Keown, Steve Wulf.

    Other hired guns: Gerri Hirshey, Chuck Hirshberg, Melanie Jackson, Robert Lipsyte.

    I was reluctant to jump on this anti-France bandwagon ... until I read Lance Armstrong's most recent book, "Every Second Counts." It describes, among other things, a relentless campaign by French authorities to discredit him. For 21 months, Lance's every conceivable bodily fluid was sampled, tested, retested and, probably, tasted. Innuendoes and outright insults were dangled constantly. French cycling fans rejoiced briefly when rumors circulated that Armstrong had finally tested positive for something. But, sadly for them, it was a false positive, wrought by a perfectly legal cortisone treatment which Lance uses to relieve the painful butt-chapping that torments cyclists the world over.

    How much does France hate Lance? Jean-Marie Leblanc can barely bring himself to utter Armstrong's name. Go the official Tour de France website if you don't believe me. Leblanc writes: "Sera-t-'il' le premier a six victoires?" ("Will 'he' be the first to get six victories?") That's what they call Armstrong: "il." Les dirty bastards.

    Well, to answer your question, Leblanc: Moi sure de hell hope so. Lance Armstrong is as American as le Big Mac, and nothing would make me happier than to see him spread his golden arches and humiliate France one more time. Will he do it? Well, "il" beat cancer; France can't be much worse than that.

    Bracing for Athens | From Eric Neel
    I'm down with my esteemed colleague Chuck: It is my fervent hope that Mr. Armstrong will make up eight minutes in the mountain stages and cruise to another Tour win.

    It is my sad suspicion that Mark Prior and Kerry Wood will come up lame some time in June and the Chicago Cubs will sink like a stone.

    And it is my deep, dark fear that, despite all my efforts to avoid them, Athens up-close-and-personal features will find me where I live, work and play, and drive me, day by day, into a cold, unforgiving contempt for all things Olympic.

    Mark the calendar | From Dan Shanoff
    Predictions for 2004, in chronological order of the events for which the most ink/airtime/bytes will be spilled/filled/consumed:

    January: Michigan wins AP half of college football's national title.

    Maurice Clarett
    We might actually see Maurice Clarett back in uniform in 2004.
    February: Pete Rose reinstated to baseball

    March: Maurice Clarett wins lawsuit against NFL

    April: Tiger Woods wins Masters, goes on to win Slam

    May: Michelle Wie becomes first female golfer to make cut at a PGA event.

    June: Kobe Bryant named NBA Finals MVP as Lakers win title.

    July: Kobe Bryant found innocent of all charges

    August: Swimmer Michael Phelps wins six Olympic gold medals.

    September: Post-Olympics steroids scandal rocks all of sports.

    October: Cubs-Red Sox play in World Series.

    November: Montreal Expos relocated to D.C.

    December: A-Rod still on trading block.

    It's a Jacko world | From Jim Caple
    My only prediction: The Michael Jackson trial will get better ratings than the Kobe Bryant trial.

    The stupidity will keep on comin' From Patrick Hruby
    I'd like to see DARPA hire Billy Beane. Task No. 1: Ensure that USA Baseball qualifies for the 2008 Olympics.

    I'd love to see Pat Riley trademark the phrase "Bennifer," if only because the residuals from "threepeat" likely are drying up.

    And I'd gladly exchange a bodily appendage -- something small, like an ear -- to ensure that Ryan and Trista just go away, considering that even my absent-minded professor father has heard of them.

    As for what I think will transpire in 2004? Easy: more of the same ridiculous stuff. The Namaths, the 'Sheeds, the Nicole Richies of the world always find a way -- which is good, since it gives me something to write about.


    Writers' Bloc: The 2003 time capsule

    Caple: The year that wasn't

    The List: Best lists of 2003

    Sportoon: Back to the future

    The Year in Sex & Sports: 2001

    Page 2's Person of the Year

    Page 2's Couple of the Year

    The List: Worst moves of 2003

    The List: Best rookies of 2003

    The List: Best moves of 2003

    Murphy: Rhyme time

    Writers' Bloc: We the people ...

    Writers' Bloc: The Gift of the A-Rod

    Writers' Bloc: Tender moments

    Writers' Bloc: Fathers playing catch with sons

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