Years ago, I had this shtick where I’d ask a psychic for her sports predictions every new year. Lovely lady, but not much of a sports fan. A lot of, “I’m seeing several men dressed in red, or maybe it’s blue. Which team is that?” “That’s pretty much all of them.”
I can’t remember any of her sports predictions, but at the end she’d always offer to do a little side predicting for me personally. Every year, she said I was about to come into money.
And every year, despite the fact that it never happened, I’d play a game where I’d say to myself, “Of course, this is all nonsense and it’s never going to come true, but maybe …”
“But maybe” gets you every time.
You’re still doing it, aren’t you? “I know the Leafs don’t have a goalie, or three decent defenceman, or anyone who can throw a hit in the playoffs, but maybe …”
You know it’s not going to turn out all right because it never does. But maybe this time.
If it makes you feel better, I’ll wave my hands over the Magic 8 Ball and pretend to know what’s going to happen. If I’m right, I’m Nostradamus. When I’m wrong, no one will remember I said it. That’s the real magic.
Someone will fight someone else at the Masters: This one the 8 Ball is sure about. The prissy LIV vs. PGA slapfest has already got too ugly for it not to end in a sad shoving match between middle-aged men. Plus, LIV has Brooks Koepka. He gives off the energy of a guy who’s been itching to punch someone for going on 10 years. The Masters is the first major of the year. Augusta National has said all qualifying LIV golfers can attend. The clubhouse there is small. There’s no avoiding each other. All we can hope is that there are cameras on hand when it happens.
Gary Bettman will be NHL commissioner forever: I know it’s impossible, but it’s beginning to seem that way. The last time the league had a different commissioner, Brian Mulroney was prime minister. Maybe the introduction to the 2135 NHL draft will be done by a head in a jar.
Connor McDavid will never ask to leave Edmonton: Once again this year, McDavid is the most reliable source of highlights in the NHL. And once again, the Oilers are just sort of okay. Wayne Gretzky left Edmonton when he was 27. McDavid will be 26 in a couple of weeks. You’d say that McDavid is in danger of becoming the next Marcel Dionne, but he’s already there. At this point, it’s hard to argue that McDavid is even helping hockey in Edmonton. He’s just giving the team’s ownership a one-man, night-after-night excuse to never have to try too hard to figure it out.
The Blue Jays will be in the World Series: And not because the team is put together so well, though it isn’t bad. It’s because you know in your bones that the Jays are on the cusp of asking for public money to rebuild their current stadium, or erect a new one somewhere else. The only way for that future boondoggle to get rolling is for the city/province to become temporarily delirious with BJ Birdy Flu.
The Buffalo Bills will win the Super Bowl: For a lot of karmic reasons – some old and some recent, some sporting and some existential – that city is seriously owed.
Hockey Canada will slip the trap: The most logical end of the biggest Canadian sports scandal in a generation was the trip-mining of the organization that oversaw it. Blow out the supports and wait for the thing to collapse on its own. Let regular people oversee hockey in Canada, and do away with superfluous (though highly profitable) “administering” of the game. But that didn’t happen. However much fun it was watching a series of executive bumblers being slapped around by opportunistic politicians, it turns out we were the ones being played. A bit of theatre for the rubes, after which the organization continues to shamble forward. New faces, same mission: corporate continuity. By this time next year, hockey people will be pretending none of this ever happened.
A Canadian man will win a tennis Grand Slam: One assumes that Novak Djokovic has spent the past few months living inside an underground, hyperbaric chamber, weaning himself off food and oxygen. I’m sort of hoping he’ll win in Australia and then announce during the trophy handover that he’s devoting the rest of his life to helping the real Australians – the kangaroos – retake control of the country. That would leave a lane for Félix Auger-Aliassime to slip through and win Wimbledon. The Canadian has got the game. It’s up to the rest of us to put out the vibe.
The event of the year will be a boxing match: The sporting calendar is thin on big, global events in 2023. That leaves some imaginative room for off-kilter content. It’s been a while since we had a crossover ‘fight of the century’ that got people who don’t follow the sport interested. If you take the Connor McGregor sideshow out of the mix, you have to reach back to Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk to unite all the heavyweight belts will be that sort of fight. Fury alone is enough to power a city-sized press operation. It will probably happen in March, probably in the Middle East, and probably will end with Usyk becoming Ukraine’s international sporting avatar.
The Leafs will lose in the first round: As it stands, the Toronto-based art installation entitled False Hope that is open to the public twice a week at the Scotiabank Arena stands third overall in the NHL standing. The good players are good. The goalies are even okay. The ship hasn’t threatened to capsize once since back at the beginning of the season when the head coach had the gall to suggest his poorly performing team was performing poorly. For all that effort, the Leafs are still looking at a first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Common sense tells you that if you flip a coin enough times it must come up heads eventually. But common sense would be wrong.
What happens when the Leafs go out in the first round again? Nothing. They’re going to ride these horses until they expire.
You’re about to come into money: Totally. I see it. You’re in red. Or maybe it’s blue. And you’re at the bank being handed a bag full of something green. Or maybe it’s orange. Wait a minute. Wait. I’m getting a clearer picture. This may be a supermarket.