Christmas couldn’t have been better. We greeted the day with a lazy morning of gift giving as Melanie bought me plenty of my favorite things (books, bowtie, booze) and loved her gifts (books, beanie, bubbly) as well. Later in the evening, we joined our friends for a Christmas dinner that lasted well past midnight. It was perfection. So much so, that I kept thinking that the next day was actually Jan. 1. So, of course, I made a tweet about it to which my buddy and Thibodeaux-famous Vincent Sbisa tweeted back, “This is the gray area between years that I call the ‘Best of Week’.” Boom! And, as always, I’m nothing if not a conformist, so ladies and gentlemen, here is yet another year-ending Best of List.
Best Pro Move – New Orleans Baby Cakes
You evidently hate it but you’re talking about it. The year’s best pro move is easily the rebranding of the Zephyrs into the New Orleans Baby Cakes. Yes, yes – everyone has seen your posts about how dumb the name is and that the team logos are wacky. Everyone knows because everyone talks about it. You, your friends, the Washington Post, cbssports.com. Get it? It was a great move for a franchise that finished dead last in attendance, no matter the outcome. Now go buy a T-shirt or hat and act like you always liked the name before everyone else does the same thing.
Best Twitter Handle – Walter M. Kimbrough @HipHopPrez
The beauty of Twitter is the self-creation of identity via naming. I created @thesonofnoise because I thought it sounded cool, but there are many cooler or funnier names. For instance, I can’t believe @SirStinkfoot hasn’t been snapped up yet. Anyway, my fave New Orleans twitter handle belongs to Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University. Kimbrough rolls with the name @HipHopPrez — which is as cool of a nickname as one can have in the ranks of higher education. Honestly, first time I read it and saw he was the actual president of Dillard, I almost enrolled in some classes.
Best Back to the Future Impersonation – New Orleans Saints
I once worked with “Doc”, Christopher Lloyd, from "Back to the Future." One thing you don’t realize from film is just how big that dude is. Honestly, I think he could put Michael J. Fox in his pocket. Anyway, you might be feeling that you’ve been watching that ‘80s classic these past three with the New Orleans Saints. This team is one loss away from ending their third straight season at 7-9. And if they get to 8-8, do you really feel like the team has improved or do you think you’ll be watching "Back To The Future Part 4" next year?
Best Football Bank – West Bank
Well it’s definitely not the bank that the Mercedes-Benz Superdome calls home. Nope, look farther south. The Edna Karr Cougars (4A) and Landry-Walker Charging Buccaneers (5A) both won high school state championships this year. Landry-Walker, after dropping their first two games of the season, went on a scorched-earth campaign — winning 13 straight and scoring 50 or more points in every playoff game. Edna Karr, who beat Landry-Walker 42-34 in week two of the season, never tasted defeat, finishing the season a perfect 14-0.
Best of Class – Leonard Fournette
No one imagined this season playing out like it did for Leonard Fournette. To be honest, it doesn’t really feel like he had a season. However, the stats tell a different story. Fournette rang up 100-yard games against the Wisconsin’s and Auburn’s of the world. Then he absolutely decimated Ole Miss for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns. But in a year where Fournette was supposed to chase greatness, he found himself on the sidelines more often than not with an ankle injury. His handling of the issue has been nothing but classy. Fournette could’ve easily been a distraction, making it about “me” instead of the team, but he was always there cheering for his teammates. He was always giving interviews and keeping positive. Which is really what sports is all about.
Best Surprise of the Year – University of New Orleans Privateers Baseball
No one saw it coming. A first year coach, Blake Dean, taking over a team that hadn’t had a winning record since 2008, sounded like yet another “rebuilding year” for UNO the Privateers. The writers and coaches didn’t see it coming, picking the team to finish in the cellar of the Southland conference. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Lakefront. The Privateers bats came out swinging and the team had some buzz to it, going 31-26 on the season and qualifying for the tournament for the first time since joining the Southland. Wins over Tulane and Louisiana Tech punctuated a season in which no one could take the Privateers for granted anymore. The team kicks off its 2017 campaign on Feb. 17 against Southern.
Best Team of the Year – Tulane Green Wave Baseball
It’s not easy looking for “Best of” teams in the Big Easy. The Zephyrs have been playing in front of sparse crowds and the Saints and Pelicans playoffs hopes have vanished quicker than a Muses shoe thrown into the neutral ground. So if you want to ride the big horse, and one that actually has a chance at championships you need to get to Yulman Stadium to check out the Green Wave. This team is back.
Ask LSU, ask Arizona, ask the American Conference. The returning AAC regular-season champions are a sticky bunch and have the talent to win any given game. You will not find many pitching staffs better than Tulane and if new head coach Travis Jewett gets a consistent attack out of the Green Wave offense…oh boy. So, get to Yulman this year, folks. You know they sell beer at the games, right? The Green Wave starts making life miserable for opponents starting this Feb. 17 against Army. Roll Wave.
The best kind of “Best of” is the list of all your family and friends. So, as the Christmas season of 2016 twinkles farewell and 12th night approaches like a streetcar full of champagne, look back on what was good in your life this year and appreciate the people who helped you get by.
Happy New Year, New Orleans. We deserve it.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every year’s end should be accompanied by beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: It’s New Years. Give us bubbles or give us death!
Playlist Recommendation: Kool and the Gang – “Celebration”
*Photos from the Associated Press and TulaneGreenWave.com