Peter Finney is my tour guide. No, we’re not tip-toeing through a graveyard, or stumbling through the French Quarter pointing at houses and inventing creepy tales – though I’m sure he could make that cool, too.

This week, we are flying through a city’s history from one man’s point of view. A history lesson about New Orleans told through the eyes of Finney in the “The Best of Peter Finney: Legendary New Orleans Sportswriter.” A history told through sport, but which speaks to, and about, the heart of the Crescent City’s populace.

It’s also a tale of change, or maybe just excellence – for to read Finney’s prose is to not only read about sports, but also about a town, and the everyday man. I don’t want to say it harkens back to bygone era, but, as you read it, you will feel it. You will notice the difference. You can smell the grass in City Park Stadium as Finney watches Felix “Doc” Blanchard lead St. Staniclaus against Jesuit, his alma mater. You can feel the elation rippling through Uptown as Finney reports on Tulane football’s first victory over the LSU Tigers in 25 years. Big events happen, and are reported, in sports all the time, but few writers latch onto the heart of it like Finney.

I’m not one to trash our modern-day sportswriters, like many attempt to do. Sports writing is just like everything else that’s been around for over a century. New flavors come in and out of fashion, and many of us act like they just don’t make them like they used to. You see it everywhere, you’re probably thinking of that friend of yours right now.

Sport’s HistoryBut I won’t argue that it isn’t different. Whether fact or fiction, it seems like there were more characters, in front of and behind the pen, back in the day. And maybe the times did let a writer express himself more confidently, without fear of disapproval by an editor or the fans. There were no comment sections or message boards back then, so that must have been a treat. And maybe the newsrooms were different than the soul-crushing modern-day cube farms that are prevalent in our offices, and any other data farm, these days. That definitely can’t help.

And, one could say the inherent nature of the Internet itself has changed sports writing – not only in its delivery, and speed – but maybe into an altogether blander format. Like that time your buddy forgot to add enough spice to the first batch at the crawfish boil. A boon is that the Internet can push one’s writings to a national audience, but, on the other hand, it can change the mindset of the writer from local to national. So, gone are the days of reading and writing with a city’s “blinkers” on. Now, a Saints story is read (and commented upon) in a McDonald’s in Des Moines as quickly as it is read in a coffee shop on Royal Street. It’s just different.

Finney knew this – he lived it. From the ‘50s until his retirement in 2013, Finney banged out the stories of New Orleans, whether his weapon was a typewriter or laptop. He lived through the changes, but kept his own style – telling stories as if he were relating them to a group of friends.

Finney, my tour guide, takes me from Uptown to Downtown, from the old Tulane Stadium to the Superdome. We travel throughout the seasons – the big three (football, baseball, basketball), and those that are now considered, “old-timey” (boxing, horse racing). Finney has seen it all – through his collected columns, he tells us about the birth and decades-long march to respectability of the Saints, the culture war that was Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling II, and tales of unexpected greatness, as when LSU were the beneficiaries of the Bluegrass Miracle. It’s all here, and it’s worth the price of the tour. Now please excuse me, as Finney and I are heading out to the Fair Grounds to talk about this horse named Risen Star. Maybe you’ve heard of him? If not, come long, Finney can tell you all about him.

 

Beer Pairing: Abita Brewing’s “Legendary Gator” 

Playlist Recommendation: Midnight Oil – “King of The Mountain"

 

 

Around The Way

Sport’s HistoryThe Tulane Green Wave will host the Southeastern Louisiana Lions tonight at Turchin Stadium in a clash of Top-30 baseball teams. The Lions saw their 14-game winning streak snapped by Nicholls State over the weekend, but came back and demolished the Colonels – 14-8, 15-2 – to win the series. The Green Wave split a pair of games at UConn before having the third game cancelled due to SNOW. It’s April. And that’s why you should never move north. First pitch is 6:30 p.m.

Xavier University women’s track team is making a habit of collecting awards, as sophomore Clarke Allen and junior Kayla Quincy received conference honors. Allen posted her third straight Top-7 finish in the Triple Jump, covering 10.62 meters in her best attempt. Quincy, from Avondale, Louisiana, qualified for the 2016 NAIA National Championships in the 400-meter dash, with a time of 57.06 seconds, according to the school’s press release. I once ran the 400 in 55.01…minutes. If you like watching people that run fast, and jump far – you can see Xavier this Saturday at the Leon Johnson NSU Invitational in Natchitoches.

 

 

*Saints photo from the Associated Press, Tulane photo from tulanegreenwave.com