This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Jan. 2, 2004.

With 2004, of course, come the predictions

 By Ed Odeven

Sports scribes from Teaneck to Tijuana and Tacoma to Tampa don’t need a whole lotta inspiration, or a plethora of research, to write a column this weekend. They can simply glance at the calendar and say, “Oy! It’s a new year.”

This, of course, means a ton of prediction columns (of the absurd, accurate, amusing, ridiculous and insightful variety) will be published in countless newspapers across the country, including this one.

I’ll start by prognosticating that Don Zimmer is NOT signing a contract with Don King. Though the ol’ curmudgeon is as skilled as many of the so-called heavyweight title contenders out there and is guaranteed an eight-figure signing bonus to join King’s drove of pugilists, Zim said enough is enough and opts to become a personal consultant for Cubs and Red Sox fans. In short, he tells them not winning it all (since, it seems, the beginning of time) isn’t the end of the world. After all, he continues, Joe Torre has guided the Yanks to four World Series titles since 1996 and it’s tough enough for him to produce a smile once a week — call it Steinbrenner-itis. Meanwhile, Zim’s new occupation triggers the return of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to the top of the pop charts.

Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets will win a playoff series or two this year. This kid is truly special. He’s a special talent who is surrounded by a solid supporting cast — when was the last time anyone accused the Nuggets of having a solid supporting cast? — that features another rising star, Nene.

Speaking of phenoms, remember the name Sebastian Telfair. The point guard from Coney Island, N.Y., will lead the Louisville Cardinals to a No. 1 ranking in his freshman season at the school next fall, and in early April of 2005 a national title. Then the fantastic floor leader, Stephon Marbury’s cousin, will forgo his final three seasons of college ball and enter the NBA Draft.

Ichiro Suzuki will hit .350 this year and win the AL batting title. After an “off-season” — he hit only .312 in 2003 and didn’t win a batting title for the first time in his illustrious career — the Japanese star will avoid having any prolonged batting slumps and shatter George Sisler’s record of all-time record of 257 hits, which was set in 1920.

One smart hombre from southern California will begin the latest craze on the Internet: selling archived MP3s of every baseball game Vin Scully has ever broadcast. He says he’s doing it to save up enough money for his dream vacation: watching darts tournaments every day in a different venue in a different city for a year.

Suddenly, with all this free time on their hands Steve Spurrier, Jim Fassel and Dave McGinnis decide to open a coffee shop in Touchstone, Miss. (The city’s name reminds them of touchdowns — their favorite word in the football lexicon, even if their respective teams allowed them with great frequency in 2003.)

There’s one problem, though. Nosy Rosie, the only person who applies to be a waitress there, is unofficially recognized as the world’s biggest schlemazel, unlucky person. (Customers wind up with more tater tots and chicken strips on their lap and spilt soft drinks on their pants than they do on the table in front of them.) To alleviate the problem, the three coaches-turned entrepreneurs place a chalkboard in the kitchen and take turns drawing Xs and Os showing the proper way to carry a food tray and refill a cup of coffee.

By early May, the three gridiron gurus are sick of their new profession and vow to return to coaching, even if it’s a peewee team, by July 9.

In June, the Big Aristotle, aka Shaquille O’Neal, coins another gem of an acronym: FOUL, Folksy Ombudsmen are Unknown Luminaries.

Florida skipper Jack McKeon discards his cigars and asks Roger Craig to teach him how to throw the split-fingered fastball. It works, sort of; McKeon’s version of the pitch is, well, a split-finger changeup. Anyway, McKeon, pressed into action after the All-Star break, becomes the Marlins’ closer and manages to save 27 games in the final three months to help the team clinch another playoff berth.

Michael Vick, healthy and hungry to return to the form for an entire season, delivers an unforgettable performance in 2004, passing for 5,000 yards and rushing for 1,500 more. He then leads the Falcons to the Super Bowl, where Atlanta squeaks by the Chargers next January.

Serena Williams also has a big-time comeback, winning all four Grand Slam events.

Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald makes 125 receptions, 25 of which are touchdowns, and wins the Heisman.

David Wells, the newest Padre, is tan, rested and ready to go — pitching for his hometown team, that is. He also makes a vow for the coming year: no altercations after 3 a.m.

And, finally, the Arizona Cardinals go 4-12 next season. Gee, I can’t wait.