New Orleans has long been a great sports city. And if there’s anything a great sports city deserves, it’s a great sports columnist.
For almost seven decades, the Crescent City had Peter Finney.
Now, a new generation of readers gets to discover Finney’s legacy, and his fans get to relive the wit and wisdom he brought to the city’s daily newspapers.
“The Best of Peter Finney” gives a wonderful look not only into some great sports moments but into the writer. Every writer has a distinctive voice that reveals something about the author. In Finney’s case, it revealed exactly what those who know him experienced — intelligence, humor and a concise, unassuming style that never tried to steal the spotlight.
As topics go, he had a lot to choose from: LSU luminaries like Billy Cannon, Pete Maravich and Skip Bertman; the entire history of the New Orleans Saints; Super Bowls and boxing championship fights in the Superdome; legends like Jack Nicklaus, Eddie Robinson and Jesse Owens; and some extraordinary Joes like DiMaggio, Louis and Montana.
Having grown up in New Orleans, Finney knew his city, and it gave him a deep perspective that showed up in his writing. When the Saints played their first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and the 2005 season, his column that day reminded readers of Dave Dixon, the man who made the Superdome happen in the first place. Finney could write about anything, including a news story about an airplane crash that happened at John F. Kennedy International Airport shortly after he had arrived on an earlier flight.
Those who shared pressboxes with Finney know him to be a gentle, friendly man, but even that has its limits. In the foreword, Finney’s son, Peter Finney Jr., recounts the time at Super Bowl XX when, hours before deadline, an editor pressed his father to declare what his column would be about. The elder Finney looked up from his keyboard and dismissed the editor thus: “The Preakness.”
Told you he was concise.
If you’re a sports fan, this should be in your bookcase.