Looking ahead toward 2016

Each year at this time I make my fearless prognostications on what I believe will happen in the sports world in the coming year. From what I’m sensing, this year could be a real doozey.

First, let’s finish off the seasons that are already underway; the Washington Capitals will beat the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Finals and the Golden State Warriors will sweep the NBA playoffs and beat Cleveland in five games to win their second consecutive NBA Championship. Turning to the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, Oklahoma, North Carolina, SMU and West Virginia will be in the Final Four, and North Carolina will beat West Virginia for the National Championship.

Following the Rams’ move from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the San Diego Chargers will announce they are NOT moving to Los Angeles, but rather merging with the Rams. The newly combined team will then be known as the Los Angeles Ram Chargers and will announce a 20-year stadium naming rights deal with Dodge.

Peyton Manning decides not to retire after getting a clean bill of health during the Broncos Spring workouts. Denver makes the 40-year old quarterback a player-coach giving him an opportunity to start every game while training his successor.

Major League Baseball may be the most prominent thing in the sports news this year. Not only will the Chicago Cubs finally win another World Series, but they’ll face former National League opponent Houston Astros. The Dodgers will once again have the highest payroll in all of MLB but this year will not make the playoffs, as the Arizona Diamondbacks surprise everyone in the NL West to win the division. Dodgers will finish third in the division behind San Francisco.

However, all this celebration will be dampened in the offseason as MLB will not be able to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union before the Dec. 1 deadline. The sticking point will be whether to add the designated hitter to the National League. The players will want to add the DH, arguing it will preserve more roster spots and prolong careers. Commissioner Rob Manfred will argue it will water down the distinction between the American League and the National League.

Kobe Bryant will consider a comeback, saying he retired a year too early and wants to lead Los Angeles back to the NBA playoffs. This leads Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to announce, “Enough is enough, we are moving on without Kobe.” The Miami Heat will offer Bryant a contract, but he will turn it down, and remain retired as a career member of the Lakers.

The Tulsa Shock, now located in Dallas, still won’t make the WNBA Playoffs.

Tony Stewart will be quite visible in Tulsa during his trial stemming from his run-in with an off-duty officer at the recent Chili Bowl event. Stewart will be found guilty of disorderly conduct and will have to serve 20 hours of community service. He volunteers by picking up garbage on downtown streets following Mayfest.

There won’t be another Triple Crown winner in horse racing this year. What American Pharoah did last year was remarkable, and we won’t see another Triple Crown winner for at least another 20 years. Not only did American Pharoah win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, but he also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic; becoming the first horse to ever win the “Grand Slam” of horse racing. It was a truly amazing year for one very talented thoroughbred.  American Pharoah won nine out of 11 races he entered in his career; finishing 5th in his very first race as a two-year old, and finishing second last year at the Travers Stakes.

In a resurgence of the old guard, Bubba Watson wins the U.S. Open while Jim Furyk wins the PGA Championship. The Masters is won by Rory McIlroy completing his career Grand Slam, and the USA will finally win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008. The USGA announces Tulsa’s Southern Hills will host the 2027 U.S. Open.

At the Summer Olympics in Rio, many athletes get sick due to the poor water conditions. Although they tried to only drink bottled water, they brushed their teeth and showered with tap water. The USA team will lead the overall medal count, led by swimmer Katie Ledecky who blows everyone out of the water, racking up more gold medals than any other athlete at these games. The USA women’s soccer team will follow up their World Cup victory with a Olympic gold medal. The USA basketball team will crush every team they play, ultimately defeating Spain for the gold and the USA gymnastic team will have its worse showing in decades, coming away with only a handful of bronze and silver, but no gold. Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, will add to his collection of gold medals by winning the 100 meters, yet again.

That’s it, a look ahead at the year to come. I hope I didn’t spoil the surprise for you on any of this. Just remember you read it here first.