Peter Finney will be given sports writers' highest award at Pro Football Hall of Fame
The Times-Picayune decorates the walls of its second-floor cafeteria with poster-sized reprints of front pages from famous dates in New Orleans history.
One of the most prominent is the Nov. 1, 1966 edition trumpeting the news of the arrival of the New Orleans Saints franchise. The headline: "N.O. GOES PRO!" The byline: Peter Finney.
The same byline adorned the lead column on the historic Feb. 8, 2010 edition, chronicling the Saints' first Super Bowl championship.
Peter called it "the greatest moment in (New Orleans') long history."
If anyone would know, it would be Peter. No one has chronicled New Orleans' rich, proud sports scene longer, better or more passionately than him. He has witnessed more sporting events, profiled more athletes and enlightened more readers in this great city than anyone who ever lived.
And now the Pro Football Writers of America has bestowed Peter with its highest honor, the Dick McCann Memorial Award, in recognition of his long and distinguished reporting in the field of pro football. He'll receive the award this weekend as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.
"It's a very nice honor, " Finney said while en route to Canton on Thursday. "It just goes to show you that when you get to be 82, something good happens to you."
Fittingly, Peter is being honored in the same year that Rickey Jackson will become the first Saints player inducted into the Hall of Fame, giving this weekend's festivities a decided New Orleans flavor.
"When I think of New Orleans, I think of Peter, " said Jerry Izenberg, longtime columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger. "That city needs Peter. I hope the people of New Orleans understand what they have in him."
The McCann Award is the most prestigious honor any writer covering the NFL can receive. Past winners include Dave Anderson and Arthur Daley of the New York Times, Will McDonough of the Boston Globe, John Steadman of the Baltimore Sun, Paul Zimmerman and Peter King of Sports Illustrated and John Clayton of ESPN.
As the 42nd McCann recipient, Finney joins former Times-Picayune sports editor Bob Roesler as the only New Orleanians to earn the honor.
"He should have won it years ago, " said Larry Felser, longtime columnist of The Buffalo News and the 1984 McCann honoree. "I don't know anybody in the business that doesn't like him and respect him. He's the classic New Orleans gentleman."
Never one for ceremony, only one member of Finney's extensive family will atten d the banquet, his son Peter Jr.
"The guy told me to try to keep my speech to two minutes, " Peter said. "I told him, 'You've got the right guy.' "
Chuck Cook/The Times-Picayune
Peter Finney interviews Mark Brunell at New Orleans Saints camp when the team was in Millsaps.
That's classic Finney. In a day and age where journalists are often measured by decibel readings or website hits, he has never swayed from his humble, quiet approach. Trusty notebook in hand, he embodies the phrase "walk softly and carry a big stick."
"Peter always has had a good finger on the pulse of his city, " Izenberg said. "He's willing to give credit without being an ass-kisser, and at the same time he's willing to take on a cause."
If anyone could thump their chest in this town, it's Peter.
What other journalist in Louisiana can say they covered LSU's national championship football team in 1958 and the Saints' Super Bowl title in 2010? He has interviewed everyone from Muhammad Ali to Charlton Heston to Ted Williams.
Williams' .406 batting average might be one of the greatest feats in sports history, but it pales in comparison to Finney's 65-year tenure at the States-Item and Times-Picayune.
Finney's newspaper career began June 22, 1945, right after he graduated from Jesuit High School. On the same day that the Battle of Okinawa ended, Peter's storied career began. At the old States, one of New Orleans' two afternoon papers at the time, Finney covered American Legion baseball, then went on in the fall to attend Loyola.
Since then, he has been there to document every major sporting event in the city's history, including 99 percent of the Saints' home and away games.
Peter was there the day they awarded the Saints franchise to the city of New Orleans. He was there when John Gilliam returned the kickoff and when Tom Dempsey booted the field goal. He was even there when they held ostrich races at halftime of games at Tulane Stadium. In fact, he even rode one.
He's been to training camps in San Diego, Calif.; Bowling Green, Ohio; Vero Beach, Fla.; Ruston, Hammond, La Crosse, Wis.; Thibodaux and Jackson, Miss. He has second-guessed all 14 Saints head coaches and queried countless quarterbacks, from Billy Kilmer to the Billy Joes, from Brooks to Brees.
He's undoubtedly the only journalist in town who NFL Commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell know on a first-name basis.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda?
Peter could, would and did.
"It's never been like work to me, " Finney said. "It's something I enjoy doing. That's how I feel. I've just been lucky to hang around, I guess."
No, Peter. We've been the lucky ones.
Re: Peter Finney will be given sports writers' highest award at Pro Football Hall of Fame
CONGRATS TO HIM!
And im glad he lived long enough to do do the Saints such an honor.
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