I will tell you now about some of the names you will be hearing in the '90s. But don't hold me to it.
Anyone attempting to write a similar article in December, 1979, about the '80s may have had the same difficulty.
You needed no crystal ball to predict Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Wayne Gretzky would dominate their sports. Magic and Bird led their teams to the NCAA championship game in 1979 and already were playing important roles in the NBA. Gretzky was only 18 and playing his first NHL season, but he already was on his way to leading the league in scoring.
But Joe Montana was a third-round draft choice in 1979 who was sitting on the bench as a rookie, a season in which he would throw only 23 passes.
Mike Tyson was a 13-year-old street mugger. Carl Lewis was a college freshman who had never met Ben Johnson. Flo had never met Jo. Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan were in high school. Boris Becker was 12. Steffi Graf was 10. Michael Chang and Janet Evans were 7.
ESPN was not quite a year old. The Big East had just been born. Fay Vincent was president of Columbia Pictures. Kirk Gibson was the seventh-round draft choice in 1979 of the St. Louis Cardinals--of the NFL. Every Angel pitcher had two hands.
Pro basketball had not come to Dallas, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando and Minnesota.
Pro football had not come to Phoenix and Indianapolis.
Would anyone have guessed that Shoeless Joe Jackson would make a comeback? Or that we would dread it every time Rocky did? Joe Torre was a manager. Pat Riley was a broadcaster. Slap Maxwell was an idea. The Goodwill Games were not even that, yet. Rotisseries and Refrigerators were household appliances. Anabolic steroids were only slightly less mysterious than the America's Cup.
Who would have believed in miracles? Or earthquakes at the World Series? Rosie Ruiz, Hulk Hogan and Arena Football?
You get the point. Only a fool would try to predict who, what and where will make the sports headlines over the next decade. So here I go, starting with this:
The NFL has a head start, scheduling its World League of American Football to begin play in the spring of 1991 with teams in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Canada and the United States. Don't be surprised someday to see a Super Super Bowl between, say, San Francisco and Milan. How about a game matching the quarterback of the '90s, Todd Marinovich, and linebacker Keith McCants, who will be the next Lawrence Taylor?
At roughly the same time, the Lakers will be on a trip to Belgrade, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid and Athens in their annual visit to the teams in the IBA's (International Basketball Assn.) European division. Wealthy owners such as Raul Gardini, who lured Danny Ferry and Brian Shaw to Rome this season, will be as well known as George Steinbrenner and Jerry Buss.
Gardini will pursue another leaning tower for Italy, Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning. With Mourning and another Hoya alum, Patrick Ewing, the dominating center will return to pro basketball in the '90s. The dominating player, however, will be Michael Jordan. Tough one, huh?
There will be a true World Series, which will occur in the late '90s between the North American and Japanese baseball champions.
The Japanese are going to need some help. They can afford it. We'll look back and laugh at the day when teams could sign a Mark Langston or Mark Davis for a mere $3 million a year.
One right-hander the Japanese will want to consider is Alex Fernandez, the only first-round draft choice in 1988 who did not sign with a major league team. Instead, he went to the University of Miami, where he made the freshman All-American team. Now, he has dropped out of school and is eligible for the draft again.
Another pitcher with a can't-miss tag is Stanford's Mike Mussina, a junior this season. Perhaps he will pitch for Tokyo for the world championship against Toronto, which will have as its clean-up hitter John Olerud, whose junior season at Washington State this year was interrupted by brain surgery. When he returned, he still looked like the pitcher-designated hitter who led the Northern Division of the Pacific 10 as a sophomore in victories, earned run average and home runs.
Japan will be the country of the '90s. Nagano, Japan, will be elected by the International Olympic Committee in 1991 as the site for the 1998 Winter Olympics. The patron of Nagano's bid is one of the world's richest man, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi. Also in the '90s, look for the IOC to award the Summer Olympics of 1996 to Melbourne, 2000 to Beijing and 2004 to a unified Berlin. The 1998 Winter Olympics will be awarded to Salt Lake City.