New Orleans Saints

Legendary sportswriter gone but not forgotten

Former Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter Finney died Saturday morning.
Former Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter Finney died Saturday morning. New Orleans Advocate

This day was inevitable and still it’s difficult to find the right words to memorialize venerable sportswriter Pete Finney, who for decades brought the games we play brilliantly to life on the pages of The States-Item and The Times-Picayune.

Mr. Finney passed away peacefully Saturday morning at his home near City Park in New Orleans.

He was 88, father of six children, grandfather to 20.

But he was something entirely different to those who read him religiously in the sports section chronicling the escapades of the Saints, LSU, Tulane and the horse track, to his many wide range of friends and those fortunate enough to have shared a pressbox with him over the years.

I count myself among the lucky ones.

When he went into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2013 as the recipient of the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award, I wrote the decision by a panel of media was a “slam dunk.’’

Named after the late, lovable New Orleans clothier who oozed Black and Gold, the Gemelli award is a laudable honor in and of itself. Other past honorees include Big Easy icons Al Hirt, Dave Dixon, Angela Hill, Bob Roesler, Buddy D. and Jim Henderson, among others.

But Mr. Finney also could be mentioned in the same breath with Archie Manning, Tom Dempsey, Jim Finks, Rickey Jackson, Jim Mora and all the other football legends who have been immortalized in the Saints Hall of Fame.

Yes, they played and coached but Mr. Finney brought their heroic deeds and painful missteps to life for all of Who Dat Nation, recording the ups and downs of our beloved NFL franchise as lead columnist for The Times-Picayune/States Item. He performed a similar service for beloved LSU fans.

On a bigger front, Mr. Finney’s newspaper career spanned nearly seven decades. And make no mistake, few sportswriters in this country impacted their audience the way Mr. Finney did since World War II. Those who loved to read the sports pages in this region were fortunate to have him in their midst.

The graduate of Jesuit and Loyola University and accomplished author had the innate ability to see the forest from the trees, to turn a memorable phrase, to make words sing, to influence others, to criticize, to praise, to make people laugh and cry but mostly think. And he did this all while remaining your friend.

He truly was an artist of the printed word.

And yet, there was no one less impressed with himself or by his work than Mr. Finney, which made him all the more endearing. He seemingly glided through his award-winning career with the greatest of ease while remaining a loving husband, a caring father and grandfather.

“It is a great part-time job,’’ Mr. Finney often said with a smile.

To hear Mr. Finney tell it, he owed it all to his “best friend’’ and beautiful bride of 61 years, Deedy, who passed away Feb. 18, 2013.

The day after Mrs. Finney’s funeral (Feb. 22), Mr. Finney spoke to about 350 men at St. Anthony of Padua Church. The event had been planned long before Deedy’s death. Mr. Finney kept his appointment and looked upon the occasion as a way of celebrating his wife’s life.

“I have a great family, and a great wife,’’ Mr. Finney told the men’s group.

No doubt, if Deedy were alive today, she would return those kind and loving words in celebration of Peter’s life.

Together, they had a great family and a beautiful, enduring marriage.

Behind every good man, the saying goes, there is a good woman.

In the case of Peter and Deedy Finney, goodness stood side by side, clasped hand in hand.

Peter Finney would have said it better, much better.

He always did.