Pete Finney made New Orleans, press boxes better places

 

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

When I was a kid in Hattiesburg, we took both New Orleans newspapers at our home. Peter Finney, who died this morning at 88, wrote columns for the afternoon States Item.

I could not wait to read his work. He was informative, he was funny. He was conversational. Reading him was almost like sitting down and having a chat. There were many reasons I became a sports writer and Finney was definitely one.

Years later, after I joined the sports journalism fraternity, we became friends. We hit it off, as they say. But how could you not enjoy being around Pete Finney? We covered the Saints together, the New Orleans Jazz, New Orleans Opens, the Olympics, SEC games, Super Bowls and The Masters.

The night the Saints won the Super Bowl in Miami, Peter and I closed down the last hotel bar that would serve us. We had both worked a long, long day to end a long, long week. He was 81, enjoying it as he were 18.

As always, I couldn’t wait to read his column the next morning. He did not disappoint.

Among the many things I’ll miss about Peter:

• His smile. Pete was always smiling.

• His wit. He loved to listen to funny stories and he loved to tell them, too.

• Interviewing an athlete or coach at the same time Pete was. He had a knack for making them comfortable and getting them to open up.

• His knowledge. Nobody has ever known more about New Orleans or LSU sports than Pete Finney.

• His fairness. Pete always knew there were at least two sides to every story and he strived to understand all sides.

• His humility. Pete held a lot of sway in New Orleans and Louisiana, but you would never know it if you were around him.

• His perpetual fresh outlook on life. Yeah, Pete grew old but his attitude never did. One year, we shared a house at The Masters. On one of those beautiful spring days in Augusta, we were watching Nicklaus putt for eagle on the second hole. Pete whispered, “Can you believe they actually pay us to do this?”

• Finally, his pure, unadulterated New Orleans-ness. I love dearly that city and its people. Pete was as New Orleans as they come. He was as New Orleans as po boys and lagniappe and Jazzfest.

He made New Orleans a better place.

Everyone who knew him will miss him.

One thought on “Pete Finney made New Orleans, press boxes better places”

  1. Pete was one of the real good guys not just in the business but in life. He always genuinely seemed happy to see you and, as you note, always with a smile. I’m surprised he was that much older than I. He certainly was much younger at heart. Thanks for writing such a nice tribute to him.

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