2016 spoiler alert: Cubs win the World Series!


By Jim Litke - AP Sports Columnist



FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2015, file photo, Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero (47) and relief pitcher Hector Rondon (56) celebrate after winning Game 4 in baseball's National League Division Series in Chicago. And while we hate draining the suspense from 2016 even before it begins, the Cubs winning the World Series will be the biggest story during the coming year in sports. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)


FILE - In this June 3, 2012, file photo, Jack Nicklaus, left, talks with Tiger Woods after Woods won the Memorial golf tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. In a humorous prediction for 2016, The Associated Press' Jim Litke says, Nickluas wins his own golf tournament, the Memorial, and a fifth U.S. Open. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)


FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2014, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In a humorous prediction for 2016, The Associated Press' Jim Litke says, after watching a Premier League match earlier that morning, Trump announces his candidacy for president of FIFA just hours before the election. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)


You read that headline right.

And while we hate draining the suspense from 2016 even before it begins, that will be the biggest story during the coming year in sports. The Cubs won’t win it all easily. Nor, after going 0-for-the-last-107 seasons, should they.

But on a snowy November night, Kris Bryant turns around a 100-mph-plus fastball from Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, drives it through a blizzard and over the left-field wall at Wrigley. Out of nowhere, a snow-plow driven by a guy in a hoodie who looks suspiciously like manager Joe Maddon arrives and clears the base paths in front of Bryant. Grown men everywhere weep.

At the victory parade, Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox wunderkind, announces he’s quitting baseball to play rhythm guitar full time for pal Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Maddon, too, announces he’s taking a year off to become a master sommelier.

Won’t happen? Maybe, maybe not.

But in that same spirit, and in chronological order, here are some other things that COULD happen in 2016:

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Jan. 11 — With Alabama leading Oklahoma 38-7 late in the national championship game, Tide coach Nick Saban tells wife Terry to stand in for him at the trophy presentation. He hops into a waiting golf cart to get a jump on recruiting for next season.

“But can’t we celebrate as a family, even for a little bit?” she asks.

“I’ll pick up ‘Happy Meals’ on the way back,” Saban calls back over his shoulder. “See you next week.”

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Jan. 14 — At the NCAA’s annual convention opening meeting, President Mark Emmert spits out a mouthful of soda halfway through a long sip.

“This is Pepsi, not Coke!” he howls. Most people can’t tell the difference, but only one of them is an official sponsor.

The entire wait staff is put on double-secret probation until 2021.

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Feb. 5 — A video of Commissioner Roger Goodell yelling “That’s how you lower the boom!” while standing over a prone third-grader at a league-sponsored “Football Safety Clinic for Moms” goes viral. He begins his annual state of the NFL news conference Friday before the Super Bowl with a surprise:

“The bad news is I’ve suspended myself for one game,” Goodell begins. “The good news is I already heard my appeal, decided I overreached again, and cut it in half.”

Goodell says he will serve his punishment watching the first half from a McDonald’s near the stadium.

“I’ll order a ‘Happy Meal,’ he says, “but it won’t seem the same.”

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Feb, 14 — Soon-to-be-retiring Kobe Bryant scores all 140 points for the West in a runaway win at the NBA All-Star Game. He cuts off the interviewer midway through the first question.

“Just because I could,” Bryant smirks.

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Feb. 26 — After watching a Premier League match earlier that morning, and just hours before FIFA will elect a new president, Donald Trump announces his candidacy.

“It’s a slow game. I mean, slo-o-o-o-o-w. Who watches this stuff? I don’t know. Seems like lots of losers sloshing around in mud — lousy fields by the way — and they won’t even get their hands dirty. Like that Sepp Blatter guy. Another loser.

“But I’ll tell you what. The ref gives Sunderland a free kick and the Aston Villa guys … they put up a wall. A wall! No negotiations — just boom — here’s a wall! And like the ones I build, a great wall.

“Who paid for the wall? Who knows? But if every team does it,” Trump says with finality, “I could teach to win on the cheap.”

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April 4 — NCAA boss Emmert makes winning Michigan State coach Tom Izzo cool his heels at the trophy presentation after the Spartans beat Big Ten rival Purdue 34-30 for the college basketball championship.

“Sorry,” Emmert tells the crowd, “but my job first and foremost is to protect the integrity of the game. I spotted a few vendors up near the rafters selling Pepsi. Now, how about a hand for stadium security!”

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May 1 — 63-year-old president Vladimir Putin, driving a souped-up Yugo, is the shock winner of the F1 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. After rebuilding the engine on the side of road midway through the race with nothing but a paper clip and chewing gum, a shirtless Putin tells the roaring grandstand, “Hekct eap nh Daytona (Next year in Daytona)!”

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May 7 — American Pharoah wins the Kentucky Derby. Again.

“My bad,” trainer Bob Baffert tells a stunned crowd. “I read his birth certificate wrong. Turns out he had some eligibility left.”

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June 5 — Host Jack Nicklaus wins his own golf tournament, the Memorial, by a shot.

“I wasn’t going to play,” the 76-year-old Hall of Famer says afterward. “But I was fooling around on the range last week and like I told Stevie (his son and caddie), ‘I found something I could take onto the course.’”

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June 19 — Nicklaus wasn’t kidding. He wins his fifth U.S. Open.

“Let’s see Tiger catch me now,” he cackles.

___

July 24 — A robot built by Japanese high school students for the annual HEBOCON competition wins the Tour de France by two full days.

Brian Cookson, president of the International Cycling Union, presents the trophy while dodging traffic on the Champs Elysee. Afterward, he grumbles, “At least we know he … it’s … clean.”

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Aug. 17 — The Rio Games wrap up amid street protests. The Olympic lake, Rodrigo de Freitas, is still on fire, but Katie Ledecky has finally cooled off after reprising her unprecedented run through the 2015 world championships. The Stanford student wins gold in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle events, setting three world records in the bargain.

In other news, Usain Bolt pulls off another 100- and 200-meter sprint double and this time, avoids getting run over by the cameraman tracking him on a Segway.

“I was joking last time when I said Justin Gatlin paid him off,” Bolt laughs. “This time, I’m not so sure.”

___

Sept. 8 — The NFL regular season kicks off in New England. After presenting the Super Bowl trophy to the Patriots at their home opener, Goodell presents Will Smith with a “Distinguished Service Award” for contributions to the game.

“I think you’ve got the wrong guy,” the star of the movie, “Concussion” tells the crowd, “but hey, that’s cool. Thanks. Thanks a lot.”

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Nov. 5 — Putin’s campaign to peak at the 2017 Daytona 500 remains on course. He bumps NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick into the grass on the final lap to steal the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge race in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Dec. 3 — The more things change, the more they stay the same: With Alabama leading Florida 38-7 late in the SEC Championship game, Tide coach Nick Saban tells wife Terry to stand in for him …

FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2015, file photo, Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero (47) and relief pitcher Hector Rondon (56) celebrate after winning Game 4 in baseball’s National League Division Series in Chicago. And while we hate draining the suspense from 2016 even before it begins, the Cubs winning the World Series will be the biggest story during the coming year in sports. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_107899982-26213137ab384989a9f25eea18470308.jpgFILE – In this Oct. 13, 2015, file photo, Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero (47) and relief pitcher Hector Rondon (56) celebrate after winning Game 4 in baseball’s National League Division Series in Chicago. And while we hate draining the suspense from 2016 even before it begins, the Cubs winning the World Series will be the biggest story during the coming year in sports. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

FILE – In this June 3, 2012, file photo, Jack Nicklaus, left, talks with Tiger Woods after Woods won the Memorial golf tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. In a humorous prediction for 2016, The Associated Press’ Jim Litke says, Nickluas wins his own golf tournament, the Memorial, and a fifth U.S. Open. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_107899982-50037f970dee4fd8ad37ad6f9ce5daba.jpgFILE – In this June 3, 2012, file photo, Jack Nicklaus, left, talks with Tiger Woods after Woods won the Memorial golf tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. In a humorous prediction for 2016, The Associated Press’ Jim Litke says, Nickluas wins his own golf tournament, the Memorial, and a fifth U.S. Open. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2014, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In a humorous prediction for 2016, The Associated Press’ Jim Litke says, after watching a Premier League match earlier that morning, Trump announces his candidacy for president of FIFA just hours before the election. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_107899982-7f06e7b80a23448084cb2735e904f81c.jpgFILE – In this Dec. 29, 2014, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In a humorous prediction for 2016, The Associated Press’ Jim Litke says, after watching a Premier League match earlier that morning, Trump announces his candidacy for president of FIFA just hours before the election. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

By Jim Litke

AP Sports Columnist

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