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If Those 1991 Predictions Didn’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

On Dec. 31, 1990, I wrote a column making several bold predictions, and I put a copy of it in my December, 1991, file so I could see how I made out.

I pointed out that usually I simply counterpredict the predictions of the usual psychics and seers, as published in the supermarket tabloids. I have never yet been wrong. But that’s too easy.

This time I wanted to make my own predictions. “What have I got to lose?” I said. “If none of them comes true, nobody will remember that I made them. If one does, I’ll remind you.”

My first prediction lasted only one day. I predicted that Washington would defeat Iowa, 24-10, in the 1991 Rose Bowl game. Washington won, but the score was 46-34.

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I also predicted that the Raiders would win the Super Bowl, and that San Francisco would shock football fans by losing in the playoffs. San Francisco did lose in the playoffs; so did the Raiders.

I also predicted that the Dodgers would win the pennant and the World Series. I must have been thinking of 1988, the year Kirk Gibson hit that heroic home run and the Dodgers beat the Mets in the playoffs and the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

I also predicted, correctly, that Mike Tyson would not regain his heavyweight boxing title.

I erred in predicting that Pete Sampras would become No. 1 in pro tennis.

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I predicted that Gloria Molina would be elected supervisor. Right on.

I predicted that California’s new governor, Pete Wilson, would be so encumbered by leftover problems that he would wish Dianne Feinstein had won the election. Gov. Wilson is indeed encumbered by the state’s many problems, though of course he hasn’t publicly said he wishes Feinstein had won. (He’s probably admitted that only to his wife.)

As for celebrities, whose affairs are usually the concern of the professional psychics, I predicted that Prince would marry Madonna. I knew that was a long shot, but if I turned out to be right, I would have astounded the psychic world.

I also predicted that Elizabeth Taylor would have an affair with Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and that Queen Elizabeth’s only comment would be: “We are not amused.”

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Of course Taylor ruined that one by marrying someone else (her eighth), but I’m going to make it again. She has a whole year.

I also predicted that Steve Martin, encouraged by Mel Gibson’s success as Hamlet, would play Marc Antony in a comic version of “Julius Caesar” and that Dolly Parton would play Desdemona (opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger) in “Othello.” That was a little premature. I’m now predicting those events for 1992.

I also predicted that we had seen the last of Elvis. That one seems to have stood up.

My worst miss was this one:

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“On the world scene, I don’t like to throw my weight one way or the other in a predicament that seems so exquisitely balanced, but I predict that President Bush will find some way out of his awful dilemma, and that we will not go into a land war in the Middle East. If we do go to war, I predict that we’ll wish we hadn’t.”

I was serious.

Only one of my readers ever wrote to nail me on this error. In a letter asking what sea Homer was looking at when he wrote “wine dark sea,” Tom Barnard of San Clemente said, “While I have your attention I just happened to glance through your predictions for 1991. You wrote . . . .” And he quoted the paragraph above, with no further comment.

Bob Kahan also recalled my prediction, but he saw it in a more favorable light: “I say you were absolutely right in your prediction regarding the Persian Gulf War --we do regret it, and deeply. Anyone who doesn’t regret the killing of hundreds of thousands of people doesn’t count, as they are not human.”

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That doesn’t excuse me, of course, for predicting that we wouldn’t go to war.

I also predicted that Prince Rainier would marry Madonna. That was probably rash; but money, loneliness, ego and power can do funny things to an aging man.

Prince Rainier having had his chance, I now predict that Madonna will marry Michael Jackson. I asked Robert Hilburn, The Times rock critic, about this and he said he did not consider it within the realm of possibility. That’s what makes it such a fascinating prediction. Suppose it happens? I’ll be famous, and Hilburn will be just another rock critic.

For the immediate future, and in a field in which my expertise is well established, I predict that Washington will win the Rose Bowl game, 24-10.

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