I’ve read comments from so many people that proclaim 2016 as a terrible, awful year. Others say it’s only a measure of time, with no real meaning. That may be true, but in my opinion, 2016 has earned its bad reputation.
About half the country is in a bad mood because of the presidential election. When the popular vote is split almost 50-50, I guess the widespread anger should be no surprise. If the election had gone the other way, the other half would be ticked off.
Looking back at 2016, it’s hard to get sentimental about a year that brought us tornadoes, wildfires, droughts, record-breaking heat, creepy clowns, cheating car makers, bombings, scandals, and malfunctioning amusement park rides.
Each year, we mourn the loss of loved ones, even those we don’t really know. For some reason, 2016 seemed to hit hard. We lost musical icons like David Bowie and Glenn Frey, who had both been ailing. Prince was performing in Atlanta one week, and was gone the next. We thought Merle Haggard would live forever. Thank goodness “Mama Tried” actually will. George Michael provided the soundtrack of the 80s. Just like that, he’s gone.
The familiar faces we grew up with during “The Wide World of Sports” era, like Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Garagiola left us in 2016. Pat Summitt’s long goodbye came to an end, and the bright smile of 24-year-old Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was gone in an instant.
Baby-boomers were saddened at the deaths of those we watched in our living rooms. “Grizzly Adams” (Dan Hagerty) was our rugged outdoorsman in the 1980s. “Carol Brady” (Florence Henderson) was the ideal mom of the 1970s. Patty Duke played the identical cousins we fell in love with in the 1960s.
We lost Washington newsmakers like Nancy Reagan and Janet Reno, who had both been out of the spotlight in recent years, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was seemingly in good health at the time of his death.
We mourn the loss of people who gave us countless laughs in their long careers. Garry Marshall created “the Fonz,” “Laverne and Shirley” and “Pretty Woman” to name just a few. Gene Wilder was one of the funniest actors ever to grace the big screen. Garry Shandling’s first appearance on the “Tonight Show” almost made Johnny Carson fall out of his chair laughing, and he just kept getting better. Carrie Fisher may not have been best known as a comedian, but believe me, her audio books kept me laughing through a lot of road trips. She was so smart, so funny. We lost her multi-talented mom Debbie Reynolds the very next day. I can’t help but think of Carrie’s daughter, the young actress Billie Lourd, who has lost her mother and grandmother on consecutive days.
We lost two heroes who changed our lives forever. John Glenn lived to be 95, building an amazing career even after taking us along for his pioneering ride in space in 1961. Dr. Henry Heimlich was 96 when he passed away last month. How many millions of lives did he save with his famed obstruction-removing maneuver?
I can’t name them all. The list is so long, you wouldn’t read this to the end, and I want you to do that.
More cheerfully, a couple of my television heroes left the scene, but not for good. Charles Osgood stepped down from his “CBS Sunday Morning” hosting duties, and is enjoying retirement. The same is true for SEC football announcer Verne Lundquist, who called his last touchdown earlier this month. My weekends aren’t the same without them, but I’m glad they can enjoy life without the travel and the deadlines.
Closer to home, my year has been busy. As a TV news school reporter, if you had told me a year ago what 2016 would be like on the education beat, I would never have believed you.
Who could have foreseen such a nightmare year for Hamilton County schools? I’ve seen school districts have a few ups and downs, but nothing like this: a high-profile basketball team rape case, the fall of a superintendent, massive school board turnover, plunging test scores, the threat of a state takeover of failing schools, a multi-fatality bus crash, and the attempt of several communities to break away from the district. Hamilton County is currently searching for a new superintendent, and no doubt some potential applicants are Googling the events of the past year, and the impending lawsuits, and are crossing this job off their lists.
On a personal note, I’ve been blessed with good health, and a terrific family that makes me smile each day. I work with some great people, and my faith in them is affirmed constantly, when I meet folks who tell me how much they appreciate our work.
This column is now carried by eight newspapers. I’m grateful for each of them, and the response I get from readers.
Last September, I started a new radio show on weekend mornings on Chattanooga’s Big 95.3, and each week it reminds me why radio was my first love.
My new book “Volunteer Bama Dawg” has given me a chance to meet hundreds of new friends, and is hopefully bringing some laughter to folks this holiday season and beyond.
2016 was a year like no other, and I have a feeling 2017 will be a doozy as well. Here’s hoping our wounds will heal, and our moods will brighten. Yes, we have our problems, but there’s still no place on Earth I’d rather be.