Tom has wishes, hopes and prayers for the new year

As I was telling you last week before I was interrupted by an arbitrary word count, I went to Mass on New Year's Day. Having attended more than a couple thousand Masses in my life, I've pretty much heard it all (especially the sermons!), so I'm able to put my soul on cruise control and do some industrial-strength thinking during that hour.

I've never been one to make resolutions, but I do think about stuff that I'd like to see happen during the coming year. I break things into three categories: wishes, hopes and prayers. For example, I wish my hair would magically start growing back; I hope I don't lose any more of it this year; and I pray that I don't get mistaken for Professor Irwin Corey. (Only a dozen or so people will get that reference, but all of them will laugh.)

That night in church, I came up with these:

I wish the Arizona Wildcats would play every night like they did against Kansas and Gonzaga, get a good NCAA seed and reach the Sweet 16. I hope they win enough Pac-10 games to make the NCAA Tournament. And I pray that Lute Olson will find health and peace and settle into an emeritus presence not unlike that of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, who, at 98, is still going strong.

I wish I could lose about one-third of my body weight and get down around my college-playing weight. I hope I can lose at least one-sixth of my weight, giving me the incentive to lose the rest next year. I pray they don't open a Popeye's Chicken on my side of town.

I wish the Arizona Legislature would respect public education (which, of course, amounts to my saying that I wish Republicans were Democrats). I (sincerely) hope they are given (by voters) the power to make prudent cuts in programs mandated by the passage of propositions. I pray that they don't take a hatchet to things and send the state staggering off in the wrong direction.

I wish that Kate Winslet could win two different Oscars this year, one for Best Actress and one for Best Supporting Actress. I hope she wins at least one. I pray that I someday write a screenplay just for her, where she plays an embattled basketball coach at an inner-city high school. We'll call it The Really White Shadow.

I wish there were another way for Barack Obama to get the economy going without piling up trillion-dollar deficits. (Radio clod Sean Hannity--with whom I share a religion and nothing else--is already railing about "trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see," while having apparently completely forgotten the name of the current president.) I hope Obama knows what he's doing. I pray that the people responsible for this mess burn in hell. (That's part of the sermon seeping into my thought process.)

I wish somebody would find a heretofore unknown stash of Dusty Springfield recordings and release them. I hope Duffy makes another CD this year. And I pray that Amy Winehouse finds some semblance of balance in her life.

I wish the New York Yankees, with the most bloated payroll in the history of baseball, would finish dead-last in their division. I hope they don't even make the playoffs. And I'm not going to waste a prayer on Major League Baseball, which somehow continues to thrive despite itself.

I wish there could be some kind of peace in the Middle East. I hope that the average person in Gaza realizes that they have exactly two choices--a real truce with Israel, or an endless series of public ass-whuppins. I pray that the people in Iran, longing to join the 21st century, kick Ahmadinejad (which is Farsi for "Napoleonic Complex") out on his butt.

I wish The Simpsons creator Matt Groening would do the cover for the upcoming 25th anniversary issue of the Tucson Weekly. I hope former contributor Barbara Kingsolver writes something for the issue (although I hope it's not about that healthy-food nonsense). And I pray that the Weekly defies the dumbing-down trend of media into the Internet version of the 30-second sound bite and goes for at least another 25 years.

I wish that former Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson (who sold his shriveled soul to the San Francisco Giants, because the D-Backs "embarrassed" him with a multi-million-dollar offer) would fall short of his personal quest for 300 victories. The team paid him well and treated him well, and he sells out to a rival. I hope his arm falls off. And I pray that he gets to 299 victories and then suffers one crushing, late-inning loss after another, preferably to Arizona.

(I know I said I wouldn't waste a prayer on Major League Baseball, but this isn't about baseball; it's about justice.)

I wish I could be the Winston Smith of the Oscars and go back to give L.A. Confidential the Best Picture Oscar over Titanic, The Right Stuff the Best Picture Oscar over everything else, and have Jack Palance hold the card up to the audience to show that Marisa Tomei actually did win for My Cousin Vinny.

And, as Skee-Lo so eloquently put it, "I wish I was a little bit taller ..."

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