Cover Story: Chicken-Fried News predictions for 2018 


Timeless gesture


Walk outside Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman and you’ll come across Heisman Park, a family of larger-than-life statues honoring the University of Oklahoma players who took home college football’s most prestigious individual honor.

Five statues, including the likenesses of Billy Vessels (the 1952 winner), Steve Owens (’69), Billy Sims (’78), Jason White (’03) and Sam Bradford (’08) can currently be found there, but with the recent win by quarterback Baker Mayfield, the school will soon need to find a spot for one more.

So in what timeless pose will the lucky sculptor put OU’s chief ball tosser for decades to come? Many fans online have clamored for the immortalization of the famous flag-planting scene against Ohio State. But Chicken-Fried News predicts the artist will find that another memorable moment captures Mayfield’s 2017 campaign just as well: the Kansas crotch grab.

Mayfield took his biggest sack of the season before any games had even been played when a police officer in Fayetteville, Arkansas, tackled the publicly intoxicated and belligerent quarterback. Several national pundits also voiced disapproval for Mayfield’s less-than-sporty OU flag-planting display at midfield of Ohio State’s home stadium.

But the reality show that was Mayfield’s 2017 season reached its dramatic peak Nov. 18 in a game against the University of Kansas. OU won the game 41-3 and Mayfield threw for three touchdowns. The game’s biggest moment did not occur on the field, however, but on the sidelines.

Television cameras caught a fired-up Mayfield clapping back against Kansas’ best trolling efforts as he shouted clear obscenities and made a gesture at his jock strap. (Those never end well.) The action stole all the headlines in what was otherwise a snoozer of a game, and Mayfield was suspended for one offensive series in the next game against West Virginia.

Mayfield isn’t all bad, but he certainly has not exemplified the Oklahoma standard at every opportunity this season. Did we mention he was raised in Austin, Texas? Yeah, maybe that has something to do with it.

 Musical chairs


The stage tour is coming! The stage tour is coming!

Oklahoma Citians excited to see Hamilton — the smash Broadway musical whose national tour is set to make its highly anticipated city debut at a to-be-announced point in OKC Broadway’s 2018-19 season — should light one candle if they hope to order a ticket by telephone, two if by web and then be prepared to furiously stomp all existing candles after they realize just how impossible these tickets will be to access.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-flavored musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father who became the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury, dominated the 2016 Tony Awards, winning in 11 of the 16 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Musical.

That success means high demand to see the nationally touring version, but opportunity to get into Civic Center Music Hall for a show will be limited right out of the gate. Those who purchased 2017-18 season passes and renew them for the 2018-19 season guarantee their Hamilton spots before tickets go on sale to the general public. Season ticket renewals are expected to be near full capacity.

With that in mind, the race to grab one of the few coveted Hamilton spots will be intense, and those with the deepest pockets and most influence are clearly at an advantage.

Chicken-Fried News peers into its truth-telling crystal ball to try to divine just who will make their way into the theater.

First coming into view is the very front row. CFN sees Harold Hamm and Clay Bennett laughing and sharing a bottle of 2005 Château Margaux with the Green and Love families, though the Greens will probably stick with sparkling apple cider. They look happy, but we notice they’re clapping along exclusively on the one and three beats.

Now coming clearer is the figure of Carmelo Anthony. The native New Yorker looks to be soothing the unpleasantness of this year’s Thunder season with some down-home Broadway comforts. Behind him is Carrie Underwood, rapidly scribbling down notes as she prepares for her yet-unannounced role as Princess Elsa in NBC’s live television production of Frozen: The Musical.

And now we’re seeing State Rep. John Bennett, who must have scored his ticket from an overachieving oil lobbyist. He’s making a scene as he stomps out of the theater, apparently shocked to see the play has a pro-immigration message. Shortly after he slams the door, a mob of people on the waiting list fight over his empty seat.

Thunder rolls over


Oh, how the tables have turned. Remember in August when we were proverbially patting Thunder general manager Sam Presti on the back for a series of offseason trades for stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony?

Basketball media hailed Presti for bringing in the all-NBA talent of Anthony and George to bolster a roster that was background noise during Russell Westbrook’s Most Valuable Player season.

Instead, the Thunder has struggled to even maintain a .500 record. The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers — the two teams Presti was accused of fleecing in the offseason — have a better record than the Thunder as pieces Oklahoma City jettisoned (Victor Oladipo with the Pacers and Enes Kanter with the Knicks) flourished away from the ball-dominating Westbrook.

The New Year brings decisions for Presti and Thunder management. Many Thunder fans want to see head coach Billy Donovan return to the college game. Do they trade free-agent-to-be George to a team that thinks he can help them challenge for a title? Do they trade Anthony for a gift certificate to Neptune Sub Sandwiches?

We have a bold prediction for 2018: The Thunder stay put. The memory of Nov. 23’s 108-91 victory over Golden State Warriors is enough for the organization to chase that feeling, like a good date night in the middle of a bad relationship. It’s a risky decision considering George and Anthony can become free agents this upcoming offseason, but perhaps their departure wouldn’t be the worst thing. It would allow Westbrook to recruit teammates that would be more amiable, like Universal’s Minions. Forget Kevin Durant and bring in Kevin the Minion.

Governor’s dilemma

This is something every mature adult fears in the current economy: reaching your 64th birthday and, just a little over a month later, losing your job. To compound the problem, you get evicted from your house and it’s possible your adult child might need to move back in with you or needs a place to park her trailer.

Except for dalliances in careers like hotel management and commercial real estate, you’ve spent your adult life in government jobs. The cold, cruel world of senior living in the private sector beckons, and what in the world will you do?

Well, if you are outgoing Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and have experience thwarting constitutional law by installing religious monuments on state property, you could team with former Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. Chicken-Fried News suggests the two of you pitch a reality show for TLC or Trinity Broadcasting Network called Your Wish is Our Commandments, in which you drive a big rig across these United States, quietly installing monuments to the Ten Commandments in front of state supreme courts, capitol buildings and health departments. You might want to steer clear of public schools, though, for Ol’ Roy’s sake.

If that doesn’t work out and President Donald Trump doesn’t appoint you as an economic advisor after your stellar state budget work, perhaps some consulting will do. Once you no longer have to deal with that nastiness surrounding the gross production tax, you can sell your services directly to the petroleum industry without prompting an ethics investigation. You can visit sites from Duncan to Dubai, joining hands with frack equipment operators and saltwater haulers to “thank God for the blessing created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection.”

That’s right; take that Oilfield Prayer Day on the road. Go from site to site in a tricked-out motor coach, burning 5 miles per gallon to keep the industry afloat. The president might even use his connections to get you a lucrative deal praying for Gazprom and Rosneft. Good luck, Gov. Fallin, and do svidaniya!

Star, man


The past year was one in which The Flaming Lips released Oczy Mlody, its fifteenth studio album (and its first since 2013’s The Terror). Thick with descending bass and drum machines, points on the album legitimately knock as hard in the car as any Gucci Mane or Big K.R.I.T. album.

But Oczy Mlody was not the only release put out by the OKC psych-rock band. On Record Store Day (April 22 this year), the band put out a little-discussed, high-concept “live” vinyl album made to resemble what it would sound like if the band played live from the International Space Station.

Onboard the International Space Station Concert for Peace runs through the tracklist of Oczy Mlody with added spacey effects and live-show ambiance. An anonymous master of ceremonies introduces Miley Cyrus, who sings a duet with frontman Wayne Coyne on the closing song “We a Family,” as “the future president of the United States.”

The Lips’ fascination with space is nothing new, and Chicken-Fried News predicts that 2017 was just the beginning of the band’s conquering of the final frontier.

In 2018, Coyne will produce an on-location remake of The Martian. Yes, we know the film starring Matt Damon came out just two years ago, but this movie will have a few key differences.

For one, instead of growing potatoes, Coyne will find a way to produce a large crop of hydroponic weed on the Red Planet. At least he has his priorities straight.

Also, it won’t be Earth that has to save Coyne, but Coyne who is out to save us. In the vast expanse of nothingness, the rocker is successful in growing enough cannabis to meet literally every single basic human need.

He creates a distant utopia off our home planet — called The Womb Part Deux — and must weave together enough hemp to build his own rocket ship that can retrieve the human population from an ever-warming Earth and bring them to Mars, in the process saving Coyne from the one thing cannabis can’t cure: mortal loneliness.

Restoration gentrification


Who says political organizing is dead? 2017 became the year of political outrage as angry millennials put their senators’ office numbers on their speed dial. It made itself known with large protests organized for women’s rights in January and a march for science in April.

On the local level, Oklahoma chain Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores earned the ire of protestors for its proposed razing of the Donnay Building. Signs were made. Passionate speeches at city planning meetings pleaded to save the nearly 70-year-old building. Braum’s has ended its bid to lease the property, and a local developer is in the finishing touches on a deal to renovate the building without displacing tenants Classen Grill, Charlie’s Jazz-Rhythm & Blues Records, Drunken Fry and HiLo Club.

What exactly does a renovation of the dark and dingy HiLo Club actually look like? Don’t turn up the lights too much because you might not want to see the person sitting across the table after three or four drinks.

The building is in need of facelift, but it doesn’t need to become so glitzy that it becomes worthy of a place in gentrified neighborhoods of Automobile Alley or Deep Deuce.

The last thing we need is for Charlie’s Records to be outfitted with a bunch of Crosley record players or for Classen Grill to add a farm-to-table Bloody Mary bar. Let’s hope the Donnay Building will re-open in late 2018 with taps for spiked sparkling water and an oxygen bar in the corner of the Drunken Fry. That brings us to …

Ice creamed

The Donnay Building is now safe from Braum’s ambitious sprawl, but which local landmarks will the restaurant chain hope to capture in 2018?

Chicken-Fried News imagines a day in 2018 with reporters gathered at the surprise unveiling of new work at the state Capitol. The state’s newly elected governor — whomever that turns out to be — snips a ribbon and behind the small assemblage of dignitaries drops the giant tarp that has long shielded the Capitol’s north end.

Photographers snap wildly at the large, freshly revealed Braum’s logo and drive-thru window on the state lawn. Drew Braum shakes hands with the governor-elect and steps forward to the mic, making his first public comments as the state’s newly appointed overlord.

The state’s Supreme Court has ruled that a monument of the Ten Commandments cannot be erected outside the Capitol, but nothing is there to stop Braum’s from putting up a 2-ton stone marker with the new and improved protein counts of its milkshakes.

And did you think all that construction downtown was for some kind of streetcar? Guess again! Our inventive Braum’s rulers are introducing the first rail restaurant, which brings the convenience of high-calorie (but high protein!) hamburgers to Bricktown’s hungry pedestrians.

Anyone who has ever stopped at the large and famous McDonald’s over Interstate 44 near Vinita will also be thrilled to hear Braum’s is duplicating the concept over downtown’s Interstate 40 bridge. Sure, they’ll have to knock over that pesky scissortail framework to make room for the mother of all regional hamburger joints. But hey, at least you get to keep the Donnay Building.

Hottest trend


Anyone who doubts how quickly food trends move throughout the world needs to notice there are five restaurants in the Oklahoma City metro area serving Thai-inspired rolled ice cream.

In a few short years, it’s a trend that has gone from Southeast Asia to landlocked Oklahoma. Also, charcoal became one of 2017’s hottest food trends as Instagrammers couldn’t wait to choose a filter to highlight how charcoal turned everything from ice cream cones to hamburger buns gray-black. In small amounts, charcoal aids digestion and removes toxins from food, but use too much and it strips good nutrients along with the bad.

While we don’t expect a food truck with charcoal-tinged items to pull into Delmar Gardens Food Truck Park or The Bleu Garten in 2018, an enterprising Oklahoman would be wise to take advantage of the state’s affinity for “black gold.” Use charcoal to turn things black, like ice cream. Set up a food truck outside Devon Tower and watch the coffers fill.

You might even get a tax cut out of it!

Voter surprise

Whether it was a robust turnout at 2017’s Women’s March in January or the boisterous March for Science in April, Oklahomans surprised many around the country who expected the deep red state to stay silent.

2018 presents another chance for Oklahomans to surprise with a vote on medical marijuana — if the governor would just set a date. As of late December, Gov. Mary Fallin had yet to add State Question 788, the legalization of medical marijuana, to either the June primary or the November general election. Fallin has until March to decide.

Pro-medical marijuana groups are confident the vote will pass regardless, but some have wondered if it will be added in June in order to not increase voter turnout for the more pivotal general election.

Since Oklahoma’s neighbors Colorado (fully legal) and Arkansas (passed medical in 2017) have embraced marijuana, it only makes sense that Oklahoma will too. Arkansas’ medical marijuana sales are estimated to bring in $67 million by 2025. As a special session to fix the budget spills into the 2018 regular term, we predict Oklahomans will embrace the additional tax revenue [and healing properties] of medical marijuana come election season, whether it’s June or November.

Narrowly broadcasting


Oklahoma City television and radio could look and sound radically different in 2018, depending on the vicissitudes of national media conglomerates that are either clamoring for more outlets or desperate to play “Despacito” for one more day.

Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., owners of Fox affiliate KOKH and CW station KOCB, announced this summer a plan to purchase Tribune Media Co., which owns KFOR and KAUT. In poker terms, that’s four of a kind, which is the second-best hand you can have, but the whole deal could be headed for a straight flush — and not the winning kind.

Now four states’ attorneys general, including Sinclair’s home field Maryland AG Brian Frosh, have joined in opposition to the merger. Furthermore, this month, Bloomberg News reported the Federal Communications Commission voted to issue a $13.3 million fine against Sinclair for not identifying a program touting Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute as advertising. When even FCC chairman/internet slayer Ajit Pai thinks you’re not acting in the public interest, it might be time to schedule a remedial ethics class.

This could spell trouble for the merger. It could also mean that KFOR and KAUT might avoid scheduling up to nine segments of Sinclair’s “must-run” Bottom Line with Boris commentaries per week. Chicken-Fried News would hate it if Freedom 43’s happy-time morning show, Rise and Shine, had to run awkward buzzkill Boris Epshteyn’s Putinist diatribes every day, or perhaps even new segments called Free to Be You and Me with Kirk Humphreys and John Bennett’s Minority Deport.

It’s not just local TV stations that are in flux. In November, Cumulus Media, owner of six OKC stations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to Billboard, Cumulus’ chief competitor, iHeartMedia, owns seven OKC stations and is shouldering more than $20 billion in debt, proving that ClearChannel’s warmer, cuddlier rebranding didn’t solve everything.

If either of those broadcasting titans were to fall, who would buy all those frequencies in 2018? Clay Bennett? Larry Nichols? A consortium of Ogles? Darci Lynne Farmer? If no one steps up, we can all just listen to The Spy. Otherwise, we might be stuck with the 30 million songs on our cellphones.

Do you remember?

Remember this past February when lawmakers were faced with an $868 million budget deficit and had until May to come up with a deal? Remember how the budget bill approved in May included a cigarette fee, which was later ruled unconstitutional? Remember how lawmakers returned in September to fix the budget hole but ended up making the budget situation worse? Remember how Gov. Mary Fallin called the lawmakers back for a second special session in late December?

At this point, it is easier to recall that Oklahoma has a recurring revenue problem and fails repeatedly to come together and sort through the budget disarray.

Chicken-Fried News predicts the 2018 regular session of the Oklahoma Legislature begins with lawmakers debating legislation that would outlaw teachers from removing Ten Commandment pamphlets and flyers that students bring to school, will declare global warming a hoax and make it illegal for Oklahoma mayors to adopt the Paris Accords. They will ban landlords from renting to immigrants both legal and illegal and expand the definition of citizens of the state to include human embryos. Those bills keep lawmakers busy until early May when it’s really time to fix the structural issues of the budget and talk revenue increases. To get a budget bill passed before adjourning, lawmakers opt to hold committee meetings at midnight, when the budget is posted online for public viewing 10 minutes before the meetings.

New county jail


Oklahoma County voters hired Republican P.D. Taylor for the job of sheriff, promoting the longtime law enforcement official to the top position in the county and handing him the task of running the state’s largest jail.

For years, the public called for reforms at the overcrowded and deteriorating county jail. Taylor, among the two other candidates, named reforms as a top priority. Reforms require cash, according to Taylor.

Also in 2017, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council was formed to “put real focus on revamping the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County,” Roy Williams, CEO/president of the Greater OKC Chamber, told Oklahoma Gazette.

The advisory council will learn from a highly compensated consultant that it is much cheaper to build a new jail facility than a top-to-bottom remodel. Before a funding source can be identified, the council goes land shopping, finding an open lot on a quiet road near Luther, only a 30-minute drive from downtown Oklahoma City. Council members promote a proposal for a new county jail facility where inmates enjoy farm fresh eggs and vegetables from a local grower daily. In their cells, rustic materials like distressed wood and wire give each cell a unique homespun look. Jail activities include basket weaving, churning butter, fly fishing, clay bird shooting and off-road vehicles. The jail facility, a first of its kind in the nation, will also double as a vacation spot attracting agro-tourists to support the jail’s operations budget.

Hugo Beach, Oklahoma


Now that winter is upon us, ’tis the season for anti-science Oklahoma lawmakers to walk out of government buildings into the bleak and icy outdoors, tighten their coat collars and intone their sacred mantra, “Global warming, my ass.” They say it so often, it almost sounds like a round that’s being sung in gruff voices around a campfire fueled by meteorology textbooks.

In February 2015, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe set the gold standard for seasonal climate change denial when he began an argument against global warming by tossing a snowball made of ice crystals and bitter grievances on the Senate floor. Allegedly, Environmental “Protection” Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has a freezer full of them, except they are laced with PCBs, lead and sulfur dioxide.

In fact, Oklahoma’s entire congressional delegation is on record as either denying climate change or pushing legislation that thwarts efforts to control corporate polluting. They could all sing “Global warming, my ass” as a barbershop septet.

Nevertheless, 2017 was one of the worst hurricane years on record, the Arctic Ocean is becoming a giant hot tub for harbor seals and nobody in Los Angeles wants to hear Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California” or “The Air That I Breathe” ever again. Last July, an iceberg frequently described as the size of Delaware broke off from Antarctica, which could prompt Delaware’s tourism office to describe the state as “the size of that iceberg you’ve been hearing about.”

Things are bad, but maybe Oklahoma’s flat-earth gang is just looking out for the state’s real estate interests. Imagine if things continue apace, Jimmy Buffett has to start singing about the Florida Keys in the past tense and the Dallas World Aquarium becomes an indoor-outdoor sea habitat. Then those specious claims Chicken-Fried News has heard for years about Oklahoma having the most shoreline of any state won’t be just hot gas, pardon the expression.

Think how cool it could be if our T-shirt companies could start printing Surf Lawton designs, or the obvious appeal of WinStar World Casino & Beach Resort. The OKC Boathouse District could offer deep-sea fishing expeditions. Furthermore, things will be so great for Oklahoma’s new seaside economy that the 28 million displaced Texans living in refugee camps in our state will find plenty of work at Devon Energy’s new offshore drilling platforms near Hugo Beach.

Nothing but blue skies, right Senator Inhofe?


Nearly a year after Mustang-based Tate Publishing shuttered its crooked doors after owners Richard and Ryan Tate were arrested and each charged with four counts of felony embezzlement, one count of misdemeanor embezzlement, three felony charges of attempted extortion by threat, a felony racketeering charge … we’re sorry, but Chicken-Fried News needs a breather after all that crime.

OK, we’re back. Anyway, the Tates ran a vanity press that preyed on authors who were willing to pay the company to publish their mostly faith-based books and music. In May 2012, when an anonymous email leaked Tate’s plans to outsource copyediting work to the Philippines, Ryan Tate threatened and excoriated his workers in an 18-minute fire-and-brimstone tirade that resulted in 25 employees being fired without just cause. In a rare case of sweet, sweet justice, the entire hectoring meltdown lives on for posterity on YouTube, thanks to a former employee with the foresight to record audio of the condescending, sanctimonious and legally damning temper tantrum on a smartphone.

But CFN has an important question. What about real and actual sweet, sweet justice with a jury and lawyers and a bailiff and a judge? So far, the Tates’ preliminary hearing has been delayed twice. According to The Oklahoman, the hearing was pushed back due to “investigation, discovery and negotiations,” but it’s probably just because the Tates’ legal counsel cannot stop smacking their heads over the exceedingly public evidence against their clients. Plus, it takes a long time to collect depositions from so many prosecution witnesses.

That preliminary hearing will finally take place Feb. 21, 2018, unless, as Chicken-Fried News ever so cautiously predicts, Jesus Christ Himself gets so disgusted with the Tates that he decides to offer testimony and it gets moved once again to accommodate His busy schedule.

Banner ballots

In 2017, political junkies heads turned when Oklahomans elected four Democrats to Legislature seats all formerly held by Republicans. Non-Okies cited the elections of Sen. Michael Brooks, Rep. Karen Gaddis, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants and Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman as major wins during the Trump presidency. Okies know the wins had more to do with the candidates than the Republican president. Following the recent turbulent legislative sessions with across-the-board cuts impacting key governmental services, all four candidates ran on promises to restore Oklahoma. Fed up Oklahomans responded by casting votes in favor of Democrats.

Special election victories in the United States point to a possible Democratic wave in 2018. In red-state Oklahoma, could Democrats continue to defy expectations? An election to watch is Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District for which Democratic candidate Kendra Horn raised more money than incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Russell during a three-month period earlier this year. Tom Guild is also in the race, per usual, regular as sunrise and sunset.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher strikes again

We’ve all been told to vote in local elections. After all, local races can impact your life. This past year, there was no better example than when the City of Oklahoma City and NewsOK teamed up for the MAPS 3 Name the Park vote. Readers of The Oklahoman and NewsOK perused park name finalists Painted Sky Park, Prairie River Park, Renaissance Green, Scissortail Park, Skydance Green and Union Station Commons and cast votes. It is important to note that more than 5,000 name ideas were submitted before the city narrowed it down to six. As you probably imagined or heard, Scissortail Park received the most votes. Once again, Oklahoma honors the scissor-tailed flycatcher! As if the homage on the license plate wasn’t enough.

Too bad Oklahoma Citians have to wait until 2019 for the urban park’s opening. Chicken-Fried News predicts the City of Oklahoma City and NewsOK will revive their partnership and ask readers to vote online once again. This time, The Oklahoman and NewsOK readers will pick among the following as names for the streetcar’s nickname: Painted Sky, Prairie River, Renaissance Green, Skydance Green, Union Station and Scissortail II.

Print headline: So predictable: You’ve nearly escaped 2017. Just wait ’til next year.

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