Lackluster 2019: Final year of decade ends with modest news stories

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Still never having the Popeye's chicken sandwich, I witnessed a line wrapped around the Austin Peay location during August.
President Donald J. Trump, at right, is joined by Vice President Mike Pence on Aug. 5, 2019, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House for the president to deliver remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian.

The 2010s are officially done.

And, boy, did it end with a dud. The year 2019 wasn’t that special in my eyes. It was filled with a bunch of hot air and nonsense like Lizzo’s attire at a Los Angeles Lakers’ game.

I should have known 2019 was going to be a lackluster year filled with tragedy because of Super Bowl 53. The New England Patriots claimed the franchise’s sixth Lombardi Trophy by beating the Los Angeles Rams in one of the most boring big games in recent years.

People who bought a ticket wanted their money back. Those like me who tuned in wanted that portion of their lives back. That game set the tempo for a year full of moments set up to be memorable but that fell to give us a lasting impact.

As a society numb to mass shootings, social media arguing and ambiguous matters of the White House, it was hard to compile 10 news stories for the Best Sellers’ List look back at 2019.

I felt like James Wiseman’s journey through 2019. I start on top of the world dominating on my current level. The expectations for what’s to come are building in front of the large crowd in anticipation of my decision.

Like Wiseman picking The University of Memphis to continue his basketball career, several are filled with jubilation at the prospect of me doing a Year in Review. But once we got here, all the problems come to the surface and the dream is cut short. Unlike Wiseman, who recently withdrew from the U of M and will focus on his NBA future, I still have to endure this top 10 filled with anticlimactic moments.

10. Amber Guyger convicted

Is this cops vs. black people?

Another case of the police targeting people of color, or is this simply a tragic case of an innocent man being gunned down in his own home? For me the bigger issue is did the convicted former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger get a lighter sentence and a public display of mercy from the victim’s family because she’s a woman.

Back in October, Guyger was convicted of the murder of her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Guyger, 31, faced emotional testimony from Jean’s family at her sentencing. She even tried to paint herself as a victim by sharing social media posts calling her a racist.

The bottom line on this case, it was a situation where if a person trained to use quick thinking stopped to evaluate the scene, she would still be free today and Jean would still be alive. It’s not about black vs. white. It’s about awareness from drinking too much and paying too much attention to your phone.

9. Old Town Road

Stop me if you haven’t heard Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”

OK, we can all proceed with this entry for the most memorable things in 2019. Sorry, but you won’t be No. 1 on this list. “Old Town Road” was at the top of the Billboard charts long enough.

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road, “ featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, claims one of the most prized records in the Billboard Hot 100’s 60-year history as it spends an unprecedented 17 weeks at No. 1. The previous record of 16 weeks belonged to Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” in 1995-96. It was matched later by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” featuring Justin Bieber in 2017.

“Old Town Road” is that rare song of being catchy and addictive. You will catch young and old singing and dancing to this song. It crossed racial lines with the duo of X and Cyrus. It’s like this generation’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

8. President Trump impeached

For the third time in U.S. American history, our president has been impeached. In mid-December, President Donald Trump was impeached by Congress, allowing him to join Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton with that designation. So far, no U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment, and Trump will be safe as well.

It will be hard to prove an illegal activity, and I don’t think this impeachment will hurt our current president when it comes to reelection in 2020.

The circus in the Democratic Party with an army of candidates fighting to be the nominee was the political theater for most of 2019. In the backdrop was this looming impeachment of Trump. Now that it has finally happened, it will fizzle away just in time for a 2020 presidential showdown leading to November. Stay tuned to Twitter for updates and see how all this plays out.

7. Notre Dame Cathedral burning

Tax Day 2019 will be remembered for one thing across the world. A structure fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris. By the time it was extinguished, the building’s spire and most of its roof had been destroyed. There was extensive damage throughout the historical structure touching the hearts of many.

The cathedral housed many works of art and religious relics. There was smoke damage to many items. The cathedral’s altar, two pipe organs and its three 13th-century rose windows suffered little to no damage. Three emergency workers were injured in the effort to preserve Notre Dame.

President Emmanuel Macron said that the cathedral would be restored, and he launched a fundraising campaign that brought more than a billion dollars in quick fashion. To fully restore the building might take a couple of decades, but it will be worth the time and effort to millions across the world.

6. Wildfires in California

If you live in California, you expect natural disasters. While you have fall, winter, spring and summer here in Memphis, those on the left coast have seasons like earthquake, mudslide, drought and fire.

The 2019 wildfire season is still underway with a reported 6,876 fires by Dec. 22, according to Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service. More than 250,000 acres have been torched, leaving many homeless and without jobs.

In late October, the Kincade Fire became the largest fire of the year, burning 77,758 acres in Sonoma County by Nov. 6.
To battle these blazes, power company have to shut off electricity. Fire departments have to use unique strategies to keep residents safe and limit the impact.

That fact that the death toll isn’t some astronomical figure illustrates the hard work and effort by the crews putting their lives on the line.

5. Hurricane Dorian

The winner for storm of the year goes to Hurricane Dorian. This Category 5 storm hit the headlines from Aug. 24 to Sept. 10. Hurricane Dorian was the most intense tropical cyclone on record to strike the Bahamas.

Dorian became the worst natural disaster in that country’s history. Its winds peaked at 185 mph in the Atlantic Ocean. Then Dorian struck the Abaco Islands on Sept. 1 with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. Catastrophic damage was Dorian’s legacy, with most structures flattened or swept into the waters. The storm left at least 70,000 homeless. Dorian proceeded along the coasts of the Southeastern United States and Atlantic Canada, leaving behind considerable damage and economic losses in those regions. There were billions of dollars in damage and 73 people dead when the storm finally faded away.

4. The death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

ISIL has been a thorn in the side of the United States for a long time. It is one of President Trump’s top priorities when it comes to the fight on international terrorism. A huge victory was announced in late October by the president. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was eliminated around Oct. 27 by a tactical team.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the Iraqi-born leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, as well as by the European Union and many individual states.

Baghdadi was considered a priority on the worldwide terrorist list. Baghdadi would become directly involved in ISIL’s atrocities and human rights violations, which includes the genocide of Yazidis in Iraq. He was even associated with sexual slavery and other vicious crimes.

From 2011, a reward of $10 million was offered for Baghdadi by the U.S. State Department. That total increased over the years as it became more and more important to capture Baghdadi.

On October 27, he killed himself by detonating a suicide vest during the Barisha raid conducted by the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment and the U.S. Delta Force according to a statement by Trump.

3. Tiger wins Masters

Good news came from the green links of Augusta National in April when legendary golfer Tiger Woods captured the 2019 Masters. It was his 15 major championship in his illustrious career.

The 2019 Masters Tournament was the 83rd edition of the Masters Tournament and the first of golf’s four major championships in 2019. On April 14, it became one of the most notable Masters of all time because of Woods. Woods won his fifth Green Jacket by one stroke ahead of three runners-up.

For a moment in time, we die-hard Tiger fans had an event to cherish and time to reflect back on his dominance, which seemed so long ago.

2. 2019’s week of mass shootings

Mass shootings are now a normal part of the news cycle. We have to get a check on our mental health issues to maybe start to put a limit on these incidents.

These types of tragedies hit close to home July 30 when a Walmart was shot up in Southaven, Miss. At the store, a man killed two people and then wounded a police officer before being shot by police and arrested. The next day in Elkhart, Ind., police responded to shots fired at a senior living complex and discovered a wounded woman. Two males and a woman were deceased, and it is believed one of the deceased males was the shooter.

Then by Aug. 2 there were classified mass shootings in Suffolk, Virginia, and Pomfret, Maryland. On Aug. 4, three more mass shooting occurred, including Chicago, Memphis and Grenada, Miss. But the incident in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3 was the worst of the bunch. The 2019 El Paso shooting was left with statistics like 22 people were killed and 24 were injured. The shooting at this Walmart was near the Cielo Vista Mall and was a Hispanophobic massacre. The perpetrator was taken into custody.

Since then, there have been more shootings, from Navy bases to schools. I always say, it takes the people behind the guns to do the killing. Who are these people behind the guns? Let’s start caring about what people are thinking, feeling and going through.

1. Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

Still never having the Popeye’s chicken sandwich, I witnessed a line wrapped around the Austin Peay location during August. Photo by Thomas Sellers Jr.

Among the tragedies and triumphs of the year 2019, the most memorable thing to me will be the launch of Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.

This treat caused a national incident with closures, shutdowns, fights and even murder. I have to admit the sandwich is pretty tasty but not worth killing anybody over.

This version of the chicken sandwich garnered so much attention from customers and the competition. It put the fear of the bird in Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, KFC and others. The sandwich two years in the making surpassed the expectations of even Popeyes.

Now that the hype is done, maybe all the foolishness is over, too. We can get to just enjoying these sandwiches alongside other fast food classics like the Big Mac, Whopper, Frosty and Double Quarter Pounder.

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.