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What Could Have Been: Sports
  • The 1994-1995 MLB Strike put a halt to baseball from August 12th till April 2nd. The strike not only canceled the World Series and prematurely ended the summers of many baseball fans, it also put a halt to some great seasons. Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants was on pace to break Roger Maris' single season homerun record, Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres had a very real chance to be the first player to hit .400 since 1941, Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox and Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros had career years that they didn't get to finish, but the most tragic of all of these has to be the Montreal Expos. The Expos had the best record in baseball with a 74-40 record. They were favorites to win the World Series despite having a very low payroll. The strike put an end to all of this and is considered one of the main reasons why the Expos were never the same again and eventually moved down to Washington D.C. what if aaron boone didnt get hurt would arod still be a yankee or would he have gone to boston
    • Also to mention when baseball resumed, it put a giant Reset Button on everything meaning that if you signed a free agent during that time period, the contract was void. For example, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette signed Kevin Appier, Sammy Sosa, and John Wetteland to play for the Red Sox. The strike wiped all of that away.
      • The Fan Revolt following the strike has become a non-issue in the United States, but in Canada, the game never recovered. Aside from the Expos fans walking away entirely, the Toronto Blue Jays average home game attendance dropped sharply after 1994 and hasn't been above 30,000 since 1998. They averaged 50,000 in 1993 and 1994.
      • Does it matter that the Blue Jays haven't been contenders since 1993?
      • No - the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs haven't been contenders for most of the last deacde and still manage to get a pretty decent following, despite the fact that pound-for-pound in the last couple of years, the Blue Jays are the better team.
      • Also, when you're a smaller payroll team sharing a division with Boston, Tampa (who also has a very low payroll), and the Yankees, you've got your work cut out for you. 2010's season as a case in point: most teams with a record of 85-77 would finish higher than 4th out of 5 in their division.
    • The strike was also one of the reasons Michael Jordan went back to basketball. Imagine what could have happened.
  • On that same vein, what if the Montreal Expos had moved to Washington a few years prior to 2005, while Vladimir Guerrero was still on the team?
    • Similarly, what would have happened if the Expos had moved to the other leading contender for relocation: Monterrey, Mexico?
  • What if Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamattinote  not died of a heart attack during his first year in office (and about a week after he banned Pete Rose for his gambling activities) in 1989? Could Giamatti had been able to successfully mediate between the owners and players union in light of the eventual the 1994-95 strike? When Giamatti was first hired to be the President of the National League in 1986, his deft dealings with unions while at Yale had been cited as one of his strongest assets.
  • What if the color barrier in Major League Baseball been broken earlier than 1947 (when Jackie Robinson debuted)? Therefore, the exploits Negro League legends like Josh Gibson (considered to be the "Black Babe Ruth") and Satchel Page (during his prime as opposed to when he finally did make the majors while in his late 40s) would've most likely had been wider known.
    • It actually was. There were a few black players in the immediate post-Reconstruction period before Jim Crow really ramped into gear.
  • The American Football League's (AFL) ten-year history was full of What Might Have Beens, starting literally before there was an AFL:
    • What would the NFL look like today if the owners had actually let Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams buy franchises? Would it have stayed the same "Three yards and a cloud of dust" conservative brand of football without the AFL to show that the fans would flock to a more wide-open style (both on and off the field)?
      • More pressingly: Would the NFL have continued to drag its feet on expansion and franchise movement, had the AFL not existed to provide a competitive reason?note 
    • For that matter, what would've become of the AFL if Hunt and Adams had accepted the NFL's offer of expansion teams if they backed out the new league?
      • Or if Joe Namath - the league's first true superstar - had signed with the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals instead of the AFL's New York Jets.
      • Rumor is that the Cardinals were merely a beard for the New York Giants. Joe had made it clear that he wanted to play in New York.
      • For that matter, what would the Super Bowl era have evolved into if Namath and the Jets had lost Super Bowl III? The NFL was already looking into altering the AFL vs NFL format, as they (the NFL) thought the AFL teams simply weren't up to par yet.
    • Without a $400K loan from Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, Oakland would've moved to Seattle or New Orleans after the 1963 season. He gave a similar, smallre loan to Boston to keep them afloat.
    • Al Davis' merger plan was more along the lines of a Major League Baseball type setup: With the AFL continuing as a separate entity with its own rules, but with a combined NFL/AFL championship game and All-Star game. It's widely believed that much of Davis' iconoclastic behavior was partly fueled by a grudge against NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Dallas Cowboys owner Tex Schramm and Lamar Hunt for going "behind his back" to hash out the eventual merger.
    • If the merger deal hadn't put a stop to the talent raids between AFL and NFL teamsnote , the Houston Oilers would've made San Francisco QB John Brodie pro sports' first $1 Millon man, and had him throwing passes to future Hall-of-Fame tight end Mike Ditka.
    • Had things gone according to plan, the original AFL cities would've been New York City, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Miami. The ownership group in Minneapolis accepted the NFL offer Adams and Hunt turned down, leading the AFL to switch to Plan B: Oakland. Ralph Wilson wanted to locae his franchise in Miami, but a lukewarm reception to the unproven league caused him to look elsewhere, eventually deciding on Buffalo, NY.
  • The United States Football League started off to rave reviews and a decent fan base. Instead of following the AFL model of building on that fan base and establishing franchise stability, the USFL (on Donald Trump's urging) instead went for immediate expansion (from 12 to 18 teams by year two) and later (again at Trump's urging) moving the season from Spring to Fall for a head-to-head battle with the larger, more established NFL. Who knows how long the league would've lasted had they stuck with being an alternative to the NFL instead of a direct competitor.
    • Trump quite simply had no comprehension of fan loyalty being something akin to family loyalty, in terms of head-to-head competition. Football fans that already rooted for a given NFL team had little reason to care about the USFL, while the NFL was playing. The same is just as true today, after the fall of the most recent would-be "rival," the XFL.
    • Actually Trump's plan all along was to use the USFL as a stepping stone to get his own NFL Franchise. According to an interview he gave to Rick Reilly in his book "Who's Your Caddy?", Trump's plan was to use the USFL as a way to sue the NFL on antitrust laws, causing a big boondoggle in court. which would lead to the NFL awarding an franchise to Trump. Unfortunately that didn't happen, and the league went down in flames.
  • Speaking of the XFL, Vince's original plan was to buy out the Canadian Football League and move the clubs south!
    • Which, in true Vince McMahon style, ignored the fact that the CFL itself tried an American expansion starting in 1995. It failed epically in three of the five cities of the CFL's "Southern Division" (Shreveport, Memphis and Birmingham, plus earlier failures in Sacramento and Las Vegas). Baltimore (who actually won the Grey Cup in '95) fled to Canada to become the current incarnation of the Montreal Alouettes virtually the moment the NFL's Ravens arrived. The remaining American CFL franchise (San Antonio) disbanded immediately thereafter.
  • After a round of expansion and franchise moves in the early 90s, the National Hockey League was looking at unprecedented exposure and popularity. Then the league went through an ill-advised second round of expansion in the late '90s, expanding to the southern US and moving smaller franchises to the western US. This is considered an ongoing disaster, with the league having to fight keep the Phoenix Coyotes from moving back to Canada being the biggest example of the mostly apathetic fanbases the league expanded to. With the perception (in America) of a bloated, watered-down and lackluster product with no recognizable names, the league is at it's lowest point in decades (part of the Stanley Cup finals have been broadcast on NBC Sports Network {formerly Versus}, a second-tier cable sports net, since 2011). The cancellation of the entire 2004-2005 season due to labor strife did not help the cause of fan disillusionment.
    • To expand, with the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment and the subsequent relocation of the team to Winnipeg, it's become clear what the future is for those troubled southern franchises. Even though Winnipeg lost it's team 15 years previous due to economic conditions and the arena for the new Jets being the smallest in the league, the NHL had to swallow it's pride and sell the team to the ONLY interested buyers. With Phoenix in such dire straits (the City of Glendale bailed them out for one more season) and NO prospective owners looking to keep the team in the desert. The sale of the Thrashers has been seen as an omen for the Coyotes.
      • To expand even further the league has just had ANOTHER lockout that caused part of the 2012-2013 season to be missed and threatened to wipe the entire season out. This is after the NHL was finally recovering from the disillusionment from the last lockout, and was finally getting back on national TV with its deal with NBC. The implications can only be imagined, but the loss of a season may only hasten the backpedaling of the leagues 90s southern expansion with teams migrating north to Seattle, Quebec City, and Toronto just to name a few. So the big what could of been is what if the league was run by competent business men who allowed their on ice product to flourish instead of shooting it in the foot constantly.
  • Want to infuriate a long-time New York Jets fan? Ask him "What Might Have Been" if the Jets had drafted Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp in 1995 - as everyone expected (and whom they desperately needed as their defense at the time was horrid) instead of TE Kyle Brady? (To be fair, Brady had a good NFL career - most of it with the Jacksonville Jaguars)
    • A collection of Jets draft blunders.
    • Pretty much every team in every major sports league in America (if not Earth) has at least one "Why did we pass on/cut that guy?". The more famous ones like Sapp could take up their own page.
    • This is why the "first round bust" exists.
    • Special mention must be made of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the late 50s, who drafted Johnny Unitas - considered by many the best quarterback of all time - in 1955 , and cut after stashing him on the practice squad for the entire season. Then they had both Len Dawson (another future Hall-of-Famer) and Jack Kemp (who won two championships and an MVP in the AFL) on their roster in 1957. To be fair, Dawson and Kemp were behind Earl Morrall (a future NFL MVP)... whom they traded in 1958 after trading for future Hall-of-Famer Bobby Layne. Layne retired after the 1962 season. All four men previously mentioned played into the 1970s.
  • Similar to the above, one of the most tragic "What might have been" stories in sports is that of Len Bias. Drafted second overall in the 1986 NBA draft by the defending champion Boston Celtics (they got the number two selection due to a previous trade), Bias was considered a can't miss prospect. He died of a cocaine overdose two days after the draft. Celtics fans point to Bias' death as the start of their decade-long decent into mediocrity (hitting rock bottom with the untimely death of star Reggie Lewis in 1993).
    • Similarly, George Pelawa, drafted early in the 1st round selections by the Calgary Flames, was considered to be a top notch player (with a very bright future in the league). A short time after the draft, he was killed in a car crash.
    • A clean and alive Len Bias on the Celtics quite possibly, would've helped give the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons and the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls a run for their money. Bias was suppose to become the new focal point/franchise player/anchor of the Celtics once Larry Bird (who finally had to retire in 1992 due to back issues) finally stepped aside. Bias coming off the bench would've also helped lighten the load of the already battered and aging Celtics (like during the 1987 Finals against the Lakers).
    • Considering the Cleveland Browns already had the greatest NFL running back of all time on their roster, what would the Browns have been like had they had a backfield of Jim Brown and Ernie Davis (the latter of whom died from leukemia without playing a down in the NFL)?
    • A similar aspect for Phoenix Suns fans would be what if the coin flip ended up giving the Suns the number 1 draft pick in 1969? In 1969, both the Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks had the worst records in the NBA, and they decided on who gets pick #1 by a coin toss, and then-President Jerry Colangelo would decide on heads or tails. Unfortunately, he chose incorrectly, and the Suns had to get pick #2, which ended up being Neal Walk. The #1 pick of that year? A prospect known as Lew Alcindor (better known now as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
    • Possibly the biggest draft example in the modern era would be 3-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, who the New England Patriots took with the 199th draft pick in 2000. Every team in the league has to wonder what today's NFL would look like if somebody else had picked him up first.
  • One of the best may be the 1970 NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears had to flip a coin to determine who got the #1 overall pick that year. The Steelers won the flip and chose Terry Bradshaw. The Bears ended up trading their #2 pick to the Packers and didn't choose a player until round 2. Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in the next ten years and the franchise went from joke to juggernaut. The Bears had to wait another sixteen years to win their first and only Super Bowl victory.
  • Also, injuries also generate their fair share of this trope: From guys like Gale Sayers (NFL) and Bill Walton (NBA) - who were Hall-of-Famers despite chronic injuries that cut short their careers to guys like Billy Sims (NFL) and Larry "Grandmama" Johnson (NBA) - who showed flashes of brilliance before injuries kept them from reaching HOF levels.
    • In particular, on Vincent "Bo" Jackson. Bo Jackson was arguably the most famous athlete on the planet in the late 1980s. A two-sport superstar (football and baseball) with an unmatched combination of strength and speed. He was the first player to play in two sports' all-star games (NFL and MLB). He might have re-written the record books in both sports if not for a freak hip injury suffered in an NFL playoff game 1991.
    • Had he remained uninjured, Gale Sayers would have been unquestionably the greatest running back in NFL history. He already routinely makes the top five on numerous lists, despite playing less than five seasons.
  • In 1969, his one and only season as head coach of the Washington Redskins, the legendary Vince Lombardi snapped a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons for the 'Skins, whipped notorious slacker Sonny Jurgensen into shape, instilled a winning attitude into the 'Skins (and the entire Washington DC sports world, really) that had been absent (Not to mention switching the 'Skins logo to the stylish "Circle R" design they wore throughout The Seventies). Despite the success his successor, George Allen had, longtime 'Skins fans wonder how far Lombardi could've taken them had he not died of colon cancer.
  • An interesting NFL game example would be from the 1993 playoffs. The Houston Oilers were only 10-6 but well known for their explosive run-and-shoot offense. They were playing a team, the Buffalo Bills, that they had literally beaten the week before 27 to 3. The Oilers got out to a 35-3 lead in the third quarter and ended up losing the game 41-38 in overtime, mostly due to their poor defensive play and poor special teams play. Buffalo would eventually go on to lose their third of four straight Super Bowl appearances. Houston would hire defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, a vocal critic of the run-and-shoot offense, in 1993 where they would again lose in the playoffs. Midway through the 1994 season, Houston would fire head coach Jack Pardee and abandon the run-and-shoot offense while Buffalo would mostly struggle to capture the glory they had in the early part of the decade.
    • If Houston had won, they would have likely gone on to play a Pittsburgh Steelers team that they had lost two games to by a combined 6 points during the season. Houston very well could have had a chance at going as far as the AFC Championship Game and maybe Buddy Ryan never would have been hired as their new defensive coordinator. This also may have resulted in Jeff Fisher never becoming the head coach of the Houston Oilers (and maybe even gone so far as to keep the team from moving to Tennessee to become the Tennessee Titans).
    • If either of those scenarios had come to pass; there would have been no need for Oilers owner Bud Adams to threaten to break the team up (which after the 1993 season ended with a playoff loss to Kansas City and comeback specialist Joe Montana, Adams made good on).
  • The New York Yankees were actually Plan B for George Steinbrenner in the early 70s. He wanted to, and was rebuffed in his efforts to, buy his hometown team, the Cleveland Indians. Baseball in general and Indians fans in particular are left wondering if The Boss would've effected the dramatic reversal of fortune for Cleveland as he did with the Yankees.
    • My lord, you could fill a book with the number of "what-ifs" that surround Cleveland sports. What if Modell decided to keep the team in Cleveland after the city passed the last-minute ordinance? What if Jose Mesa had learned to just throw the damn ball in the 1997 World Series? What if Jim Brown decided to stay in football during the height of his career?... There's a reason people say "God hates Cleveland".
  • The 1958 NFL championship ("The Greatest Game Ever Played") put the NFL on the national map, with Baltimore QB Johnny Unitas running the 2-minute drill to perfection (before the term had even been coined, let alone codified as a strategy). But would the NFL have gained that boost if the New York Giants had stopped the Colts in regulation time? Or if the game hadn't had the extra drama of being the NFL's first sudden death overtime game ever? Or if that drama had not happened in the NFL's first nationwide (as in "Every station on NBC' network was getting this broadcast) telecast?
    • One Yard Short. If it didn't happen, then Super Bowl XXXIV could have been the first Super Bowl to go to overtime.
  • In the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event (it airs on ESPN, it counts as a sport), a field of almost 6500 entrants was down to 26 when Phil Ivey, widely considered the greatest poker player in the world, mucked the winning hand after calling on the river and forfieted a pot of 2.18 million chips. Ivey was favored to win the event, which would have made him the first established pro to take the Main Event bracelet since the early 2000's poker boom, after which a string of previously unknown amatuer players won the event. Ivey did make the final table, but it was ultimately another unknown, Joe Cada, who took the bracelet. Whether Ivey would have taken the bracelet, which would have been his first Main Event win, with the extra 2.18 million in his stack is something we'll never know.
  • This is one of the things college football experts debate on when it comes to the 1984 Orange Bowl: How would the college football landscape have changed had Nebraska coach Tom Osborne decided to kick the extra point and settle for a tie (overtime would be another two decades away, and the tie would've probably given Nebraska the national championship). The Miami Hurricanes won the game when they stopped the two-point try. Not only did this cement Miami's place among the college football elite, but sounded the death knell for using the Wishbone offense on the elite level (Miami exposed it as having a severe vulnerability to defensive speed). Would the status quo have remained if Nebraska tied (or made the conversion)? Would Miami still have risen to the elite with a loss/tie?
  • The documentary The Best That Never Was is all about this trope, regarding Marcus Dupree - who in 1981 was the most heavily recruited high school football player ever. He was everything he was hyped as as a freshman running back, setting school records and making highlights with every game. But a combination of bad attitude (his reliance on physical gifts over practice and work infuriated his college coaches, leading to an ultimate split), bad luck (injuries marred his sophomore year and derailed his pro career), bad decisions (leaving Oklahoma, then quitting college altogether), and bad advice (leaving all his USFL money in the hands of his de facto agent, never getting a second opinion when his first doctors advised him to give up football) led to his being a washed-up burn-out by age 24. A brief comeback with the Los Angeles Rams from 1991 to 1992 showed some of what could have been had he toughed things out or had better advisers: Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer called his handling of Dupree - riding him hard out of both frustration for Dupree's lack of drive outside of game day and not quite knowing how to handle someone that young with that much talent - his most regrettable move as a head coach).
    • A side-note the documentary never addresses: Had Dupree transferred to a lower-division (I-AA or lower) he would've been eligible after his aborted sophomore season. And had he gone to nearby (to Mississippi native Dupree) I-AA Mississippi Valley State, he would've been paired with the record-setting duo of receiver Jerry Rice and quarterback Willie Totten. The mind boggles at the kind of numbers that trio could've put up.
  • The Buffalo Bills are known as the team that lost 4 Super Bowls in a row. The first of the loss was a very narrow loss by 1 point where Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a last minute field goal that would've won the game for the Bills. However, what if the kick was good and the Bills won their first Super Bowl? Would the Bills made it back again and again for the next 3 seasons? If they did, would they be soundly defeated like they did?
  • NASCAR's Adam Petty. He was the grandson of Richard Petty (widely considered the greatest driver in NASCAR history) and the sport's first fourth-generation racer. Although Petty raced for a few years in NASCAR's lower divisions, he competed in only one Winston Cup race (the 2000 DirecTV 500, in which he placed 40th). Just over a month later, he was killed in a crash while practicing for the Busch 200 at New Hampshire. Would he have reached the same levels of success as his predecessors?
    • See also:
      • Alan Kulwicki, killed in a private plane crash before the Bristol weekend in April of 1993 while defending his Winston Cup championship from 1992, which was the first championship for an owner/driver in decades.
      • Davey Allison, following in the footsteps of his legendary father Bobby Allison as a championship-caliber wheelman, killed in a helicopter crash before the Talladega weekend in July of 1993, only a few months after the abformentioned Kulwicki death. He also had a brother who was killed a few months before in a race crash. Also by this time Bobby Allison had to retire after suffering a near fatal wreck.
      • Neil Bonnett, killed in a practice crash during Daytona 500 weekend in 1994, was making a comeback after being sidelined by injuries a few years before.
      • Tim Richmond, a proven winner and title contender with a personality that contrasted NASCAR's then-mainly good ol' boy flavor in the early-mid 1980's. Came down with double pheunomia in 1987 (which turned out to be AIDS), forcing him into a part-time season, then gone entirely by season's end. The AIDS would finally take his life in 1989. Documented further in Tim Richmond: To The Limit
      • And then there's Dale Earnhardt.
      • In the IndyCar series, Dan Wheldon died in a crash in the last race of the year. Before the race, he was interviewed about having a full time ride in 2013. And this was after the season in which he won the Indy 500 for the second time.
    • Also, Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, killed at roughly the peak of his career driving what was one of the best cars on the circuit.
    • One has to wonder how much different mid-Sixties Grand National racing might have been if Curtis Turner, the legendary racer/bootlegger/timber speculator/party animal hadn't been banned from the sport in 1961 for trying to unionize the NASCAR drivers.
  • When the foundering American Basketball Association (ABA) merged with the NBA in 1976, the original four teams tabbed for the merger were the San Antonio Spurs (the ABA's attendance leader) and the ABA's strongest remaining teams: the Denver Nuggets, the New York Nets... and the Kentucky Colonels. The Chicago Bulls protested the possible inclusion of the Colonels; mostly because they coveted Kentucky's star player, center Artis Gilmore (for whom they owned the NBA draft rights). The NBA, not wanting a fight with one of one of its biggest franchises, chose the Indiana Pacers as the fourth team (the only other surviving ABA team, the Spirits of St. Louis, were never seriously considered for the mergernote  ).
    • Speaking of the ABA, the Denver Nuggets (then the Denver Rockets) were to have originally been based in Kansas City. However, the original owner of that franchise couldn't find a suitable arena there and Kansas City moved to Denver.
  • Before Mario Lemieux bought the Penguins to keep them in Pittsburgh, it was heavily rumored that billionaire Paul Allen was in the running to buy the then cash-strapped team and relocate them to Portland.
  • Apparently no one here's a fan of doomed (at the time) teams. In 2003, we could have had a World Series featuring the Boston Red Sox and(/or) the Chicago Cubs. The Sox had not won a World Series in 85 years or even competed in 17 years (they would finally win it all the following year). The Cubs hadn't won it in 95 years (they STILL haven't won it since, giving them a drought of 105 years, the longest in American sports history) and hadn't even attended the championship in 58 years (68 nowadays, longer than many competing teams have been in existence). Both teams were involved in controversial Division Series.
    • The Sox had a pretty straightforward one. Extra innings in Game 7, with the New York Yankees firing off a solo home run in the 11th. Stung like a bitch to any diehard Sox fans hoping to see their first World Series appearance in almost two decades.
      • You can't talk about 2003 Game 7 without mentioning how they got into Extra Innings in the first place. Going into the 8th inning, the Red Sox were leading by 4 runs. Pedro Martinez had thrown impeccably well and had hit 100 pitches at the end of the 7th inning. Everybody knew he was done except for the one person who mattered — manager Grady Little. Pedro would be back out for the 8th inning and after one loud out, Pedro unraveled just as predicted and the lead disintegrated.
    • The Cubs, however, were stuck with a wholly demoralizing Game 6, while leading the series 3-2. In the eighth inning, Luis Castillo fired off a long, foulwards shot should have been caught by left fielder Moisés Alou. If it weren't for spectator Steve Bartman, that is. Desperate for a foul ball to call his own, he reached into where Alou's glove was headed and screwed up catching it. For both him and Alou. The ball was ruled foul (what would have been a painfully easy catch, too). What followed was the Florida Marlins turning it around from losing 3-0 (in a game that would have taken them out of the series) to winning 8-3. That inning.
      • The kicker? Steve Bartman was a Cubs fan.
      • There's always 2015...
      • 2012?
      • 2012 turned out to be false, and in many ways, the exact opposite, with the Cubs suffering one of their worst seasons in years.
  • In 2009, ESPN's College Football Live asked "What If" to many of the most notable moments in college football history, wondering what would happen if they went the other way. Among the moments they checked out were (along with some of what they suspect would've happened):
    • What if Tom Osborne had settled for the extra point instead of going for 2 in the 1984 Orange Bowl against Miami (making Nebraska the national champs instead of Miami)?
      • If Miami didn't win the national championship that year, Howard Schnellenberger would've stayed (instead of leaving for the USFL) with Miami and cemented the late 80s/early 90s Hurricanes dynasty even sooner. The 83 Cornhuskers would go down as possibly the greatest college football team of all time, on the flip side, with Osborne going down as possibly the greatest college football coach of all time.
    • What if Florida State's first Wide Right had gone the other way?
      • The Miami Hurricanes' dynasty (they were mentioned a lot in this series) would've been cut short as FSU would've won the 91 national championship. The momentum from that would've overturned the numerous Wide Rights that followed, possibly cementing FSU as the undisputed team of the 90s and early 00s. (The Cornhuskers also have a claim to that title having won one more national championship than the Seminoles.)
    • What if Boise State's series of trick plays leading to their Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma had failed?
      • A Boise State loss would've caused a huge dent in the various midmajor conferences' efforts to gain the respect of college football fans, possibly redeeming the BCS in the eyes of the fans a little bit.
      • In another Boise State example, what if Auburn hadn't been able to come back from their 24-point deficit against Alabama, and Boise State's Kyle Brotzman hadn't missed the field goal against Nevada that sent the game into overtime.
    • Several years ago, the SEC proposed a four-team playoff for the national championship, it was shot down.
      • And now it will happen starting in 2014, featuring four teams picked by a Final Four-style committee.
  • The March 8, 2004 issue of Sporting News explored several "what if" scenarios, complete with projected alternate histories.
  • What if Nebraska faced Florida State for the 1997 national championship; instead of the somewhat baffling choice of having them play Tennessee? (FSU and UT both had one lose, and it was to the same team, Florida. The difference was that the Volunteers were shut out at home. On the other hand the Seminoles lost by 3 points on the road in what is still called the best game ever played in The Swampnote )
  • The ill-fated International Fight League was actually Plan B for MyNetworkTV. They originally wanted to net the rights to UFC, but Zuffa decided to keep UFC on Spike TV. With the UFC appearing on other Fox channels as of 2012, there may be hope for the long-suffering MyNetworkTV to get some UFC action!
  • What could have happened during the editions of the Olympic Games and The World Cup that World War II cancelled in the 1940s? (for the latter, the champion of 34-38, Italy, could win its third title and bring home the Jules Rimet cupnote )
  • How many golds would the US have won in Moscow? For that matter, how many golds would Soviet Bloc countries have won in Los Angeles?note 
  • You could make a whole page from potential relocations:
    • NHL:
      • During the 1995 season, the New Jersey Devils may have gone to Nashville, but they won the Stanley Cup that season, preventing the move.
      • Before moving to Phoenix, the original Winnipeg Jets thought of going to Minnesota instead.
      • The St. Louis Blues almost made it to Saskatoon.
      • The Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders and the Phoenix Coyotes were all considered to move to Kansas City. However, the Penguins got a new arena which prevented the first one from happening while the Coyotes' planned new owner filed for bankruptcy. At this point, Kansas City is being considered more likely to get an NBA franchise (due to the state already having the Blues on the other side selling out almost every night).
    • NBA:
      • The Minnesota Timberwolves almost moved to New Orleans during 1994.
      • The Sacramento Kings came within an eyelash of returning the NBA to Seattle in 2013.
    • NFL:
      • Since 1994note , the NFL has not had a team in Los Angeles. There have been several teams that have been rumored to make the move to LA, and several teams have used the threat of moving there to get concessions from their cities. Several prime candidates have included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Buffalo Bills, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings, in particular, were unhappy with the Metrodome and threatened to move without a proposal for a new stadium, which the state legislature passed after initially rejecting it. What if the Minnesota Legislature had stuck to their guns?
  • The second weekend of June 2012 had a pair of WCHBs:
    • In the month of May, the toast of America was the horse I'll Have Another. Having beaten well-heeled Bodemeister with well-timed charges on the home strech, in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, IHA was the favorite for the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. Sadly, however, he developed tendonitis and was scratched the day before the race, extending the 34-year-long drought since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978.
    • A quarter of the way around the globe, the Men's Finals of the French Open came down to defending Champion & King of Clay (#2) Rafael Nadal and #1 in the world Novak Djokovic, who was 1 match away from both a career Grand Slam and a non-calendar Grand Slam (with Maria Sharapova having gained the former the previous day). Nadal took a quick lead 6-4, 6-3, but started to become vulnerable, losing set 3 2-6.
      Then the rain came. Play was suspended with Nadal down in Set 4: 1-2. When play resumed the following afternoon, it's as though a Reset Button was hit for the match, with the Spaniard going 6-3 for the only set of the day (officially making the tally 7-5). Granted, Djokovic made quite a few unforced errors, including a double-fault on break-match-point in that fateful 4th set, but it makes one wonder: could Nadal have come back on his own in a 5th set had the rain never come to the plain? Alternatively, could the Serbian, Djokovic, have rallied mid-match under fair skies?
  • While we're on the subject of Tennis, Juan Martín del Potro has both the honor of being the only man other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic who won a Grand Slam title from 2005 to 2011 (the 2009 US Open, to be exact) and the heartbreak of suffering a severe wrist injury shortly after that sidelined his career for two years. It's hard to not wonder if del Potro would have been able to turn the Big Two of tennis into a Big Three long before Djokovic did it in 2011 if he hadn't received that injury, especially considering that he won his lone Grand Slam title by legitimately beating both Federer and Nadal in head-to-head combat and has only recently managed to claw his way back to No. 8, four ranking spots below his 2010 best of No. 4.
    • An even more haunting "what if this tennis player hadn't been injured?" question hangs over the career of Monica Seles. She dethroned Steffi Graf as the World No. 1 and dominated the Grand Slams as a teenager for two years before she was stabbed by a crazed Graf fan, an incident that she never fully recovered from. Many people believe that if Seles hadn't been stabbed, she could have staked her claim as the greatest female tennis player of all time instead of Graf. Would she really have? Or would Graf have eventually figured out how to reclaim her No. 1 throne like she did in regards to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario?
  • Cooper Manning, the eldest son of Archie Manning, was diagnosed with spinal stenosis at the age of 18. At the time he was an All-State wide receiver and considered a hot prospect for the University of Mississippi. What would the NFL look like with all three Manning brothers as active players (or better yet—Cooper as part of the same offense as either Peyton or Eli?) Archie might have made the Hall of Fame just on his genetic contribution to the game alone!
  • Probably the most foregone sports what-if, at least in horse racing-what if Samuel Riddle had not thought the first Saturday in May was too early for a colt to run a mile and a quarter and had entered Man o' War in the Kentucky Derby? (Notably, Riddle had changed his mind by the time Man o' War's best son War Admiral was a three-year-old...)
    • Would Barbaro had taken the Triple Crown had he not broken his leg in the Preakness?
  • The Philadelphia Phillies are, statistically speaking, the worst franchise in the history of sports, with more losses than any other sports franchise and more last-place finishes than any other baseball team. According to master baseball showman Bill Veeck, he tried to buy the team in 1943, when the Phillies were at a nadir both financially and on the field. His intent, he said, was to replace the entire roster with Negro League stars and bust the color line years before Branch Rickey did. He claimed the baseball commissioner and league president heard of his plans and, wanting to keep the sport segregated, quickly arranged for a sale to another buyer. Veeck's story has been vehemently disputed by baseball historians, but if true and if it had come to pass, he not only would have revolutionized baseball, he would have changed the history of race relations in the U.S.
  • How would the 2013 Super Bowl have turned out if the power hadn't gone out in the Superdome for 34 minutes after halftime? Baltimore was on the way to a rout of the San Francisco 49ers, leading 21-3 at the half. The 49ers managed to rally to within a field goal of the Ravens by the end of the game (though they still lost). Would the 49ers have been able to rally even without the break in Baltimore's momentum?
  • What kind of numbers would Mickey Mantle have put up if he didn't spend half his career on the disabled list?
  • What if legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had accepted that job with the New England Patriots in 1972? The Nittany Lions might have never rose the to level of dominance they achieved in the 1980's, winning two national titles.
    • Three years earlier, JoPa as the first choice of the Rooney family to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers. When he said no, they went to Plan B: Chuck Noll. Noll helped turn the Steelers from the NFL's Butt Monkey to the dominant team of the 1970s. Would JoPa have had similar success? We'll never know.
  • 2008 all-around gymnastics gold medalist Nastia Liukin was born in the Soviet Union to two well-known Soviet gymnasts. When Nastia was two, the family moved to the United States. However, if her family had stayed past the breakup of the USSR and Nastia was still interested in being a gymnast, she would have competed for Russia, which has a vastly different training style and system. Would she still have made it to the Olympics? What would her gymnastics have looked like?
  • After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, owner Tom Benson was this close to moving the NFL's New Orleans Saints permanently to San Antonio (where they played their home games in the 2005 season). Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped in to say the league would fight the move, then eventually talked Benson into staying in New Orleans.
  • Greg Oden has basically been a "What Could Have Been" story since he went pro. Drafted first overall in 2007 (Ahead of superstar phenom Kevin Durant) his career has been one long string of injury problems, and bench warming.
    • This is the third Portland Trail Blazers first-round pick WCHB, behind Bill Walton (who at least got to showcase his talent for a few years before injuries set him down) and Sam Bowie. Billed as the 2nd-best big man in the draft behind Hakeem Olajuwan (who went first overall to the Houston Rockets), the Blazers picked him number 2. The Chicago Bulls drafted next and picked a guard from North Carolina named Michael Jordan. Would anyone be ridiculing the Blazers for that pick had Bowie been healthy enough to live up to his potential? (Especially since they passed on Jordan because they had drafted a pretty good guard of their own in Clyde Drexler the previous year.)
  • There are several examples in the Danish Superliga
    • Odense Boldklub had a 19-year old striker from Poland on a trial, where they decided against giving him a contract. His name: Robert Lewandowski.
    • FC Midtjylland had, at different times, Edin Dzeko and Michael Essien on trials. Neither got the play for the Danish club.
    • Brøndby IF was offered Luca Modric for €1.3M, when he played in Croatia. They said no thanks.
  • When the Charlotte Bobcats were first created in the early 2000s (following the Charlotte Hornets relocating to New Orleans), the runner-ups for the team name were "Charlotte Flight" and "Charlotte Dragons". "Charlotte Flight" was actually the most popular name in a poll given to Charlotte residents, but its results were disregarded by the original majority owner, Bob Johnson, who may have liked the idea of naming the team after himself ("Bob's Cats" was indeed an early Fan Nickname).
    • Though now, with the New Orleans franchise vacating "Hornets" for "Pelicans", the team was granted permission to change its name back to the Charlotte Hornets for the 2014-15 season.
  • An injury story where the injury was the good part: The San Antonio Spurs' David Robinson missed virtually the entire 1996-1997 with a back injury. Without Robinson the Spurs' recored cratered to 20-62, third-worst in the league. They managed to grab the #1 pick in the upcoming draft, which contained star Wake Forest center Tim Duncan. And the previous year's bad record spurred GM Greg Popovich to fire head coach Bob Hill and take the reins himself. With Duncan and a healthy Robinson, the Spurs won the 1999 championship and went on to win four more after Robinson's retirement. What would've happened had Robinson remained healthy and the Spurs hadn't had their massive shakeup?
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