AUGUST 8, 2014 – ESPN analyst and Alabama graduate Greg Ostendorf recently posted an essay that essentially devalued the majority of Auburn’s amazing 2013 campaign by offering “what if” scenarios indicating his belief that the Tigers were in reality a very lucky 8-5 team.
Ostendorf’s prior Bama allegiance aside (that’s a topic for another day), his premise is pretty silly. Things are what they are. Fortune plays a part in every season and further plays significant role in everyday life.
Who doesn’t have stories of how a random event as simple as missing or making a red light had a long term impact on their future?
What if I had missed the red light and hadn’t stopped for gas at the exact moment a girl I knew from high school was about to leave the pumps? We talked, we caught up, we dated, we were married. Luck? Or design? Does it matter?
Even though we found Ostendorf’s entire exercise ludicrous in its thinly veiled effort to discredit Auburn’s accomplishments, we did see the opportunity to amuse ourselves (and hopefully our readers) with a series of historical What If scenarios.
What if Rich Rodriguez hadn’t been offended by the ridicule of his wife on the Finebaum show? Rodriguez had been hired and would have been the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide had Finebaum and his callers not gone full redneck and ridiculed her photo. He changed his mind. That change initiated a Pandora’s Box of chain reactions. With the Alabama job already taken, what if when Nick Saban flamed out at Miami, he became the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines instead? What if Urban Meyer didn’t feel the pressure and stayed at Florida as the Gators faltered in the post-Tebow years? What if Jimbo Fisher took the Tennessee job when Lane Kiffin bolted for USC? Your last four national champions would be Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Auburn.
What if the Hindenburg doesn’t go up in flames? Delta Airlines consists of a fleet of zeppelins.
What if vastly overrated Notre Dame loses to Purdue or Pitt or Stanford in 2012 and Alabama has to play a superior Oregon or Stanford in the BCS Championship game? Or Oklahoma State doesn’t suffer a grief-fueled overtime loss in the days following a plane crash that killed members of the OSU women’s basketball coaching staff in 2011? Or what if Auburn gets two more fourth quarter first downs against the Tide in 2009? Or what if Texas quarterback Colt McCoy doesn’t get speared in the back the same year? Are they still building statues of Andy Griffith in Tuscaloosa or are the natives restless?
What if OJ Simpson had taken the role of The Terminator when it was offered to him? “I’ll be back,” would have an entirely new and potentially terrifying meaning.
What if Simba hadn’t gone into the gorge when Scar told him to because he was a lion and didn’t have an attention span long enough to remember what he’d been told? Mufasa would probably have eaten Timon and Pumba if they strayed into the grasslands.
What if Alexander Fleming had been a neat freak? You probably wouldn’t be reading this because you’d be dead from an infection. Think about it.
What if zebras didn’t have stripes? How would you know they weren’t horses?
What if dandelions were made of cheese? Would we still dose our yards with Roundup?
What if T-Town Tom had started a donut shop instead of a clothing/memorabilia store? Alabama players would be fatter and naked. Yikes!
What if ice cream wasn’t fattening and cigarettes were healthy? Blue Bell and Marlboros all day long, baby!
What if the 2008 Auburn Tigers had not missed an extra point against Vanderbilt, not dropped a pass against Georgia, gotten 25 instead of 23 yards on fourth down (or knocked down the pass caught by Brandon LaFell with 1:03 remaining) against LSU and completed any of three passes inside the Arkansas five in the fourth quarter? The Tigers would have finished 8-3 and Tommy Tuberville might still be the head coach.
What if you could harness a team of dragonflies and use them to fly you from place to place? That would be spectacular but the noise would be deafening.
What if John Pemberton had an Advil? We’d all be just a little bit thirstier and we’d smile a little less. Look that one up.
What if George Bush, Sr. had only sired daughters? Madame President, I presume?
What if George Lucas didn’t need a door installed? He never would have hired Harrison Ford and then cast him as Han Solo in Star Wars. That role would have gone to Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds or Kurt Russell. Pacino would have passed on Scarface, a role that would eventually go to Edward James Olmos. Tom Selleck would have been Indiana Jones. Don Johnson would have been Magnum. Nicholas Cage would have been cast as Sonny Crockett and with Olmos tied to Scarface, Ricardo Montalban would have taken on the role of Lieutenant Castillo. Miami Vice would have been cancelled after four episodes. Without the boost from the colorful Vice, MTV would have died a slow death and the world as we know it would be bereft of such wonders as Jersey Shore, The Real World, Teen Mom and Jackass.
What if years lasted 16 months instead of 12? Would you be younger than you are?
What if Bobby Petrino didn’t like motorcycles? Bret Bielema would still be freezing his big ol’ tail off in Wisconsin and the Hogs would be a SEC contender.
What if Walt Disney had been musophobic? Mickey Mongoose?
What if Percy Spencer had been on a diet? It would take 20 minutes to warm up a burrito. Look that one up, too.
What if Paul Revere had chosen to get a little shuteye? ‘Allo, chap! Fancy a cricket match?
What if Sam Houston had forgotten the Alamo? Que pasa, amigo.
What if Thomas Wayne had called a limo and wasn’t on the street for Joe Chill to rob? No Batman. Gotham would be in anarchy.
What if you put instant coffee in the microwave? Would you go back in time?
What if Greg Ostendorf had failed that writing class in the eleventh grade? Would he get your order at Burger King correct or would the fries be a little burnt?
It’s a ridiculous exercise. What happened happened. Auburn played a tremendous game against Texas A&M and posted a nearly identical result to Alabama in College Station. The Tigers didn’t panic against Mississippi State and earned a hard fought win. Auburn demolished Georgia for three and a half quarters before celebrating a little prematurely against a determined team. It took one of the most thrilling plays in college football history and a defensive stand to earn the win, but the win over the Bulldogs was no fluke. Nor was the win over Alabama.
Two evenly matched teams fought hard and traded mistakes along the way. In the end, Auburn was prepared to execute the play of the century and Alabama was unprepared to defend it. Fluke? Don’t think so. The statistics tell a completely different story. Davis’ return was no more a fluke than A.J. McCarron’s wobbling rainbow prayer from the one that turned a busted coverage into a lengthy score. It was part of the game. One team executed, the other didn’t. Game over.
Ifs and buts aren’t candy and nuts. But we can pretend all day long.