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From “What Was” to “What If”

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Christmastime always brings back fond memories of my late father. Back in the early 1960s, my dad bought me a subscription to Sports Illustrated for the first time. I was thrilled. On the cover of each issue were the legends who might as well have been from another planet. There was Bart Starr, Bobby Orr, Wilt Chamberlain, Peggy Fleming, Johnny Unitas, etc. On the inside, the first few pages were always dedicated to unbelievable pictures like you had never seen before. It involved the intense battles of competitors that sprung to life and always ended up carefully cut out and plastered to my bedroom walls until the tape turned yellow and cracked.

Then there were the articles, which were detailed, intricate, and riveting tales of the arduous tasks faced by sporting icons and the travails of the eventual winners and losers. In essence, the “What was“ of the sports world. Not anymore.

Nowadays it has become the unending, unnerving and irritating world of the “What if.” Almost every, but not all, talking head on ESPN Radio now spends endless hours pontificating on the “What if” theme. In fact, Mike and Mike in the Morning might as well be called “What if in the Morning.“

They are constantly juxtaposing a never ending set of scenarios as to not what happened and the consequences, but to the “What if this were to happen?” or the “What if this doesn’t happen?” And it bit them once again in the proverbial butt the other day when the supposed second coming of Sandy Koufax, Cliff Lee, pulled a fast one, shunning both the Yankees and the Rangers and signomg with the Philadelphia Phillies.

This happened after weeks and weeks of speculation by Mike and Mike, (and a boatload of others I might add), as to where he was going, for how much, and most importantly for how long. Can you say none of the above? He went with less money, fewer years and a mystery team for the most part that nobody really considered. So much for the “What if“ theory.

That left a lot of journalists and broadcasters scrambling to explain how not only did they miss the boat, they couldn’t even find the pier. And these “What ifs“ are getting worse. Foxsports.com even has a “What if?“ drop-down on their home page. Insane. Makes you even more amazed that the Phils so silently pulled that silly rabbit out of the hat, doesn’t it?

So as I sit by the fire and Christmas tree and think of my dad and those cherished memories, it’s bittersweet to reminisce about the days when you got to relive those moments and feel the biting cold, brutal hits, and monumental contests for what they were, not what they might be. And as technology took hold and papers and magazines started to disappear, even Sports Illustrated tried to makeover its style to the “What if“ concept. It didn’t work. And eventually in my life, it returned to the “What was” and the “What happened?” And what happened was I canceled my subscription. Sorry dad.

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About Terry Wright