In Sliding Doors, a 1998 romantic comedy that I won’t pretend not to have seen multiple times, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a London PR exec who gets sacked from her job one day and drags herself home on the tube, arriving just in time to find her live-in boyfriend sexing up another gal. (You can tell it’s a British film because the other woman is a detestable American gorgon.) After the customary post-breakup devastation, Helen dusts herself off, gets a smart new bob in a salon-makeover montage scene, opens a successful business and (but of course) learns to love again. Triumph over adversity, people, with a glossy indie-pop soundtrack to match!
Or at least, that’s one version of what happens. (*cue minor-key string chords*) Using an alternate-reality storytelling device, the film also shows us how things play out if Helen had missed her train home and thus hadn’t caught her man with that good-for-nothing American bitch. Toggling between the two narratives in 10-minute increments, the movie depicts (more entertainingly than I’m making it sound) how apparently trivial turns of fate can have outsize consequences. You can tell which reality you’re watching by whether Paltrow’s wearing a bob. (All right, it’s not Casablanca, but I’m honestly not doing it justice.)
Fans of UCLA basketball are suffering through a little Sliding Doors moment of their own right now, wondering what might have been had recent events unfolded just a bit differently. The anguish, however, has nothing to do with romantic infidelity – relax, Mr. Pitino, this doesn’t concern you – but everything to do with a standardized test. The test in question is the SAT taken by Derrick Rose, by which I mean the SAT taken by a person who wrote “Derrick Rose” on top of the answer sheet but who was almost certainly someone else.
A Rose by Any Other... Eh, Never Mind
As a senior at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Rose was the nation’s third-ranked high school hoops prospect. In November 2006, he committed to play at the University of Memphis for noted sleaze-monster John Calipari. There was just one small problem, which became an increasingly large problem as Rose’s senior year drew to a close: he couldn’t get himself academically qualified to play college ball. No, not even at Memphis. That’s what happens when you whiff on the ACT three times out of three attempts.