LARNED — Didja ever play “what if?”
Like, “what if you had gone ahead and kissed Sally Schloctermeier when you were in the closet with her in the sixth grade?”
How different would your life be?
Hey, I’ve got a little clue for you.
Sally didn’t turn out to be the raving beauty later in life that she was in the sixth grade. You’re better off where you are!
Still, it’s fun to play “What If?”
WHAT IF Hakim Warrick hadn’t blocked Michael Lee’s left corner 3-pointer in the final seconds of the 2003 NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championships?
What if Lee’s shot hit nothing but net?
Would the Jayhawks have another National Championship banner hanging in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse?
Would Roy Williams be the Guru of collegiate basketball with his two national trophies? Instead, Syracuse’ coach Jim Boeheim finally earned his first national title in 27 years as Syracuse coach, overcoming the disappointment of his 74-73 loss to Indiana on Keith Smart’s last-second jumper in 1987.
WHAT IF the umpire had called Jackie Robinson out?
In Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, Robinson was called safe at home, just beating the tag of Yogi Berra before 63,869 fans at Yankee Stadium as Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers audaciously stole home on the NY Yankees.
Berra and 63, 869 Yankee fans bellowed, “We wuz robbed!”
To this day, Berra swears that he tagged Robinson BEFORE he got his foot on home plate.
It was one of the defining moments of Robinson’s record-setting career.
What if he had been called OUT?
WHAT IF the Kansas State Wildcats football team hadn’t panicked in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 Championship game against Texas A&M in 1998?
Leading 27-12 over No. 10 nationally ranked Texas A&M, the Wildcats found a way to lose this one in two overtimes.
Yeah, I know, it hurts to play WHAT IF with this one.
Kansas State was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time and dominated most of the football game.
Close this one out and you play for the national championship.
The Aggies surged to 24 points in the final 9:20 of regulation and the extra two periods of overtime.
WHAT IF the 'Cats don’t fold?
National Championship possibly.
Instead, with the 36-33 loss in two overtimes, the Wildcats fell all the way to the Alamo Bowl and continued their zombie-like trance with a 37-34 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers.
What if? Oh my, what if?
WHAT IF the 1967 NFL Championship game HAD NOT been played in sub-zero weather? Certainly Vince Lombardi’s Packers were used to cold weather but not even they were prepared for what happened at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that 31st day of December in 1967.
Thus, the Dallas Cowboys were even less prepared and yet, the two battled to one of the classics of all NFL Championship games in what was dubbed THE ICE BOWL as Lombardi’s Packers squeezed in a touchdown at the end of the game behind the frozen rear end of guard Jerry Kramer.
At game time, it was a minus-15 degrees.
It got colder during the game.
WHAT IF that game had been played on a warmer day? The Cowboys might have won and the Legend of the split-toothed Lombardi might not have been so monumental.
Such are heroes created, on WHAT IFS.
So, whether you are a young athlete who just tasted the agony of defeat or an old-timer re-living past disappointments, remember, you can always play WHAT IF and in the WHAT IF world we’re all winners, we all hit the late-game home run or score the winning touchdown or curl in the winning putt and there is Sally Schloctermeier, on the sideline grinning, waiting for us.
Charles Tabler is a contributing writer from Larned