Butterfly Effect


Tuck Rule

Everybody knows the Tuck Rule play: young Tom Brady trying to lead a drive down the field to tie the game against the Raiders in the divisional round of the 2002 playoffs. As soon as the play starts, cornerback Charles Woodson blitzes off the edge, hitting Brady as he tucks the ball in from a pump fake. After the collision, Brady loses the ball and the Raiders recover; however, due to the Tuck Rule, the play was ruled an incompletion. Brady then drives the ball down the field to force overtime, and eventually wins the game. 

After this game the Tuck Rule was abolished, but the damage to the Raiders franchise was done. This raises the question: what if the Tuck Rule was never established and the Patriots lost that game? 

First, the biggest part of this scenario is the future of the greatest player of all time, Tom Brady. Tom Brady probably never becomes the quarterback that we know now. After Brady is unable to lead his team to the Super Bowl it is very likely that they turn back to their previous quarterback Drew Bledsoe to lead the team and release Brady. This has a much greater effect on the NFL as a whole, opening up three MVPs, three All-Pros, 14 Pro Bowls, and nine Super Bowl trips. 

The most likely player to fill this role is Peyton Manning, who was in his prime throughout Brady’s dominance. If Brady was gone, Manning would now probably be known as the GOAT. The Steelers and Colts felt the greatest effect from Brady’s dominance – Brady beat both teams in the AFC Championship twice throughout his career. Most look at the Patriots as the evil empire of the NFL, but without the one play that kicked off the GOAT’s career and the team that dominated the 2000s, the NFL would no longer be the same league that we know it as today. 

Derrick Rose Never Gets Injured

Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP in NBA history and is arguably one of the biggest “what if” stories in sports history. Rose was absolutely tearing up the league prior to his season-ending injury in 2013. During his MVP season, Rose led the Chicago Bulls to a 62-20 season averaging 25 ppg, 7.7 apg, and 4.1 rpg. Everyone thought that Rose was next up – the future face of the NBA.

 If Rose hadn’t torn his ACL, the landscape of the NBA would most likely look a lot different than it does today. First, Rose would probably still be playing in Chicago as the Bulls would have offered him a max contract and he would have accepted to stay in his hometown. 

Next, Lebron might not be seen as one of the greatest players in the world as he is seen today. Lebron’s reign of championship appearances occurred mainly during Rose’s injury window. If Rose never got injured, the Bulls would have been the main challenger in the East to Lebron’s Heat and Cavs, and most likely would have beat him in a couple NBA Eastern Conference championships. 

Lastly, players drafted after 2013 would most likely be on different teams today. Because the Bulls with Rose would have been much better than they actually were without him, the draft order would have changed. Guys like CJ McCollum, Andrew Wiggins, and Victor Oladipo would all have been drafted and ended up on different teams than today. 

The whole shape of the NBA and where players ended up was completely changed due to the Rose injury.

Miracle On Ice

The year is 1980. The dominant Soviet Union is playing the United States in the winter Olympic Games in ice hockey. At the end of the first period the score was 2-2, but after the second period, the Soviets took the lead 3-2 going into the final period. In the final period, the United States scored two unanswered goals to take their first lead, and they would hold out to the end of the game, winning 4-3. 

The reason this game is considered a miracle is the fact that there were only amateur players and four minor league players on the United States team, while the entire team of the Soviets were all pros. On paper it should have been a blowout, but the Americans powered through and won the game. This game was about far more than just hockey. 

But what if the Americans lost the Miracle on Ice? First, American morale would have remained low –  despite rationally understanding that the US team was unmatched and would likely lose the game, the American people would not have liked the thought of losing to the Soviets in anything. A Soviet display of dominance over America would have had a ripple effect, especially on the arms race. Americans may have begun considering whether the conflict was worth it, since the Soviet Union appeared strong while America paled in comparison. The American people could have protested the government putting money into nuclear arms, seeing the arms race as a lost cause. Once the Soviets had the major upper hand in the nuclear race, this would have put the Soviet Union into the position of power. 

While it may be an overreaction to say that this would have led to a Soviet takeover of the United States, the effects that losing the Miracle on Ice would have had on the people and the country as a whole could have been catastrophic towards American society as we know it.

Nancy Kerrigan

Nancy Kerrigan was one of the best figure skaters throughout the world prior to the 1994 Olympics. Though she earned the silver medal in these games, this was not the story defining Kerrigan’s career. After a practice while training for the Olympics, she was walking into a tunnel when an assailant hit her in her landing knee, causing damage to her leg. The assailant was hired by the husband of Tonya Harding, who was Kerrigan’s main rival at the time. America did not want Harding, who was vulgar, poor, and a smoker, to represent the States. At first Harding denied that she knew about the attack but later pled guilty. While Kerrigan was America’s sweetheart in the ice skating world, Harding was the opposite. Despite Kerrigan being unable to compete in the US qualifiers, it was decided that she would go on to the Olympics over Harding. 

This attack raises the question of how the world would have been different if Kerrigan was never attacked. Kerrigan would have been healthy for the U.S. Championship, while in reality, Harding originally won the US Championship in which Kerrigan did not compete. Harding originally ran the table and earned first place, but was later disqualified. Even if Kerrigan did not earn first in this alternate reality, she would have at least given Harding a run for her money. In reality, Kerrigan went on to compete in the Olympics and earn silver; there is a chance that if Kerrigan never got injured then her silver medal could have been turned into a gold medal. 

If Kerrigan was never attacked, Harding would never have been banned from ice skating. Even though she won the 1994 U.S. Championship, it was eventually stripped. In an alternate reality, the title would never have been stripped. Harding was known as an extremely good ice skater but simply wasn’t loved by Americans. If she was never banned then she might have left a positive effect on the world of ice skating.