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Home / Articles / Columnists / Sports Feature /  The What-Ifs of Sports That Keep Us Wondering
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Monday, December 10,2018

The What-Ifs of Sports That Keep Us Wondering

By Mark Tudino
I’m pretty sure when John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that immortal phrase some 150 years ago, he didn’t have the modern sports world in mind. Or maybe he did, who knows? Perhaps he knew of some equestrian who’d had a bad meal the night before and subsequently lost. (Actually, the quote is from a poem written about two people who meet but never pursue their mutual interest; each moves on, but always wonders about the relationship that never came to pass.) So how does Mr. Whittier’s stanza have any relevance today? Simple: Look at your professional football team.

You see, the more I watch the game (and it’s been for more years than I like to recall, ever since there were strange things in my house called black and white TV sets), the more I realize that to be successful, you must have a good quarterback. Longtime readers may recall my musings about the old Baltimore Colts, who owned that town for over 30 years before hightailing it to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. But before they left town, those guys were princes of the realm, and the undisputed king of kings was their quarterback, #19, Johnny Unitas.

Born in Pittsburgh, he came to Baltimore in 1956, and within a short period of time he led the team to back-to-back NFL championships. When he retired, he owned every modern day passing record, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1979. He was so prolific, his record for throwing a TD pass in 47 consecutive games stood for 49 years, until it was broken by Drew Brees in 2009.

Which brings us to your Miami Dolphins. In 2006, head coach Nick Saban reviewed his roster and determined his new team’s most glaring weakness: quarterback. The lack of a good quarterback was obvious, and it had been that way ever since Dan Marino hung up his cleats following the 2000 season. But there was a glimmer of hope because the San Diego Chargers had drafted (and then traded for) a young signal caller named Philip Rivers. San Diego also had on its roster a guy they liked, but didn’t need; so that veteran guy became available. Miami met with this relatively accomplished player, but upon learning of his medical history, specifically a problem with his throwing shoulder, the Dolphins passed on him. Instead they signed Daunte Culpepper, who had played with Minnesota. Unfortunately, Culpepper had his own injury issues and would be with the team for only one year.

The team’s quarterback roulette wheel has spit out an even dozen starters since 2006. The guy they passed on? Turned out to be Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints – that’s right the same guy who broke Johnny U’s passing record, who eventually won a Super Bowl, and is a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. Dolphin fans still break out in hives when his name is mentioned. But Brees’ story is not unique in sports; every franchise, in almost every sport, can most certainly tell you about the great player that got away.

So this holiday season, be thankful for the things you have, and don’t obsess over the stuff you don’t – even if your favorite team wears aqua and orange.


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