It started with an indecent proposal.
Social media scenarios like the one below are designed to
keep you active on the site for as long as possible, since you are the product provoke deep thought and force you to draw tough conclusions about your priorities:
Red or blue & why? pic.twitter.com/ONe0MVhrCu— my uncles meme stash (@myunclesmemes) January 13, 2022
Guaranteed cash or informed time travel, interesting choices.
Time travel reminds me of Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder, a classic set in 2055 where the wealthy pay time-traveling safari guides to take them on big game expeditions in the late Cretaceous Era, allowing them to hunt dinosaurs who have already been determined to be moments from natural death.
Killing animals mere moments from their expiration was of vital importance; it all but eliminated the possibility of creating a future paradox. Naturally, Thunder goes off the rails when one hunter gets spooked by the sight of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, slips off the designated footpath and crushes a 100 million year-old butterfly.
This triggers a series of biological events that significantly alters the future, from how English is composed to the manner in which human beings behave. If this all sounds familiar it's because you either had to read this story in high school or saw the Simpsons parody of it. Or both. And you're just now realizing Back to the Future was a Bradbury pastiche.
Back to our indecent proposal - what if you could travel back in time and surgically tinker with specific events around Ohio State football without causing irreparable, chaotic or paradoxical harm to its future? You want an example of what bad looks like? Here's one.
You've traveled back to November 1950, where Ohio State is hosting Michigan in what will eventually be known as the Snow Bowl. Since you're an informed visitor from 2022, you already know that in our established timeline Michigan's Al Wahl is going to block a Vic Janowicz punt in the 2nd quarter, leading to a safety and ultimately tilting the legendary game in Michigan's favor.
So perhaps you'd be tempted to change the punt protection to keep Janowicz clean enough to get his kick off. The game outcome is altered, the Buckeyes win and Wes Fesler stays instead of quitting and fleeing the state under the crippling pressure that comes with the Ohio State job.
Janowicz, who won that season's Heisman as a junior, now plays his senior year under the same coach who utilized him to his fullest triple-threat ability, becoming Ohio State's first two-time winner, beating out Princeton's Dick Kazmeier. This is now possible, if not probable, because you changed the punt protection and flipped the Snow Bowl.
But since there's no longer a head coaching vacancy in Columbus, a still relatively obscure Wayne Woodrow Hayes remains at Denison for another season before being tapped by another major program, perhaps taking over for the retiring Robert Neyland at Tennessee one season later or for Frank Leahy at Notre Dame.
Hayes can no longer deprioritize Janowicz in 1951. Archie Griffin, still three years from birth, won't become the first two-time Heisman winner. And Woody's legacy, his coaching tree and several Buckeye assistants who eventually become OSU head coaches - Earle Bruce, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer - are now in doubt.
No one knows what they'll become, if their careers will flourish or the places they'll go. The fabric and foundation for the Ohio State football culture could swing into something unrecognizable to everyone who lived it.
We messed with one punt in 1950. Look what we did to the next 70 years of Ohio State football.
That's our challenge as the Time Squad - avoid paradoxes. Don't step on any butterflies. Right a wrong without vaporizing decades of rights. We're threading the needle of ethics here, but it's cool - we can only bat around how much Ohio State's linebackers are going to improve in 2022 so many times during this offseason.
So let's give it a shot. It's Red Pill time. This week we're heading to September, 2005.
TIME SQUAD VOL. I | HAMBY MAKES THE CATCH
Columbus, OH | Sept 10, 2005 - Texas kicked a field goal to cut Ohio State's lead to 19-16 with just over seven minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.
The Buckeyes used a great kickoff return and two chunk plays to get in business - they started at their own 47 and an Antonio Pittman 17-yard run and a Justin Zwick 21-yard pass to Roy Hall got them into the red zone. On 2nd and 5 from the Texas 8-yard line, Zwick missed Hamby deep in the southwest corner of the end zone.
Then on 3rd down Hamby dropped a wide-open touchdown pass, which resulted in a chip-shot Josh Huston field goal to give the Buckeyes a 22-16 lead.
Then on 3rd down Hamby caught a wide-open touchdown pass, giving the Buckeyes a commanding 10-point lead. The Longhorns' next two drives went 3-and-out, generating 10 total yards. Late in the 4th quarter Huston missed a 50-yard field goal, giving Texas great field position which quickly improved thanks to an Ohio State pass interference penalty.
Vince Young hit Limas Sweed for a touchdown to cut the lead to three with 2:31 remaining in the game. Ohio State ran out the clock and won the game, 26-23.
Alright. Let's see how we did.
The bolded parts above differ from our established timeline. Everything else, right down to Ohio State locking Young, Jamaal Charles and the entire Texas offense in a box all night actually happened. Let's take inventory of what altering the fortunes of a single eight-yard pass accomplished:
- Ohio State beats Texas, effectively ending the Longhorns' BCS title run. The Heisman winner (Reggie Bush) is unaffected.
- Hamby's legacy is no longer tied to one play.
- Zwick is the winning QB, altering both his trajectory and then-backup Troy Smith's, who had served a two-game suspension leading up to that evening. He is no longer replaced by Smith with 1:51 in the game, and proceeds to start at least the next two wins against San Diego State and no.21 Iowa.
- Ohio State still loses in State College, but the burgeoning QB controversy puts the pivotal Michigan State game in doubt.
- Smith's ascension in 2005 and Heisman run in 2006 are potentially impacted, altering everything from the No.10 placard currently displayed in the north end zone to recruiting players like Dwayne Haskins who grew up dreaming of playing for the Buckeyes because of him.
Here's what beating Texas and keeping everything else intact does to the BCS rankings:
|1||USC (12-0)||USC (12-0)|
|2||TEXAS (12-0)||PENN STATE (10-1)|
|3||PENN STATE (10-1)||OHIO STATE (10-1)|
|4||OHIO STATE (9-2)||TEXAS (11-1)|
|5||NOTRE DAME (9-2)||NOTRE DAME (9-2)|
So while we haven't altered Ohio State's postseason destination - the Fiesta Bowl would still select the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish to avoid an OSU/UT rematch - our Texas tinkering elevated Penn State into a title shot in the Rose Bowl, jeopardized a Heisman run and potentially recast the entire back end of the Jim Tressel era.
Verdict: Net negative. Time Squad, let's try this again in another space and era.