With a bit of a lull in terms of CFL news with free agency activity slowing down, I thought I’d take the chance to do something different.
I’m a big Marvel fan. Recently they did a series call What If? where they explore alternate universes based on one key event going different than it did originally. I realize that heartbreak isn’t exclusive to the Riders but there is healthy dose of it in our history. The plane crash of the 50s, 1975 and 2009, just to name a few. So the concept of What If? Just fits so well with the Riders.
Today will look at 5 such scenarios and the alternate universes that are out there. (I'm leaving out 2009 intentionally. A) its almost too obvious and B) I still like to repress pretty much every memory of that season)
What if Paul McCallum makes the kick?
The year is 2005. Henry Burris is playing arguably his best game ever in green and white. The Riders have pushed the heavily favoured BC Lions to overtime. McCallum is lining up for an 18 yard FG. Of course we know he tragically missed. But What If he made it?
There is an alternate universe out there where McCallum makes the kick and we win the game. We go on to defeat the Argos in the Grey Cup, snapping the drought at a measly 15 years. Not only does McCallum go on to unquestionably surpass Ridgeway as the greatest kicker in franchise history but he also remains beloved by all and manure stays in its rightful place. But in this universe, McCallum isn’t the only one with a drastically different fate. In this universe, Henry Burris is revered as a Rider legend and one of the most beloved heroes in franchise history.
What if Kevin Glenn doesn’t break his arm?
I firmly believe the Riders still win the ’07 Grey Cup even if Kevin Glenn plays (just in a very different manner). But I will readily admit that the Bombers’ chance of winning would have gone from negligible with Dinwiddie at the helm, to very possible with Glenn. So what if Kevin Glenn played?
There is an alternate universe where the Bombers (and not the Riders) end their streak of no cups in 2007. Kevin Glenn (with a Grey cup ring and Grey Cup MVP to his name) is regarded among the best QBs ever in the CFL and his candidacy for the Hall of Fame is not in question. In this universe, Milt Stegal even knows what a Grey Cup ring is. In this universe, it’s the Riders who wallow another decade plus before winning another Grey Cup.
What if Marcus Crandell’s hamstring holds up?
The year is 2008. Fresh off winning MOP, Kerry Joseph has been shipped to Toronto and Marcus Crandell is set to lead the Riders' bid for a repeat. His hamstring lasted about 47 seconds into game 2 and it eventually led to Darian Durant’s debut in the CFL. That would be the springboard to a long successful career for Durant (or moderately successful by Chris Jones standards). But what if Crandall had finished that game.
There is an alternate universe where Darian Durant never plays in 2008 and returns to the US to find a non-football career following the end of a season where he watches Crandall and Jyles get reps ahead of him (that is a form of torture so harsh that its outlawed by international law). Crandall guides the Riders to a forgettable 9-9 record and loss in the Division finals. The only upside to this universe is that Michael Bishop never becomes a Rider.
What if the play that never happened, never happened?
The year is 2014. The Riders are defending champions and sit at 7-2 heading into Banjo Bowl and are once again the best team in the CFL. On a play that never officially happened, a Winnipeg D-lineman blew passed a useless Dan Clark (he was an absolute trainwreck as a guard, moving to centre saved his career) and hit Darian Durant, snapping a tendon in his elbow. The Riders would go on to win just 3 of the remaining 9 games and lost to Edmonton in a game where Kerry Joseph was determined to set an all time record for interceptions thrown. But what if Durant didn’t get injured?
There is an alternate universe where a healthy Durant leads to Riders to continue to steamroll the league. They go on to win back to back Grey Cups. In this universe, Durant is unquestionably one of the greatest Riders ever. In this universe, Chris Jones even upgrades his assessment to “fairly” successful. But it’s not just Durant’s fate who has wildly alternated by the play that never happened. In this universe, Cory Chamblin (as the only 2 time Grey in franchise history) doesn’t have his famous 2015 collapse and has a long tenure and finishes as the best coach in franchise history.
What if Simoni Lawrence played by the rules?
The year is 2019. With one vicious head tackle, Simoni Lawrence sets in motion a series of events that saves a wallowing franchise and launches a career (it also may be indirectly responsible for a global pandemic but I digress). His headshot on Zach Collaros ended the QBs’ time with the Riders and made way for Cody Fajardo to become the franchise QB in Riderville. It also led to Zach Collaros being traded to Toronto and eventually Winnipeg and winning back to back Grey Cups. But what if Simoni was a cheap shotting douchebag?
There is an alternate universe where Cody Fajardo is a mildly successful insurance salesman in the States who is no more than a footnote on the CFL history books. Zach Collaros leads the Riders (not the Bombers) to a Grey Cup win in 2019. In this universe, Simoni Lawrence is the world’s nicest guy. The Bombers still haven’t won a Grey Cup and everyone outside of Manitoba is generally very happy about life.
Do you have any "What Ifs?" to add to the list?