A sports website posted a question on the internet the other day. It asked, “If you could change the outcome of one game in history, which one would it be?”
A lofty question as every fan or player probably has at least one game they wish they could have back, or at least be able to sway the result in the opposite direction.
My mind first went to the fan side of things, I thought I’d love to have Game 1 of the 1988 World Series go a different way. While most folks in these parts were elated with Kirk Gibson hobbling to the plate and connecting with the immortal Dennis Eckersley for a walk-off homerun, I was a crushed 8-year-old. Apart from not having to watch Gibson get lucky 30 years later every time that highlight is replayed, I don’t think changing the outcome of that game would have meant much. The Dodgers won that series in five games and they just had my Athletics’ number. Plus, the following year Oakland won the World Series, and all was right in my world.
Then I thought about another World Series Game 1, 10 years later in 1998. I was living in San Diego at the time and the Padres made the improbable run to face the New York Yankees in the World Series. I realized San Diego did not stand a chance at unseating the dynasty that was the Yankees, but I figured they could steal at least one game, so I purchased tickets to Game 5 in San Diego.
Well, with a lead in game one the Padres went to the bullpen and handed the ball to a fire-starter named Donne Wall. Donne was the type of reliever fans cringed to see trot in from the bullpen while opponents geared up for batting practice. Wall gave up the game-tying homerun to Chuck Knoblauch, the Yankees scored seven runs in the inning and eventually went on to sweep the series in four. My game five ticket was only worth the refund from Ticketmaster.
I then thought about my personal performances. Initially I thought about having the result of the 1997 CIF Sequoia Division Football Championship game changed. How close we were to 13-0 but ended up one game shy of perfection with a 14-11 loss to Dos Palos. I’d be kidding you if I didn’t admit I still think about it today, dream about it from time to time, relive it each time I step foot at Coy Burnett Stadium and try to brush the ghosts away. Some things just stick with you, especially with a team like that.
However, I think as a society we fall into the trap of revisionist history far too often. History is just that. It is meant to teach us a lesson; we can’t sanitize it, change it, erase it or modify it to make us feel better no matter how hard we try. It happened, and we deal with the fallout as a result.
Same goes for my final Warrior football game 20 years ago. Sure, the loss stung, but did I learn so many things from that night that continue to serve me today? Absolutely. Winning would have been nice, but maybe it would have changed my path, maybe my attitude would be different. My drive to be successful and never feel that disappointed and gutted feeling again has served me well in the two decades since that final buzzer sounded. I am OK with the result; no revision needed.
So, while we can dabble in the hypothetical of changing the results of one game in our lifetime, maybe it's easier to simply accept what has happened, appreciate the lessons learned as a result and look to the future. Life is a collection of achievements, wins, losses and a few other mixed results in between. Our experience helps shape that path; my vote is to just let history be, even though I still can’t stand that Kirk Gibson.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.