If he had, the city of Boston would still be sweeping up the confetti and Tom Brady would be resting comfortably in the pantheon of football greats. We'd still think Giselle Bundchen was charming, and we'd be practicing dance moves to imitate Rob Gronkowski's postgame partying. Eric Wilbur would be living a peaceful life.
Sound familiar? Sure does. In fact, it sounds a lot like last September.
Then, we wondered what would've happened if only Jonathan Papelbon retired Robert Andino in the bottom of the ninth on the final night of the Red Sox season. If he had, Terry Francona would still be manager of the Red Sox, Josh Beckett would be a beloved ace, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield would be getting ready to report to Fort Myers and we'd still love fried chicken.
We spent much of the winter ripping the scab off the fresh wound left behind by the September collapse of the Red Sox. Each day we learned more about what went on behind closed doors during a 7-20 month. We watched a good man lose his post as manager of the team and heard the new sheriff talk about accountability.
Now comes this. A new blow to our sports psyche was delivered Sunday night before the largest audience to ever watch a television event. Just as the scars of the baseball season were healing with pitchers and catchers about to report.
It was every bit as bad as the final innings of the Red Sox season. And the days that followed. First, we had to watch Ahmad Bradshaw score an uncontested touchdown. Think about that for a second: the Patriots got out of Bradshaw’s way so he could run into the end zone. That’s a hard thing for fans to accept, even if we understand why the team decided to let him in.
Then came the quarterback's trophy wife throwing Welker (and, to be fair, the rest of the Pats receivers) under the bus. And Gronkowski's nimble dance moves at the postgame party after he hobbled through four quarters of football. And Steve DeOssie renouncing his New England roots to a gathering of Giants fans.
What's next? News that the defense was in the locker room playing video games while the offense was trying one last desperate drive down the field?
This doesn't always happen when a team loses — it happens when a team loses in epic fashion. That's why we still wonder what would've happened if only Bill Buckner had fielded that grounder, or if only the Bruins didn't have too many men on the ice.
This week, I've heard a lot of people say they care more than the players do. If they do, that's okay. It’s the fans' passion that makes all this possible. It's why we keep coming back for more. It's why we keep saying "if only."
Are we spoiled as Boston sports fans? Sure we are. A city that once waiting 86 years for a World Series title now laments a football team that hasn't won it all in seven years. And that's the longest championship drought of any of our four teams.
No talk of a decade of dominance will make us feel any better this week. It will take time to put this behind us. All the complaining (or dancing, or fried chicken) in the world won't change that.
If only the Bruins can start scoring goals and add a defenseman before the trade deadline — now that might help us move on.