What if . . .
- . . . Alex Rodriguez had been traded to Boston?
- . . . The '94 MLB strike never happened?
- . . . Babe Ruth was sold elsewhere?
- . . . Williams and Dimaggio didn't go to war?
- . . . Michael Jordan had continued playing baseball?
- . . . N.C. State hadn't pulled off its miracle?
- . . . The Blazers had better injury luck?
- . . . Big Ben was drafted by the Giants?
- . . . Donald Trump had made the Bills great?
- . . . Drew Brees had passed his Dolphins physical?
- . . . These field goal attempts had been good?
- . . . George Halas had died in a boat wreck?
- . . . Jim Harbaugh had stuck with Alex Smith as 49ers quarterback?
- . . . The NFL map looked like this?
- . . . Peyton Manning went to San Diego?
- . . . Teddy Roosevelt hadn't revolutionized football?
- . . . Terrell Owens was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame?
- . . . LeBron James had chosen soccer over basketball?
- . . . U.S. soccer got the right call in the '02 World Cup?
- . . . Cleveland had been saved by George Steinbrenner?
- . . . These draft moments had happened differently?
- . . . Injuries had never altered these five careers?
- . . . Lance Armstrong had been whipped by cancer?
- . . . Muhammad Ali had never met Malcolm X?
- . . . PEDs had been legal all along?
- . . . Steve Bartman had never gone to Wrigley?
- . . . Things had happened differently for these four illustrious coaches?
- . . . Tiger Woods had pursued a career as a Navy Seal?
- . . . These trades had actually happened?
- . . . Wayne Gretzky hadn't been traded to the Kings?
Illustration by Michael Byers
What If ... George Halas—and the NFL—had sunk in Lake Michigan?
by Kalyn Kahler
Early on the morning of July 24, 1915, more than 2,500 Western Electric employees boarded the SS Eastland tour ship outside Chicago for a short trip across Lake Michigan to the company’s summer picnic in Michigan City, Ind. Arriving late to the port that morning was 20-year-old George Halas, a summer hire at the telephone manufacturer who had planned to play in the company baseball game that day. Instead, he arrived at the Clark Street port to find the top-heavy steamer had rolled over in the Chicago River, killing 844 passengers.
Entire families were wiped out in the capsizing. Because Halas had purchased a ticket but never boarded the ship, his name was even published in the local papers among the list of missing and dead.
Physically, at least, he was fine, and five years later Halas was working at a starch manufacturer in nearby Decatur, playing for and coaching the company’s football team. In short time he took over the Decatur Staleys entirely, helped form the APFA (which became the NFL), moved the Staleys to Chicago, won the second league title and renamed the team as the Bears. At a time when baseball ruled, he organized a coast-to-coast barnstorming tour and drummed up enough interest in pro football (partly by convincing Illinois’ Red Grange to join his team) to ensure the NFL’s survival. In the 1960s, he even led the charge to share TV revenues equally throughout the league, saving small-market franchises.
In other words, had Halas boarded the SS Eastland, sure, the Midway would be monster-less—but there also might not even be a Super Bowl to shuffle to.