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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne / SECOND THOUGHTS

Alternative Endings Are Not Necessarily News

June 14, 2004|Chris Dufresne

Dewey defeats Truman.

Calgary defeats Tampa Bay.

Newspaper stuff happens.

The Tampa Tribune had to apologize last week for running the wrong editorial after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup last night," the editorial stated. "But the team had a championship season nevertheless."

Well, no, that's not quite how it worked out.

Tampa Bay, in fact, defeated Calgary to win the Stanley Cup.

"We took a puck in the gut this morning," the Tribune would later explain.

The paper prepared separate editorials for the game depending on the outcome and mistakenly forwarded the wrong story into production.

This should never happen, of course, yet a lot of people may not know that, in journalism, there are often two sides to every story, especially in sports.

Faced with drop-dead deadlines, sportswriters many times have to file their stories only minutes after games end.

This sometimes requires having to write parallel stories while the event is being played: one each for the given win-loss scenario.

To get a jump, in fact, I have written in advance separate story leads on the Lakers pending the outcome of these NBA Finals.

Story A: Lakers lose.

"One thing is clear in the aftermath of the Lakers' NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons: This Laker team needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up. Has there ever been a more joyless season in the history of the franchise?

"Let Kobe go, let Shaq go, let Phil go. Keep Derek Fisher, Luke Walton and Stu Lantz."

Story B: Lakers win.

"One thing is clear in the aftermath of the Lakers' NBA Finals victory over the Detroit Pistons: This Laker team needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up. Has there ever been a more joyless season in the history of the franchise?

"Let Kobe go, let Shaq go, let Phil go. Keep Derek Fisher, Luke Walton and Stu Lantz."

OK, in the Lakers' case, it's the same story win or lose, yet the Tampa Tribune goof got me to thinking about alternative stories that might have been readied for print and ditched when the outcome suddenly changed.

My fantasy alternative-story top five:

1. The Dodgers win the pennant! The Dodgers win the pennant! The Dodgers win the pennant!

The Brooklyn Dodgers certainly didn't make things easy in this 1951 season, allowing a 13 1/2-game lead slip away in the National League.

All was forgiven yesterday, however, when our "bums" held off a furious rally in the bottom of the ninth and outlasted the New York Giants, 4-2, in a one-game playoff held at the Polo Grounds.

The Giants had runners on second and third and the potential winning run at the plate when reliever Ralph Branca, called in from the bullpen to replace starter Don Newcombe, retired the Giants' Bobby Thomson to end the game.

The Dodgers will face the New York Yankees in the World Series.

2. Hats (and gloves) off to the U.S. hockey team for its tremendous effort in these 1980 Olympic Games at Lake Placid.

In the end, though, it was too much to ask that our young men, basically a college all-star team cobbled together and coached by Herb Brooks, would be able to compete with a Soviet hockey machine run with IBM professionalism.

Not surprisingly, the Russians kept coming and coming and coming and simply wore down an undersized American squad.

While our U.S. hockey team showed a heart of gold, the Russians will surely end up winning the gold.

3. Did anyone really expect the Angels would pull out Game 6 and force a Game 7 of the 2002 World Series?

Maybe you haven't heard: This franchise is cursed.

Didn't you know the stadium was built on an ancient Indian burial ground?

It figured the Angels would take us to the brink of success only to have fate pull out the rug.

The Giants received a superb pitching performance from Russ Ortiz in Game 6, jumped to a 5-0 lead and ultimately clinched their first World Series title since 1954.

The game was so over in the seventh inning that when Giant Manager Dusty Baker walked to the mound to replace a tiring Ortiz, he handed his pitcher the game ball to keep for posterity ...

4. In an outcome that was as predictable as a sunrise, the University of Houston trounced upstart North Carolina State to win the 1983 NCAA basketball championship.

The school dubbed "Phi Slamma Jamma" and led by superstars Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler was simply too slam-dunk much for a North Carolina State team that needed a few miracles to even qualify for this tournament.

Wolfpack Coach Jim Valvano, a man with infectious enthusiasm and boundless energy, took his team further than anyone expected.

In the end, however, history only remembers winners ...

5. Given the price of an airline ticket in 1990, I can't believe my boss sent me across the Pacific Ocean to cover Mike Tyson versus James "Buster" Douglass in Tokyo when I easily could have filed the same dispatch from Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles.

The odds were 40-1 against Douglass winning the fight and probably 20-1 he would even show up. Buster Brown had a better chance of winning, right?

Tyson remains the most menacing and dominant heavyweight fighter of his time, the closest thing to invincible since Rocky Marciano ...

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