We often look back on major life decisions, or even minor pieces of happenstance, and wonder -- if this instead of that, where would we be today?
The sad news yesterday of author Tom Clancy's death offers one of those moments, not in our personal life so much but in the life of the Minnesota Vikings.
Lest you forget, in February of 1998 Clancy's group initially won the bid to buy the Vikings. Their bid was valued at $200 million, tied for the most at the time for any NFL franchise according to an old Star Tribune story.
But the bid eventually fell through, and in the summer of 1998 Red McCombs bought the team. He paid a little more than Clancy paid ... and then seven years later, he sold to the Wilfs for about three times as much, more than $600 million.
Now the Vikings are worth more than $1 billion, according to Forbes' evaluation. In other words, Clancy would have been even richer at the time of his death if the sale had gone through in 1998.
But that's not what really fascinates us. What does is this: 1998 proved to be a critical year in the history of the Vikings. Dennis Green entered that season in the final year of his contract. Clancy indicated in early interviews that he was inclined to keep Green through 1998, but who knows?
Would Clancy have cleaned house as owner and shaken things up? Given that he would have taken over as owner in February, before the draft, would the Vikings still have chosen Randy Moss? Would they still have gone 15-1 that season and broken all our hearts (again), while also launching the modern era of Vikings fandom?
Would Clancy have sold the team to the Wilfs?
Would the Vikings be playing in a new stadium already? Would they even have a new stadium at all? Would they be in Los Angeles?
Or would everything pretty much be the same?
We. Will. Never. Know.
And that haunts us and fascinates us all the same.