In 1975, Bob Dylan released an album called "Blood on the Tracks." Music always is subjective, but many critics regard it as some of his best work.
There's a song on the album, a song that I'm listening to as I write this, called "A Simple Twist of Fate."
It's beautiful, painful and filled with sorrow. People have made livings out of interpreting Dylan's songs, but to me, this song is about something big, something great that was bound to happen, but was stopped for no other reason than a silly moment that changed everything.
Two years before the song was released, a quarterback was wrapping up his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, a career that had begun with promise and ended quickly. His career was over, but the legend remains.
When Dylan wrote "A Simple Twist of Fate," he probably wasn't thinking about a football player. But he could have been.
For me, this person is a bit of trivia, a name that I didn't even know for years who changed things in my own family. As usual with stories of sports in my family, it begins with my dad.
My father was born in the Dayton area and was a huge Reds fan. He also is a huge Browns fan, something he's passed down to his sons. But my father was in his early 20s when the Bengals were founded, and they were started by Paul Brown, a man most Browns fans think of as a sort of father of the sport.
One day I asked my dad if he ever considered following the Bengals.
"I actually did follow them," he said, "when they had Greg Cook."
I confess I'd never even heard the name, and I felt that I had a good grasp of football history. It was explained that Cook was a hometown product - he was born in Dayton and was a second-team All-American quarterback at the University of Cincinnati. There were stories he could throw a football almost 100 yards. He was nicknamed the "Chillicothe Chucker," after the town he was raised in.
The Bengals made him a first round pick, and Brown said he believed Cook to be the best QB in the country. The praise didn't stop there. Bill Walsh, the legendary 49ers coach who won three Super Bowls and groomed fellow Hall of Famers Steve Young and Joe Montana, once said in an interview that Cook was the most talented quarterback he'd ever seen. Walsh was Cook's quarterback coach with the Bengals.
And yet, Cook's death on Friday was not treated as big news outside of Cincinnati. Some football sites mentioned it, but it didn't get much coverage.
Because like so many before and after him, the legend of Cook was never fully realized because of injury. In 1969, Cook led the Bengals to a 3-0 start, but in a win over the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Cook hurt his rotator cuff. He played 11 games that season, threw for more than 1,800 yards and won the passing title in the American Football League. But due to the injury, his career was all but over.
After the 1969 season ended, Cook only played one more game for the Bengals, four seasons later.
One has to wonder what would have happened to Cook, and the Bengals. One thing that has made the Reds so endearing over the years has been their hometown stars. Maybe Cook could have been for the Bengals what Pete Rose or Barry Larkin were for the Reds.
And maybe my father would have become a full-time Bengals fan. Maybe I would have, too.
It's sad in some ways. Then again, how many football players have their lives changed by more serious injuries while playing the game? Cook still died young - he was 65 - but maybe he was able to enjoy his life more without the sport.
He could have been a great pro quarterback. Maybe he would have been a great NFL quarterback.
But it wasn't to be.
Brought on, perhaps, by a simple twist of fate.