The questions began rattling around in Tarek Kamil’s mind as a 14-year-old: “What if Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was able to go head-to-head with Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth? How would they stack up? Would the end result be a strikeout or home run? What if the 1927 New York Yankees played the 1976 Cincinnati Reds? What if the Packer Sweep went against the Steel Curtain? What if …”
Kamil wasn’t alone in his wonderings, though. Such questions have been the center of debates among sports fans for decades. While it’s impossible to really answer the questions, Kamil wasn’t satisfied with just simple barroom bickering. So he took his wonderings, his self-taught computer skills and his M.B.A. from Xavier and founded WhatIfSports.com, a web site that uses simulation technology to pit together sports teams and players from different eras.
And the result has been a sports junkie’s dream. In five years, the site’s registered 350,000 users and won a Webby Award for best sports site on the Internet. Plus, in September, Fox Interactive Media approached Kamil about buying the company and making him a vice president at the media conglomerate. He couldn’t say no. Kamil’s still in charge of the business and can only envision how far it will go now that it has Fox’s resources behind it. But what he does know is that it’s been a wild ride since he first began wondering “What if …”
After earning his M.B.A. in 1997, he formed his own software company, Insigna. While on an airplane to a software engineers conference at Microsoft in 1999, the wonderings of his childhood suddenly came back. It was an epiphany.
“That was all I could think about while I was out there,” he says. “My pen didn’t stop the entire week. They thought I was taking notes on whatever it was they were saying, and I was actually drawing screens and plans. WhatIfSports was coming to life. I was obsessed with it.”
And now no one is left wondering what if …