Spider-Man saved the Marvel Universe by playing football
Often the fate of the universe hinges on cataclysmic events such as Thanos attempting to wipe out half of all life or Doctor Doom gaining powers as powerful as Galactus. But sometimes seemingly insignificant situations can have a profound effect on things to come. Or in one case, narrowly avoiding a disastrous outcome without the knowledge of those involved.
That’s precisely what happened one sunny afternoon on Manhattan’s Lower East Side when a group of New York City kids played soccer in a vacant lot with a super-powered friend. In Spider-Man web #34 (by Jim Shooter and Sal Buscema), Spider-Man watches an innocuous football game being played by those he describes as “local young gentlemen”. Determining that a team needs a player, Spider-Man participates. The game begins after the negotiations regarding the use of superpowers have been completed.
Meanwhile, on the Moon, a devious Skrull named A’Sai and his companion Grunz infiltrate the Watcher Uatu’s secret facility to satisfy a bet. The Watchers are a race of super beings with vast power who monitor and observe life throughout the universe. A’Sai has retrieved a weapon from Galactus’ homeworld which he uses to subdue the Watcher. Uatu is aware of the destructive abilities of the weapon in A’Sai’s possession and offers another bet to acquire it. Stakes are Galactus’ weapon versus the Observer’s advanced weaponry. They agree to bet not on major planetary upheavals, wars or political events but on a game, the one played by a handful of children on earth and a man with spider powers.
The long-range game continues for Spidey and his teammates. But, after an inspiring pep talk from the wall crawler, they close the gap. A’Sai discovers through the use of Uatu’s computers that what he possesses is far more powerful than he imagined. Seeing that the match might not go his way, he cheats by imbuing one of the opposing players with superhuman energy. This plan fails and A’Sai loses the bet with the Watcher. Uatu banishes him forever to a befitting gambler’s end: frozen in a wild card in a Las Vegas casino.
If A’Sai had won the bet with Uatu, the outcome could have been disastrous. A Skrull with the means to topple empires would have a profound effect on the future of the Marvel Universe. That, and with Uatu’s technology, A’Sai would be unstoppable. Throughout the football game, A’Sai repeatedly threatens to assassinate the Watcher and likely would have performed the deed had he succeeded. The lone Skrull apparently didn’t answer to anyone; an unfettered villain equipped with an extraordinary arsenal at his fingertips. Since Uatu’s base is on the moon, the first logical target is earth.
If A’Sai was attacking earth with a weapon from Galactus and the Watchers’ arsenal, Spider-Man would never have known that his simple football game was behind the potentially catastrophic attack. During the match, Spider-Man reflects (perhaps due to his innate spider-sense) that there was more at stake than he imagined, but to what extent has never been revealed. The future of humanity and possibly the universe would be irrevocably altered due to an innocent pickup game in an empty lot in Manhattan between a group of city kids and the local superhero.