In honor of the USMNT’s hiring of German Juergen Klinsmann (a brilliant—yet one year too late—move), I thought I’d make a list of other ways American sports can be bettered by looking beyond our borders. I call them my American Foreign Relations Sports Initiatives (or AFRSI).
Idea #1: White American Basketball Player Initiative. We have over a decade’s worth of evidence that white men can still play basketball, but only if they come from outside the United States. For some reason the Caucasian male basketball in America has become an endangered species. Yet foreign Caucasian ballers (including this year’s Finals MVP) are thriving.
Here’s my idea: We take our most talented white basketball players coming out of grade school and send them overseas for their development. We will recruit these players through AAU tournaments, send them to a European city of their choice, and then when they turn 17 they will undergo a series of workshops taught by Kevin Love and Jimmer Fredette. Once Love and Fredette give them the go-ahead, they will be eligible to meet with college recruiters (assuming they don’t want to stay in Europe and play pro ball instead of college ball). Before you know it, black NBA players will have way more white guys to dunk on. And who doesn’t like that idea?
Idea #2: Corporate Sponsor Jersey Initiative. As Bill Simmons mentioned here, leagues like the NBA stand to gain $80-100 Million just by putting corporate sponsors on their jerseys. Now, I don’t love the idea of watching my Jazz play with a big Viagra logo on their jersey any more than the next guy, but I’d rather see that then not watch the Jazz at all next year. Got money problems? The solution may be just as simple as pimping your jersey.
Foreign teams have been doing it for decades and they seem more than content with it. Plus, it would create even more jerseys for collectors to buy. Honestly, anytime a lockout lasts longer than four hours, call your sponsors immediately (pardon the lame Viagra joke). Some possible sponsors: TMZ/Lakers, Wrangler/Mavericks, (Some Russian Vodka)/Nets, Walmart/Heat, Century 21/Kings, WebMD/Blazers, AARP/Suns, and Kia/Clippers. (Feel free to give some other corporate partnership ideas in the comment section below).
Idea #3: Let Em’ Fail Initiative. When sports teams fail (just like other businesses fail everyday) American sports leagues need to just let them fail. That means no more giving the worst team the first pick in the draft, no more bailing out sinking ships (I’m looking right at you, Hornets), and no more sucking for decades and still being in the league. In the English Premier League (EPL), every year the bottom three teams in the league go to a lower league (think minor leagues), and the top three teams from the lower league come up. In order to get back to the EPL, teams relegated have to win their way back in. Not only does it punish the crappy teams, but it makes for great late-season drama with teams that otherwise nobody would care about. It’s a win-win.
And how do EPL teams draft players? They don’t. Like almost every other business, it is up to the individual organizations to build up prospects, recruit employees to work for them, and reap the fruit of their labor. Seriously, how dumb is the draft system? Can you imagine if you graduated with honors studying culinary art and then, because of some draft, you were forced to cook at Burger King? Somewhere Blake Griffin is nodding his head.
Idea #4: More Riots & Mayhem Initiative. As long as people don’t get out of hand, and then volunteer to help clean up the next day (Vancouver style), I think riots and general mayhem could add a lot more to the American sports landscape. Foreign soccer matches oftentimes involve riots, delirious chants, random fires in the stands, and the occasional act of hooliganism. Now, I don’t support hooligans per se, but I am so sick of watching rich people sit courtside at NBA games with their over-tanned poster wives and their fresh-out-of-the-box team merchandise. The mere threat of hooligans and riots might get these people to stay home (or at least hide in the suites), paving the way for real fans to sit close to the court.
Idea #5: Soccer! Soccer! Soccer! Initiative. As a former xenophobe who grew up convinced soccer is lame and boring and stupid and lame and dumb, I understand Americans’ fear of the beautiful game. But I will keep telling it to anyone who will listen to me: Soccer is great! ESPN seems to have partially caught this vision, but until they start pumping soccer as much as they pump (the great dying American sport that is) baseball, Americans will never give it a fair enough shot. And until soccer becomes popular in America, our soccer products will continue to be subpar. And subpar doesn’t sell.
Unless of course Juergen Klinsman can single-handily take American soccer to the promised land. Then all bets are off. Auf Wiedersehen.