This Sporting Life: The Nationals
**WORLD EXCLUSIVE! Must credit This Sporting Life!**
(10 a.m. ET July 27, Washington, D.C.)
On the heels of last week's pitched battle to overhaul the foundering American health care system, the White House will announce later today the nationalization of all professional sports in the United States.
In documents leaked to This Sporting Life over the weekend by a source close to the administration, President Barack Obama will call for an end to the bloat, waste, corruption, inefficiency and inequity of the current U.S. sports-industrial complex. To bring sports "back into line with the needs of average Americans," he will propose a radical streamlining of the nation's sporting economy and a complete restructuring of the system as it currently exists.
To do so, the federal government will take financial, operational and day-to-day control of all professional leagues and teams throughout the country using its right of eminent domain. This universal plan most likely will be referred to as a "single-player system."
"The feeling at the highest levels of government," the source said on condition of anonymity, "is that for decades, the system has been broken. Sports has spiraled out of control unchecked by common sense and must be radically remade to meet people's real needs."
Sure to galvanize opposition among administration critics -- mostly conservatives and Republicans, Wall Street investors, rock-ribbed free marketeers and pro-business Democrats -- Obama will hold a Rose Garden news conference at 2 p.m. ET today to announce his sweeping plan. The proposal suggests nothing less than the remaking of the entire sporting landscape, as can be seen in this advance draft of the president's remarks:
"Good afternoon, my fellow Americans.
"As so many of us have so long known, our U.S. system of professional sports is broken. Soaring costs, bloated payrolls, and inefficient distribution of labor, assets, goods and services have left the American sporting establishment in shambles.
"Because the sad examples of our failures are all around us, endless and heartrending and familiar to every sports fan, I offer this afternoon just two words. Two words as evidence of our system's collapse. Two simple words to instill in us all the will and the courage to change:
"That's right. Anderson Varejao.
"While I bear this young man no personal malice, would a system based on need, would a system based on merit or logic, would a system based on excellence or even common sense produce a $50 million basketball contract for an Anderson Varejao? In Cleveland, Ohio?
"No, America, it would not.
"For scores of millions of dollars, we now are outsourcing the work of power forward -- a traditionally American craft of great pride and long standing -- to a Brazilian gentleman I likely could take to the hole myself, a fact that speaks to neither his credit nor mine. And do not, my fellow Americans, even ask about his number of assists per game.
"Seen in such stark terms, can anyone anywhere doubt that our sporting infrastructure has become corroded beyond repair?
"Doing nothing means you're going to lose what you have. Based on the current trajectory, your ticket costs and player contracts are going to double over the next five to 10 years.
"His assists average will not.
"Most Americans are paying more than ever before for sports that deliver less and less and less. And who among us remains unmoved knowing that more than 40 million of our neighbors go to sleep at night with no sports at all?
"We must think of the children, my friends. This is an injustice we can and must correct. History demands nothing less of us than our collective best.
"This we will do by realizing that the arc of the sporting universe is long, but that it bends -- sharply, like a duck hook -- toward justice.
"Sports must be reformed.
"I therefore will propose to Congress a sweeping new omnibus sports bill that will bring professional sports entirely under government control.
"This will help cap costs, ensure fairness and create parity across every team in every league. Every American in every corner of this great nation will have equal access to high-quality sports.
"To guarantee that this is the case, hard choices will be necessary. For example, both the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Pirates will be broken up, their fans placed with other teams and their players reassigned to the witness protection program. So if you see Matthew Stafford mowing the lawn on your cul-de-sac, please keep it to yourself.
"Some leagues will be subject to a 50 percent contraction. Others to a 50 percent expansion. Rest assured, however, that the NHL will be dismantled entirely and those empty arenas turned into a coast-to-coast string of giant Tim Horton doughnut malls.
"More broadly, I am proud to announce we will at last join our allies, the rest of the Western democracies, in offering to every citizen an equal opportunity for world-class
soccer, er, futbol, bicycle racing, rugby, hurling, curling, rally racing and korfball. Rest assured, my fellow Americans, that our global cricket initiative will be second to none.
"Lastly, I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing the Clippers in the NBA Finals and returning them safely to competitiveness. No single sports project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important in the long-range exploration of sports, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.
"I know many of you are wondering how we'll fund such a program. In a world that has seen Sergei Fedorov swindled out of $43 million, NASCAR drivers bilked of their winnings and no less a financial authority than Lenny Dykstra himself bankrupted, it's difficult to imagine a sound and reliable economic model.
"So in conjunction with these efforts, I will be placing the France family of NASCAR in charge of the North American Free Trade Agreement. I do so because if anyone has shown a knack for keeping huge sums of American money hidden here at home where it's needed most, it's NASCAR.
"It also will confuse our enemies to be told that France has been placed in charge of North American trade.
"And I have this morning asked Mark Buehrle, DeWayne Wise and Tim Tebow to jointly chair a National Task Force on the Miraculous -- in the hope that further answers might be found by thinking outside the box.
"Still, I remain convinced there is plenty of money in those delicious doughnut malls.
"So, my fellow Americans, ask not what your Timbits® can do for you, ask what you can do for your Timbits®.
"I thank you."
Reaction to the proposal has been swift and strident.
Lyle Groper, spokesman for the United States Coalition to Legislate Only When Necessary, released a statement a few minutes ago.
"We are deeply disappointed to hear of the president's proposed amendments to the grand traditions of American athletics. Our sports, and what we pay for them, are time-honored and time-tested.
"This organization represents a broad coalition of Republicans and business-minded Blue Dog Democrats -- as well as Copperheads, Know-Nothings, Whigs, Free Soilers, Nullifiers, Dixiecrats, Greenbacks, Gold Bugs, Fusionists, Readjusters, Tolerationists and the entire membership (all five synods) of the American Vegetarian Party.
"Our approach to life, politics and American business can be summed up in our motto: Melior efficio nusquam quam periculum sepulchrum syrma! (Translation: 'Better to do nothing than put the gravy train at risk!')
"In sum, we support the status quo.
"So, using all the buzzwords and scare tactics at our disposal and guaranteed to us by our Constitution, we're going to say that what President Obama proposes is nothing less than Marxistical socializationism. And we're going to ask: What happens once we start rationing sports?
"Like the president and his proxies, we're going to speak the words 'capitation,' 'means-testing' and 'deficit-neutral' without specifying any meaning, and we're going to demand to 'pay or play' without saying what it is.
"Then, without suggesting a single constructive alternative, we're going to repeat the mantras 'long waits' and 'higher costs' again and again and again.
"These socialized programs don't work abroad, and they won't work here. Just look at what Mexico did to the U.S. in
soccer, er, futbol, on Sunday. On a Sunday! Just look!
"Do you really want more bureaucrats between you and your athletes?
"And what about urgent need? What about emergencies? In Canada, you might have to wait six months just to see a game.
"So in conjunction with our partner group, Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People, later today we'll be releasing a series of television and YouTube spots featuring an elderly couple named Harry and Louise, Brewers fans who worry that their choice of teams will be taken away from them.
"In short, the respectful membership of U.S. CLOWN hopes the president can be convinced to recalibrate this terrible proposal."
At this hour, the nuts and bolts of the program remain unclear, but it is expected that the specifics will be hammered out in a series of congressional subcommittees.
Rumors surrounding the proposal suggest that Billy Beane, famous for doing incrementally more with only a little less, is likely to be named America's first "Sports Czar." Given the nature of the proposed legislation, Bill James then immediately would be named governor of Massachusetts, and the current governor sent to Utah in exchange for two state attorneys and a future fantasy draft consideration. Other Bills and Billys thought to be under consideration for leadership posts include Simmons, Cosby, Russell, Gates, O'Reilly, Connolly and Ray Cyrus.
At the local level, given Obama's lifelong fondness for the Chicago White Sox, these new programs mean Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is expected later this year to be named commander of the space shuttle or ambassador to Mars. His partner Eddie Einhorn also will be allowed to launch one medium-range Navy missile at anything he wants.
Other roles in the new department remain as yet undecided.
"In fact, we might change the 'Sports Czar' job title entirely," White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel said. "The actual czar of Russia wasn't very well liked, as I recall. Might as well call the job 'Heartless Inbred Sports Despot' or 'Indifferent Bloody Sports Caesar.' Too many mine-shaft punch lines. Also, we just noticed that the sign on the office door reads too much like 'Sports Car' from a distance.
"So now we're rethinking the whole title. 'Secretary of Sports'? Meh. Sounds too much like the Isiah Thomas civil suit. 'Sports Lord'? Too British. We've got our focus groups and image people working on it."
The next order of business for the new U.S. Office of Sports will be to devise a means by which America can reliably tell the difference between Roy Halladay and Matt Holliday.
Neither could not be reached for comment. More on this story as it develops.
Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Please continue to submit your answers to his question: "What Are Sports For?" You can e-mail him at email@example.com.