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Hefferon: Old traditions can be made new again (Sept. 11)

Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It is said that Alexander the Great cried when he looked upon his kingdoms, realizing that he had no more lands left to conquer.

Fast forward 2,300 years, and many who control sports in the modern era have the same imperial ambitions. Rather than content themselves with regional or national dominance, commissioners and owners are unable to rest on their laurels, constantly chasing the horizon.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen Roger Goodell and the NFL fall into this trap, as one game has taken place at Wembley Stadium in London each year since 2007. The league will double down with two games at Wembley this season, the second of which will involve the Jacksonville Jaguars. That game will be the first of four annual trips to London for the

Jaguars, who couldn’t draw a crowd if One Direction opened for them.

The annual game of “American football” abroad has been a logistical nightmare for the teams involved, and has yet to gain much traction in Europe.

But that has nothing on FIFA, which is attempting to take its biggest showcase into a soccer desert – and a literal desert as well. FIFA’s members voted to take the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, in spite of a report by FIFA itself that named Qatar as a “high risk” host. Qatar is the size of Connecticut, and temperatures can hit 130 degrees during the summer months, obstacles that seemed to be overlooked through semi-legal bribery.

Qatar’s delegation has promised new technologies to cool stadiums, as well as hologram technology that can broadcast the game, live, into other stadiums around the world. (If that actually pans out, then my guess is the 2026 World Cup is hosted by the moon.)

I’m no consulting major, nor did I have the stones to talk to any consulting firms at the Career Fair last night. But from an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to advise both the NFL and FIFA: You’re two of the world’s most powerful organizations. You have huge, continental footprints. Stick to your roots.

That’s why it was so refreshing to see the International Olympic Committee get one right this week, as they spurned newer, more exotic sports in order to keep wrestling in the Olympics. Wrestling, which has been around the Olympics since 400 years before Alexander the Great, squashed baseball, softball and, well, squash to remain a staple of the Games, with the mandate of changing its rules to be more fast-paced and entertaining.

Bringing back old traditions can be lucrative for sports industries, generating something “new” from something that’s been around as long as the sport itself. The NHL has proved this by harkening back to the days of pond hockey with their Winter Classic showcases, and the NFL is doing the same by sending the Super Bowl to New York this year, ensuring that football’s premier game will be played in classic football weather.

Too often leagues have channeled their inner Barney Stinson, blindly following the mantra that “newer is always better.”

They need to learn that what is old can be made new again.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.