Who likes football teams staffed by foreign mercenaries?
The Philadelphia Eagles are not from Philadelphia. The New England Patriots are not from New England, much less Massachusetts. Instead, players hail from all over the country or even from other countries. Nearly all players are foreign to the states and cities they claim to represent.
Football is the ultimate game of identity politics. People from Pennsylvania support the Eagles because they are geographical cohorts. But most or all of the "Philadelphia Eagles" are simply people from outside Philadelphia who have been hired to play for Philadelphia; they are essentially foreign mercenaries.
"But they represent a team that represents Philadelphia" some might whine. Ok, so how would it be if the U.S. Olympics team hired paid mercenary athletes from Kenya and Zimbabwe to fill out our team? The team would still "represent" the USA, even though the athletes would be from somewhere else.
Of course, this would be wholly unacceptable. And yet, people still mindlessly devote themselves to players whose only geographical connection is that they take showers in locker rooms closer to where they live than the strangers from the opposing team.
I think it would be better if teams hired only from their city or state. That way they would truly represent their region. While it's true that teams from lower population states would have fewer candidates to choose from, that doesn't stop low population countries from winning gold medals in the Olympics.
Alternatively, if we're really going to play identity politics with sports, teams could be organized around other principles that people can relate to. Here are a few ideas:
1) Religion. Since geographically based teams aren't really geographically based, how about organizing teams based on religion, which people can readily identify with. We could have the Carolina Catholics, the Jacksonville Jews, and the Pittsburgh Presbyterians who could come from anywhere in the country. We could even have separate teams for non or semi-believers such as the Arizona Atheists and the Atlanta Agnostics. There could also be a team for Islamists (assuming they go through metal detectors in every game).
2) Gender and sexual orientation. How about a team for each gender and sexual orientation? There could be the Green Bay Gender Fluid Packers, the Jacksonville Genderqueer Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Transvestite Buccaneers, or the Houston Heteros.
3) Operating system. What if scientists were able to make robot players? Then people could support teams based on the Apple or Microsoft operating systems.
4) Class. How about a team you could support based on income? There could be a team for each income bracket, with names such as the Miami Middle Class, the Seattle Superwealthy, or the Washington Welfares.
What do you think? Do you slavishly support a team simply because they are tenants in a stadium near where you live? Or do you have an identity connection that makes more sense?
Ed Straker is the senior writer at Newsmachete.com.