It was widely reported last fall that a group run by the Vatican's Conference of Bishops has purchased a controlling stake in the AC Ancona Italian Third Division soccer club.
The group's president was quoted as saying "it is a way to moralize football, to bring some ethics to a sector that is going through a deep crisis of values." Players who get red cards will have to do penance through voluntary work, and fans cannot bait opposing teams.
The jury is still out, but some players have reported a newfound flexibility with a patented genuflection exercise imparted by their coach, and a feeling of liberation about taking to the pitch with their sins forgiven. Signals from the bench are also conveyed in Latin, in Gregorian Chant, which has ensured strategies are not picked up by the opposition.
While it met with some initial skepticism, the move now seems prescient in light of British authorities' recent decision to bring rape charges against players and fraud charges against executives.
And now it appears the wave may be washing against North American shores. Grub Street has heard from several sources, none of whom wished to be publicly identified, that a group of Tibetan Buddhist businesspeople is in the final stages of negotiations to buy the Atlanta Falcons football team. The team would be renamed the "Georgia Peaches" (in a nod to local fealties), but would wear uniforms in the traditional Tibetan saffron hue (it is unclear whether cleated sandals will become part of the uniform). Their home field, the Georgia Dome, will be renamed the Georgia Ome. ("We've never really had that much 'D' anyway" said soon-to-be outgoing owner Arthur Blank).
"It's not really that much of a stretch" said one insider. "The DL (we call him that when we talk sports) has said "sports are among the skillful means which facilitate the discovery of happiness".
But doesn't the DL's take on happiness also require inner richness, a spiritual path, the experience of awakening, yada, yada, yada, all of which is a little hard to develop when you are experiencing a third-and-long situation on your own 15 yard line? "Point taken" said the insider. "But we've got an eternity and our aim is to transform the game. We want it to be a beacon for the DL's view that 'the true value of existence is revealed through compassion'. If it takes a few decades with a losing record to show how important it is, we're made of tough enough stuff to do it".
And what about baseball? With the shocking conclusions about rampant steroid use having been unleashed in the recent Mitchell report, talk has surfaced that reclusive granola heiress Abbey Birkenstock may purchase the underperforming Washington Nationals, and move them to Woodstock, New York - yes, that Woodstock - where they would be known as the "Woodstock Naturals" and train on a strict macrobiotic 100-mile diet. Another rumour has her acquiring the Baltimore Orioles, leaving them in their home stadium at Camden Yards, but renaming them the "Baltimore Branbreakfasts" - so that every member of the lineup could think of himself as a regular.
As for basketball, renowned pastor Jimmy Swaggart would only say it "sounds intriguing" to hear his name put forward by a group of born again fundamentalists who want to apply for a new franchise based in Jacksonville, to be known as the Jacksonville Jumpers. "Just think of it" mused Swaggart. "'Jesus saves, but is called for goaltending, and the devil will shoot two from the foul line'. Dancing in the stands to rock and roll gospel music. Massive premiums on loaves and fishes at the concession stands. A whole new way to do God's work - and have some fun on the rebound".
And hockey? Well, no-one appears interested in paying any money to buy a hockey team, but a group of cosmetic dentists is said to be willing to take a team off someone's hands. NHL president Gary Bettmann acknowledged there have been "a few nibbles, but no bites"."
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