Because This 1991 Sports Illustrated Article Basically Told The Future Of Sports


In the July 22, 1991, issue of Sports IllustratedWilliam Oscar Johnson looked at how the sports world would look a decade later in 2001.

Using a fictional character named Ulysses S. Spectator, Johnson crafted a piece that described the world where the ozone layer is a bit more depleted and the resulting greenhouse warmth made winter pretty nice, which Al Gore would probably agree with, then and now.

Spectator also boasted of a world where she’s watching all 24 bowl games at once, and because major television networks dropped out of covering sports for financial reasons, each league now had its own centralized television network. Sound familiar?

The biggest game of the day was the culmination of a postseason elimination tournament between the top eight teams in the league, which while it didn’t come to fruition by 2001, it is something that we're getting to soon.

The NCAA in this fictional world has pushed by corporate sponsorships to the point where college teams were named after sponsors, all because in this world, the Supreme Court ruled that college was participating in a form of slavery with its unpaid student-athletes and forced to pay players up to a ceiling of $50,000 a year.

Ed O'Bannon is nodding his head in agreement somewhere.

Because advertising is everywhere — on the field, on merchandise, on jerseys — commercials have been eliminated.  The NFL in this world has expanded to 40 teams, including a foreign conference of teams in London, Paris, Berlin, Teheran, Johannesburg, Bombay, Djakarta, Sydney, Auckland and Mexico City. We’re not there yet, but the Jacksonville Jaguars team should keep an eye out for property out in London just in case.

It is also a world where a National Gambling Network exists, sports gambling now legal in all 52 states as a $30 billion a year business. The network — called by many as Robo-bookie — allows anyone to just sit in the comforts of their homes and access point spreads and instant bets on anything and everything.

The NFL has also come up with a “spectator-involvement program” at extra charge. For example, there’s a Seeing Eye minicam in everyone’s helmet so viewers can get the player’s point of view during the game. Google Glass, anyone?

An X-Rated Field Of Screams program allows viewers to hear all the sounds that happen in a huddle and during the game. Players getting mic’d up during games? This is of course something that's now a staple of every sports broadcast on television.

And for an additional $25, you can order the All-Sunday program that allows you access to all the games while you sit on your couch from morning to evening.

And lastly, the Common Huddle program allows viewers to pick a team the week before a game, and for the team’s playbook, scouting and sideline strategies to be transmitted to the player.

In baseball, the Houston Astrodome has been reimagined as Astro World, a theme park that includes hotels, shops, theaters and computer game parlors. This thinking is not the far off from the stadiums and arenas that exist today and will exist in the future.

While this article might've seemed like a stretch by the imagination of the writer back in 1991, it has actually come very close to predicting the reality that exists today for the sports fan.

Which begs the question: If we sat down today to write down where we think how different the sports world will be in 10 years, is it likely that those far-fetched ideas will actually become tomorrow's reality?

Probably so.

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