Coming soon: The National Avatar League

Coming soon: The National Avatar League
July 12, 2013, 12:45 pm
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The RoboCup championships took place in the Netherlands last month, where 300 teams from 40 countries competed with the long-term goal of building a team of androids good enough to beat the human World Cup team by 2050. (AP)

This past May, a small crowd watched the Saint Paul Saints beat the visiting Gary Southshore RailCats in a minor league game that featured no umpires. The "Umpireless Game" concept came from the mind of baseball executive Mike Veeck, who possesses the zany promotional DNA of his famous father, Bill.

Back in August of 1951, Veeck Senior executed his most famous promotional stunt, sending the 3-foot-7, economy-sized Eddie Gaedel to the plate in a game between his St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia A’s.

Five days later, Veeck staged “Grandstand Managers Day,” where the fans in attendance got to make decisions on game strategy using “Yes and No” cards they received entering the park.

Sixty two years later, his son created the variation on dad’s theme with his "Umpireless Game." Local little leaguers sat along first- and third-base line jury boxes. They decided close plays by raising "Safe" or "Out" placards. The team’s catchers called balls and strikes. A robed judge settled disputes. The game was played without major brouhahas with the Saints winning 4-3 in 2 hours and 58 minutes.

It’s only a matter of time before technology, ingenuity, rising cost of tickets, increasing ownership debt load, and pure unadulterated greed will lead to the formation of a professional sports league where humans are missing in action -- the National Avatar League.

Why would any reasonable group of people think about creating a league that doesn’t have actual players, umpires, coaches, GMs, business operations suits, agents, and other assorted actual human beings? As one professional sports franchise executive said recently, “Just think how much money we would make if we didn’t have to pay players.”

An avatar is an "incarnation, appearance or a manifestation." Without naming names, there are a number of highly paid pro athletes who match this definition. Just watch the highlights on the nightly sports shows. Why should a failed pitcher get a contract for $100 million dollars when an avatar could do just as well?

Think it's nuts? Review this list of arguments in favor of the National Avatar League, coming soon:

1. The Ed O’Bannon-NCAA class action lawsuit:

According to lawyers for the former UCLA star and NBA player, Ed O'Bannon, video game manufacturer Electronic Arts went to great lengths to make sure the avatars in its college football and college basketball games resembled actual student athletes. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in an antitrust suit against EA, the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) wrote that high-ranking NCAA officials alledgedly knew about and approved that practice in portions of documents unsealed on June 19.

The plaintiffs' attorneys wrote that they will use common evidence, primarily the EA development database and spreadsheets, along with EA employees' testimonies to show that EA developed its NCAA-themed basketball and football video games by modeling every single avatar after real student athletes.

Attorneys allege the evidence will show that each game avatar was matched to real student athletes' jersey number, position played, hometown, year of eligibility, athletic abilities, multiple physical characteristics and actual full game gear worn.

The outcome of this case could change the business landscape of big-time collegiate sports.

2. Labor wars:

The NHL has had two contentious labor interruptions in the past five years in which one season was cancelled and a major chunk of another was lost. One of the golden rules of the NAL is that there will never be a labor interruption. No avatar lawyers need apply.

3. Player conduct:

Can you say Aaron Hernandez? In the NAL you can instantly delete all knuckleheads from your roster.

4. The Oxymoron of free agency:

In the NAL, all players are free. In real-life sports, free agency isn’t free.

5. Career-ending injuries:

Through the wonders of graphic surgery to avatars, no player will ever miss a game for your team.

6. Cost of venues:

In the Bay Area alone the cost of new and planned stadiums for the 49ers, Earthquakes, Warriors and A’s adds up to $3.5 billion. In the NAL, a few good graphic designers can create your state of the art sports palace for $137 bucks. No Politics, no EIRs, no NIMBYs, no problem!

7. Team expenses:

It cost millions of dollars to fly teams all across the country on cushy charters along with stays in five-star hotels and hundreds of dollars a day in travel party per diems. In the NAL, this doesn’t end up on your balance sheet.

8. I wanna play:

Every fan wants to be a star for a day. Some adrenaline junkies dream to feel what’s it like to throw down a power slam over Dwight Howard or shoot the gap and sack an NFL quarterback. How about striping your Titleist 345 yards down the fairway on Master’s Sunday or turning around a 100-mph heater and slamming it over the Green Monster?

9. Plug and play with PEDs:

No steroids, no HGH, no blood doping, no recreational drugs or anything else artificial -- especially since all the players are artificial to begin with.

10. Salaries:

In the NAL, there are no salaries, and no headaches with aging superstars.

11. The future is already here:

Think of the level of fan connectivity and how much eye time is focused on the field vis-a-vis a mobile device. The 60-yard long HD video board at Cowboys Stadium has changed the way fans are consuming live action. Hewlett Packard (HP) is predicting that 3D holographic video boards will be installed at sports venues within ten years.

12. Growth of gaming:

Fantasy gaming has tens of millions of players who are already living their life in the world of make believe. With the advent of legalized betting on sports -- which will happen in the future -- what better way to get ready then running your own team in the NAL.

13. Globalization:

The world is shrinking, especially the sports world. You can beam your team anywhere at any time in the NAL.

Word has it that multimillionaire movie maker James Cameron, who you may remember from his fairly successful cinematic effort "Avatar," has already put down a deposit to become the first team owner in the NAL. He'll name his team the Pasadena Pandoras, and quarterback Nuke Na’vi is already signed to a contract that pays him exactly no money over the next ten years.