Get ready for a new dawn on the gridiron

As stability slowly returns to the windswept plains of Afghanistan, the time soon will come for America to consider some significant cross-cultural interaction with our neighbors to the East.

Afghanistan has a lot to share, including a proud – albeit somewhat violent – history along with a rich heritage of art, music and religious expression.

Perhaps the area in which America can best benefit from Afghan culture, though, is in the sports arena.

I was gratified to read a recent Associated Press report that Afghanistan’s national sport of Buzkashi has made a resounding return after the defeat of the repressive Taliban regime.

Buzkashi may just be coolest sport since ice hockey. It involves two teams of fun-loving – albeit somewhat violent – equestrians whipping their way up and down a playing field in order to score points by carrying a decapitated, 100-pound goat carcass into an end zone.

Makes golf seem a little tame, eh? (Of course, the average crossword puzzle makes golf seem a little tame…)

Yet, with all its obvious virtues, Buzkashi is seldom played outside Afghanistan. No major athletic clothing interests have come out with a line of fashionable Buzkashi wear. There are no Budweiser goats and Howie Long has never been tapped for some Buzkashi halftime commentary.

The time has come for us to face facts – sport in America has become a vast, boring wasteland populated by overpaid yuppies who spend more time hawking athletic shoes than actually wearing them. Not one of them would know what to do with a decapitated goat carcass if you handed it to them on a silver platter…

Time for a change? You betcha, and there’s no better place for a sporting cultural exchange between Afghanistan and American than the tired old National Football League.

You want to see some real action on the field for a change? Swap that football for a headless goat carcass and you’ll have more action than a Biloxi bookie on Super Bowl Sunday.

Sure, there will have to be some minor changes to accommodate American audiences. We can start by losing the horses and the whips and trying to keep the length of the average game down to, say, less than three days.

No matter how we play it, though, just bringing that decapitated goat onto the field will turn up the gridiron excitement like we haven’t seen since the days of Conrad Dobler.

After all, just about any Girl Scout with a marginal sense of direction can kick the occasional field goal. On the other hand, it takes a real man to kick a headless goat carcass through the old goal posts.

Quarterbacks, too, will have an opportunity to once again prove their mettle when they try to throw the long bomb downfield. And receivers will have to toughen up and remember not to shriek “Ewwwwww!” when they grab hold of that headless bundle of hairy fun.

There will, of course, be some obstacles to overcome at first. But once we find a way to keep the Oakland Raiders from trying to eat the goat everytime it bounces out of bounds, the rest ought to be relatively easy…

Originally published January 13, 2002

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