Cheeseburger diplomacy…

Not long ago, I suggested that the National Football League help build cultural ties with Afghanistan by adapting the popular Afghan sport of Buzkashi – kind of like polo played with a dead goat carcass – to American playing fields.

Plenty of readers (OK, OK, two bourbon-enhanced Oakland Raiders fans from Suisun) found fault with this somewhat one-sided concept.

If we’re really going to have a fair cultural exchange with Afghanistan, they argued, we’re going to have to share something from our culture, too.

Although most Raider fans would probably consider trading silver-and-black beer coolers for belly dancers a fair cultural exchange, I think our nation has reached a point where we’ve got to look at the big picture if we expect lasting compatibility with our new friends to the east.

Let’s face it, repeated air drops of Pop Tarts and peanut butter aren’t going to do the trick over the long haul (although they might work with Canada).

No, we’re going to have to think big. We’re going to have to think, er, cheeseburgers … and Maury Povich.

If we play it right, our new cultural exchange program is going to be a win-win situation – we’ll be able to boost our sluggish economy while building lasting ties of friendship and mutual respect with the Afghan people.

We’ll have to move fast and we’ll have to move decisively. Initially, we’re going to have to fly in and erect roughly 50 prefabricated fast-food franchises at strategic locations (where there are people) throughout Afghanistan.

At the same time, we’ll need to round up every running, pre-owned Ford Aspire in the continental United States and ship them to Afghanistan via C-5 jet transport.

Now we’re cooking, fellow ambassadors – we’ve got cheeseburgers and drive-through food service with cars to drive through the drive-throughs.

Then all we’ll need are, like, roads and some daytime TV.

Can we do it?

We can do it!

If we can build fast-track, fast-food franchises from Asadabad to Dowlatabad we can supply enough tilt-up TV stations and cable to guarantee that every household that wants them will be able to receive reruns of “The Beverly Hillbillys” and “Maury Povich” 24 hours a day.

After we gently airdrop a few planeloads of TV sets on the grateful populace, the rest will be a cultural revolution unlike any ever before experienced in Afghanistan (or Canada, for that matter).

Sure, there will be some rough spots. Dubbing “The Three Stooges” into Pashtu won’t be easy and we’ll have to follow strict Islamic dietary guidelines with what we put into those cheeseburgers, but it’ll be worth it.

Once the Afghan people get used to their newfound cultural riches, we can put the finishing touches on our international program of open-handed American largesse.

You guessed it, amigos:

Lawyers and leaf blowers. Lots and lots of them …

Originally published February 24, 2002

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