Des Kelly Column: Greed Is the Base for This Whole New Ball Game

The Mirror (London, England), February 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Des Kelly Column: Greed Is the Base for This Whole New Ball Game


Byline: Des Kelly

AMERICA was discovered by the great explorer Dow Jones on April 12, when he sailed West looking for new trading markets and found cheap Levi's and cut-price Nike trainers.

Since that day (a Tuesday, I think) we've trailed along in the wake of our American cousins, belatedly imitating their fashion, music and mannerisms like awestruck children allowed into the 'bigger boys' playground for the first time.

They give us Jerry Springer, bubblegum and McDonald's; we let their military have East Anglia. It's a 'special relationship'.

But there is one thing that Uncle Sam has not mastered. One largely unconquered region that gives our miserable, faded pretence of old-world superiority a fleeting whiff of former glories. Football.

American sport, for all it's might and ticker-tape parades, has never been able to embrace the world's greatest game with any conviction.

Even when their team managed to defeat Graham Taylor's England dummies, the achievement, such as it was, elicited little more than a disinterested shrug from the 51 states. Because, in the only sport that really matters, the only truly global game, America remains second best. 'Soccer' in the USA is played by children, women and nostalgic ex-pats. In the mainstream arena, Americans prefer to invent their own games, like gridiron and baseball, where they beat one another and then crown themselves 'world champions'.

But it didn't stop us turning into Yankee poodle dandies again this week when Manchester United trumpeted a 'glamorous' new link-up with the New York Yankees.

Most of us know baseball is just rounders for fat blokes who spit out bits of tobacco. It provokes even less interest here than 'soccer' in the States. And let's face it, if it was any good, it wouldn't be on the telly when we've all gone to bed.

But baseball is rich and they do nice little hats.

So United went cap-in-hand to New York, blathering on about 'potential joint sponsor partnerships and marketing opportunities' while the Americans responded with words like 'synergy' - a sure signpost that you have arrived in bullshit land.

Roots

This power trip was apparently designed to announce United will sell Yankee gear, which you can find down at the Arndale Centre anyway, and vice versa.

But the only thing that is getting the hard sell here is the idea that United believe they are too big for the Premiership and look intent on moving further away from anything which might still be regarded as their English roots.

With the League title a formality, United's eyes have long been set on European Super Leagues, global competitions and more and more money. Let's hope for their sake that the path to world domination extends beyond the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. But you have to wonder.

If we were foolishly impressed by the Yankee deal at first sight, over in the Big Apple they greeted this big news in the following manner - and I am not making this up:

c On the morning of the 'launch' the Yankees press officer said: "An announcement? What announcement? Manchester what?"

cThe New York Post ran eight paragraphs the next day.

cThe Yankees' own website carried nothing. Not a line.

That might give you an idea of the scale of enthusiasm Stateside. …

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