Man U Signs 9-year-old – No Joke

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jungsokerMANCHESTER, England: Manchester United, by most measures the #1 sports team in the world, has announced the signing of Rhain Davis, a 9-year-old soccer prodigy from Australia (see photo). Rhain was brought to the attention of the world soccer powerhouse by his grandfather, who sent the British team a video of the young star.

Manchester United is consistently ranked the most popular club team in the world, and according to Forbes Magazine is the highest valued franchise in all of sports, at $1.453 billion, edging out the Washington Redskins, worth $1.423 billion.

Man U, as it is know to fans and foes alike, maintains an extensive youth development program, where Rhain will presumably hone his skills while waiting for a crack at the big club. A copy of the video has been viewed on YouTube over 800,000 times.

The English side is teaching its American counterparts a thing to two about robbing the cradle. Most pundits on this side of the pond thought MLS team DC United was stretching the envelope when they drafted #1 and signed 14-year old Freddy Adu to a multimillion dollar contract three years ago.

Then came news earlier this summer that USC had gotten a verbal commitment from 8th-grade basketball player Ryan Boatwright, who hadn’t even decided where to go to HIGH SCHOOL yet, to play for USC. USC, apearantly, has adopted an “SAT-optional” admissions policy.

The Rhein Davis case lowers the bar yet again. In a world of professional sports, where the difference between a multi-million dollar career and a career cleaning carpets consists of a torn tendon, a random traffic stop or an inability to hit an 87-mile-an-hour curveball, and where even seasoned professionals represent a risk of losing their ability to perform consistently at a world-class level at any time, how can supposedly sound businesspeople justify investing money and ruining the childhood of a 9-year-old kid?

What’s next? It’s hard to discern any actual talent in kids younger than 9, although we saw Meredith Vieira interview a 5-year-old tennis player live on the Today show the other morning. The logical next step is to start awarding contracts, or at least options, on the basic of genetic inheritance alone. In some sports, blood lines run strong.

In baseball, for example, you have the Alomars, Sandy, Roberto and Sandy Jr., Felipe and Moises Alou and Tony Armas, Sr. and Jr. There is Buddy Bell and his two sons, David and Mike, as well as his brother Gus Bell and his son Buddy. Yogi and Dale Berra. And of course Bobby Bonds and the man of the hour, his son Barry. And who could forget Ray Boone and his son Bob Boone and his grandsons Aaron Boone and Bret Boone. One gets the idea, and we are still in the “B”s.

Would it be so far fetched for baseball blue bloods to sell futures options on their progeny? It might be a way to defray the costs of child rearing. Of course, the mega super-stars, whose kids would have the greatest probability of achieving athletic success, would not be likely to need the extra income. On the other hand, super-talented athletes whose careers were cut short by injury would be a natural market, sort of like champion thoroughbreds who pull a muscle are put out to stud, preserving their genetic and financial equity.

From there, as biotech and goddless globalization advance, how far could it be to Designer DNA, Boutique Genetics, 2 genes from column B, 4 from column C, resulting in prospective parents being able to order up a 7-foot lefty with world-class coordination and competitive drive.

Of course, if cloning became a legal and acceptable alternative, there would be no need to hunt for the magical mix of talent and temperament that makes a champion. We could market exact genetic duplicates of any cooperating pro athlete still alive at the time the technique was developed, assuming that cells from any heathly adult could be used as DNA starter kits.

Envision a day when the starting five on the NBA Champions consists of three Michael Jordans and two Shaquille O’Neals, with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy on the bench.

It wouldn’t be quite as easy as ordering a lemon-yellow Lamborghini. Hoping for a professional athlete like a Shaquille would be an expensive and risky proposition. 18 years of care and feeding, and no guarantee you wouldn’t end up with a 7 foot 3 inch interior decorator, or a thrash metal rocker.

But the message is clear, even from here. When sports becomes absolutely subservient to business, anything that sells tickets, garners publicity and wins titles will eventually be tried.

As a logical extension of the parallel and intertwined encroachment of gambling into every facet of modern life, the public will be able to buy shares in the future careers of these budding superstars. Welcome to the brave new world of prenatal to postmortem sports betting, a cradle to grave fantasy league reality show. Why be content to bet on tonight’s game, when you can buy actions in some kid who hasn’t even been born yet?

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