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Pigskin could bring peace to Mideast

January 25, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

For me, the Internet is a marvelous invention (thank you, Al Gore) because it answers a lot of questions that probably not a lot of other people are asking.

Such as: How did Arabic media outlet Al Jazeera cover the NFL championship games, and was its coverage fair? For example, would it short change Indianapolis and Chicago because they are in the Midwest and not the Mideast?

These questions seemed important to me.

Happily I was able to go to english.aljazeera.net, and sure enough, right there in the middle of the stories about the Great Satan and Baghdad bomb blasts was the headline "Bears and Colts into Super Bowl." Son of a gun.

In other Al Jazeera sports news, "Determined batting by Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal steered Pakistan to a five-wicket victory in the second test against South Africa on Monday to level the series at 1-1."

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This was interesting, but since I couldn't even figure out what sport it was, I went back to football. The story, updated "13:22 Mecca Time," lumped both games into one article, but that was OK, because in all honesty it was pretty comprehensive. In fact, I might start visiting Al Jazeera for all my sporting news.

"The fairytale ended for the Saints as their usually reliable offense failed to overcome the swarming Bears defense, while the Bears offense enjoyed a good day at the office," the story said.

All right, that statement was firm, but fair.

I was glad to see it was kind to Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, who is kind of the Ringo Starr of the NFL, landing in the Super Bowl on the backs of his more celebrated teammates.

About this time, however, it occurred to me that the White House had probably been notified that someone in Western Maryland was accessing a nonAmerican-aligned Web site.

To ease the administration's fears and prevent the Pentagon from opening a file on me, I went to the Al Jazeera poll question - "Should Ehud Olmert resign as Israel's prime minister" - and voted "No."

It was the right thing to do, since based on the poll results it put me squarely in the minority of Al Jazeera readership.

After briefly visiting Al Jazeera weather (it was 45 in Damascus) I went to the opinion section, which featured a lively debate on the death penalty. My favorite comment came from a gentleman in Libya, who said he favored the death penalty even though his view might brand him as "an extremist."

I might have thought it would be the other way around.

But aside from all that, I still think the Middle East/National Football League angle is one worth pursuing.

Violence on the field of play might be one way to bring peace to the region. You know, channel the anger into a productive purpose.

We've been worried about training security forces when we ought to be training zone defense. Iraqis may have a better shot at understanding the "Cover 2" than they do the Rule of Law.

The league is already scheduled to play a regular season game in Europe next year, so Baghdad may be the next logical step - if there are any stadiums left standing. Come for the WMD, stay for the NFL.

And there are so many good team nickname possibilities. The Fallujah Counterinsurgents, the Basra Green Zone, the Baghdad Embedded Journalists.

And if they think Ayman al-Zawahiri is controversial, wait until they meet Terrell Owens. I mean, how many times has al-Zawahiri bragged about falling asleep during practice?

See, that's the problem. Over here we have our priorities straight. We know what's important (football) and what's not (a constitutional form of government). This is why news outlets will devote 72 percent more time to the resignation of Cowboys coach Bill Parcells than the president's State of the Union address.

This is what we need to be teaching in Iraq, but aren't. Yes, there might be some cultural strains. It will be hard to get used to the sight of cheerleaders with pompoms and burqas, and sports talk shows like "Pardon the Insurrection."

But football can work. Show me two extremists who are arguing over the Bowl Championship Series, and I'll show you two extremists who aren't driving a car bomb into a produce market.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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