While writing my science fiction novel, ULTRA BOWL, about an NFL team that’s “time-napped” and transported 100 years into the future, I had to invent a history that would explain why, in the year 2115, robots played professional football instead of humans. It had to be plausible or my story wouldn’t work. You be the judge.
Football: The Next Hundred Years?
While America busied itself building the Internet, Japan became a leader in robotics. Meanwhile, China, the “sleeping dragon,” awoke to become the cheap manufacturing center for the entire world, and increasingly employed robots. With access to the latest technologies, the Chinese copied advanced robotics and quickly became a technology leader to be reckoned with.
A few decades into the 21st Century, during an International Robotics Exhibition, China unveiled a robot football team—what better way to challenge America’s technological dominance—and promoted robot exhibition games with Japan. Though people were curious, the American media cynically labeled these exhibition games the ultimate version of Kick the Can. In a few short years, however, robot performances improved significantly and a robot football league, the RFL, was launched.
Although it seemed like a joke at first, the RFL became a worldwide phenomenon and soon attracted hardcore fans. It wasn’t long before the NFL was besieged by a groundswell of interest in a “friendly” exhibition game with the RFL. The NFL declined, claiming that humans competing against machines did not represent the highest values of the league and its fans.
However, as the years passed, corporate America, increasingly controlled by the robotics industry, realized that robot football was the perfect marketing vehicle for their latest products. Where once the Super Bowl was the most prized, viewed and expensive ad space, an actual game of robots, showcasing the latest technology would become one big ad. The game's point-spread would determine tech supremacy and ultimately market share.
They lobbied the government to develop a U.S. robot football team that could compete with China, Japan and the German-led EU. The United States could not allow other countries to control the robotics market, which had become the most important integrative technology of the world economy. By the mid-21st Century, the United States government, pressured by lobbyists and major campaign donors, decided to face up to the challenge of robot football and established the National Android Football Administration or NAFA. Like the old NASA, its mission was to coordinate a massive technological effort, not to put a man on the moon, but to field the best football-playing robot team in the world.
Each year NAFA unveiled new and improved models that incorporated the latest advances in carbon nano-tube technology. At first, the U.S. team was no match for the other nations. But NAFA soon caught up, and the United States began to be competitive.
Ironically, as the audience for robot football grew, interest in human football declined. In a desperate attempt to compete with the increasingly popular robot games, the NFL waived the rules that protected players in order to make the game more violent and entertaining. Despite the NFL’s “blood & guts” strategy, attendance plummeted.
Finally, the interests of an increasing percentage of Americans who believed football was too violent, and the interests of the Robot-Industrial-Complex, combined in a powerful political movement that legislated the abolition of professional football. The NFL was disbanded. Professional football played by humans was outlawed. This over-reaction lasted less than a decade. The prohibition was repealed, but by then it was too late. With no audience and no TV money, people stopped playing football.
As the 22nd century dawned, the RFL world championship became the ultimate technological battleground in the economic wars waged between nations. It was called the Ultra Bowl because if a nation stumbled, stocks tumbled and economies crumbled. In less than fifty years, the Ultra Bowl evolved from a freak sideshow spectacle to the preeminent global event that determined the world’s economic and geopolitical balance-of-power.