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March Madness Comes to the Vatican

As a former altar boy and lifelong semi-religious believer on a spiritual quest for a short answer to the ever-burning question, “Think fast, what’s the meaning of life,” I think the new Pope might want to reconsider exactly how his successor will be chosen. With all respect to tradition, there are many more media-friendly alternatives available today that might come in handy at a time when the Church could use some good P.R.

He might consider teams of select Cardinals squaring off in a competition akin to the “The Apprentice,” maybe without Donald Trump as the host, but rather Tom Monaghan, former Detroit Tigers owner and founder of Dominoes Pizza and a number of Catholic educational institutions? Or let the faithful have a voice and stage a full-fledged “Roman Catholic Idol,” with aspirants for the office appearing live on television to give inspirational sermons while their adoring public texts in votes for their favorites. Or better yet, how about a “Survivor: Vatican City” challenge?

I am very encouraged that a number North Americans, including Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, from Montreal were in the running. A dark horse candidate to be sure, but think of the possibilities here. ‘O Canada,’ arguably the world’s most spiritually uplifting anthem, could in the future be sung before services just like at hockey games. And if he won, the Swiss Guards might have to be replaced by NHL referees. Who better to handle the job?

Actually, for many years I’ve thought cities should consider including experienced refs in their crime-fighting units. My idea is that they would patrol neighborhoods on roller blades and put offenders in penalty boxes set up next to bus stops as a contemporary version of the old stocks. And the offenses would be announced publicly, just like at the games. “Jimmy Clark, 413 West Boulevard: Five minutes for intentional jiving,” for example.


Thom Connors is regional vice-president of the venue-management company SMG and General Manger at the Cobo Center in Detroit. He is a 30-year veteran of the event industry, having managed venues in Orlando, Miami and Puerto Rico. His column appears exclusively on SportsTravelMagazine.com.