Should Other Sports Follow WWE's Lead and Play for the Troops?

Martin BentleyCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2008

This Saturday night, WWE will air its annual Tribute to the Troops special on NBC. Every year, wrestlers head out to either Iraq or Afghanistan and put on a free show for all the troops in the local area, and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has said many times that to him, the show is bigger than WrestleMania, as it's a show of personal fulfillment, and it boosts morale for troops who may well miss their families and loved ones over Christmas.

UFC has also started hosting a show, Fight for the Troops, which they hold at a military base in the United States, with fight purses and bonuses going to charity, as well as pledges from fans. The work both companies do for the US military is astounding, but I'm going to see now if the same idea would work for other sports around the world.

As far as US sports go, at college level, the various departments such as the Army, the Navy and the Air Force put out teams, so the troops actually compete on the field. But how would the professional teams take to playing games, not necessarily in Iraq or Afghanistan, but exclusively for free in front of just troops?

The idea may work better for a short game such as basketball, where the NBA plays 82 games a season, and it would be easy to slot in a special game to entertain the military. Baseball could also slot in an exhibition game in Iraq, where the troops wouldn't care about the result, just that they get to see their heroes and see their national past-time played right in front of them. It might not be such a good idea for the NFL, where fans are debating the games in London and Toronto as it is.

Moving out of the US, I'd like to take a closer look at British troops. They get entertained on occasions as well, but they usually make do with a few Page Three girls and the odd comedian or musical act. What if two English Premier League teams played a friendly for the troops?

There is still fierce debate about the controversial "39th Game", where an additional game for each team would be played abroad, but I don't think there would be much of a problem playing for free where the result doesn't matter. There may be concerns about security, but the EPL could always consult with the likes of WWE on how to look after players.

Rugby Union would also be a very popular sport to be played out in the war zones. A lot of British troops in particular are rugby fans, and rugby players may well be more likely to go out and play for the military.

In Britain, too much focus is placed on the negative side of war, with countless deaths, bad treatment, lack of funding etc. By having sports stars not only go over and visit, but to play in front of troops, it can show the positive side of life at war, boost morale, and maybe even convince a few more people to sign up and fight for their country. The WWE has shown this on many occasions, maybe it's time other sports followed their example.