Here at ESPN The Magazine, we're all about next. And not just next week, or next year. We're already thinking about the next millennium. Which is why we asked the smartest forecasters and corporate futurists in the universe-or the smartest ones who would talk to us-to answer the really important questions about the future of sports. What's the next hot U.S. sport?
Michael Senchuk, partner, Creative Forecasting, Edmonton, Alberta: Women's professional baseball. They are not trying to position themselves as a big-time league at this moment, which is very healthy.
Joseph Coates, president and futurist, Coates & Jarratt, Washington, D.C.: Parallel Olympics for people who are steroid-enhanced and people who are not steroid-enhanced. You know, give the steroid crowd a shot at it. They may end up killing themselves, though.
Watts Wacker, chairman and futurist, FirstMatter, Westport, Conn.: Competitive fishing. It has much to do with mental and emotional states, as well as physical ones.
Sara the Psychic, New York City: Definitely fishing. Competitive fishing will be very in.
What's the next technology breakthrough?
Atul Dighe, futurist, Institute for Alternative Futures, Alexandria, Va.: More convincing, interactive virtual-reality environments will become prevalent. The question then is: Why would you want to watch basketball, when you yourself could play against MJ?
Peter Bishop, associate professor, Human Sciences Department, University of Houston at Clear Lake: A human clone probably will be created in the next 10 years. Who better to clone than Michael Jordan? Then you could have leagues made up of the clones of former players.
Watts Wacker: Just recently a guy had a successful human hand transplant. So I could see wide receivers getting transplanted hands that have fingers that are four inches longer.
What's the next big sports business trend?
Atul Dighe: Large corporations will buy teams and change their names. Instead of the Seattle Seahawks, you'll have the Seattle Windows '99. Some may even eliminate a city's name, so you might see the Ford Lions vs. the McDonald's Bears.
Watts Wacker: Corporations could buy entire leagues. Time Warner could own the NHL and Disney could own the NBA. This could happen fairly quickly.
What's the next team dynasty?
Betsy Thomson, psychic, New York City: The Cubs will win the Series within three years, but I keep getting the Braves more than anyone. They'll win three in a row in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Which superstar will retire next?
Betsy Thomson: John Elway. He has gone through a real heavy spiritual shift in his life. He's wondering what he's really supposed to be doing here on the planet.
Which big record will be next to fall?
Betsy Thomson: In three years, a real young guy, Italian or Latino, will break the home run record. It feels like he's from the East Coast.
What won't happen next-or ever?
Peter Schwartz, chairman and futurist, Global Business Network, Emeryville, Calif.: Whatever happens, I don't think society will tolerate games where people die.