Many of the recent innovations in spectator sports have tended to make them more repetitious, such as baseball’s emphasis on homers, walks, or strikeouts, and basketball’s focus on three-point shooting. One of the more entertaining recent trends, however, is that American football teams are increasingly importing Australian Rules football players to do their punting for them. Australian Rules is a punting-centered species of the genus that includes soccer, rugby, and American football, so Australian football players tend to be both outstanding athletes and creative, which is not true of traditional American punters.
Five years ago, I wrote at vast length about the opportunities Aussie punters offer American football teams. And here’s a new ESPN article about how far the Australian pipeline to American football has progressed since then. (This is one of the rare occasions I’ve been ahead of the curve on sports, so I’m tooting my own horn here.)
My guess is that in the long run, Americans will figure out how to teach their own kids these superior techniques, so in a few decades, Americans will once again dominate the ranks of NFL punters, just as the soccer-style kicker revolution in American football in the 1960s-1970s wound up with an influx of foreign Garo Yepremian-style kickers, but now is back to being predominately American kickers using the once foreign style.
It’s an interesting topic in immigration studies: how many foreign experts do you need to import? The current conventional wisdom is, for example, that Americans would be eating nothing but meatloaf in 2019 if not for never-ending mass immigration, because only a MesoAmerican can do sushi right. But the history of soccer-style kicking in American football suggests you just need a small amount of elite immigration to introduce a new technique and then Americans can carry on from there.