Editor’s Note: The following is a satirical article for The DisreGuardian, a series of articles published annually for The Guardian’s April Fool’s issue. Sports will resume publishing normal content next week.
In a move that shocked NFL general managers, the San Francisco 49ers traded a haul of picks to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft, where they selected a non-fungible token (NFT) depicting Ohio State University quarterback Justin Fields.
“We’re really happy with this pick,” said 49ers general manager John Lynch. “There’s been so much speculation around which quarterback will be the best in the long term, but when compared to recent top quarterback picks like Mitch Trubisky and Dwayne Haskins, we think that this JPEG file offers us the most return on investment.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan also seemed excited with the NFT pickup.
“We looked at the rulebook, and there’s no rule that says that a blockchain token representing unique ownership of a digital image can’t play football,” Shanahan said. “We even considered trading Jimmy [Garoppolo] for an NFT too, but have you seen him? He’s practically art already.”
Meanwhile, Justin Fields, the man himself, said, “Great. Just one more group of people who are going to make money off me without giving me any.”
With the pick, the NFL is following in the footsteps of the NBA’s Top Shot marketplace, where a digital card displaying a LeBron James block has sold for $100,000. Digital marketplaces like Top Shot offer prospective buyers all the excitement of the card-based gambling in games like “NBA 2K” for many times the cost and much less fun.
Even NBA owners are getting into the mix. “I get to enjoy knowing I own my Maxi Klieber [sic] dunk Moment, along with knowing the serial number and much more,” wrote Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on his blog, which one supposes is the sort of thing you say when you run out of any other things to spend your $4 billion on.
For insight on what NFT’s are, I turned to Matt Sheffield, a computer science PhD recipient who specializes in blockchain and is now a freelancer for tech website The Verge. The following is a transcript of our phone interview.
The UCSD Guardian: So what are NFT’s?
Matt Sheffield: NFTs are essentially a unique certificate that designates that you own the digital item in question, even though other people will be able to view it.
The Guardian: So what you’re paying for doesn’t really have any value? Just the possibility that someone else could buy it for more money for the same reason?
Sheffield: Exactly — but you might argue that this is what happens in the art world all the time, and it’s cool to see a decentralized system of ownership that can adapt these hype-based markets to the digital age in a democratized—
The Guardian: So it’s a Beanie Baby, but you don’t even get a cute stuffed animal?
Sheffield: [hangs up]
Nonetheless, advocates of NFTs insist that the underlying system is fundamentally no different than the system underlying modern currency, a fact that is supposed to make us more confident about NFT’s but instead inspires this writer to invest in a survival bunker.
There are arguments on both sides: on the one hand, Elon Musk tweeting that we should buy US dollars isn’t going to quintuple the price of the Namibian dollar, which is a real thing that basically happens all the time now. On the other hand, the US dollar depends just as much on trust as the value of an NFT, and the dollar doesn’t even come with a cool picture of an astronaut with crystals growing out of him. So you tell me which one is really valueless.
If this NFT trend does hold, I look forward to the day in 2052 when I trade Julian Edelman’s NFT of a Patriots-inspired Pokemon for bread to feed my children. Hey, if we’re going to live in a dystopia, we might as well live in one that has Rare items.
Photo courtesy of TigerNet.com