A concept for limiting taxonomy terms by common fields

There are several modules that provide taxonomy term widgets that are more efficient at drilling down into large and complex vocabularies of terms, but I've not yet found something that just limits terms in some way.

The use case is somewhat like this: I have products that are classified by sport and by team. And teams can be rugby teams or football teams, and so on. Having one vocabulary per type of team feels somewhat weak, but putting them all in one vocabulary means the user has to wade through a lot of irrelevant terms.

So I've been thinking of ways to limit the terms in the field widget. I don't think this is something I'm going to develop (for reasons that will become clear), but it's just a wacky idea[*] I'm putting out there.

I've discarded my initial thought to use a hierarchy of terms, because that would result in terms that are essentially empty: the group of football team terms is not correctly a team term. It would also mean needing to prevent its selection in the widget, and its appearance in filter forms.

What I've landed on as a concept instead seems wacky but I think makes a lot of sense: now we can have fields on anything, we can match them. What I mean by this is that we compare the value in the 'sport' field on the product, and the value in the identical sport field applied to the terms. (Yes, taxonomy terms on taxonomy terms. It was bound to happen eventually, right?)

In terms of IA, this is actually quite simple and logical: add a term reference field to the team vocabulary, and add the sport field, which is already on products, to the team terms (which the client will be doing; I have no idea what teams belong to what sport).

In terms of the work the UI has to do, it's not that complex either once it's laid out. It goes like this: when the value in the sport field changes, make an ajax call on the team field. In the callback, load all the terms. For each term, look at its team value. Does that match the current value of the sport field in the product form? If so, let the term into the new options array. If not, discard it.

It's simple, but I've hit a problem: we have two really good JavaScript systems in Drupal 7 that work very well individually, but as far as I can tell live in completely different universes. The states system is great for telling one form element to show, hide, or change its value depending on the value of another element. The ajax system is great for telling one form element to react to a change in itself by updating something via ajax. What I don't see how to do is get the term reference widget element to watch for changes in other elements (like the states system does), and then update itself with ajax (using the ajax system ideally).

So that's where I've hit the buffers: my JavaScript skills are pretty minimal, and so that's where I leave this latest wacky idea for now. I've got proof-of-concept code of a term reference widget updating itself via ajax based on form values, but the missing piece is getting it to react to changes in another field, whose form elements can't be altered in PHP (because the term reference widget is being changed in hook_field_widget_form_alter(), which only sees that form element). I'd be grateful for any hints; I actually think this model is not as wacky as it first seems and could have a lot of applications.

[*] Back at DrupalCon London I chanced upon a conversation webchick and stella were having about Coder review automation on Drupal.org, and prefixed a suggestion with, 'I've got a wacky idea...', to which webchick said, 'When are your ideas not wacky?' I don't know whether it was just an off the cuff quip, or whether I really do come up with a lot of crazy stuff. I guess I can live with that reputation ;)