The World Cup begins this week in Russia, laughably minus one of the largest parts of the world, the United States.
The World Cup, of course, is the world championship of soccer. We play soccer in America – don’t we? – but not good enough to qualify for the quadrennial 32-team tournament.
Apparently, we stink.
If it is any consolation, we also stink in math, civil rights, education, gun control, supporting the arts, climate-change awareness, electoral security and cable news.
Since taking third in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, the U.S. has never finished higher than eighth.
If they had a World Cup of Chutney, we could not fare any worse.
Let me see if I understand this correctly:
We have hundreds of millions of people in this country, and we cannot find 20 of them who can play soccer?
How is this possible?
We used to do everything well.
We made better bombs, better bridges, better burgers.
We would build things and create things and invent things. We were the world’s leading producer of ideas and ingenuity.
Now pretty much all we do is produce reality TV.
Adding embarrassment to the fact that a former superpower could not qualify for the World Cup is the fact that decidedly unsuperpower Iceland did.
Let’s look at a couple of interesting integers:
U.S. population: 325 million – and probably 335 million by the next census, if you factor in illegals tunneling into our nation under the proposed border wall.
Iceland population: 337,000. That’s 337,000.
(My goodness, Iceland has fewer people than Aurora, Colorado, but Aurora regrettably has no goalkeepers.)
Number of Starbucks in U.S.: 13,000.
Number of Starbucks in Iceland: 0. That’s zero.
From this we can conclude, if we lived in a land with universal healthcare and no Starbucks – a longtime Couch Slouch dream – we’d have a better national soccer team and a better standard of living.
Adding insult to injury, Iceland’s soccer coach, HeimirHallgrimsson, was a part-time dentist until 2016. Wow. Working root canals by day, working the back four by night.
Alas, I love the World Cup – it might be the greatest sporting event I ever covered.
That’s right, back in my full-head-of-hair, premultiple-divorce youth, I occasionally left the front porch for the press box, joining the hoi polloi at a stadium or arena to take in an athletic contest.
I was working at The Washington Post in 1986 as a sports-TV columnist/copy editor when my boss called me into his office.
“You’re doing great work lately,” he told me. “I’d like to reward you by sending you to the World Cup. Interested?”
“How many people have turned this down already?”
He paused awkwardly, then said, “Six.”
“Sure, I’ll do it.”
That put me in Mexico for five sometimes glorious weeks, allowing me to witness Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the quarterfinals against England leading to Argentina’s 3-2 title-match win over Germany.
I was 27 years old. I thought I’d be covering World Cups for the rest of my life, but like Dan Marino – who got to the Super Bowl in his second year and never got back – I was sadly mistaken.
All I can do now is watch it on TV in Los Angeles, like many of Fox Sports’ World Cup announcers, except they’ll actually be broadcasting many of the games from 6,000 miles away while I’ll just be talking to myself, Yuengling in hand, wondering where our splendid, sky’s-the-limit American future went.
Ask The Slouch
Q. If POTUS found out that The Slouch does not get up from the Couch during the playing of the national anthem as a protest against Poker not yet being recognized as an Olympic sport, do you believe you’d have any chance of being invited and disinvited to the White House if your column was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? (Mort Faller; Potomac, Maryland)
A. That’s a lot of “ifs.” Speaking of which, I don’t even know if we are going to survive this big summit.
Q. Miss America will no longer judge contestants on physical appearance. Shouldn’t network sports producers follow this lead on sideline reporters? (David Berger; Charlotte, North Carolina)
A. Miss America will no longer judge contestants on physical appearance? Is the pageant shifting to radio? And where does this leave Hooters?
Q. If Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless are the talking heads of sports TV, are you the talking head of print? (Park Chapman; St. Petersburg, Florida)
A. The talking head of print? This must be why my paychecks get smaller and smaller every year.
Q. Aren’t the Cleveland Cavaliers like the Boston Red Sox after Babe Ruth went to New York since they’ve never won a ring without Matthew Dellavedova? (Pete Utheim; Spokane)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
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