In November 2022 – just a scant three years from now – comes the next World Cup, in Qatar. This will set up one of the extraordinary, epic collisions in recorded human history:
The global game meets global warming.
(I know what you’re thinking: Why can’t I write about Baker Mayfield shaving his handlebar mustache or LeBron James’ triple-double frenzy, or at least preview which nations are favored to win the World Cup? You want that stuff, go subscribe to The Athletic or marry Skip Bayless.)
(Do the words “existential threat” mean anything to you? I have been inspired by the 16-year-old Swede, Greta Thunberg; it’s time to get up, get out and shout about something other than College Football Playoff rankings.)
Qatar is hot, baby. And getting hotter.
Temperatures in its capital city, Doha, have risen five degrees since 1962. Earlier this decade, during what can only be described as a particularly unforgiving heat wave, they recorded an all-time high reading of 122.7 degrees.
The average high temperature in Qatar in June and July – when the World Cup is typically played – is 108 degrees; the average low is in the mid 80s.
So, why oh why, we might wonder, would FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, grant the World Cup to you-could-cook-an-egg-on-that-soccer-pitch Qatar?
Oh, I know, I know, I know!
(That’s the worldwide symbol for “lots of cash changing hands illicitly.”)
Speaking of which, let’s take a moment to celebrate FIFA, the IOC and the NCAA, the Mount Rushmore of autocratic, predatory, dystopian sporting warlords. For those of you new to the pillage-and-plunder game of monolithic athletic officialdom, IOC is short for International Olympic Committee, NCAA is short for National Collegiate Athletic Association and FIFA is short for Corrupt to the Core.
Anyway, upon further consideration, FIFA decided to push the 2022 World Cup back five months, to the milder climes of November and December.
It’s still no picnic made in the shade then.
Several weeks ago, Doha hosted the world track and field championships. The start time of the women’s marathon was moved to midnight, but with temperatures still near 90 degrees, 28 of the 68 runners failed to finish. First-aid responders literally outnumbered the competitors.
So when watching the 2022 World Cup, please note: They’re not flopping, they’re collapsing.
The next World Cup slogan is “Expect Amazing.”
It should be: “Expect Amazingly Non-Ambulatory Athletes.”
To combat the heat, Qatar is taking an unusual tack – it is air-conditioning the outdoors. Besides forced air cooling the playing fields, there will be vents under each stadium seat to comfort fans.
Now, I’m no rocket scientist – heck, I am barely a sports journalist – but while air conditioning relieves us from increasing heat, it is one of the causes of warming the planet, no? Qatar, by the way, is the largest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, three times as much as the United States and almost six times as much as Stephen A. Smith.
If FIFA had any conscience – I realize this is a fantastical notion – it would tie the 2015 Paris Agreement to World Cup qualifying. If you are not part of that climate accord, you cannot participate in the World Cup. Now, that would be a game changer. Sure, current U.S. officials might not care much about climate change or the future of the planet, but they definitely would not want to miss on a chance to kick some Ukrainian butt on the soccer pitch.
You think I’m kidding here? We often make a big deal about sports making a difference and leading the way to societal change. Well, what better spot to be a leader than saving the Earth?
More realistically, Couch Slouch has two easy solutions to alleviate World Cup health dangers:
1. Play the games with a running a clock.
2. Reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy, change what we eat and buy, consume less and waste less, travel smarter.
What, they already have a running clock? Dang. I guess we better do the other thing!
Ask The Slouch
Q. You seem to question student-athletes’ rights to earn. Didn’t you make money in college as a sportswriter? (M.J. Hunter; Naperville, Ill.)
A. I was a student-journalist at Maryland and got paid for my work in the campus newspaper – $6 for news articles, $4 for sports articles. This, in fact, jeopardized my amateur journalist status, but I chose to take the quick cash and dash my Fourth Estate Olympic dreams.
Q. If you put half the effort towards your column as your readers do when posing their thought-provoking questions, how much improvement would you see in your writing? (Jack Drury; Cumberland, Md.)
A. Uh, dunno.
Q. Politics is a blood sport in Washington, D.C. Keeping with this theme, will the impeachment hearings be commentated by Joe Buck? (Vince Banes; Silver Spring, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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