• The World Cup Is A Preening Spectacle For Third-World Thugs

    We’re two weeks away from the World Cup – or “a fortnight removed” as those who care about the World Cup might say – and the thing has so many problems it makes Obamacare look efficient.

    In the host country of Brazil, the Arena de Sao Paulo, site of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia, doesn’t have all the seats installed, much less the paint, the parking lot and the venders in place. There will be no beta testing for this one: just open the doors and see how 61,606 South American soccer fans fare on their own.

    Sao Paulo isn’t the only problem. Stadiums in Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Cuiabá still lack walls and windows while other venues haven’t even finished the roads yet. This is shaping up to make Putin’s no-working-toilet Sochi Olympics look downright state-of-the-art.

    Then there are the protests. We would call them riots but Brazilians are far less eager to slap labels on civil unrest. A poor country, back-to-back worldwide sporting events (venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics are even further behind schedule) and the $3.6 billion spent on soccer stadiums alone are just too much for the locals.

    But should we expect anything else? This is, after all, an event that, when it was last held in South Africa in 2010, introduced the world to the vuvuzela and the most annoying, incessant racket in the history of mankind.

    Of course we’re all supposed to watch. Only rubes would tune into baseball or the NBA Finals while “the beautiful game” is being contested on such a grand stage. But there’s one problem: basketball, where touching another player was once considered a foul, looks like UFC cage fighting compared to soccer. And baseball, as noncontact and slow as a sport can get, is 100 times more interesting.

    The night of the opening kickoff – or whatever the hell they call the start of a soccer game – at least one or two Major League Baseball batters will be hit by pitches, most of them going very fast. Those guys will take off their helmets and batting gloves and trot to first base without rubbing their injury a single time. I can also guarantee you that at least one soccer player will be brushed lightly by an opponent and go down like he’s been shot by a sniper, wailing and writhing on the ground in the hopes that the silk-pantied referee will pull out one of those silly yellow cards and hold it up to the offender like a timeout note in kindergarten.

    You can say none of this without being raked over the coals as a jingoistic buffoon, a Neanderthal who appreciates none of the finer elements of sport…like drunken pub brawls, stadium knife fights and the beheading of players who miss important shots.

    But let’s face facts: the World Cup isn’t about sport or fans or goodwill or any of the rot we’ll be fed in two weeks time: it’s a dandy dress up for dictators and despots; a preening spectacle for third-world thugs (the English are excused since they also have Rugby).

    Just to prove that I’m not some beer-swilling American football nutter with no appreciation for the fluidity of the game, how ‘bout we have a Hurling World Cup complete with kilts and ax-shaped camáns. The Irish would obviously have the upper hand since it’s their game. But with four years to figure it out and bigger, stronger, faster and meaner athletes than all the banana republics combined, I like our chances.

    Steve Eubanks

    Steve Eubanks is a New York Times best selling author and award winning sportswriter. A former PGA golf professional, he lives in Georgia with his wife and family. His latest book is called ALL AMERICAN: Two Young Men, the 2001 Army-Navy Game and the War They Fought in Iraq.

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