Bid Fatigue

Monday, November 29, 2010 | View Comments

Warning: I didn't know where this was going when I started, so it's completely slapped together and borders on incoherence.  Read at your own risk. - JD

Here we are, finally inhabiting the part of the calendar that will see a decision made on the sites of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Anticipation fills soccer fans around the world, from Australia to Qatar (all twenty-something of them - feels good to use that joke after hearing it for so long from American soccer-haters) Russia, England, and the United States.

Yet I'm left with a feeling of...hell, I'm not even sure anymore.

Ambivalence isn't the right word, because I do desperately want the World Cup to come back the United States. Another tournament here, twelve years from now when the country is truly ready to do it right beyond tickets sold (think coverage, hype, actually having an operating domestic league that could/will/should benefit), would be a shot of nitrous to the steady growth we've seen since 1994. MLS will a quarter-century old. Purely on the selfish front, I have no reason to believe I won't have fourteen years (this number boggles the mind, by the way) of covering American soccer under my belt, whatever that might mean for my ability to experience an American World Cup, and my son will be 14 and ready to appreciate the tournament. That last fact alone has me daydreaming.

It's not trepidation either, because FIFA has proven that there's no room for that feeling among the informed. How can I allow myself to be nervous when I have no faith the tournament will be given to the most deserving bidder? Yes, I'm biased, convinced that the United States is  more deserving of second World Cup than Qatar or Australia is of their first. If it was a simple matter of "best bid", I might even find room to accept that the US could be beaten out because the voters see things a bit differently than I do. But it's not, we all know that, and so I sit here staring at my calendar with "December 2nd" in bold print too weary and too knowledgeable to conjure up any angst.

FIFA, the World Cup bidding process, years of Jack Warner's shenanigans, allegations of bribery, the English press being told to shut it lest their country miss out: it's all enough to bring me to the conclusion that Thursday's decision shouldn't be allowed to affect my mood. It's not about the principles of the bid (i.e., IF THE US LOSE THAT'S OKAY BECAUSE IT PROVED OUR BID WASN'T DIRTY - OR DIRTY ENOUGH - AND GOOD FOR GULATI AND DOWNS FOR REFUSING TO BEND OVER FOR BLATTER AND THE COLLECTED SCUM OF THE FOOTBALL WORLD), because I'd willingly trade the principles of others (yes, easy for me to say - if it would sully my name or trouble my conscience, would I willingly bribe someone?) for USA 2022. But I suppose it is about my personal principles. I can't stand bullying. I believe strongly in the freedom of the press. The constant stream of corruption allegations and audacious denials in the face of verifiable evidence has finally pushed me passed the point, I believe, where losing 2022 would injure my soccer soul. I'm suppressing my rooting interest, either because the process has sickened me to the point of doing so, or I'm just tired of thinking about it.

The next few days will be particularly painful because we'll be bombarded by stories with little substance that contradict themselves (QATAR PULLS AHEAD IN WORLD CUP RACE...US GETS ELEVENTH HOUR BOOST...AUSSIES CONFIDENT AHEAD OF VOTE), more revelations of FIFA improprieties or the fallout over the Panorama broadcast, and various kvetching about what a World Cup could mean for the US (not that I blame anyone writing that one).

I can picture it now: the US loses and the cynical teardown begins. American soccer fans will either cry foul, take aim at "those responsible" (Gulati, chief among them), or lament the loss of the World Cup as a potential boon to Major League Soccer, the US Men's National Team, or both. Increase the volume of the first by a factor of one thousand should it be Qatar that comes out on top. Most takes will be understandable. Only some will be delivered with a measure of thought and appreciation of all factors. None will change a thing.

This is where I acknowledge that the US has just as much of a chance to win as anyone, because who knows, and that the explosion of interest in soccer (slow to really start in the mainstream, but spiking due to initial burst of coverage) will be massive for the game. There, I've acknowledged it. Moving on.

So Thursday will come, and we'll either have an American World Cup to look forward to in the distant future or we'll be left with a room full of coroners hacking away in something that resembles an autopsy of the failed attempt (parallels to the Chicago Olympic bid anyone?). I'm not even sure I'll be able to enjoy a celebration (in whatever form it takes) at this point, or if it would be wrong of me to feel elated. If something valuable is given to you by someone despicable, is it okay to take it? Is it even possible to do so with a clear conscious?

See what this is doing to me? I'm having an existential crisis over a soccer tournament that wouldn't even happen for something like 4,200 days.

Enough already.

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