THE COUCH SLOUCH

Burning questions about how hot it will be at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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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 is 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.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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