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 media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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