I once met somebody who worked for a company that designed airplane parts. She said the most dangerous day of the year was the Monday before the college basketball tournament, because everybody in the firm – for that matter, most Americans with access to a computer – was busy filling out brackets.
It was bad enough that the company computers ran slow, she said – everybody ducking low in their cubicles, looking for upsets.
What made it worse, she said, was that she suspected the intricate calculations were affected by the preoccupation with the madness. Mistakes were being made on slow computers, she feared. And what if they affected the curve of a wing, the snugness of a rivet?
It was like the old automotive truism about not buying a car built on Monday. And for that matter, don’t buy a car built on Friday. Now we had to worry about airplanes planned on the Monday of madness?
I have no way of knowing how right she was. (She was not a sports fan, I got that point pretty clearly.)
However, I was reminded of that conversation on Monday when I filed what I thought was a fairly lucid critique of the HBO film about the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign.
The hits for that posting were 300 percent below my normal cadre of staunch loyalists.
Where was everybody? Picking Syracuse to go all the way before Fab Melo was dropped for academic deficiencies?
Maybe nothing will be normal for the next three weeks. Sunspots? Global warming? No, the N.C.A.A. tournament.
I’m watching Napoli-Chelsea on Wednesday, not filing.
Just hope that woman from the aviation company was exaggerating.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.