Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Enjoy U.S. World Cup run for what it is

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by Bill Clinton's vocal chords: Bracing for the worst again today.

Q: So Clinton couldn't talk after witnessing the U.S. soccer team's 1-0 victory over Algeria this week, huh?

A: Nope. According to The Washington Post, the former president screamed so much while celebrating Landon Donovan's stoppage-time goal that he had to drink hot tea with honey for an hour to get his voice back. He's rearranged his schedule so he can be at the U.S.-Ghana game today.

Q: What's Clinton doing in South Africa in the first place?

A: Among other things, he's lobbying for the U.S. to be named the host of the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

Q: Is there a chance we earn the bid?

A: Depends on what your definition of "is" is. Nah, we've got a shot to host in 2022, but the smart money's on a European nation getting the 2018 nod.

Q: Would getting a bid "save" soccer in this country?

A: I'm glad you asked that. Because if the U.S. beats Ghana today to advance to the quarterfinals, I want you to do two things. First, I want you to enjoy it. And then I want you to ignore any media predictions that this team's run will boost soccer into the everyday consciousness of the American sports fan for years to come.

Q: So you don't believe that?

A: It's nonsense. People who watch soccer on a regular basis -- and I do -- are going to continue to watch soccer. People who don't watch now aren't suddenly going to become MLS fans when this is over. And you know what? That's perfectly OK. We ought to enjoy this run for what it is, a captivating event, and stop trying to make it something it's not. Casual fans entranced by this U.S. team might be more likely to watch the next World Cup, but they won't be cranking up blogs about the Bundesliga.

Q: Enough soccer. Now that all the conference realignment stuff is settled -- for now, anyway -- who was the biggest winner?

A: While it's tempting to say Nebraska (moved to the Big Ten) or Texas (received the Big 12's permission to start its own TV network), I'm going to go with Texas A&M. Oklahoma president David Boren confirmed this week that, while all this shuffling was taking place, the Aggies and Sooners received invitations to join the SEC.

Q: Texas A&M also was coveted by the Pac-10, wasn't it?

A: Yes. For a football program that's gone 17-21 over the past three years, it had to feel nice to be wanted in this way. It's also comforting heading into the next round of realignment, whenever that occurs.

Q: Any guess when that will happen?

A: Could happen in six years or six days. You just never know anymore.

Q: Despite multiple mock drafts predicting he would go in the second round, former Radford University post player Art Parakhouski didn't hear his name called among the 60 picks in Thursday's NBA draft. Surprised?

A: A little. Art was a fantastic player for the Highlanders, but I'm not sure he's quick enough to match up with NBA bigs, and I'm guessing general managers were wondering the same thing. The good news is that he now can try out for multiple teams instead of being locked in with a franchise that might not have an immediate need for him. Summer league games figure to be huge.

Q: Who will win Sunday's Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire?

A: Can't say Jeff Gordon this time. Too many guys want payback after his eventful day at Infineon Raceway last week, and several of them have little to lose. Denny Hamlin's the logical choice, but I'll say Tony Stewart gets his first victory of the year. Which means "Smoke" will finish last, 67 laps down, and Gordon will win.

Q: One last question about soccer: If the U.S. were somehow to win the World Cup, just shock everybody and do it as a 66-to-1 shot, how would our nation react?

A: Let's just say there's not enough hot tea and honey available to cure us. But man, would it taste sweet.

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