Russia and Qatar.
Could it be any other way for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups when they were announced Thursday in Zurich? On the one hand it's fine to feign outrage that FIFA was essentially "bought out" by these two countries blessed with massive natural gas resources, while the earnest, honest bids from England and the United States were left to wonder about 2026.
Yet FIFA is a walking joke.
A gleeful, smiling manifestation of old-world corruption and cronyism. Maybe the only group of people that could make the BCS look transparent and enlightened.
Realistically, the only thing missing from the stage when Sepp Blatter opened the envelopes revealing the names of Russia and Qatar was him holding two comically over-sized sacks with "$$" scrawled on them.
How can sound infrastructure, already built (huge) stadiums, a massive population, hotels, eager fans and oh, safety, compete with the virtual wonders of Ali Baba's cave that Qatar promised to the FIFA delegates in form of brand new (air conditioned) stadiums?
One of the great misnomers in the world is that you have to be intelligent or rational to be a politician.
Let's double that for FIFA, who clear love a couple things: sashes, United Nations translation ear pieces and shiny things. These are people who's very ethos is to be wined and dined and scurried around into VIP enclaves of exclusive clubs and presidential hotel suites. Playing games in 150 degree summer heat on a tiny, nation on the Arabian penisula? Who cares! Pass the wine ... oh wait, no alcohol in Qatar? Err um ...
It's easy to be outraged by this whole process.
Logic and a Qatar hosting a World Cup go together about as well as peanut butter and toothpaste. Or Tila Tequila and the Juggalos.
Yet FIFA, to me, is beyond self parody.
It's a walking joke, on par with David Hasselhoff now staring in his own reality show. To about six billion people on planet earth, the World Cup to Qatar doesn't make a lick of sense, but to the stuffed shirts at FIFA it's perfectly reasonable under the logic of "spreading the sport." Sure there's outrage in the American soccer community this morning, but there's not a lot of surprise in the decision. The USMNT has been screwed over by FIFA enough in every capacity the last two decades, right?
Ask yourself this, too.
Why does Oceania get as much of a voice as the rest of the FIFA Federations? Pacific Island nation-states with microscopic populations get to decide the fate of the World Cup? Or the esteemed, honorable Jack Warner is actively employed by CONCACAF, the U.S's own federation? We're okay with this? (But what can be done?)
As bad as the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar seems, remember, it wasn't all that long ago that awarding the 1994 World Cup to the United States was mocked around the world, although it wasn't on Twitter, it was probably via Morse Code and smoke signals.
The World Cup and soccer survived 1994 and it will survive 2022. In 12 years, assuming the Mayans aren't right, we'll all still be watching on our neural, 3D brain implants. Life will go on.
Part of me is surprised I actually took the time to write this screed. When the whole process for the U.S. bidding on the 2018/22 World Cups began, it didn't thrill me too much. Part of me didn't think a nation as huge geographically as the United States would have the same magic of hosting the tournament like Germany did in 2006 when every single person and street corner was buzzing with the event.
The more I thought about it the last couple days, the more the bid warmed up to me. The problem was, it made too much sense. Sunil Gulati's Columbia-level economics Power Point presentation Wednesday in Zurich was too good, too smart for the stooges at FIFA who want trinkets, baubles and grandiose ideas. The macro and micro economics of the U.S.'s bid and how it would made FIFA plenty of money both in the short and long term, forget it ... when are we going to get to the fireworks factory?
During the U.S.'s presentation on Wednesday part of me wondered if Bill Clinton's rambling, low impact speech would've been more effective were he flanked by a pair of buxom Hooters' waitresses handing out free chicken wings.
Using FIFA logic, it probably would've have.
How could we ever forget. It was always, as ever, about the money. It's in the FIFA anthem, after all.
Cash rules everything around me.
C.R.E.A.M. get the money.
Doha Doha bills y'all.