In his first post for PNIG, Doug Starnes lets his imagination go wild and predicts a World Cup based on the nicknames of the teams. Slightly mad, riotously inventive, and certainly funny, this is the first of a series. Stay tuned for more in due course…
Fight Cup: A Literal World Cup
When I was young, I watched an episode of the Twilight Zone in which these three teenaged boys caught a leprechaun who granted them each a wish. One boy wished his parents would do anything he told them to do; one wished for x-ray vision in order to “look at girls and stuff”; and the last boy wished for a limousine with a driver who doesn’t have to be told what to do and an unlimited supply of fuel. Pretty tame wishes I suppose, but it was the 80s.
Anyhow, the boy who wishes for absolute control of his parents soon realizes they won’t do anything without him telling them to. “Make me a pizza,” turns into, “Go to the refrigerator. Open the door. Remove the frozen pizza. Remove the packaging from the frozen pizza. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees…” You get the point.
Pervy x-ray guy realizes he can’t control the depth to which his x-ray vision penetrates. Rather than being able to peer through blouses and bras, he mostly just sees bones and guts. This makes him physically ill.
The last boy’s wish turns into a disaster when the autonomous driver not only doesn’t have to be told what to do, but does whatever he damn well pleases. This leads to a police chase, a crash, and a trip to the Gray Bar Hotel.
Basically, leprechauns are like the mythical creature manifestation of the fine print at the bottom of a lottery ticket and will miss no opportunity to interpret any and all of your wishes as literally as possible so as to teach you a moral lesson. You’re better off with a genie.
For some reason, explicable only to the inner workings of my mind, this episode sprang to mind the other day as I was reading an article in which the author predicted the outcome of every World Cup match as if God Himself wrote it in stone. This struck me as absurd and ridiculous given every team in the cup is only one Strootman or Falcao away from seeing its hopes dashed before the first team even touches down in Brazil. There’s always a World Cup flop. There’s always a Cinderella. Group play is a crapshoot of luck, form, and mathematical gymnastics. At present, it’s an unknowable puzzle.
But what if the thirty-two nations traveling to Brazil in June, hijacked by some Twilight Zone leprechaun, were forced to field teams comprised of the most literal manifestations of their national sides in a winner-take-all fight to the end? Would eleven blue samurai stand a chance against eleven elephants? Could eleven dragons best eleven super eagles? What the hell is a super eagle?
Same groups, same schedule, same tournament structure. Three points for a win, one point for a draw. ninety-minute matches to take place on a football pitch…just no actual football. These are straight up brawls. Who am I to say whether or not three lions could actually kick a ball into a goal against an extinct indigenous tribe from South America? That’s just silly.
A note on method: In researching the various nicknames given to the thirty-two national teams that qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I came across both well known and obscure alternative names. In such cases, I chose the name that made the most sense as a physical entity engaged in a ninety-minute dust up. When no such name could be found, I went with the most well known nickname and interpreted it as literally as possible.
A note on numbers: With teams such as Japan – the Blue Samurai – it seemed to make sense to cap their numbers at eleven. It’s football after all, and there’s no component of the nickname that justifies any more or any fewer samurai. But with sides like England – the Three Lions – I couldn’t justify giving them eight more lions. It would ruin the nickname and make for a terribly unwieldy association patch. Also, sides like Uruguay – Los Charruas – are named after an entire indigenous people who ultimately met their untimely end in a massacre in 1831 at Salsipuedes Creek (bet you didn’t know that). In such cases, I stuck with the guiding principle of literal interpretation and went with the whole crew, numbers be damned. “But they’re extinct,” you say? Well, dragons (Bosnia and Herzegovina) don’t exist either. Get over it.
Brazil – Canarinho
Mexico – La Plaga Negra
Cameroon – The Indomitable Lions
Croatia – The Blazers
12 June 17:00 – Canarinho v The Blazers – This is hardly a match to get the blood pumping. I’m sure in Hrvatski “The Blazers” translates to something altogether more awesome, but I don’t speak Hrvatski and “The On Fire Ones” sounds like an epically mistake prone side.
Essentially, it comes down to this: In ninety minutes, could a motivated “Little Canary” muster the energy and fortitude of beak to render eleven blazers unwearable? Certainly, eleven blazers lying on a football pitch aren’t going to trouble even a little canary unduly. The best Croatia could hope for here is a draw. However, I think it’s a false hope. Given that canaries, both the domestic and Atlantic varieties, feed on grass, weeds, and insects, certainly abundant ingestibles on a steamy Brazilian football pitch, I think it’s the cloaca rather than the beak about which The Blazers have to worry. I think Brazil squeezes this one out at the final whistle. All three points to the Canarinho!
13 June 13:00 – La Plaga Negra v The Indomitable Lions – The Black Plague is nothing to screw around with and, drawn in any other group, Mexico might stand a chance of advancing in the tournament. However, after searching “Can lions get Bubonic Plague” for perhaps the first time in Google’s history, I was unable to turn up any evidence that lions, much less indomitable ones, were at any risk of succumbing to the dreaded pestilence. And at any rate, although the Black Death does in its victims pretty quickly by pathogen standards, we’re still looking at two days on the fast end. Mexico wouldn’t get beaten as much as they’d just run out of time.
What works in Mexico’s favor, however, is that Indomitable Lions certainly aren’t cleverer than a phalanx of scientists who have yet to eradicate the disease. The Curative Lions might stand more of chance, but that’s not nearly as intimidating a nickname. I think this match mostly looks like eleven badass lions milling around on the pitch for ninety minutes. Draw.
17 June 16:00 – Canarinho v La Plaga Negra – You thought a little canary pecking and defecating upon eleven perfectly good blazers made for a barely watchable match and I thought I’d never again have to Google the likelihood of bubonic plague contraction in non-human members of the animal kingdom. We are fools both of us.
Remember when you were a kid and you went to the zoo and stood awestruck at the lion enclosure? Such power! Such grace! Such regal beings! This match will leave spectators pining away for the Mexico v Cameroon draw. You know where they keep canaries? Coal Mines. Draw.
18 June 18:00 – Indomitable Lions v Blazers – This match is over before it begins a la Germany v Saudi Arabia in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Savile Row or British Home Stores, it matters not. The Blazers are shredded in the first half and the Indomitable Lions spend the remaining forty-five minutes plus stoppage time as Indomitable Kittens playing with newly formed balls of yarn. Win to the Indomitable Lions!
23 June 17:00 – Indomitable Lions v Canarinho – On the surface, this looks an easy final match for Cameroon. I mean, a little canary seemingly stands very little chance against eleven lions, but lions aren’t known for their consumption of song birds and the little canary, diminutive though it is, does have the power of flight.
This match is an unexpected, cagey affair predicated on tactics with the hosts hoping for a draw to be enough to book their passage to the round of sixteen. However, a canary cannot possibly fly uninterrupted for forty-five minutes. Canaries have a massively high metabolism and need near constant food even just to sing.
Brazil’s plucky Canarinho is going to have to eat sometime, and it’s either insects on the field amongst those Indomitable Lions or concessions in the stands purchased by the match attendees. Should the little canary choose to land anywhere outside the field of play without the referee’s permission– you know, to avoid all those murderous lions – well, forfeit. If, however, the Canarinho lights upon the pitch in an effort to fuel that buzzing heart of his, I’m guessing one of the Indomitable Lions finds a way to get a quick snack. Either way, three points to Cameroon!
23 June 17:00 – Blazers v La Plaga Negra – This match is unwatchable. Business casual takes on an infectious disease. Everyone loses. Draw.
Group A Results:
W L D Points
Cameroon 2 0 1 7
Brazil 1 1 1 4
Mexico 0 0 3 3
Croatia 0 2 1 1
The next instalment, Group B, will be up soon. Follow Doug on Twitter here.