The World Cup, which begins June 11, will make stars and break them. It will bring some names to households and have others become curse words.
So here is an entirely unscientific prognostication of five players who will come out with their names emblazoned in lights and enveloped in the songs of angels.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Here's what these World Cup finals will reveal about the undisputed best player in the world: How Argentinean is he? Messi has lived in Spain since he was 13, and plays for Barcelona. The whispers in Argentina are that he doesn't feel all that much of an Argentine citizen any more. And that he isn't terribly fond of coach Diego Maradona. Maradona's hand is most famous for having directed the ball (at the behest, it is said, of God) into the net during the 1986 World Cup against England. His head, however, has never proved to be all that adept at, well coaching. Indeed, he'd never been a head coach until Argentina put him in charge in 2008.
The World Cup needs Messi to inspire a whole new generation. And Messi needs to show that the brilliantly negative tactics used by Inter-Milan-- they pressed him so hard that it seemed like he was playing in a cupboard-- to snuff him out of the European Champions League don't always work.
2. Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
There is one step Sneijder has yet to take. The one that suggests he can take control of a game.
He has the skill and, it appears, the temperament. And yet he struggled to establish himself in the madhouse that is Real Madrid. There again, Phil Spector might not even appreciate the madhouse that is Real Madrid. Sneijder's time, now that he is with Inter-Milan, may well have come. Just as music master Spector's has gone.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Oh, he's a poser, a preener, a legend of the body hair removal industry. He has recently been seen almost perpetually in underwear. First modeling Emporio Armani's very tight briefs and then on the front cover of Vanity Fair. But Real Madrid's striker can turn a game just as he turns the heads of sophisticated women like Kim Kardashian.
Some say that his stepover moves have now become predictable. But if he can cut out the diving and conniving, he can establish himself as more than just a pretty, well, you insert the noun.
4. Fernando Torres (Spain)
It was impossible to take David Beckham seriously after he wore a skirt on an evening out with his wife in the mid-1990s. However, it was almost equally difficult to take Torres seriously when he kept playing in a headband to keep his blond locks from getting into his eyes.
Still, despite his slight build, Torres enjoys the body control of Lady Gaga and can score with a will not seen since Heather Mills muscled her way into Paul McCartney's life. It's not that he is the very quickest, but his speed of thought often turns defenders into mannequins. Torres has the kind of players around him who can make him look even better than Madonna's bicep machine. Torres, who has been hobbled by a knee injury, is expected to play Tuesday in a warm-up game against Poland.
5. Maicon (Brazil)
Why on earth would you want to watch a defender? Well, Maicon isn't your normal defender.
He wafts forward, as if he understands that it's only by wafting forward that people will notice him. In this, he follows in the great Brazilian tradition of Carlos Alberto and Roberto Carlos. Yes, Maicon doesn't seem to have a Carlos in his name. In fact, his real name is Douglas. Douglas Sisenando, to be precise. But, in a squad built for effectiveness rather than beauty, he might be the most creative Brazilian on the field.
Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing, and an avid sports fan. He is also the author of the popular CNET blog Technically Incorrect.
Is gambling a sin?
Parishioners in Our Lady with St. Etheldreda Church can ponder that and many other questions of morality in the newly unveiled Paddy Power "Sin Bin."
The 10,000-pound donation got the confession box built, along with Paddy Power's logo and the words "Sin Bin" on the green curtain covering the structure.
The church's location in Newmarket, Suffolk offers a certain symmetry for the deal, as Newmarket is considered the home of British horse-racing.
Paddy Power spokesman Ken Robertson described the genesis of the "Sin Bin" to the Mail Online:
"It was just before Christmas when we got an unsolicited call from a man on the fundraising committee at the church. He said Newmarket was the home of flat-racing in Britain and he asked would we sponsor an event to help pay for a new confession box. I half-jokingly floated the idea that if we paid for the confession box could we put our name to it - and he spoke to the priest, who was well up for it.'
According to Robertson, there's no conflict in having a betting firm sponsor a confessional in a house of God.
'The church approached us - and at the end of the day, Newmarket church now has a confession box, which they wouldn't have had.'
Fr. Michael Griffin, a priest at the parish, told The Daily Telegraph: 'It was suggested by a parishoner that we should ask Paddy Power for help because of its horse-racing connections. We were very pleased when they generously agreed. We were happy to put a plaque up on the side of the box, which we refer to as a reconciliation room, and I have mentioned Paddy Power in a sermon.'
The first person to seek absolution in the "Sin Bin" - Italian jockey Frankie Dettori.
Martina Navratilova, legendary tennis player and one of the greatest female athletes of her generation, says she has breast cancer.
Navratilova, 53, in an interview with People magazine, says doctors detected the cancer early and the prognosis is excellent.
The nine-time Wimbledon champion said she cried upon first hearing the news.
"It knocked me on my ass, really. I feel so in control of my life and my body, and then this comes, and it's completely out of my hands," she told People.
The form of breast cancer Navratilova has is DCIS, which affects the milk ducts and has not spread to the breast tissue, Dr. Mindy Nagle said.
Navratilova, who still plays tennis and competes in triathlons, and serves as a fitness ambassador for AARP, told the magazine she is lucky the cancer was caught so early since she had not scheduled a mammogram in four years.
"I let it slide. Everyone gets busy, but don't make excuses. I stay in shape and eat right, and it happened to me," she said. "Another year and I could have been in big trouble."
If I had to tack up a motto on my office wall it might well be: You Never Know Who You'll Meet while on assignment. So it was on Tuesday at the Masters. Everywhere I turned it seemed I was crossing paths with a carousel of characters from the past along with some new-found friends.
The first Character, with a capital C, was David Feherty, CBS Sports' intrepid on-course golf reporter. David showed up at our remote site at Augusta Country Club before dawn wired for his live shot on The Early Show. And I mean triple Venti, double-caff, three sugars kind of wired. Really, no sooner had we shaken hands than David, in his Irish brogue, launched into a hysterical yarn featuring breakfast, a broken rib, an Alpha sneeze, some All-Bran cereal, the fetal position, and - as the punch line - the prospect of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by his esteemed but suddenly shaken CBS colleague, Vern Lundquist. What a way to start the day.
Moments later, shortly after my live report, I looked over to the ABC location next door to view the arrival of two old friends, Rick Reilly and Christine Brennan in advance of their appearance on "Good Morning America." Riles is now part of the ESPN/Disney empire and simply one of the best sports writers on Earth; Christine a remarkably insightful, no-nonsense columnist for USA Today. Rick and I got to reminiscing about our days together at Sports Illustrated in the '80s, while Ms. Brennan - ever the versatile one - took to applying a little makeup to the face of both Feherty and Reilly. Don't ask. In the meantime Rick is telling me about his new book out next month. It's based upon his two-year trip around the world seeking - and I kid you not -- the stupidest sports on earth. I won't reveal the winner but word is it involves a...ferret.
My next stop was Tiger Watch, Day II. As luck would have it, no sooner did I step on the immaculate, sun-splashed grounds of Augusta National than Woods and his practice partner for the day, his good bud Mark O'Meara, were walking off the ninth green. The crowds swelling around the pair were enormous, double in size from the day before, so I strolled on over to Amen Corner, the iconic stretch of holes - 11, 12 and 13 - where, I imagine, more than a few prayers have been asked and answered over the years.
It was there I bumped into my highlight of the day: a young couple from Minneapolis, John and Lee Ann Donovan. John and I got to talking and it turned out he was a member of the Minnesota National Guard and had served two tough tours in Iraq and another in Bosnia as a member of 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. In fact, he just got back from Basra in January after being away since April 2009. John said he was a golfer and had longed to visit Augusta, so much so that Lee Ann, thinking ahead to his return from war, said she had entered her husband's name in a Masters lottery for tickets.
"A far cry from Basra," I said.
That was the idea, said Lee Ann.
"And we won," said John.
"I'm not so sure," said Lee Ann, "that John's name ever got into the lottery."
That's because, Lee Ann explained, she'd been writing the tournament committee since last October explaining John's story, how much he loved the game, what he had done for his country.
"I think that's what did it," she said.
I think you're right, I said.
After wishing the Donovan's well...I meandered around in the 90-degree heat for a spell before heading back to the air-conditioned comfort of the press center. As luck would have it I ran into Art Spander at lunch. Art is one of those old-school sports writers who gave our profession a good name with his passion and decency and real nose for news. As a columnist and golf writer, he owned the Bay Area sport pages for decades, first for the SF Chronicle then the Oakland Tribune. But that was before the downsizing, and the note Art said he received from his bosses at the Trib that his services were no longer required as he was covering the British Open. He laughed. This is Art's 44th year covering the Masters and he seemed as excited as his first.
In no time he was regaling me with stories of his new life - at age 71 -- hustling up stories for Internet sports sites and big city papers looking for a second, experienced set of eyes, a way to help pay for the fine wine he likes to collect. Soon we were off and running in that direction, talking about French Bordeauxs, the Haut Medoc region, extolling our love for reds from California's exquisite Russian River region and the surprising elegance of certain costal Pinot Noirs. Having a damn fine time of it until I suddenly realized - yikes -- I needed to hustle back out to help grab some Mark O'Meara sound on his practice round with Tiger. To his ever-loving credit, O'Meara emerged from the stately clubhouse and under the shade of the famous Old Oak Tree delivered just the kind of pithy, professional insight we needed.
"You know you never bet against him," said O'Meara, himself a Masters champion. "Confidence is a big thing in this game, even at Tiger Woods' level. And that takes a bit of time to develop. But I like what I saw today. He's ready."
At that point, so was I. My journalistic needs completely met, I departed for the day. Standing outside Gate 6 waiting for a ride I watched a good looking young reporter do a smart on-air interview with an EA Sports executive about the debut of Tiger's video game. Turns out it was CNBC's Darren Rovell. He came over to say hello, and soon the two of us were standing along Washington Road talking shop, my move to CBS News, his recent sports business documentaries, agreeing to meet in New York sometime soon.
But that's a story for another day.
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