It's said that the cost of building & renovating the stadia in Brazil for the upcoming jamboree was an estimated *adopts Dr Evil voice*....$3bn.
Funnily enough, that figure was trotted out again last night as Jim, Laurie and myself stood outside the sprawling Marlins Arena, home to the Miami Marlins baseball team which, I discovered, because of bond schemes and the like have apparently resulted in a similar bottom line to the one quoted above. Frightening really, especially as the 2-time MLB champs (last time 2003) rarely sell out the 36,000 capacity indoor arena.
Jim had bought tickets for us two some time ago before we travelled out here, and producer Laurie had tagged along in the hope of buying a seat somewhere near our prime spot right behind home plate. The fact that he obtained a seat right alongside us on the night of the game is indicative of the cash flow problems a franchise like this must have.
It's a mightily impressive structure though - and so it bloody should be for 3 billion smackers of course - and the cheeky P.A. announcement that the number of rainouts since the stadium opened 2 years ago stands at 'Zero' made me chuckle at the intended irony. I thought Americans weren't supposed to 'get' irony?
One thing is certain - I don't 'get' baseball after the 2 and a quarter hours I subsequently spent watching the Miami Marlins take on the Tampa Bay Rays. Final score after 9 hotly contested innings each? Tampa 0 Miami 1.
Now I know what you're thinking - "how many nil-nil draws have you convinced TalkSPORT listeners were worth paying the entry fee twice for, and then you slag off the ball game on the evidence of one evening??"
(You might not be thinking that actually, but I can't write the next paragraph otherwise, so just go with me on this).
Well, when I tell you that the winning 'run' came when Miami had bases loaded, only for the Tampa pitcher to throw a succession of 'balls' with all the accuracy of a fast food employee's transfer rumour stories on Twitter, thus allowing the batter to casually saunter to 1st base, his partner at 3rd to do the Hofmeister Bear himself to home plate, meaning that - as they say - was the ball game...would you blame me for a slightly jaded view? :)
However things perked up on occasion, notably when my search for the True Taste Of America let me to the Chili Dog stand, and the 'speciality wiener' presented to me for $10 hit the spot whilst I chugged down a Bud Light and shouted 'Ayyyyyyyyyyy-oooooo!' when prompted at tense moments in innings by the P.A. guy.
Then there was Tammi.
Tammi, the resident Miami Marlins organist. Channeling her very best Peter Fenn off of Gambit with Fred Dineage, Tammi went through the card with spectacular skill - who can forget the majesty of the chromatic 'Duh, duh, duh duh, duh, duh, duh, duh' or the 'Da-da-la-da-da-daaaaaaah!!' so beloved of Scrappy Doo and his puppy power?
(God I hated Scrappy Doo, by the way)
Americans love their cheese - and not just the stuff smothered into every crevice of their burgers. They lapped up everything Tammi threw at them, and joyously stood to a man and swayed to the traditional 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' in the middle of the seventh inning. With the chronically low scoring, few heard my slight misappropriation of the lyrics where 'Take' & 'To' were substituted with 'Get' and 'Of'. Personally, I'd have liked to have heard more from Tammi - her take on Judas Priest's 'Painkiller' perhaps?
I don't ask for much.
Just back from the 2-2 draw with Ecuador and I'm sure you'll read countless match reports elsewhere online so you don't really need another one here.
The main talking points in the tunnel afterwards were the injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the red card issued to Raheem Sterling. With regard to the Arsenal midfielder, who had looked in fine form going forward during the game, walked a little gingerly past me after the game and got into a waiting people carrier with some if England's medical team, presumably to head for a hospital and get a scan on the ligament injury he appeared to sustain when falling awkwardly in a challenge. On a positive note, he was walking unaided (no crutches used) but in truth it's hard to tell until the injury has settled and a scan has done its job exactly how serious or otherwise the problem is.
As for Sterling's dismissal, following a challenge on Antonio Valencia that upset the Manchester Utd winger and caused a number of players to get involved on the touchline, Sterling - and England - will learn from this that referees at World Cups from different associations to UEFA are very likely to give red cards for challenges we perceive in Europe as being a yellow and no more. We've all seen it at previous World Cups haven't we? The American referee here did brandish the red to both players with quite a flourish, almost as if he enjoyed it!!
Also, John Flanagan & John Stones' introduction ruffled a few feathers - why, asked some, are players on the standby list being utilised instead of squad players in the 23? Roy Hodgson explained to us that he was keeping the remaining squad players in reserve for Saturday's match against Honduras. In actual fact, given Oxlade Chamberlain's potential injury, Hodgson would surely be better served calling Stones or Flanagan into service rather than one of the other standby players like Carrick & Cleverley who haven't participated in all the warm weather training camps and aren't already within the setup.
Stones looks a real prospect in particular, and as Jim Proudfoot said in commentary today, "If he doesn't reach 50 caps for his country I'll be gobsmacked". Not as gobsmacked as the Ox would be to miss out at such a critical stage.
Fingers crossed for him.