Have you been running the World Cup Draw Simulator while it's still relevant? It's fun! And terrifying. I gave the USMNT dates with Spain, Bosnia and Ghana. Mexico would deal with Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire and Holland. The odds of this particular draw coming true are microscopic - but all four CONCACAF nations are likely to face something similarly daunting. There are three reactions you can have to this.
One, of course, is to take comfort in the fact that the rising tide of quality worldwide is going to make for an excellent World Cup. That amount of quality packed into groups of four should make for the most intensely competitive group stage in the tournament's history. If the worst happens, well, three and out is no disgrace when they're all Groups of Death.
I envy this kind of high-minded fan. And it would be utterly despicable of me to tell such disciples of Galeano that yes, the razor-thin margins between survival and destruction will bring us glorious games...however, it will also lead to at least as much fearful negativity, and as many otherwise deserving teams sent to the abyss because of bad calls or untimely injuries. Not all drama is beautiful. But, as I said, it would be churlish of me to say that, so I won't.
Then there's the reaction of pure, foolhardy bravado. "Group of Death? Hand me that scythe."
Embracing a Group of Death with cheerful fervor isn't completely insane. Such a group would be a tremendous, priceless opportunity. In such a group, the United States could make a historic leap forward. Mexico could repay all the damage of the 2013 calendar year, with interest. Collecting the scalps of teams on the level of Brazil or Spain would probably be the peak achievement of either program. And it would be an achievement to build on. The US isn't the 1950 team anymore, and Mexico is not North Korea in 1966. Both are much bigger and richer, and would be able to follow through on such a win.
Both are also good enough, if they play their best, to survive such Groups of Death. The last time Mexico attended a World Cup without advancing past the group stage was 1978. The US won its group in 2010, tied the eventual champion in 2006, and were quarterfinalists in 2002. Teams like Brazil and Spain of course roll their eyes at such "experience," but plenty of nations shouldn't. I'm not saying the US or Mexico are better than Belgium, who missed the last two World Cups, and would be fortunate to land in their group...but I'm saying the US and Mexico won't be intimidated by the occasion. We as fans shouldn't be, either.
Sadly, that was not my response when I ran the simulator. My reaction was...ever see "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," where the detectives confront the gang with the jihad tape? I had Charlie's reaction. (Maybe not safe for work.)
There is one thing I did want to say, as a public service. The draw is going to be a long, drawn-out affair, and you, or several million people you know, might be tempted to post something along the lines of this:
A2 - Nigeria
Was that interesting to read? It sure wasn't! And it's going to be even less interesting multiplied by forty million on every message board, Twitter account, Facebook post and blog comment in the entire freaking world. Resist the urge.
"But what about when the US is drawn? We'll know at least one of our opponents, can't we react?" With this?
USMNT to play Spain #WorldCupDraw
What, you think you're breaking a story? You're not Herbert Morrison. That's not the Hindenburg over Lakehurst. It's Sepp Blatter playing with ping-pong balls. And, thing is? We can see him doing it, too. The whole world can.
Just...take a moment. Wait for some context. Add something of your own. Do it for me. You'll be glad you did.