<p>The best subplot in the World Cup group stage wasn’t a goalkeeping gaffe or even the omnipresent buzz of those loveable vuvuzelas.</p>


The best subplot in the World Cup group stage wasn’t a goalkeeping gaffe or even the omnipresent buzz of those loveable vuvuzelas.


It was Sara Carbonero, FHM’s “sexiest journalist in the world,” who happens to date Spanish keeper Iker Casillas. Spain dropped its first game of the Cup, 1-0 to Switzerland in a major upset. Spain, which has a history of choking at the quadrennial tournament, is a favorite to win this year’s Cup. Switzerland, meanwhile, always fields a solid team but rarely peppers goalkeepers or advances far.


Naturally, the media went looking for a scapegoat. Enter Carbonero. Following the loss, a British journalist inexplicably wrote, “It was she, the fans insisted, who had sapped the strength of the Spain goalkeeper and caused him to fluff what seemed an easy shot.” This argument lacked evidence — fans didn’t really insist that — but it flew around the Internet anyway.


Then the Spanish media ripped the British story as preposterous. And it was, but because Carbonero is very easy on the eyes, the story still stuck. Everyone eventually just stared at more photos of Carbonero. It’s not a bad way to spend time between matches.

The NFL sure could use these kinds of subplots Super Bowl week, right?

Maybe the U.S. national team could, too. If the Americans pulled any tail at all — Landon Donovan recently split with Bianca Kajlich — maybe we could point to that as the reason for the slow starts.

We’re nearly at the end of an era at ESPN. Erin Andrews could be a free agent July 1 when her contract expires. The sideline reporter’s stock has risen following a lengthy and steamy showing on “Dancing with the Stars.” She may have outgrown her role at ESPN, leaving all of us wondering if her next step is into entertainment.

Perhaps a bigger question: Who is going to compile a montage (something like “One Shining Moment” will suffice) of Andrews’ most memorable ESPN moments through the years? You could probably splice in a few hundred photos from the Internet into the video … along with the time Bruce Pearl hugged her at halftime … and the time she gave former West Virginia QB Pat White a hug and peck on the check … or when USC linebacker Rey Maualuga jokingly danced behind her on the sideline … even include her dance team days at the University of Florida. Actually, we’ll compile the montage, no problem.

– Jason Raj McIntyre covers athletes off the field and runs the blog, www.TheBigLead.com

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