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The scene: a conference room somewhere in Germany. Men in business suits are seated around a long conference table. The man at the head of the table begins to speak (for your convenience, we translate from the original German): "Gentlemen, I suppose you're wondering why I called you here today. I don't know how to say this, so I'll just say it: The World Cup is in peril. Yes, we are a mere two weeks from opening ceremonies, and we have no mascot. (Cries of outrage; actual gnashing of teeth. One man tries to leap though window).

Sure, the mainstream media has tried to cover this up. But we're here to tell you that Bavarian toy maker Nici AG, the German manufacturer of World Cup costumed mascot Goleo the lion, has declared bankruptcy. For all intents and purposes, Goleo, the trouserless, somewhat effeminate symbol of the '06 Cup — and his freakish sidekick Pille the soccer ball — are now unemployed. This leaves a terrible mascot void on the eve of the world's biggest sporting event, so we snapped into action and began working the phones. Who can we get as a replacement? Who will work cheap and not be disoriented by a sport with little or no scoring? Sadly, we struck out. Our contacts, and their reasons for declining:

• Keggy. (Rented out by Rick Sutcliffe through Labor Day).
• Willie the Northwestern Wildcat. (Currently incarerated).
• The Fisher Bunny. (Didn't want to give up amateur status).
• Tip 'n Tap (Germany's 1974 WC mascots are now both middle-aged, paunchy and chronically unemployed. Tap is an alcoholic who has been in and out of several Dutch rehab centers).
• Mr. Sparkle. (OK, there's "disrespectful to dirt." and then there's out-and-out "batshit crazy to dirt." Mr. Sparkle is, sadly, the latter).

The Wade Blogs also has some replacement ideas. Auditions for new World Cup mascot continue through the weekend. Good luck!

World Cup Mascot Maker Files For Insolvency [Yahoo]
Lionized World Cup Mascots Vote [The Wade Blogs]