I am off to München. Indeed, hopefully by now I’m there—assuming early Friday morning horridly stormy weather in Greece has not landed me elsewhere.
Ah, Munich. I love that city. So much to see, so much to do, and home to the legendary Fußball-Club Bayern München. By football I’m referring to the padless sort drawing a religiously passionate following practically everywhere on our planet but the United States. Bizarre, isn’t it, how this week it’s been the USA—more specifically its Attorney General and FBI—drawing a bead on the future of the sport.
For those of you who’ve just emerged from a time warp, this week’s most widely covered story since mid-week has been the US’s declaration of prosecutorial war on the leadership of an acronym that has actually achieved world-domination. No, not ISIS or ISIL. I’m talking about an organization exercising ultimate power over the global aspirations of 209 independent nations, and courted by economic powers such as Russia and Qatar as supplicants bearing gifts for its favors.
Yep, it’s FIFA. Soccer’s Fédération Internationale de Football Association is back in the news with yet another scandal surrounding the nearly two decades’ reign of its ultimate ruler, Sepp Blatter. This time it’s the indictment of nine top FIFA officials by the US Justice Department on corruption charges. Blatter is not charged (yet) but many see this scenario as following the time-honored prosecutorial strategy of getting those down the food chain to save themselves by making deals that will bring down the big guy. Time will tell.
What struck me most of all about the scandal is how so few reporting on the story seem at all surprised by the revelations. That made me wonder about how much our values have changed in the last hundred years.
The 1919 World Series (that’s American baseball) triggered the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” when eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing games and the series to the Cincinnati Reds on behalf of gamblers. It triggered outrage and a whole new way of running the game. Most poignant to me was a reported exchange outside the courthouse between one of the players (Shoeless Joe Jackson) and a young boy who’d grabbed at his coat sleeve and begged of him, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
I wonder how the youth of today immersed in the game of soccer is responding to the FIFA scandal? Sadly, I fear more with a shrug than disbelief. That seems to be the state of sport these days…and elsewhere.
The world is full of people with power and money doing as they please and getting away with it. The US Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United has put our Congressional and Executive Branches (more) into play on their behalf. And around the world, leaders elected on promises of reform have not proven themselves immune from the seductions of the darker side of ultimate power.
Far too many in this world have been disappointed far too many times, for far too long, by far too many words. “They’re all alike,” is too often the common view held by the subjects of those in the public and private sectors charged with leading by example.
And still we wonder why so many young are drawn to extremes of drugs or politics—each promising a different order. What else could one expect of young lives spent steeping in the frustrated disappointment of their elders?
We need look no further than FIFA for proof of all this. Let us not forget who has been in charge of the world’s most popular sport, and who, by its leaders’ conduct, has shown generations of young the rules to play by.