Darth Blatter

As briefly as possible, what’s just insane about FIFA.

Darth Blatter

FIFA and its surrounding scandals push the limits of hyperbole.

You can’t make this stuff up.

José Hawilla forfeited $151 million dollars, 25 million of which he had already been paid. Paul Allen could walk into the Seahawks locker room with 500 pounds of PEDs, call Roger Goodell ten different gay slurs, and give every official a new car and not get fined that much.

When we’re talking about money of that magnitude, and about the world’s most popular sport, and about unbelievably powerful people, sense and reason dissipate.

We’re talking about the people who control the Beautiful Game and use corrupt bargains to place the world’s biggest international tournament in Sochi (and the Olympics showed us what a bad idea that is) and Qatar (where it’s so hot the tournament can’t be played in the summer). The World Cup’s 2018 and 2022 locations are so bad we’ll forget about burdening the nation of Brazil with it in 2014, when the world’s most soccer-addicted country protested against holding it’s biggest tournament, and where they built a new stadium in the rainforest to hold just a handful of games.

And what makes it all that much more mind-bending is that everyone knew this was all going on. Everyone just accepted that FIFA, the governing body of the world’s most important sport, was one of the most corrupt organizations in the world. And the guy that kept getting re-elected to lead this organization, Sepp Blatter, was known by all to be the cartoon villain at the head of this evil league of international gentlemen.

Just imagine if someone learned, in one day, everything about soccer, and then was told about the corruption of FIFA and Sepp Blatter. They would, with great urgency, call someone in power to let them know what they discovered, or at least to find out what was being done about Blatter. That poor person would promptly receive a shrug of the shoulders. If we translated this into Star Wars, I think it would work like a slightly edited version of that part in Revenge of the Sith where Anakin tells Mace Windu he thinks Palpatine is a Sith Lord and Mace incredulously replies, “A Sith Lord? Are you sure?”

Anakin Skywalker: I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.

Mace Windu: No duh Anakin. Everyone knows that.

Anakin: What? The Council knows?

Windu: Yeah the Council knows. The Senate knows. Padmé knows. Watto knows. Jar Jar knows. Literally everyone but you knows that Palpatine is a Sith Lord.

Anakin: Then why hasn’t anyone done something?

Windu: Well we can’t really prove it.

Anakin: But you know?

Windu: Yeah. I mean it was a little strange that a senator from the New Zealand of the galaxy took over after a suspect vote of no confidence in Valorum’s leadership all while his nation was getting bullied by the Trade Federation’s Roger-Roger and Hammerstein. And that the bureaucrats who ran the show stayed around after he was in office. And that an indigenous screw-up who ruined the first film for half the audience convinced the Senate, a notoriously slow-acting group, to quickly grant emergency powers to Palpatine. And that the Separatists managed to put up a good fight against the Republic, despite us having better soldiers, weapons, equipment, and telekinetic, future-seeing ninjas as generals.

Anakin: Yeah, now that you mention it, I’m not really sure how he knew Padmé was in trouble. And he knew a lot about this mysterious Sith Lord named Plagueis. Are you going to do something about it now?

Windu: I guess. I’ll go confront him with Kit Fisto, Saesee Tiin, and Eeth Koth.

Anakin: And you’re sure they won’t get killed like punks when Palpatine uses the most basic saber moves imaginable, leaving you to fight a Sith Lord on your own? You’re sure you shouldn’t wait for someone else to come help?

Windu: Nah. Ride or die, Anakin.

We all know this is a big deal. A really big deal. And somehow, we’ve all just learned to accept it.

And let’s not make any mistakes about how important Blatter’s position is. Despite the fact that this video exists, Blatter and his position are no laughing matter. Anything that someone named Prince Ali runs for can’t be something to sneeze at. Yeah I know there are a lot of princes out there, but when you have a royal title in front of your name, you’re a big deal. And you could probably do all sorts of awesome stuff without having to deal with the headache of running a global sports body of governance. And yet, someone named Prince Ali was the leading contender to take Blatter’s position from him.

Like I said, you can’t make this stuff up.

What most interests me now is seeing what changes in the wake of these findings and further investigations, and with someone other than Blatter heading up the Galactic Empire. And we have reason to believe that there may be grounds for change, as Blatter’s resignation is not without reason. Obviously he knew he was corrupt all along, so why would he wait until after winning re-election to resign? There must have been some sort of legal finding that meant certain doom for him, which could mean that investigators are onto something big. But questions about where this will go still remain.

First and foremost, will things change at all?

I’m hesitant to speculate, but I’d have to say I don’t think so. I think corruption kind of comes with the global sports territory. This corruption is so massive and thorough that I find it hard to think that things will change anytime soon. As much as I’d love to believe that something can be worked out to move the World Cup from Qatar, and as much as I’d like to think that a new regime could end corruption, pick good places for the tournament, and continue to address the many issues that face soccer and the places where it is played, I kind of think business will go on as usual. And I think that mostly because the world loves soccer so much that no organization can make them stop. People will play and watch soccer no matter which Dark Jedi run the show.

I also want to know what this will mean for American sports fans and the growth of soccer in America. It’s obvious that this issue isn’t taking the place of importance that it maybe should in America. Just think if these kinds of things were happening in the NFL. Actually stop thinking about it, because it’s incomprehensible. As it is, we think Roger Goodell is evil. Papi calls him Fidel Goodell. We don’t like him, mostly because we just think he’s bad at his job. Can you imagine if he was heading up something that was corrupt in the line of 10 figures and violated human rights on a level above domestic violence? Americans have done a remarkable job of going on unaffected by these findings, and I don’t know if that says more about how much progress soccer still has to make or how much these finding don’t ultimately matter to the rest of the world. It’s possible that American’s still don’t really care about soccer, but it’s also possible that the world is really that immune to the evil of FIFA.

Maybe all of this is the beginning of the end for corruption in soccer. Maybe it’s all a blip on the radar. Maybe it will affect American soccer and maybe it won’t. I don’t know how big a deal this really is. Maybe in five years we will see this as the definitive moment in a great change in world football, and maybe we’ll have forgotten about it. I’m interested to see.

What I do know is that there are over a thousand people dead right now as a result of trying to build stadiums in the desert of Qatar. And there are millions of dollars in the pockets of FIFA officials as a result of putting the tournament there.

And that, my friends, is the work of the Dark Side.

Soli Deo Gloria

– Peter

Surreal Saturday: The Wire and The Fight

The Wire

Well I’d say this has been the first run of days where I failed to meet my self-imposed goals for writing. I last posted on Wednesday, and since then I have had a couple days where I was writing for school, but I have also had a couple days where I made the decision to not write. So boo on me. But now we’re back at it.

Saturday was a surreal experience for me.

I spent the day watching stuff. That’s about it. It started with Everton losing on the road at Aston Villa. It continued with six episodes of The Wire (that’s a little under six hours, for those keeping score at home). It resumed with the second half of Spurs/Clippers, and concluded with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

Everton was a disappointment.

Spurs/Clippers was a thriller.

The other two events are the only things that really mattered.

The Wire is some of the best television I have ever seen. It’s on the shortlist of my most favorite shows (along with Breaking Bad, The Office, Band of Brothers, Modern Family, 24, Avatar, and Spongebob). Right now I’m in the middle of Season 3, and I hope the rest of Season 3 (and 4, and 5…) doesn’t hinder me from finishing the school year strong.

But what made that marathon on Saturday such a trip was more than that reality-blurring high we get when we binge-watch a great show. Instead, it was the show’s relevance considering current events that made the experience so unusual. The Wire, made between 2002 and 2008, follows the stories of criminals and law enforcement in….. Baltimore.

And, in this fictional TV show, so many of the issues raised in these days of the Baltimore Uprising are so prevalent. The sordid conditions of Baltimore street life, the lawlessness of the wild west drug trade, the insolence and hostility of criminals, police being a little physical out of frustration and fear for their lives, police being a little physical for lack of self-control, dirty and/or incompetent officials at all levels and of all colors, the criminals with good hearts, the anger simmering among the urban poor, the ineffectiveness of government reforms. The police don’t always follow the rules. There’s an exchange where one official makes a snide comment about black violence and then rolls his eyes when a politician interested in real change rebukes him. It’s all there. And now, seven years after the last episode of the show ever aired, the world that The Wire takes place in has caught the attention of the nation and the actions of its people have come under intense scrutiny. Two things become abundantly clear. The first is that these issues are always so much more complicated than people want to make them. I firmly believe that the death of Freddie Gray and others is intrinsically connected to racial issues, and in some cases there is a precise cause-effect relationship. However, watching The Wire reminds me of the extremely tough world that law enforcement work in. Of course that doesn’t give them the right to use deadly force when de-escalating a situation or non-lethal force is an option, and they should be ready to lay down their lives to avoid taking another’s, but the fact remains that enforcing the law in an extremely troubled city like Baltimore is a nearly impossible task. The other issue brought forth by my hours-long venture into the world of The Wire is that the way the media and much of America has received the events in Baltimore is disgustingly ignorant and unkind. There is always crime in Baltimore, and it didn’t take the death of a man in custody to reveal that the city has its struggles. But when crime is redirected into a grieving process, outsiders lose their minds. When using a baseball bat to run off a rival gang turns into using a bat to break a car window, outsiders call out crime and thuggery. Why don’t those people care about what happens when the media isn’t there? Ironically, when so many white apologists try to excuse racism and downplay race issues with the black-on-black violence argument, they are also exposing the fact that they themselves only care when the violence is interracial; the same people who say blacks should focus more on violence in their own communities are content to just ignore that same violence. It’s like they are saying Stop the killing. But, if you can’t, just make sure it stays within your community. So please, before you pass judgments on the actions of the people of Baltimore, consider where your own heart is at.

Anyway, it was surreal watching The Wire and seeing all these issues in a television drama years before anyone really cared. And the show is just outstanding.

As for The Fight, I had a sports-viewing experience unlike any other I have ever had. What you have heard is true: the boxing match itself was not a thriller. Floyd Mayweather proved how masterful he is at not getting punched, and the threat of his right-counter kept Manny Pacquiao from really going after him.

Oh well. I know many people are disappointed that the fight was not a 12 round back-and-forth or that Pacquiao didn’t knock Mayweather out with a crushing left hook. But the experience, for me, was nearly mystical. I’m young enough that I have never really had the opportunity to watch a fight this meaningful before. After years in the making I finally got to see what might be the last boxing match of its kind.

It almost didn’t seem real at times. I almost had an out of body experience as I realized that they were really in there fighting. I felt something like the holy spirit of sports pass through me when the crowd chanted “Manny! Manny! Manny!” Those things that I have only ever seen in some movies were actually happening. As an added bonus, Manny hit Floyd with one of the hardest punches Floyd has ever taken, Floyd shook his head and said “no” repeatedly as Manny stepped back from a flurry of punches, and the whole thing came after an intro video that featured Manny kneeling to pray in a church.

Was the fight a little too methodical, predictable, tactical, and slow? Yes. But the things I experienced while finally seeing The Fight of the Century were worth those minor grievances.

It was quite the weekend. I watched some sports, binge-watched a top shelf program, spent quality time with family and friends, and even smoked a cigar that, although it had a harsh, hot, tasteless beginning, turned to a smooth and flavorful smoke in the middle, giving a rather satisfying session of cigarring.

And I got to ponder and experience the surreal.

Not bad.

Soli Deo Gloria


The Spurs…. Again

The Spurs just won’t go away. And now they look ready to run to the Finals.


Every year we’re ready to declare the imminent end of the Spurs’ dynasty. I wanted to call their loss to the Heat in 2013 their Swan Song. When everyone came back, I thought 2014 had to be the last hurrah. This year, although I was never going to count them out to get back the Finals, I thought their end maybe have been near as the Clippers played a fantastic Game 1 featuring a virtuoso from Blake Griffin that put Aaron Baynes in some highlight reels that look more like something from WWE. They looked old. They were injured.

Then the Spurs won Game 2, thanks to an unfair display of post play from Tim Duncan and some inexplicable turnovers from Blake Griffin, making the series the only compelling one in the entire First Round. But they barely escaped being down 2-0.

But then last night happened. Back in San Antonio, the Spurs chopped the water like a karate ninja and beat the Clippers so bad you wonder if they’ll even show up for Game 4. They won by 27 points, and they could have blown that game up like the cinema in Inglorious Basterds even earlier if they had knocked down a few wide open threes in the first half.

The Clippers looked stupid on offense. They couldn’t get anything going. Chris Paul played a terrible game.

The Spurs’ offense almost made me cry it was so beautiful. Their ball movement was so fluid, so intelligent. They ran their offenses with such a confident and assured demeanor. Like Jeff VanGundy said, “I like watching their offense even when they miss shots.” It’s true. They missed wide open threes on some of the most brilliant possessions of the game.

And Kawhi Leonard is terrifying. Goodness gracious, when he starts calling for the ball every time up the court, the opponent might as well just run for cover. He’s knocking down open jumpshots, running shots, turnaround shots. I jumped out of my chair when he threw down the alley-oop from Green. I couldn’t contain that kind of basketball beauty sitting still. And that’s just his offense. He had three steals, two blocks, and helped shut down Chris Paul. My goodness.

The Golden State Warriors are good. Really good. And I think most of us thought they were going to be the last ones standing in the Western Conference, while also thinking the Spurs (after Game 1) probably weren’t going to be able to put it together this year. And then Game 3 happened. The Clippers can’t play with the Spurs. Neither can the Rockets or Grizzlies. And, if we find that they are too mighty for the Warriors as well, I’m just not going to be surprised. The are on another basketball level right now.

Last thing: this is a bad look for the Clippers, Doc, Blake, and CP3. They needed this series. I’m not saying it’s over, but…. it’s over.

Soli Deo Gloria


My Man Mesut

Mesut Ozil

I shall endeavor to explain why I have a man-crush on Mesut Özil.

But first, so as to avoid confusion and belay bewilderment, let me give a brief and not nearly sufficient definition of man-crush.

Let’s get this on the table: there is a homoerotic element to a man-crush. This is just a fact of human existence. As my religious studies professor says: “Everyone’s a little gay.” However, homosexuality is a separate thing from a man-crush; I would argue they are mutually exclusive. There is an admiration for physical qualities, but it is hardly contained in that. In fact admiration is probably the word for it. That admiration comes from a desire to display the same attributes of that person (which is why so many men have a man-crush on Aragorn). I don’t know, Freud would have a very different explanation, but suffice to say it’s an admiration of someone that feels stronger than, “Oh, hey, that guy’s pretty cool” and there is, too an extent, a physical attraction involved.

I have a man-crush on Mesut Özil, the German attacking midfielder who currently plays for Arsenal, who just a few hours ago helped his team through to the finals of the FA Cup, providing a beautiful assist to Alexis Sanchez.


Well first of all I find him intriguing. Non-Germanic German-citizens are interesting to me, and there’s something fascinating about people who don’t look like your typical Hans or Siegfried speaking perfectly normal German *cough* like the German-born player Jurgen included on the national team instead of Landon Donavan *cough*. Being the son of Turkish immigrants (of which there are many in Germany) makes him a great combination because he’s Middle Eastern (always intriguing) but also German, and just being a footballer for Germany makes you a likely candidate for man-crushes.

His play on the pitch is beautiful. Calm and assured in possession, his finesse makes him seem untouchable at times. He glides above the ball, seeking out teammates, making top shelf passes look routine. Crafty touches here and there free up teammates, making chances out of seemingly nothing. He handles dead-ball opportunities, sending in deadly free-kicks and corners with his golden left foot. He changes the game offensively, and does so with deftness. So much so that I don’t even mind that he doesn’t care about playing defense. I just like watching him play soccer.

And yes, there is some element of physical attraction. But I can’t explain what it is. Again, this is why a man-crush is separate from homosexuality. I would imagine a gay man could tell you he likes another man’s muscular body, Umahis handsome rugged face, his flowing hair, etc.  much like I know how I could usually describe the beautiful features of a woman (although describing faces is so bogus. There is no formula for what makes an attractive face, let alone a good way to describe it). So yeah, I can’t say for sure what I find handsome about Özil, and it’s important to note that physical features are not the basis for a man-crush. I will say though that there is a common theme in three of my man-crushes (Özil, rapper JGivens, and my friend Ross), and that is big eyes. That might just be a coincidence. However, in Özil’s case, the big eyes also contribute to the fact that he looks a lot like Uma Thurman, and since I’m a fan of Uma, that could play into all of this (seriously, Özil looks a lot like a younger Uma).

I’d like whatever I write on this blog to have some sort of meaning beyond spouting personal confessions, and while I hope this article will make you a fan of Mesut Özil as a footballer if not for his handsome appearance, I’d hate to leave you feeling like so what?

So here’s something: why are man-crushes so common in heterosexual men? Follow up question: to what extent does our society still exhibit and/or endorse Platonic/Socratic love among men?

Because I feel like there is a lot at work that cause this kind of homosexual admiration. The first being, like my professor says, “Everyone’s a little gay.” Because I think we all know that this is, to varying extents, true. How does that affect our perception of being defined as homosexual, heterosexual, or bi-sexual? What does it mean to be born one way or the other? Where do we draw lines? I’m not making an argument in any direction; I’m just saying that, in a day and age when homosexuality is such an important issue, it might be worth-while to consider how heterosexual men can admire physical attributes of other men.

But as for Platonic/Socratic love in men: is this still around? Do we still have this profound love that does not move us to sexual action? I think it’s very rare, almost non-existent, at least not like in the old days (not the old old days when Greek and Roman men would caress each other and such, but like the sorta old days when Christianity said no-go to the homo and took the physicality out of it). Brotherhood still certainly exists, particularly in sports and (as always) in the military, but does this love of fellow man still happen? Perhaps it does, and I suppose we would have to get tricky with definitions to categorize friendship, comradeship, brotherhood, erotic love, and Socratic/Platonic love, but I think it is largely gone and I have a quick theory. Bear with me here, then I’ll let you go:

I think the exaltation of the individual in modern society – one of the most important developments in western history – has played a role in diminishing this in contemporary masculinity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the caesarindividual, but it comes at a price. Consider this: is there anyone out there who could inspire you to cast aside self-regard and go above and beyond what you thought possible beyond family members or significant others? Probably not. But back in the day, a single man could inspire others to greatness just by his mere presence, and I think it’s because the man exhibited some sort of ideal. In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar was the ultimate example of strength and Roman glory, and as a result, according to Plutarch, “such was the affection which Caesar inspired in his soldiers, and such was their devotion to him, that they who under other leaders were nothing above the common, became under him invincible and capable of meeting the utmost danger with a courage which nothing could resist.” Plutarch gives an amazing example of this devotion:

“For instance, in Britain the Romans met the natives in a marshy spot, and a band of Caesar’s men found themselves entrapped among the Britons. One of the Romans took the lead, hewed right and left among the islanders, beat them off, and rescued his comrades. Then he plunged into the stream that ran by, swam it, waded through the mud of the swamp, and reached the place where the general was watching. However, he lost his shield, and, in deep distress, he fell at Caesar’s feet, saying: ‘General, I have lost my shield. I ask your pardon!'”

Today, people can define for themselves what is important and what they want to be. That’s a new, western development in human history. As a result, we don’t care about stuff as intensely as we used to, and because we are not driven by collective ideals in this way, we don’t have so many exemplars to venerate. Of course I am speaking generally, as there are still ideals that many people hold onto, and there are also exemplars out there. Take, for example, blue collar conservatives and Chris Kyle.

So I think Socratic/Platonic love is connected to this concept: when a man exemplifies an intensely important ideal, other men, wishing to display that ideal as well, love and admire the man profoundly.

So maybe that’s it: I see in Mesut Özil a reflection of what I want to be.

Or maybe I just see Uma Thurman.

Soli Deo Gloria

– Peter