Of FIFA’s emperor, the Patriots, the NHL, and Mr. Horgan

Rounding the bases, all four of them, even if none of this has anything to do with baseball.

For an easy opener, a veritable trot to first, we’re indebted to international soccer’s incomparable despot, Sepp Blatter.

Not since Richard Nixon, our own historically matchless dissembler, was at the pinnacle of his game have we seen an elected leader of much of anything conspire to run roughshod over serious challenges to his honor, honesty, and absolute authority with a stronger mixture of rage, scorn, and total denial. The difference being that the poor and misguided Nixon couldn’t get away with it whereas the supremely arrogant Emperor Blatter of FIFA most certainly will.   

Consider how silly it would have been if after the Watergate inquiries Mr. Nixon had been able to take his case to the American electorate and be joyfully returned to office thoroughly redeemed by a 50-state landslide.

That’s how much sense Blatter’s stunning re-election to FIFA’s presidency – just two days after the indictment of the entire governing order of glorious “futbal” that he’s presided over gleefully and lavishly for 17 years – made to those not in awe of the alleged Beautiful Game, some of whom you’ll actually find only in our own tiny corner of the globe.

The rest of humanity couldn’t care less that Blatter is a bully and his cronies are crooks. Only the game matters. Roger Bennett, a British soccer authority, states the case best: “Fifa-land is not the real world,” he says with biting sarcasm.   “Fifa-land is a medieval fiefdom.” 

The US Justice Department vaguely implies they might yet indict Herr Blatter. Fat chance!  If they had the goods, they’d have named him when they nailed his seven executive committee stooges, for whom he has unbelievably professed to have no responsibility. He well knows that, delights in it. He’s too clever for them, as nimble in the boardroom as his game’s greatest stars are on the playing field. He’s also too nasty for them. His contempt for his accusers after his triumph was quite chilling. This is one tough cookie.

On the subject of artful buck and wings you gotta admit that was a nice swerve Bob Kraft and company put on us when they strongly implied, if not quite stated, that the NFL had ordered the dismissal of “Deflategate” minions McNally and Jastremski. That’s what the Foxborough brain trust apparently leaked through friendly media.
But, alas, Czar Goodell, in his new tough-guy, no longer a buddy-buddy stance isn’t playing along. Turns out the Patriots, and the Patriots alone, were responsible for the two relatively helpless gofers being “suspended indefinitely” – i.e. canned – Goodell having roundly and flatly declared “no” when he was asked if the suggestion the NFL was responsible was true.

Why is this important, you ask? For several reasons old Sport, all of them germane.

First, why are the Patriots busting the two minor sideline operatives if no crimes of consequence were committed, as they continue to strenuously insist?

Second, isn’t it a bit embarrassing to be coming down like a sledge hammer on the most vulnerable and least powerful characters in the equation while continuing to cast the glamorous quarterback as another poor and aggrieved Billy Budd? Bear in mind it’s the overwhelming consensus of the rest of the football world that if Tom Brady did not directly authorize the chicanery he dang well knew what was going on and implicitly not only enabled it but also encouraged it.

Third, is not this clear evasion – or calculated equivocation, if you prefer – yet another example of how these guys tend to play cute little games with the whole truth? 

Kraft & Company could mitigate these regrettable appearances by lifting the suspension of the working stiffs they’ve clearly made fall guys in this mess. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that if I were you. The whole thing may be equally silly, embarrassing, dumb even, but with another near month for it to simmer until Brady gets his ridiculous day in court, it sure ain’t going to get less so.

And once again the big loser will be Mr. Brady, even if he wins. For having the servants who do menial tasks for roughly minimum wages bear all the blame and consequences while he, in all of his widely acclaimed glory, walks ought to be an embarrassment he should be unwilling to bear. If he’s half as smart as alleged, he’d cut his losses and bring this nonsense to a screaming halt. Tomorrow!
Take the hit, Tom. You’ll look a lot bigger if you do. You might even win back some of the good will you have needlessly squandered. Then move on.  It’s your choice, Big Guy, your’s alone.
 If you tuned out on hockey when the Bruins expired, you’ve denied yourself a monumental treat. Nothing in sport that’s transpired since Easter – not the benumbing inevitability of the NBA playoffs, certainly not the stumbling, bumbling early baseball season, not even Pharaoh the mighty horse, or the aforementioned shrill and absurd parody of  “Deflategate” – has come close to the extraordinary artistry, tension, and sheer melodrama of the NHL’s post season. Admittedly these are the sentiments of a patron of this great game, albeit not one literally in the tank.

Catch a whiff of the Finals. You’ll be rewarded. It matters not whether the Blackhawks or Lightning eventually prevail. They are equally deserving. It’s the play that’s the thing. In the end, the true winner will be The Game. And this last note in passing: A serious attention to the Cup grind verifies that it’s just as well the Bruins didn’t make this giddy festival. They wouldn’t have lasted more than a week.

Lastly, a few warm words on a dear old friend. Tim Horgan, more than 40 years with the Herald, both the old and new, and as distinguished a gentleman of our dodge as ever came down the pike, slipped away quietly the other day.  He was 88 and long removed from the daily rumble. Yet his huge body of work remained as fresh, memorable, and relevant as when he laid down his quill a generation ago.

Timmie was old-school in all the best ways.  He was out of Tufts, literate and wise, deeply respectful of the craft, and keen about its nuances. But above all he was a stand-up guy, tenacious and dogged in his work and never easily swayed. Nor did he ever shy from the tough stuff. If he took a player or coach, even an owner, to task he’d be back the next day to look the guy in the eye on the field or in the clubhouse and they knew it. It is how, back in those days – a very different world – you gained respect and, most important, kept it, and none of us commanded more.

Too often this is tritely noted, but it’s decidedly true in Tim’s case. His passing marks the end of an era for he was the last of the giants reared in that alternately rowdy and profane post-WWII era dominated by the newspapers and there were many of them and the talent was deep and the competition fierce and you had to have the true grit to rise to the top let alone stay there, and he did. It was an era not easy, but splendid. He was lucky to have known it and he knew that.
For decades, he wrote five columns a week, never mailing one in. You had to have been in the business to even begin to understand how hard that was or how much of a distinction it remains. Yet trumping all that was his remarkable family, five hearty sons raised so well by Tim and his lovely Lois, for more than six decades his partner and pal. He gave Lois all the credit but it was for him too, the finest achievement.
Good night, Sweet Prince, and rest easy on your laurels. They were considerable!