There is a Netflix documentary called FIFA Uncovered, that details the massive corruption scandal in the world’s largest soccer organization. It’s fascinating and disgusting. As power and greed grows, so does the brazenness of those at the top of the pyramid. What is always remarkable is how easy it is to see. Unfortunately, that vision is ignored until it isn’t, and then we’re all so very shocked. It’s like the the steroid era (as if it ended) in baseball; the players and statistics grew like balloons, we liked it a lot, and now they’re “cheaters” (which they were/are) and we pretend to be horrified (which we aren’t).
The coaches of most high school sports teams hold parents meetings where they spout good-sounding platitudes linking grades, showing up and effort to playing time. They threaten to remove players from the team for any and all infractions. I imagine that they do this with fingers crossed that they’ll never have to follow through on these ridiculous threats. Of course, every season they’re exposed.
What’s so offensive about those 2 stories is that, hidden in their obvious deception, is the belief that we are too stupid to recognize the scoops of excrement being shoveled onto our feet. The executive committee of FIFA, passing favors and business contracts on the eve of major elections, barely stifle their laughter while they reason mere coincidence. The baseball coach talks about character and integrity, passing drivel like “if you’re ineligible for 2 weeks, you’re off the team” with an expression that stops just short of winking at his assistants.
I say to my sons, “Do I look like your dumb little buddies? Do you think I’m the kind of person who will believe what you’re saying?” But they’re children, just testing the boundaries to see if, maybe, people are indeed that dumb. What they’ll find is that even their little buddies aren’t that dumb. That elementary discovery melts away as their proud arrogance grows and grows until they begin to think they are on a different level, better than you, and we are witless rocks lining the path to their thrones.
Of course, superficially, lies are designed to avoid responsibility. These lies are disrespectful because the deception is explicit evidence that their wants/needs/whatever are more important than yours. Just beneath that, barely concealed, is the blatant admission that Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, or ex-boyfriend, or co-worker, or son’s coach, thinks you’ll believe it.
Most of us can deal with any truth, we’re very forgiving. Some of the people in the doc admitted wrongdoing, saying some version of, “I got caught,” and “it’s impossible to eliminate corruption.” Like Jose Canseco, cartoon-ish home run hitter, who said, “yes, everybody was doing it, I did too.” Now, we can talk about corruption or steroids. Now that we can see the problem, it can be addressed.
Jimmy Johnson was the coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the greatest years of the NFL, the early 90’s, when the Cowboys were winning 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. Once, the story goes, a marginal player fell asleep in a team meeting and was immediately cut from the team, in the meeting in front of the team. After explaining the importance of discipline and setting tones, Johnson was asked, “What if the player was Troy Aikman?” referring to their Hall Of Fame quarterback. He replied, “I’d go ask him to please wake up.”
Maybe it’s the disrespect that we can’t abide. Maybe that’s where all the division comes from. Maybe we can’t talk politics because we squish the other side, categorizing them as dumb, un-educated, ignorant, as less than us. That’s a pretty tough place to begin a conversation. I understand Jimmy Johnson’s perspective, it makes sense to me, I might even agree with it’s unfairness. But if you don’t even give me a chance, if you just assume I sit at the kids table, I can’t understand. The issue gets shelved until the lie gets revealed, our humanity suffers and trust dies.
FIFA Uncovered was fine, but I ended up feeling like I do after parents meetings: like I need a shower from being in the slime for too long.