Sepp’s Latest Senselessness

Dec. 31, 2012

The saying goes it’s better to have someone THINK you’re stupid, than to speak and remove all doubt.

Does anyone THINK Sepp Blatter is stupid?

The man can’t seem to utter a sentence without displaying complete ignorance. Whether its comments on women’s players in shorts, or John Terry’s infidelity, or the denial of corruption on the FIFA ExCo, or…

And now, to Al-Jazeera he blurts out the notion that in the United States, there is “no very strong professional league, they have just the MLS. They have no professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.”

I guess Blatter wants to ignore that MLS has the seventh highest average attendance in the world  for two years in a row. Or that one academic/economist recently predicted MLS will surpass the nearly century old NHL in revenue by 2020.

It’s not that his comment was mere impolitic, like the women’s shorts or Terry, it was along the lines of there is no corruption in FIFA – a complete disassociation with reality.

The argument can be made that MLS is not on the level of the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, etc., or that is even close to breaking into that tier of competition.

All subjective comparisons.

But to say it is not a “very strong professional league” and that “they are struggling” either means there are only about six strong professional leagues in the world, or that Blatter is applying some definition that us mere earthlings can’t comprehend.

This is not that Americans should be offended. The concept is so illogical on its face that it begs the question, what measure is he using, and why is he using that measure?

It would seem that leagues with teams that can’t or don’t pay their players is a sign of financial instability and not very strong. Oh, but that would mean Spain isn’t a strong league since Malaga was just banned from European competition for not paying its players.

Or maybe when a league has a team or teams that go into bankruptcy? Ah but that would mean Britain’s leagues because of the never-ending list of teams that have entered – as we’ve come to know from the BRITISH lexicon – administration.

If he is saying that MLS isn’t accepted in American society on the same level as the NFL? OK. But neither is MLB, the NBA or the NHL.

No sports league is as accepted in American society as the NFL.  And while the NFL may be the gold standard, not meeting that benchmark is hardly the equivalent of “weak”.

And if in 18 years Blatter was expecting that MLS would match or surpass the NFL, he has a moronically simplistic understanding of economics and culture, and should be relegated to responsibilities no greater than those expected of a sixth grader with a lemonade stand.

But keep in mind, Blatter has been elected FIFA president four times now, with the support of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Were Lennart Johansson, Issa Hayatou and Mohammed Bin Hamman that much worse? Well, in at least two cases the answer is an unequivocal, yes!

But that isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of FIFA.

In many cases, I don’t think Blatter cares how he sounds. He has a constituency in soccer, a big enough one that is jealous and not very bright, and as long as he feeds it, he remains in power.

And make no mistake, there is a LOT of jealousy in the world regarding the United States, and that especially extends to soccer.

When the United States lost to host Italy 1-0 in the 1990 World Cup, the AP included a man-on-the-street interview from the tournament in a reaction piece. The man remarked that the result was welcome because it showed that Italy and the rest of the world still was better than the United States in at least one thing.

That attitude persists, and is probably even more entrenched, today. As MLS has strengthened, and as the United States won this year in Italy and Mexico, the prospect that someday the Americans might actually win a World Cup is becoming less theoretical.

This is not to suggest MLS is the ultimate in soccer leagues, or even that it has achieved everything it wants. But the league has grown to 19 teams, which are making inroads in international competition; there is a substantial list of people wanting to invest the money not only in a team but in building a stadium; the players are paid on time (which one would think is a minimum standard); and more internationally recognized players are considering it as an option.

But besides ignoring some obvious facts, Blatter’s comments express an envy and resentfulness held by many in the world about the United States that can be vented through the soccer portal.

Blatter isn’t merely a lone dolt, he reflects a worldview that says common sense and logic be damned – even to one’s own detriment.

And if you need any proof of that, just look at the state of the planet.

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