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Archive for Current Events – Page 4

FIFA: Built on Blood and Money

It was the best worst-kept secret in all of sports, but I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the absolute scope and scale of FIFA’s corruption. Last week, just days prior to holding their presidential elections, the governing body of international soccer was raided by police—leading to a handful of arrests of high-ranking FIFA officials. Allegations include racketeering, money laundering and bribery—your typical white-collar crime fare.

Ladies and gentlemen: John Oliver was right.

According to the unsealed indictments, the FIFA probe began shortly after the suspicious awarding of World Cups to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The World Cup is traditionally held during the summer months, making it virtually impossible for it to be held in Qatar considering temperatures can skyrocket over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. FIFA also requires numerous cities replete with soccer infrastructure, which Qatar did not have. “Screw it, we’ll build them,” they said. With that kind of cash laying around, it’s not hard to believe there would be some to spare to grease some palms.

Essentially, Qatar is the worst place on the planet to host such a massive sporting event.

That’s the crux of the allegations against FIFA: that troughs of cash was exchanged to influence bid selection for the next two World Cups. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch referred to them as a “criminal enterprise,” and with the details trickling out about the organization, it appears an appropriate label.

Even with the dark clouds surrounding the FIFA leadership, they still voted to re-elect their longtime president Sepp Blatter to his fifth term, although the questions regarding his involvement are getting closer to his doorstep. I don’t feel there is any way that he remains at his post for long; there was too much that went on during his watch. Either he knew and ignored it, or was completely unaware—which given FIFA’s widely held reputation as a corrupt organization might be even worse.

More than 1,200 migrant workers have already died building Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure—for an event they should not be hosting. As far as I’m concerned, that blood is directly on FIFA’s hands, and I hope the arrests force change in an organization that dreadfully needs it.

Jeffrey Loria: Up to his Old Tricks Again

I said I would avoid writing about this, because at this point it’s like pouring multiple bags of Morton salt into between-the-fingers paper cuts, but I cannot restrain myself. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is certifiable. Not in the kooky, idiosyncratic “Oh, Jeff’s eating crayons again” certifiable, but “somebody please lock this man away before he harms anyone else” certifiable.

Loria’s evil exploits have been well documented on this blog, but he appears to have outdone himself with his latest series of head-scratchers. Immediately after nearly being no-hit by my Atlanta Braves on Sunday, the Marlins (Loria) announced that they had fired manager Mike Redmond.

Panic button: engaged. With the season only in its second month, it makes you wonder what would have happened if Braves pitcher Shelby Miller actually completed the no-hitter. Terrifying.

Not to be trumped by his own delirium and poor decision-making, Loria then provided the coup de grâce: he hired General Manager Dan Jennings as the Marlins’ new head skipper. No one else was interviewed. No one else was considered. A day after Loria’s kneejerk firing of Redmond, he had is new man in the dugout. The problem? Dan Jennings is not a coach. His only managerial stint was a high school team in the eighties. The announcement was so inexplicable that Jennings’ own mother questioned it.

This man must be stopped. The fans that still show up to Marlins games must be suffering some kind of Stockholm syndrome, because it’s become blindingly apparent that the captain of this ship is hell-bent on running it aground. You can’t fault them—as I’m extremely familiar, once you choose your sports allegiances, they have a tendency to stick—but they deserve so much better.

To add a facepalm-worthy cherry to this entire ordeal, Loria fittingly finished it with a pun: “We’re supposed to be the Fish. The Marlins. We shouldn’t be the Flounders.”

Newly-minted MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred needs to jump into action, because Jeffrey Loria is ruining the Marlins franchise. Will that happen? Of course not—but the thought of him piling into his clown car and driving off into the sunset is one that at least provides a bit of comfort.

The NFL Brought the Hammer Down

The punishment for #DeflateGate came down yesterday, and proved that the NFL is willing to suspend the faces of its league for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game. Tom Brady—widely regarded as the NFL’s Golden Boy—will not see the field for a quarter of next season, receiving a 4-game suspension for his role in deflating footballs during last year’s AFC Championship game. The Patriots organization was also penalized, ordered to forfeit future draft picks—a 1st in 2016 and a 4th in 2017—as well as $1 million. While the findings of the Wells Report highly suggested that Brady would receive a suspension, the NFL brought the hammer down, and it reeks of atonement for past punishment failures.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been the target of worldwide vitriol since the Ray Rice debacle (and alleged cover-up), and with a spate of domestic violence offenses of late, he seemed determined to prove to the world that no player was immune from punishment—regardless of the severity of the offense.

I stated back in January that while Brady broke the rules, this much-ado-about-nothing nontroversy was a borne of media intrigue. Players have historically looked for an extracurricular means of gaining a competitive edge, such as pitchers adding their own special “mix” to baseballs for added “grip.” Adjusting the PSI on a football—an equipment violation at its core—warrants punishment, but 4 games, draft picks and a fine is excessive.

One has to speculate if Goodell was simply forced into handing down a punishment disproportionate to the offense. Media-types discussed his cozy relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and pondered his ability to be impartial. Previous penalties were famously deemed as extremely soft. Roger Goodell needed to prove he could be an effective—and objective—commissioner.

Roger Goodell needed a sacrificial lamb and a public relations win.

So while hordes of football fans outside of New England are celebrating the Brady suspension, a look behind the veil reveals darker motivations at work. Making an example out of the Patriots was a PR necessity for Goodell and the NFL to regain trust and credibility from the fans, but in this case, the punishment did not fit the crime.




The Politics of Mud-Slinging

From Carson to Clinton and Bush to Sanders, the presidential candidacy field is getting crowded, signaling the real start to election season—and dirty laundry season. Political fireworks and carefully timed bombshells are as much a part of the election cycle as stump speeches and debates, and cause an instantaneous campaign implosion. Some of the most viable candidates have watched their political ambitions evaporate in the blink of an eye. When the mud begins to fly, the best offense is often the best defense.

The majority of the population would say they would appreciate cleanly fought political campaigns, but the reality is that the majority of the hits that stick are the ones below the belt. The politically savvy may immediately cite an exchange over the economy in a debate as the turning point when it came to who received their vote, but most will recall a major gaffe or negative news story.

The result: a windfall of negativity. Ads that highlight an opponents’ negatives as opposed to the candidates’ own positives. Harmful news stories. Political operators staked with the task of digging up dirt (okay, perhaps I’ve seen too many episodes of House of Cards—but probably not.)

This trend speaks to the cynicism of the American political climate. Citizens respond with more enthusiasm when presented with a portrait of the decline of our nation should they vote for “the other candidate.” One’s own accomplishments and platform begin to play second fiddle to the venomous attacks spewed at the opposition. It makes for entertaining debates, but an inaccurate measuring stick of candidate viability.

Mike Huckabee is expected to announce his candidacy this morning, throwing his hat into the presidential fray. We’re a year-and-a-half out from the election, but the action is already in full-swing. Here’s hoping for campaigns that stick to the issues, but in a political landscape comprised primarily of mud, we better prepare for things to get dirty.

How Facebook is Helping in Nepal

On Saturday, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, and so far the death toll has eclipsed 4,000—and that number continues to grow. From landslides to an Everest avalanche, the quake triggered deadly events throughout the mountainous nation, and many individuals are still unaccounted for as a result. With families desperately trying to reach loved ones to ensure their safety, a unique app for Facebook has helped to allay some fears amid the destruction and chaos.

The Facebook-designed application “Safety Check”—which was unveiled last October—uses the social media platform’s geotagging features to locate people within affected disaster areas, and allows them to broadcast to their followers that they are safe and sound. Once Facebook determines their location (via geotag, last check-in or bio information that indicates residency in the area), users simply have to select that they are “safe,” which reflects on their profile.

Safety Check does not come without its own built-in issues, however. One glaring problem is the ability to even connect to the Internet in the event of a disaster. This is compounded when an event like an earthquake occurs in a remote country like Nepal, where smartphone usage is limited and the telecommunications infrastructure is not the greatest.

Still, if Facebook’s Safety Check app can provide relief for even a fraction of loved ones, it has to be considered a success.

“My father and friends are in the area and one of the first contact points we had to get some news was Facebook,” said Facebook user Tamy Lamos. This media is not always about likes and fun. When you or someone in your family is in danger, you’ll try any kind of contact and I’m glad Facebook helped me today.”