As long as the fans come, leagues will not reform. By now all of us have heard about the seven men arrested in FIFA corruption charges. And anyone who knows anything about FIFA will say in their hearts or their mouths, "It's about stinkin' time!" But do we really feel that way?
Right before the World Cup in Brazil, John Oliver went on a glorious (and slightly profanity-laden) rant regarding the corruption of FIFA and their strangehold on all things soccer. And even as Oliver listed the myriad of ways FIFA coerced and bribed those in Brazil and else where (I'm looking at you Qatar--Qatar??), he gave the punchline that we all knew. In essence, he said, "And even with all that, I can't wait for the World Cup!" Oliver knew it, sports leagues know it, and fans know it--as long as the fans come, leagues and associations will not see any need to reform.
The NBA had crooked referees, with Tim Donaghy in the spotlight. But as long as there's LeBron and Durant and Kobe, the fans will come.
Major League Baseball had the strike in 1994, taking away the World Series win from the Montreal Expos (have you looked at that team? They would have won it and likely stayed in Montreal, but I digress) and the steroid era of McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, and A-Rod (whose adventures made baseball fans think, "What strike?"), baseball is still chugging along and doing quite well.
The NFL with its concussion issues, domestic violence escapades, and a thousand other issues that make you scratch your head seem impervious to it all because it's killing it in the ratings.
The NHL lost an entire year due to a strike--but it's doing well.
Each of these leagues just had to ride it out.
FIFA? No wonder they weren't concerned. Fans who have been bitten by the footy bug will come. Even MLS fans who thought the whole Jermaine Jones to the Chicago Fire, no, wait, New England Revolution felt something fishy was happening behind closed doors to direct that, even if nothing immoral was happening.
Just as each of these leagues brought about reforms, what it also did was salve the consciences of the fans. "See? They're trying to clean it up! There's nothing wrong with rooting for this league, these teams, and these players." And FIFA will do the same thing. FIFA President Sepp Blatter comes out and talks about how egregious these issues are. ESPN FC's reporters say in response to their research and listening to the hearings say they could not implicate Blatter on anything.
But FIFA is a worldwide organization with many branches. While Blatter cannot keep up with them all, he can certainly set a tone that authentically shows that everything is above board. It seems disingenuous that Blatter would be so shocked at these issues happening on his watch.
- Arrests are made.
- Fans are outraged at the corruption.
- Non-fans are amazed at corruption.
- The FIFA president expresses dismay at these egregious actions.
- Reforms are made.
- The fans' consciences are salved.
- The non-fans stay skeptical.
- "Good, that's over--now let's get on with the beautiful game."