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FIFA’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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“This is good,” FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio insisted at a 30-minute press conference on the corruption arrests of several of the soccer governing body’s bigwigs. “It confirms we are on the right track.”

To say that the presser exuded a Kevin Bacon, remain-calm-all-is-well vibe would be understating matters.

The FIFA flak’s surreal spinning of an international corruption dragnet that nabbed more than a dozen sports-marketing entrepreneurs associated with FIFA and group officials, including two of the group’s vice presidents, outdid Animal House’s Chip Diller in its rose-colored assessment of a disastrous situation. The Animal House ROTC cadet merely employed the word “well” to describe the situation surrounding the climactic scene’s chaotic parade riot. FIFA’s mouthpiece characterizes the mood of FIFA after the FBI and Swiss authorities mistook the organized football outfit for an organized crime outfit as “happy,” “relaxed,” and “good.”

“I wish to underscore that FIFA, and the timing may not be obviously the best, but definitely FIFA welcomes this process,” De Gregorio told a packed auditorium of mouth-agape reporters. “And FIFA cooperates fully with the attorney general of Switzerland and the federal office of justice. It corresponds to our request for information.”

The body always rats the lips out for telling a lie. FIFA’s De Gregorio, like Animal House’s Chip Diller, wore no smile over his tense shoulders. He grabbed the table as though to maintain his balance amid the turmoil. He clasped his hands tightly. He looked like he needed a drink, or two, or ten.

“We are very happy about what is happening right now,” the flak, taking incoming as he never has, maintained. “It is once again, unfortunately, FIFA suffering under these circumstances.”

FIFA allowed its director of communications and public affairs to face a battalion of journalists alone. But you could almost see Sepp Blatter’s hands, pointing a machine gun at his poor employee’s head, just outside of the frame as De Gregorio inverted a 7-0 defeat into a magnificent triumph.

In case anyone wondered, De Gregorio informed that FIFA’s president did not respond to news of the 6 a.m. raids by “dancing in his office.” The spokesman noted that Blatter did not, upon hearing the bad (good?) news, exclaim, “Wow, wow! That’s really cool what’s happening here!” Thank goodness De Gregorio dispelled any misconceptions on that point. But Blatter’s employee holds that his boss remains “relaxed” and “happy.”

Lots of perps imagine themselves the victims. But they don’t possess the hubris to call a massive international press conference to call attention to their suffering or recast the investigation as by them and not of them.

“FIFA is the damaged party,” De Gregorio maintained. In case his words got lost in translation, he repeated, “FIFA is the damaged party.” Dan Rostenkowski, Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff, and Sheldon Silver undoubtedly all felt similarly when they got cuffed. But they possessed enough decency to refrain from saying so in such a grand setting. FIFA’s flunky remarked, “It is of our highest interest that all open questions can be answered, all questions opened in the light of this complaint that we lodged on 18 November.”

When the AP, New York Times, Sky News, BBC, Reuters, and other outlets had finished with De Gregorio, he looked as though Pele, Ronaldo, Eusebio, and George Best had just Tommy-gun kicked soccer balls at his face for 30 minutes.

His body and mouth engaged in a half-hour debate on whether the corruption arrests of FIFA officials marked a red-letter day for the organization. Ultimately words that don’t persuade their teller’s body can’t begin to convince a room full of paid skeptics.


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