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Thoughts on the FIFA arrests -
Big news from the beautiful game last week, as, at the behest of the FBI, Swiss authorities arrested numerous FIFA officials ahead of their yearly congressional meeting. Intended for extradition to the US, the arrested officials are among a total of 14 named in a sweeping indictment aimed at the heart of a culture known the world 'round for corruption, vote trading, and outright bribery. And, it doesn't stop there. The investigation is ongoing, and may very well land on the doorstep of the loathsome Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's international governing body.
|Note to self: bed sheets work better than food carts... From: the NY Times.|
For those of you inclined to roll your eyes and say something pithy about not liking 'footy,' let me assure you that there's a lot at stake here beyond just a little game. Soccer is gobbling up fans in this country at an obscene rate, and American corporations litter the sponsor sheets of almost every FIFA event. The value of those eyeballs and the advertising dollars they represent would weaken your knees. I'm talking billions here, meaning that even the most soccer oblivious of you can understand the FBI's sudden interest in the mafia-esque tactics bandied about in the released indictment. There is a legitimate interest here,and it's about time someone stood up to FIFA.
|Blatter continues to rule the roost, but for how long? From: Slate.|
In my mind, the only way we will see substantive change at the FIFA level would be an exodus from the colossus of the larger, shall I say relevant, soccer nations. Your European giants, your South American behemoths, even the odd Australia or Ghana would need to leave and reform their own international structure to truly make a change. The Montserrats, Vanuatus, and Andorras of the planet are holding the entity back, and making it far too easy to cheat the rules. But, realistically, no one's leaving. I guess the most we'll get out of this situation is a cathartic clearing of the pipes. Savor it while you can...
Around the NHL playoffs -
Chicago 5 - Anaheim 3 -
Closing out a tight, physical series, Chicago and Anaheim went to war one last time in a deciding Game 7 over the weekend. My Blackhawks roared out to a quick 2-0 lead Saturday evening, thanks to some stellar work from the remodeled scoring line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Brandon Saad, and cruised home with a resounding 5-3 win that wasn't nearly as close as the score would suggest. While the Ducks upped the hitting (37-15 advantage) in an attempt to rattle the more skilled 'Hawks, Chicago continued to tally the only statistic that really matters: goals scored.
|Oh captain, my captain!|
Tampa Bay 2 - New York 0 -
Nearly as disappointing from a viewing perspective was the other Game 7 out East between the Lightning and Rangers. The action was tied 0-0 through two periods, but the overall intensity was limited by what seemed to be a very insular New York side. The Rangers just weren't playing loose, aggressive hockey. They seemed, at least to me, to be waiting for the hammer to drop. That hammer did eventually fall in the form of two third period goals from Tampa Bay, goals that New York never came close to answering.
|It seemed too easy for Tampa to steal away with that win.|
Around the NBA playoffs -
Cleveland 118 - Atlanta 88 -
While the NHL gave us a pair of disappointing Game 7s, the NBA was far, far worse to their fan base in the conference finals. Neither series was competitive, not even remotely. Take for example Cleveland's four game dismantling of the Atlanta Hawks. As winners of 60 games, the Hawks coulda', shoulda' proved more of a challenge for the Fightin' LeBrons, but, from the opening tip of Game 1, you could tell that was not going to be the case. Four straight loses, only one of them close, and none of them particularly interesting. Indeed, as expected, the matchup with the Bulls was the key to the Finals for Cleveland.
|It's weird to me that they touch the conference trophies in basketball.|
Golden State 104 - Houston 90 -
Just as uninteresting and blasé as the Eastern Finals was the situation out West. While the Rockets did manage what the Atlanta couldn't (win a game), the result was nonetheless uninteresting; a gentleman's sweep, and a confident stroll to the NBA Finals for the Warriors. About the only moment of this series that drew my eye was when league MVP Steph Curry fell to the ground in Game 4 with an apparent concussion. With the sudden specter of an absent Curry, the series was, briefly, in balance. Curry returned, however, and the status quo reasserted itself in Game 5. *yawns*
|GSW won, ho-hum.|
Golden State certainly appears to be the favorite headed into the Finals. I can't really see them losing at home to the Cavs, which all but ends the drama right there. For me to really doubt, Cleveland's going to have to steal one of these first two in Oakland. After over a week off, they'll their first change Thursday night, when Game 1 tips from Oracle Arena.