Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: FIFA is french for Embezzlers United

Straight to the action today, as I'm off to LoDo to watch the Rox play this afternoon.  After the fold, I'm talking the FIFA arrests, a pair of Games 7 in the NHL, and the uninspiring action in the NBA conference finals.

Click below for the bag...

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.
The scene last Wednesday was astonishing.  Not the notion that corruption exists in FIFA, mind you, but that someone finally began the de-lousing process at the notoriously infested institution. Take a step back and think of this for a second.  The US Justice Department, representing a country loosely interested in the global game, got fired up enough to convince the Swiss - the fucking Swiss - to hand over a number of influential high-rollers over financial crimes.  If you'd have told me last week that such a thing was a possibility, I'd have laughed at you. Now we live in a world where the United States of America can stand as the single best champion of the world's beloved sport.  Huh?  What?

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.
The problem is, I don't see how any of this will actually change anything.  The current election and financial distribution schemes around the futbol-ing world ensure the same corrupt system will continue into the foreseeable future, long after any of the current generation of corrupt bureaucrats have been cleaned out. Further, I don't see how even the potential removal of Sepp Blatter himself would do any good.  Any elected replacement would necessarily need to run the same grift and graft scam to secure enough votes for election, and then continue it throughout their reign.

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!
All homerism aside, this was a lame Game 7 (... and Game 6).  The Blackhawks controlled the action throughout, with Anaheim only barely showing a blip of life late in the third.  Even then, I never worried. Sure, a mostly stress-free deciding game was easy on my heart, but made for weak viewing for the unaffiliated.  Hockey fans deserved better, especially after the raucous five game start to the series.

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.
The two goalies only needed to stop a combined 45 shots Friday night.  For a series that had been known for crazy, high scoring affairs, this was not the finale the fans deserved.  The action was too negative, too pensive for my tastes.  Luckily, I don't think that this negative play will carry over into the Stanley Cup Final, set to begin tomorrow night.  The Blackhawks, now released from the constraints of Anaheim's physicality, should be free to engage in a shootout with the explosive Lightning.  While I expect Chicago to win the series handily, I expect the goal tally to soar.  Game on!

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.
About the only thing I can take from this series is the reminder that LeBron is the best player on the planet. As if you could've forgotten, 'Bron-bron is more than capable of slipping into killer mode, and destroying even good teams on his terms.  Over the four games, the King averaged over 30 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists per, demolishing the Hawks at every facet.  If he brings that level of performance to the Finals, the hobbled Cavs may just be able to pull off the upset.

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.

Happy Tuesday!

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