I have this strong image of Sepp Blatter and Neymar Jr. riding the same paddy wagon on the way to the hoosegow.
I know, I know, innocent until proven, etc. But I cannot control my imagination.
Blatter is being investigated for chicanery within FIFA.
Neymar Jr. is being investigated -- not for diving, but for tax evasion involving his family business.
I picture them in the same van, riding up the river.
(Not sure what river. The Amazon? The Limmat? Never mind, it's an analogy.)
Neymar is antsy, as a first-time offender.
Blatter is stolid, having feared this moment, in his dark 3 AM moments, for many years.
It's like the scene in the classic movie, "The Unforgiven," where the kid is blubbering to Clint that he's never killed anybody before. (Blatter is no Clint, but let it pass.)
"Geez, Mr. Blatter, I never thought it would come to this. I figured, I get away with stuff on the pitch, my family can file what we want on tax forms."
Blatter is silent.
"Plus, Mr. Blatter, we all saw how you guys did it. Millions of dollars to Havelange and his son-in-law. Jack Warner making poor old Nelson Mandela fly all the way to Trinidad to beg for the World Cup. And maybe millions of dollars to Warner for his votes. The FIFA way."
Blatter turns his back, facing the van wall, but Neymar continues.
"Fat Chuckie Blazer in the Trump Tower, two apartments! And you, with the yellow Fair Play banners at every match, getting on TV. You were the role model."
Blatter turns to Neymar and bares his teeth, like Edward G.Robinson or Jimmy Cagney in the last reel.
"Shut up, kid," Blatter growls.
The ride continues up river, silently.
* * *
For the details, please see links from the NY Times:
Juliet Macur's terrific column in the Sunday Times:
The Reuters story on Neymar's tax troubles:
Sam Borden's story on the investigation of Blatter:
Borden's story on another slippery guy, Michel Platini, who double-crossed the U.S. for the 2022 bid:
And for background on FIFA frolics, you might consider my book, "Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer," now out in paperback, with an added chapter on 2014. The dark side would be Blatter and his chums.
My nomination of Whitey Ford as the Greatest Living Yankee is up and running on the NY Times web site, as of Thursday morning:
Here are two memories of Yogi and Whitey. The first is by Bill Wakefield, who had a really nice season pitching for the Mets in 1964 but was overtaken by the Seavers and Ryans. Bill and I keep in touch. He sent me this memory of Yogi:
1950 - Yogi and a brash outfielder from the Detroit Tigers, Dick Wakefield, a tall lanky outfielder who liked to smoke cigars, played together with the Yankees. It was a brief overlap of careers and Dick was soon on his way to play for the Oakland Oaks in the PCL.
1964 - Yogi is the Manager of the Yankees and I was pitching for the Mets - -- and in an era before Interleague play -- the Mets and the Yankees played a Mayor's Trophy Game every summer in NYC. In 1964 the game was at Shea -- full house - Yogi puts himself in to pinch hit -- Casey Stengel puts me in to face Yogi. In the category of minor miracles Yogi hits into a 6-4-3 double play -- inning over.
1965 - Spring Training -- Yogi is now catching for the Mets. I am trying to make the team. I come in to pitch two innings -- Yogi is my catcher. He comes to the mound and says "Dick, you still pitching after all these years??" Yogi says, "I can't catch curve balls, sliders, two seams or changes anymore and throw anybody out so today we're throwing all fast balls." What do you say to Yogi?? With a limited assortment of pitches -- one -- and a modest fastball I got out of the two innings unscathed.
1974 - I go back to Shea Stadium for an Old Timers game. Yogi is managing the Mets - Yogi sees me.
"Hey Dick how old are you? You got me out in the Mayor's Trophy Game. Can you still get anybody out?"
I got my guy -- Joe Pignatano - out in the Old Timers Game.
I was thrilled Yogi remembered -- Yogi was a good man!!!
When the Times asked me to nominate a new Greatest Living Yankee today, I did not have room to include this personal tribute to Whitey Ford:
Sometime in the early 60’s, the Yankee charter flight came back from out west, after a night game. (In those days, writers flew with the team, for convenience.) It was nearly dawn when they landed at JFK. I had a car in the lot across from the United terminal and I told Whitey, who lived in Lake Success, and Hector Lopez, who lived in Lakeview, that I would give them a ride to their homes. I left my suitcase with them at the curb.
When I got to my car, a tire was flat. By the time I got back to the terminal, the sun was up and they were gone. So was my suitcase. No cellphones in those days. I drove home, slept a few hours, and wondered where my suitcase was.
Around noon, the phone rang. Whitey had the suitcase in his house, and I could pick it up whenever convenient, which I did on my next trip to the Stadium.
Given the busy lives of ballplayers, I’m not sure every player would have done that act of thoughtfulness. I marked Whitey down as a mensch, and still do.
It was only a few days ago that I was indulging in texting foolishness with another fan who shall remain nameless.
It was during a Mets game – a Mets victory; remember them? – and we were as giddy (and mindless) as a couple of Wall Street tv yakkers during a market mood swing.
Who would make the post-season roster? That was our preoccupation. With every stupid little bounce of the ball, we would make our snap judgments.
Is the slumping Duda healthy enough for the post-season?
Can they afford a space for Young as a pinch-runner?
You gotta have places for Colon and Niese because of the pitch counts for the Youth of America.
What a luxury, to be speculating on the final utility spot, the last seat in the bullpen.
We forgot half a century of more misery than joy.
In the two losses to the Yankees, the Mets seemed to be carrying the curse of the pitch count, their young pitching stars facing limits, like some exotic breed of butterfly.
It is hard to argue against medicine, which knows how to put pitching arms back together. The Mets’ management – even Matt Harvey’s manipulative agent Scott Boras – did not invent pitch counts for rebuilt patients.
The pitch count is here to stay. No sense in harboring nostalgia for bygone days, when wily pitchers could outsmart bitty little popgun hitters. Nowadays pitchers are mostly brutes, some of them bionic, trying to blow the ball past other brutes with bats in their hands.
Somehow the Mets have accumulated a rotation packed with fragile pitching machines. It is not just about the obvious self-interest of Harvey, the Dark Knight, indeed. He’s got reputable doctors telling him to back off at some point. The Mets’ front office did not invent this.
The least Mets’ fans can do is stop speculating on post-season rosters. Remember the last terrible days of 2007 and 2008.
Who’s the long man in the post-season? Who could get lefties out in October? Banish these thoughts and grab the worry beads. These are, after all, the Mets.
There is something ancient about the National Pastime that evokes the spiritual, the other-worldly. I submit “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams.”
Now two friends of mine have written topical essays about the overlap between baseball and the Jewish holy days.
In New York, we are used to glorious weather for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Last Sunday, the rain stopped right around sundown on the Jewish New Year to let the United States Open begin, albeit three hours late. Tennis fans did not have to be Jewish to benefit from the cessation.
The baseball season is always in its crucial days when the holy days arrive. My friend Mendel Horowitz, rabbi and family therapist in Israel, who often contributes insightful comments on this site, has written about the intersection of the sacred and the profane. Here is the link from the Washington Post the other day:
And my friend Hillel Kuttler from Baltimore has written about an event half a century ago, when Sandy Koufax chose to not pitch the opening game of the World Series on Yom Kippur. Kuttler discusses the message Koufax sent to Jews (and others.) The link from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
I covered that World Series in Minnesota, when Don Drysdale, the second ace, was hammered. Kuttler repeats the anecdote that when manager Walter Alston came to the mound to take him out in the third inning, Drysdale said, "I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too." Everybody low-keyed that observance, including Koufax. He just never worked on that day. The Dodgers won the Series anyway.
Woe to people who ignore the holy days. In 1986, Major League Baseball scheduled a night game and a subsequent day game -- not one game but two -- within the 24 hours of Yom Kippur. In New York.
I’m not Jewish, but I know from chutzpah. My column on Oct. 1, 1986, predicted a deluge:
The Sunday night game was rained out. Of course. Mendel Horowitz and Hillel Kuttler understand.
This time Trump has gone too far.
He has made fun of Carly Fiorina’s face and sneered at Mexicans, aiming at the angry white male. Now he has taken on John Kerry for committing the federal crime of riding a bicycle as a septuagenarian.
“They have no respect for our president, they have no respect for John Kerry, who falls off bicycles at 73 in the middle of a negotiation that’s very important,” Trump said in August. He paraphrased it Monday night, again criticizing the Iran nuclear treaty.
Of course, Trump exaggerated Kerry’s age. Said he was 73. In fact, Kerry is 71. Take it from a far lesser cyclist who tumbled on sand, every year counts while pedaling uphill
More to the point, Trump has once again pandered to the know-nothing set, this time in Dallas, making fun of Kerry’s love of cycling – the high-tech bike, the full outfit, the challenge of a Tour--level mountain in Switzerland.
Trump perhaps knows this is something thousands of men and women do daily in Europe and elsewhere, imitating the great cyclists on the hardest hills they can find. But he panders to the base.
Classic Donald. He said the Secretary of State was riding in a race. In fact, Kerry was taking on a Tour incline in May, but with his own State Department motorcade, which rushed to his help when he struck a curb and toppled, fracturing his leg.
Yes, the injury was serious enough to warrant surgery and care in New York. Trump senses it will work as part of his shtick about Kerry.
In his rally in Dallas, Trump once again imitated Kerry’s return to work. Simulating a man walking with crutches, he said, “The people from Iran say, ‘What a schmuck.’”
This is a common theme with Trump – the queasiness with anything less than a perfect 10. Trump seems pathologically uncomfortable with human frailty. What must he think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ran a country in terrible times, limited by polio?
The fear of frailty, this discomfort with complexity, accompanies him on national television, babbling about himself -- the Reality Show Host as Candidate, for goodness’ sakes.
Undoubtedly, Kerry was inconvenienced by his accident, but there are such things as telephones and cables and the Internet. We have seen footage of Kerry with his Russian and Iranian counterparts. The body language tells me they do not consider him a schmuck, with or without crutches.
Kerry also speaks French fluently, undoubtedly a drawback to Trump’s base, maybe even to Trump himself. French was a skill Mitt Romney tried to hide during his stiff race in 2012. Why would the United States want a worldly President or Secretary, anyway, when the current rage seems to be a carnival clown, who cannot even get ages right.
Now I read there is a new book about Donald Trump, exploring his boasts and threats and exaggerations. He was a rich boy screw-up sent to military school, which he compares to actual service.
Right. And listening to sergeants at ROTC in the late 50's, describing combat in Korea, was the same as being there.
For New Yorkers, this arrogant bombast from Trump is familiar stuff -- because we know him. (See Jim Dwyer's column in the NYT recently.)
In my home town, Trump has long been a punch line, accompanied by eloquent shrugs and the word "Echhh."
I still regard Trump as a bad leftover from the 70's, when the city was plagued by vandalized payphones, graffiti in the subways, the reek of urine everywhere, Yankee fans chanting "Boston Sucks!" and disco. Don't forget disco.
Whom do I blame for the civic vulgarization in the '70's?
In 1973, an auslander, George Steinbrenner, bought the Yankees, bullying people and winning championships.
In 1976, Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-speaking media mogul, purchased the once haimish New York Post and filled it with sniggerings and inaccuraciies.
And in the late '70's, a builder's son, Donald Trump, bought the Commodore Hotel and remodeled it as the Grand Hyatt. Everything is grand with him. Later, he tried to build Brasilia on the west side of Manhattan and blabbed about his sex life and the tactical bankruptcies he had taken. What a guy.
Now he makes fun of Carly Fiorina's face. (I'm not a fan, but I will say she carries herself better than any of the schlubs in the GOP primaries.) My wife pointed out an article on Salon.com, claiming that Trump's constituency is based on angry white males who feel, well, "emasculated." Okay.
Ultimately, it appears that some people Out There on the Steinberg Map have been watching reality television so long they cannot tell a TV celebrity from a simplistic racist.
I started watching baseball in 1946 when my dad took me to Ebbets Field and the Dodgers beat the Reds. I was seven.
Since then, I have never seen “my team” play a series like the one the Mets just played in Washington. (I can afford to gush; I’m retired, and do not have to pretend at neutrality.)
I have, however, seen another team play a dismal three-game series like the one the Nationals just did. More about this in a moment.
My Brooklyn Dodgers were so good they were expected to win (except in the World Series against the Yankees.) They were better known for disasters – Bobby Thomson’s homer in 1951 being just one of them.
The Mets came along in 1962 and have had epic seasons and stunning games, including two straight (Koosman and Seaver) over the Cubs at home on Sept. 8-9, 1969, to move within half a game of first place.
But even those surging Mets never won three straight over their closest competitor, coming from behind in all three when logic said they were done for the day.
Of course, the Nationals were already a sodden team going into this week. One of the Mets’ greatest gifts this year was the refusal of Washington management to fire Matt Williams when the team skulked for half a season.
The hapless manager brought in Drew Storen Wednesday night after his failure of nerve and location on Tuesday. Any sentient manager would have invented a blister on one of Storen’s fingers; the term “unavailable” was made for that guy. Instead, Cespedes hit a two-run homer.
After thinking about it overnight, I realized I had witnessed a contending team losing three straight in September. I was in chilly St. Louis in 1964 as the Phillies, who had lost seven straight, lost three more, more or less straightforwardly, and fell out of first place.
To be fair: some of the Phillies’ stars were hurt; their pitching staff was shot; their best player, John Callison, had a fever so bad that Bill White, the Cardinals’ first baseman, helped him on with a jacket, rarely allowed for any runner but a pitcher. The Cardinals whooshed past the Phils, into first place, toward a marathon victory over the Yanks in the World Series.
Gene Mauch of the Phillies gets the blame for overworking his pitching staff; he was a remote and intelligent man, part Ahab, part Queeg, but I cut him much more slack than I do Matt Williams.
Many teams have their sagas of comebacks and failures but I have never seen anything quite like those three games in DC this week.
Will we someday talk about Granderson the way we do about Clendenon? Flores the way we do about Weis? Familia the way we do about McGraw and Orosco? No matter what happens, the last three games deserve Casey Stengel’s adjective: Amazing.
When I was helping Loretta Lynn write her book (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”), I got used to visible signs of security.
The bus driver, big Jim Webb, with his Elvis pompadour, tucked a softball bat under his seat – “In case a ball game breaks out,” he would drawl.
There were fake names in hotel registers, to foil stalkers.
And I got used to interviewing people with their pistols on the table. (“Umm, could you point that the other way and cover it with your ball cap?” I would ask.)
That security was necessary. So was Loretta’s formidable (and large) manager-agent, David Skepner, a Beverly Hills guy who had moved to Nashville.
“DAYYYY-vid,” Loretta would drawl. “You are mah son-of-a-bitch.”
After Skepner signed on, Loretta’s visibility went up, and so did her price. She won Country Music Entertainer of the Year, first woman to do so. She went on the “Today” show. She hired a writer (“Jawrge, you are mah wrahter”) and she watched talented people (not me) make a great movie about her life.
Even when they stopped working together, Loretta would call Skepner and get his guidance, now for free. He was her son-of-a-bitch.
I tell this story as Mets fans quiver over the machinations by Matt Harvey’s agent, the notorious Scott Boras, who has dropped a skunk in the middle of a garden party the Mets are tossing this September. He has raised questions – valid doctor’s questions, at a highly awkward time – about how many more innings the reconstructed Mr. Harvey should pitch this year. Possibly, you have heard of this.
Boras is Matt Harvey’s son-of-a-bitch. Of course, he was also A-Rod’s son-of-a-bitch -- until he botched a feint toward the Red Sox. They no longer work together.
Boras has led Harvey into a gross and intrusive display during a pennant race, but that is his job, until it isn’t his job. I am assuming the Mets were always going to minimize Harvey, more than 180 innings, far short of being a workhorse into the post-season. (Remember the speculation of whether Bartolo Colon would be on the post-season roster?)
Now the Mets may view Matt Harvey differently – as expensive collateral in the off-season: Cespedes Money. But that’s the chance agents and their clients take.
This is perhaps a little secret of life, but some writers also have agents. I had one, and now another, and both have served me well. I’m just guessing that some people who question Scott Boras’ ethics also have representation. In this cut-throat world, more people could use their own personal son-of-a-bitch.
See definition in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
Definition of louche in English:
Disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way: the louche world of the theater
* * *
I thought I knew the word “louche” when I read that Sidney Blumenthal had used it for John Boehner in an email unearthed in the Hillary Clinton frolics.
It is a word I would have expected to see describing Noel Coward – his life, his writing – but not John Boehner.
Blumenthal wrote to the Secretary of State:
"Boehner is despised by the younger, more conservative members of the House Republican Conference. They are repelled by his personal behavior. He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle." He added: "Boehner has already tried to buy the members with campaign contributions and committee assignments, which he has already promised to potentially difficult members. His hold is insecure. He is not [Newt] Gingrich, the natural leader of a 'revolution,' riding the crest into power. He is careworn and threadbare, banal and hollow, holding nobody's enduring loyalty."
I would certainly agree with most of that. Boehner comes off as a stumblebum, a traveling salesman who spent the previous evening in a gin mill. The only definitive thing about him is the hard edge he takes on when talking about President Obama. Boehner and his down-river compatriot Mitch McConnell come off as contemporary border-state versions of the old Deep South - or South Africa. The sneer, the tone. Otherwise, Boehner is inarticulate, inscrutable.
I would expect somebody truly louche to be wearing a top hat or a monocle, a smoking jacket or a cape – not sporting man-tan coloration and slurred speech.
With the clown-car scramble going on at the moment, I would surely settle for louche.
I associate Roger Cohen with his skateboarding on a small ottoman, at risk of a broken neck, to celebrate a Chelsea goal on the tube.
I associate Tracy Kidder with his long legs racing around the bases on a softball party, decades ago.
Yes, serious writers, have their sports side.
I just caught up with books by both of them, touching the deepest issues in the world – genocide, inequity, identity.
Cohen’s book is “The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family,” published this year by Alfred A, Knopf. It is partially about the imbalance in many members of his family, which has made the trek from Lithuania to South Africa and onward. His mother became troubled shortly after emigrating from South Africa to England early in her marriage and never recovered.
The book also delves into what it means to be Jewish in a dangerous world, with some of his family escaping ahead of the murders in Europe, making a success in South Africa, but never feeling quite accepted in England – hearing the discreet lowering of voices and being described as “Jew” rather than “Jewish.” Later Cohen re-settled, for reasons he came to understand.
“One day, banking over New York City on the approach to LaGuardia, watching the serried towers of midtown, a single word welled up from deep inside me: home.” Cohen writes of the city of “incomers.” He has become one of journalism’s most staunch defenders of the marginal.
Tracy Kidder has also been exploring corners of the world, ranging from the emerging computer society to poverty in Haiti, often seeking people who take chances, who make a difference. His idealism is on display in his 2009 book for Random House, “Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness.”
Kidder traces the wandering of a people, and an individual, Deogratias Niyizonkiza, a member of the Tutsi tribe in Burundi. Barely escaping a bloodbath while in medical school, Deo survives in Africa the same way some of Cohen’s family survived in Europe – through the grace and courage of others.
In Kidder’s book, the man called Deo lands in New York, is helped by a baggage handler named Muhammad, a former nun, and an intellectual couple from Greenwich Village – the parallel layers of strength that work so often in this city.
Kidder recreates Deo’s survival in Burundi, and moves toward the present, with Deo, now a poised 40-something New Yorker, running a medical facility back home in Burundi, where the prevailing custom is to not remember terrible things that have happened.
My conclusion is that there is no such thing as light summer reading. These books by Cohen and Kidder would make me think and care in any season.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.