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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
FIFA shows power by eliminating replays on site


Pro football Lord of Discipline Roger Goodell? Not so tough. Iron-fisted NBA Der Kommissar David Stern? Kind of a wimp.

Well, at least compared to FIFA.

Perhaps you've heard: the ongoing World Cup has featured a number of dubious allowed and disallowed goals, including one from Argentina forward Carolos Tevez in his country's 3-1 victory over Mexico -- a goal that triggered on-pitch arguments after in-stadium scoreboard replays showed Tevez was offside.

FIFA's response? Yes, there's a problem here, and we'll fix it posthaste.

Namely, by censoring said scoreboard replays.

Shooting the messenger? Shades of "1984" and always being at war with Eurasia? The equivalent of BP addressing the Gulf oil spill by turning off that stupid underwater camera showing all the gushing crude destroying one of our most important oceanic ecosystems?

You bet.

Still, I have to hand it to the beautiful game's grand international poo-bahs. On one hand, FIFA president Sepp Blatter subsequently apologized for the crummy calls and said his organization would discuss implementing a replay system; on the other, FIFA's initial obstinate reaction -- the problem isn't bad calls; the problem is people noticing bad calls -- went unlamented and uncorrected, and simply follows the same playbook employed by powerful people and groups since time immemorial:

1. Never explain

2. Occasionally apologize

3. Profit

Classical Greek historian Thucydides famously noted that "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." When other sports leagues pull something arbitrary and capricious, they generally have the common courtesy to run elaborate PR campaigns, the better to make lemons taste … er, less lemony. Not FIFA.

FIFA does what it can, when it wants, no Jedi Mind Tricks required. And fans keep watching, even when what they're seeing is now subject to approval.

Sorry, Goodell and Co. That's real power. And they say horse racing is the sport of kings.