Roger Goodell is the most powerful man in sports, according to Sports Illustrated.
Allow me to pause and record your utter lack of shock. Simultaneously, I’m moving the to soccer side of the equation, where Grant Wahl has expanded the four listed in the broader 50 to a soccer Top 10.
Read the piece for explanations, but here’s his 10:
1. Sepp Blatter, FIFA President
2. Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the English Premier League
3. The Glazer Family, owners of Manchester United
4. Sheikh Mansour, owner of Manchester City
5. Qatari Royal Family, owners of Paris-Saint Germain, BeIN Sport, the power behind the successful 2022 World Cup bid
6. “Corrupt Guy” (see below)
7. Lionel Messi, attacker for FC Barcelona
8. Michel Platini, president of UEFA
9. David Beckham, midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain
10. U.S. TV Bosses
Some of these aren’t actual people, but that’s the nature of these lists. Qatari Royal Family, Glazer Family, U.S. TV Bosses? Sure, they could have picked Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Malcolm Glazer, or John Skipper*. But I get the point.
(Note: John Skipper was named in the more general top 50)
I’m having a little trouble with No. 6, though, something that appears to be an amalgam of complaints. Here’s how Wahl defines it:
How many sports are dirtier than soccer? Not many, that’s for sure. A recent Europol investigation revealed what most of us already knew: Match-fixing is rampant around the world. Meanwhile, FIFA has yet to rid itself of its reputation as an unclean organization, highlighted by the fiasco surrounding the bid process for World Cups 2018 and 2022. How serious are the people in charge about fighting it?
Corruption is a huge problem in soccer, but I’m having trouble seeing the justification for creating something like Corrupt Guy and putting him above Platini, the unranked Jerome Valcke (FIFA General Secretary), CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, or somebody like Cristiano Ronaldo, since the list deigned to rank players.
How about the President of Hawk-Eye, a company whose goal technology could answer a lot of fans’ biggest on-field concern? No mention of Nike or adidas here? And what about Alex Morgan, now the face of a growing women’s game?
It’s not that corruption isn’t important. It’s just arbitrary to choose that issue to create an amalgam to represent the totality of the issue’s influence.
Is Corrupt Guy really more important that Soccer Player Dude? You know – the guy who scores, creates, and saves all the goals? How about Tactics Man, somebody who is not only an underrated comic book hero but also raising the level of fan dialog around the game? Then there’s Analytics Boy, the young sprite who could Billy Beane this thing in the next 15 years.
What about Controversial Officially Type who sometimes gives Nani a red card, other times gives Nigel de Jong a yellow?
And given the attention women’s soccer receives, how about Female Icon? And maybe there’s room for Youth Soccer Hopeful?
I get this is an issue close to some people’s hearts. Perhaps I’m being too cavalier about this. Grant Wahl ran for FIFA president on a reform platform, and although he didn’t get nominated, the publicity around his campaign showed his affinity for these issues. And they’re issues to care about.
But for some reason, main stream sports media in this country is quick to define soccer by the outrageous: The fabulous David Beckham; puckish Mario Balotelli; racism and fans rioting at random location. And yes, corruption.
Even the mundane, day-to-day annoyances get more attention in soccer: Referee errors; on-field player behavior; and handshakes. When was the last time we truly obsessed over equivalent stories in football or basketball?
It would be nice if what happened in the game was covered with the same gravity as what happened around it.
As somebody who has had a little bit of experience in media, I take these things to heart. Soccer’s rise to the fringe of the main stream means finding a niche in a crowded cultural landscape. But thus far that niche has only been open to the sensational. What did Hope Solo do now? Did Mario Balotelli ignite something new? Where did that Paraguay fan put her cell phone?
It’s a bias. It’s understandable, given the huge attention those stories get. But for soccer fans, it’s unfortunate. It means while we watch match after match and share our love for the game with each other, the sensational defines the sport. That means Hope Solo becomes Dancing Goalkeeper, Mario Balotelli becomes Disgruntled Talent, and Corrupt Guy becomes a face of the sport.
Corrupt Guy is definitely important, but that amalgam wouldn’t even be number six on the list of fictional soccer characters. Dedicated Fan is far more important. International Apparel Giant is more influential. Nefarious Agent also deserves a shout, but so does Emerging Asian Soccer Lover.
Oh, don’t forget Soccer Player Dude. And Manager Man. And Front Office Decider and Stripe-y Guy With A Whistle. They’re all pretty powerful, too.