Usually, being right in the middle of the muddle is where a journalist wants to be. You always want to be an Action Jackson, not some Simon on the Sidelines.
That's usually how I am with soccer. But there are days when I am so deliriously happy that I’ve got a safe buffer from the goings on. And this is darn sure one of them.
Tomorrow, the suits in Zurich will decide the fate of the known world. Or so it seems. They’ll place the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. I’ll write for SI.com and on this blog about how the outcome impacts matters in the United States. But I won’t have to write about the process itself – and what a stroke of lottery-luck fortune that is.
What will happen tomorrow is anybody’s guess. Seriously, if someone says they know what’s coming … pat them on the head and ask that they sit down so as not to hurt themselves. Because they are delusional. Or just lying. Or both.
All the preening and posturing going on over there, all the breathless drama, over-thinking, hyper analyzing … I just don’t want to be part of. It doesn’t amount to anything, just minutes and hours in your life you’ll never get back – like waiting for dialup-speed downloads back in the day.
These choices for 2018 and 2022 are pretty much already decided. How? Well, only a very few people are privy to these things. It’s what we call “making the sausage:” even if they explained it to you, you’d surely find it distasteful.
But if you’re a card-carrying journalist in Zurich this evening, that’s precisely what you’re doing. You are crawling through the pig guts of this mess. Every little detail in the run-up now must be analyzed to within an inch of its life.
What, exactly, does Vladimir Putin’s last minute pull-out signal? What will these media hand grenades coming out of England do for the Three Lions’ bid? Did David Beckham’s late charm offensive carry any weight? Who was seen with whom in the elevator, or huddled over the croissants, butter and marmalade at the continental breakfast, and what were they talking about? A voting alliance, perhaps? Or maybe they were just gossiping about that yummy Elle Macpherson, who has made the Zurich celeb scene.
In the worst case scenario, some editor here, needing even more content to justify the cost of trips to Zurich, will request something incredibly silly. “Uh, yeah, can you round up one of the Qatar bid folks and find out if it’s true that people have actually been known to melt like cheese in the summer there?”
Hell, I heard one poor schmoe this morning on Sky Sports asked if the weather there in Switzerland (brrrr!) would affect tomorrow’s vote? The weather! Affect the vote? Seriously?
And as journalists, we’re always asked to make predictions. Well, honestly, who can predict what’s going to happen in a process that’s already been dragged through the mud by sorry corruption? I couldn’t.
And that leads to the next reason I wouldn’t want to be in Zurich right now: as a journalist, you always want to land as close to the truth as humanly possible. You never want to be in a position where you are putting bullshit in print or along the Interwebs. Well, let me tell you – a lot of journalists are being put in really bad positions right now.
That’s because trusted sources are saying one thing publicly and something quite different when the digital recorders are switched off. The CW says the FIFA way is wrought with corruption. Everyone suspects so. But to say so publicly is to cannibalize your own country’s bid – so everyone in an official position is quite careful not to say so. In fact, they just fib about it. Or, maybe the smart ones will talk around it.
Still, as a journalist you know the deal. So, you knowingly quote something that doesn’t reflect somebody’s true feelings – or you risk looking like you’re not doing your job by not quoting them at all.
Either way, you come away feeling like you need a shower. Because you feel a little dirty about it all.
Maybe you come away needing a drink, to wash away the bad taste.
And I’ve been to Zurich. That is one expensive city! Them drinks cost a lot. … Which is yet another reason I’m quite content to be back here, awaiting tomorrow’s outcome.