David Hoppe

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:: Doesn’t Loretta Lynch have anything better to do?

by David Hoppe

I continue to be amazed by the foresight of that group of movers and shakers who, back in the day, decided to brand Indianapolis a sports capital. Forty-some years later, we can and should debate what that original vision means in terms of local policymaking. But that these folks tapped in to something huge in the cultural zeitgeist is beyond question.

Flash forward, if you will, to today’s on-going news-splat over FIFA.

Listen, I know soccer, er, football, is a big deal. The World Cup? Fabulous. And even though the United States team amounts to the equivalent of your local school board — most people are hard-pressed to name a single member — that doesn’t mean we aren’t pulling for them.

That said, I have to admit being a little flummoxed by the amount of media attention lavished on the scandalous behavior of various FIFA bigwigs, not to mention the lead role being played in this imbroglio by newly anointed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

FIFA is football’s governing body, the board that determines, among other things, where the World Cup tournament is played. It presides over the getting and spending of a gob-smacking worldwide fortune.

This makes FIFA a considerable player in an increasingly global economy. FIFA money, for example, finds its way in and through a number of U.S. financial institutions.

But FIFA corruption is an old story, going back decades. Corruption, in fact, appears to be de rigueur in international sport — the Tour de France (doping anyone?) and, as Indy folks know too well, Formula One auto racing have both been tainted by unscrupulous executives who use their various sports as little more than glittering bait, a means of getting their hands on and flaunting the Really Big Money.

What seems new is the willingness of our Attorney General to play referee. There’s a lot you’d think Loretta Lynch could be doing now: dealing with the rising incidence of police violence, our country’s over-the-top incarceration rate, and the risky practices of our banking and financial services industries all come to mind.

Instead, she’s collaring a rogue’s gallery of overfed, international “sportsmen.”

It’s interesting that this is happening at the same time President Obama is banging the drum for a cascade of international trade agreements that would, in effect, create “the new world order” a previous president, George H.W. Bush, used to rhapsodize about. I guess we’re being shown what being the world’s policeman is supposed to look like on a planet redefined as one interconnected, transnational marketplace.

It also reflects our bottomless appetite for sports. The games themselves now seem dwarfed by the myth-making, identity-shaping, community-defining energies they inspire among those whose closest connection to what happens on the field is that they watch. Sport’s the one thing, beside the weather, that many of us have in common — it’s our cultural currency.

The people who reimagined Indianapolis as a sports capital got this. They saw where the culture was headed and designed a downtown to fit. That part was brilliant. As the FIFA scandal shows, it’s what comes next that’s hard.