Clock ticking on next shaky tyrant
Was it good for you? 2011, that is. If it was then you probably aren't a despot because 2011 was not a particularly good year for tyrannical figures. I have to believe that Kim Jong-il, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak would all like a mulligan on 2011. But life won't allow you to tee it up again, sorry guys. And one year ago Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was a benign curmudgeon who represented the much-needed moral compass for big-money college sports in the US. Today, he is an 85-year-old king without a throne while his precious legacy lies in ruins because of his apparent inaction over a shocking paedophile sex scandal on his staff. When 2011 started not even the most prescient among us could have predicted the fate that awaited Messrs Kim, Gaddafi, Mubarak and Paterno. Naturally, this begs the question: What disposed despot will we be talking about one year from now?
I mean we have to cling to some form of optimism for the future because at this stage 2011 resides in the scrap heap of history. It's over. Still, at this time, it's customary for members of the sports media to look back before they look forward and nominate a seemingly transcendent performer as their athlete of the year. Okay, but here we will look forward and instead of naming the athlete of the previous year, we will select the despot you would most like to see unemployed in 2012, more commonly referred to as the Despy. In order to qualify for a Despy you must be a figure of great renown traditionally exhibiting contempt for institutions and humans that are beneath you. Oppressive and repressive, of course you are Machiavellian by nature. Any and all who question your authority are quickly dismissed as rabble-rousers and, in some cases, eliminated entirely. Sure, you're delusional but every foe must be discredited which is why propaganda is crucial. In short, it's your world and the rest of us are merely renting oxygen.
Bearing all of that in mind I have narrowed the field down to three suitable candidates for the 2012 Despy.
Our first candidate comes to us from the largest country in the world, Russian strong man Vladimir Putin and because he is a noted sportsman he is relevant to this column. A prominent judo enthusiast, Putin has chopped up any sort of democratic reform in Russia through his ruthless grip on power. A few weeks back, his United Russia party won a highly disputed parliamentary election that will see Putin once again assume the position of president in a few months' time. Thousands have taken to the streets to show their disgust over the numerous reports of election fraud and an end to corruption, cronyism and dubious politics. Might this be the year a populous uprising ends Czar Putin's reign? While it seems unlikely, 12 months is a long time in the world of sports and despots so anything is possible.
Our second nominee unilaterally shut down his league this year so he could put in place controls that would stop the rich owners from their own stupidity of lavishing insanely lucrative contracts on players. And while he may be the least odious of our three Despy nominees, NBA commissioner David Stern's condescending behaviour towards some of the players almost scrapped the entire NBA season, so he is certainly worthy of consideration. He never missed a chance to publicly proclaim how out of tune with society today's pampered NBA players are and then when a settlement was reached he turned around and tried to sell you and me on the virtues of watching a league full of these same men now described as the greatest athletes in the world. He wants it both ways and he figures he can have it with a mixture of smugness and disdain on his face. Well after 27 years at the helm, it's seems like a good time for a new face to run the league.
But neither Putin nor Stern will have to clear space on the mantle for a Despy this year because that award will be going to our third and most worthy nominee, Fifa supremo Sepp Blatter. Where to start with Blatter? His grip on world soccer over the past 13 years is the envy of every despot from Tony Soprano to his friend Putin. Recently, Blatter oversaw the controversial allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Allegations of bribery and 'dirty tricks' were so rampant during the bidding process the FBI has now opened an investigation into it. Looking to stem the controversy and take punitive action against its widely discredited leader this year, Fifa granted Blatter another five-year term as president after his sole opponent was conveniently booted out of the race in a votes-for-money scandal. Now you know why Putin envies this guy. The World Cup is the most valuable property in sports and it belongs to Blatter which is why I desperately hope that one year from now I can write these words: '2012 was not a good year for deposed Fifa president Sepp Blatter.'