Content advisory 18+ Although the 2018 World Cup can now be placed in the file of Yesterday's News (and what is deader than the headlines of the day before the day before ?), it is worth a brief look back simply as a way of saying goodbye-to-all-that.
And no matter what your take on sports in general might be-- and regardless of your politics -- I think that only the surliest of hard-liners would try to argue that the event was a failure. On the contrary, it was a resounding success, probably exceeding even the fondest hopes of none other than our Commander in Chief himself (with whose imperial appearance we were treated to only on the first and last evenings of the affair).
First, the host nation performed heroically. Russia was not supposed to do anything in this World Cup, and many people did not even expect them to emerge from their group. As it was, Russia fought with skill and, perhaps even more importantly, with PASSION. In so doing, the team erased the negative memories of recent years, entertained the hell out of everybody, lost only on penalties to the eventual finalist, and thoroughly deserve their current status as national heroes.
Second, the matches were almost all highly entertaining. The weather was good right up until it was time for France to take its jubilant curtain call -- then the skies, which had been holding their breath, simply sighed and emptied. The stadiums around the country were immaculate and always full, and everyone was clearly having a good time. The winners laughed and shouted, the losers hung their heads and cried -- just as it should be in competition at this level.
There were many surprises -- the demise of Germany and Argentina, the vanquishing of Spain and Brazil, and the splendid performances of Croatia, Belgium, and to a degree, England. Riveting stuff. In the end the best team won. France rarely seemed to be playing to full potential, but there was always a thoroughbred air about them -- and, in truth, the rest of the competition didn't really come close.
Also great was the fact that the ultimate outcome (the crowning of the champion) did not hinge on controversial decisions stemming from bad officiating. With few exceptions, the referees did their jobs well. And, aside from the seriously disgusting diving and faking the players do way too often, the final was played in a good spirit by the teams that most deserved to be there.
Third, off the pitch, a lot of good will was spread out across Russia. There may have been a few unsavory incidents, but the overwhelming majority of visitors to Russia probably left MINUS some of the negative stereotypes they brought with them. Ok Ok OK, YOU know and I know, that with the guests now departed, Russia and the Russian police force will return to their old tricks, and, you know, it is really a shame...because one is tempted to wonder: "Hey, why can't it be like this all the time? It works !". The freedom, I mean. But, alas, the authorities, so cunning in building up the impeccable image that they succeeded in fostering, are nevertheless, in a different way, simply too stupid to try and see if it would work on a regular basis.So oppression will bear down again with its scowling face, no doubt.
Which brings me to the only unpleasant situation that I saw. No, not fan violence -- that was never going to happen. I knew it and I wrote about it, and I was right. If there is one thing that totalitarian governments can do better than democratic ones, it is to control crowds. The Russian government was never going to stand for a bunch of monkey business out of hooligans and so they stopped it before it could start. If the World Cup had been held in any other country in Europe, we would have seen the typical problems -- guaranteed. But not in Russia.
However, you will recall of course that the Final between France and Croatia was briefly interrupted by...guess who? O Dear, those pesky Pussy Rioters again !!! Dressed up like police or security personnel (or whatever) they managed to slither through the previously impregnable walls of protection and run onto the pitch. Three babes and a boy, if my head count was right. It seems that their message had something to do with the police. Who cares?
Wisely, the TV cameras shifted to highlights of earlier goals, so the punky little Rioters didn't get much face time before they were dragged away. Nor did the police beat the shit out of them because, insightfully, they (the cops) understood the bad publicity that would follow (exactly what those clever little Rioters would have preferred). Nor apparently, will they be thrown in prison for two years -- which was the mistake the government made the last time when it was Show-time at the Cathedral, thus earning the publicity hungry little Rioters their 15 minutes of international fame.
Apparently, they will sit in jail for 15 days where, I hope, they will be subjected to plenty of abuse in a variety of forms. And the reason I say this is NOT because I am a fascist nor that I am opposed to protesting against evil things. Not at all. The point is that this was a football match being enjoyed by an estimated 3.2 billion viewers around the world. These people, most of whom were trying to FORGET about politics during that match, instead had a valuable minute of their time (and lives) stolen by the interlopers.
Nobody even knew what was happening or why it was happening, and, in the grand scheme of things it will make absolutely NO difference to anybody. So it was just a bit of grandstanding by egoists who put their little comedy skit ahead of the rights of the rest of the world.
A friend of mine, as we discussed this topic today, reasoned that the cheeky little Rioters therefore owed ONE MINUTE to each of those 3.2 billion viewers. And, yes -- you do the math -- since there are 1440 minutes in each day and 365 days in each year (not counting leap year), this means that the average year contains 525,600 minutes. So multiply that by 3.2 billion, and you will arrive at the time my friend believes the Rioters owe the world. He thinks they should pay their debt while behind bars.
Well, readers, my esteemed friend can be a bit hot-headed and punitive in his outlook, so I -- courier of mercy -- would suggest what in America is called a plea bargain as an alternative to jail time.. So instead of a million years in prison, how about the three female Rioters and the one male Rioter be subjected to a bit of deep internal plumbing at the hands of a team of well-hung and randy Cossacks?. The girls could no doubt deal with it and the guy might like it especially. About one hour should be enough, and then everything can return to normal.
Hell, you could film it and sell it to the world. Just think of all the free publicity the Rioters could get from that? In fact, the Cossacks should have been surrounding the pitch in the first place. I mean, it worked at the Sochi Olympics, didn't it? It's the one thing the Russian government overlooked this time...
===Eric Richard Leroy===