As embattled soccer organization FIFA tries to figure out its future, ESPN’s top journalist Bob Ley is trying to sort through the mess affecting his favorite sport. The football (soccer) aficionado has great love for “the beautiful game,” he told TheWrap, but equal disdain for the sport’s scandal-plagued leaders. He also apparently has an encyclopedic memory of HBO’s “The Wire.”
Ley’s name became a trending Twitter topic on Tuesday when he dropped the following quote from “Wire” character Omar Little during his ongoing and highly-praised “SportsCenter” coverage of the FIFA scandal. “Come at the king, you best not miss,” he offered.
The one-liner was in reference to FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s announcement that he will step down amid a massive bribery scandal, just four days after being re-elected atop the all-powerful soccer organization. As one of his favorite series of all-time, Ley has been drawing similarities between Little’s fictional Baltimore gang and Blatter’s very real international one.
“I devoured ‘The Wire.’ I watched it four-five times just to study it. I love it,” Ley told TheWrap on Tuesday, laughing off the Internet Vine that has exposed him to a whole new legion of fans. “It’s so well-crafted, anybody who enjoys reading books, I think would enjoy watching “The Wire.'”
Ley was just as passionate about the FIFA situation as he is about Michael Kenneth Williams‘
“What has long been suspected of being a near-criminal enterprise in terms of lax business standards, kickbacks and bribes, has finally been officially accused of the same,” Ley said, when asked to break down the complex FIFA scandal in layman’s terms. “And only four days after people were taken out of a five-star hotel in handcuffs, the man at the top of the pyramid quit after winning re-election.”
“The only thing missing … was a helicopter at the South Lawn of the White House,” he quipped, referencing Richard Nixon’s presidential departure in 1974.
So why was Blatter re-elected in the first place, after all of those arrests and accusations on his watch — a 20-year residency that has been anything but glowing?
“He has been the ultimate politician during his time in office,” Ley explained. “He has been essentially the mayor of world soccer. He has gotten the streets plowed, all the garbage picked up, all the brothers-in-law taken care of.”
For example, Blatter has shared money from the highly profitable World Cup with Football Associations (teams) around the globe, the “Outside the Lines” host explained. By keeping the wealth distribution equal despite country size, Blatter guaranteed himself strong support from grateful tiny African and Asian nations. After all, those handouts allowed for massive improvements on the clubs and in the countries that needed it most.
“There have absolutely been accomplishments on his resume,” Ley admitted, “but the financial side of it has been — by all accounts — tawdry.”
Blatter has not been publicly or directly implicated in any hands-on bribery attempts, though reasons for his sudden about-face from Friday to Tuesday are currently murky at best. It’s unclear when a new president will be elected — sooner rather than later is the general hope — but an election may not happen until next spring.
“It’s going to be the most bare knuckles of politics between now and then,” Ley concluded.
Ley was also in the news on Tuesday for re-upping his contract with ESPN, which formalized a longterm handshake agreement from roughly six months ago, he said.