Friday, May 29, 2015

BYCTOM Investigates!

Playoffs are exciting, championships are thrilling, but sports leagues across America and the globe know that nothing is more gripping than investigations bearing reports spanning hundreds of pages, hearings, and stone-faced press conference denials. As professional sports have evolved from corrupt rackets started for the benefit of gamblers to corrupt rackets worth billions of dollars, it's time to give fans what they want and start a Sports Investigation Hot Stove League that captures all of the excitement of dour lawyers, slumping, jowl-heavy officials, and the refusals to comment that we all crave.


This week, the United States and Switzerland staged daring sheet raids on FIFA officials accused of various acts of bribery, corruption, and basically being FIFA officials. FIFA graft has been as much a part of international soccer as falling down and rolling around on the ground as if the pitch was covered in a complex series of invisible bear traps. According to the New York Times, "Soccer officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth, United States officials said. Whether through convoluted financial deals or old-fashioned briefcases full of cash, people were expected to pay for access to FIFA’s river of money and publicity."

The main reason why the United States has finally acted was because the justice department successfully strong-armed a criminally corrupt soccer official into cooperating. The informant is named Chuck Blazer because of the well-known rule that if you're a shady soccer bureaucrat ready to make a government deal and you also have a separate apartment for your cats then you have to have a Steven Seagal name.

The most surprising aspect of the FIFA arrests is that an international body is actually making an attempt to hold some corrupt officials accountable. This is the same body that awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a site so ludicrous that bribery is the only rational explanation other than gambling that by 2022, soccer will have transformed into an apocalyptic death-cult where players who can survive the searing heat will be allowed to live within the walls of the city and work on post-apocalyptic society constitutions that are ham-fisted metaphors for current crises. The Qatar World Cup has already had an appalling human cost in the thousands of migrant workers trapped in exploitative and deadly conditions to build stadiums, infrastructure, and hotels. FIFA has examined these troubling reports of thousands of worker abuses and deaths and decided that the best course of action is to move the 2022 World Cup to the winter.

As I am writing this, the world waits on tenterhooks to see if FIFA President Sepp Blatter will resign or get voted out. Blatter has stated that he will not, and he usually has a steadfast coterie of cronies that he can count on to re-elect him in perpetuity even though him and his supporters within FIFA are literally the only people on the planet who want to see any more of his oily visage popping up on television to say something impressively awful.
Blatter defaults to making "I don't know how these with artifacts from the 
recently-looted pyramid came to be carefully arranged in the living room 
of this luxury hotel suite" gestures

Blatter operates with the charm of a low-level political donor with dubious diplomatic license plates; he is the prototype of the international bureaucratic lizard person, and he infuses a sport with unmatched global appeal with the spirit of crooked bean counting.

UPDATE: Sepp Blatter has won re-election as FIFA president. He is the Sphinx, he is a pyramid, he is eternal and unmovable; he is a bad vaudeville act with a cane-cutting chainsaw. 


There is nothing funnier in American sports than when the National Football League and its overwhelmed Vice Principal Roger Goodell vow to get to the bottom of something. The NFL, a non-profit pickup truck marketing agency, wants Americans to know that it stands for America and it won't allow its players to besmirch the reputation of a sport where millionaires run into each other as fast as possible. And when players, coaches, and equipment managers threaten the very game itself, there will be hell to pay.
The Great Patriot Ball Deflation Media Event is quite possibly the greatest NFL scandal of our lifetimes. Its stakes were violations of pedantic NFL rules which, as of this publishing, have not yet been added as amendments to the United States constitution. It involves the type of moronic Patriots wacky races-style skulduggery that trapped a standoffish coach and perennial homecoming king quarterback in a series of hilariously humiliating press conferences. It involves Goodell squandering any ounce of goodwill he could have gained from this by throwing around suspensions with the reckless abandon of Barney Fife with a submachine gun.

In the NFL justice system, the players are represented by two separate
yet equally important groups: Roger Goodell, who hands down
punishment; and Roger Goodell, who arbitrates appeals to Roger
Goodell's decisions. These are their stories.

But the by far the best part about the Deflation Event is the Wells report, the results of an investigation running more than 200 pages with transcripts of text messages, scientific charts, and the results of hundreds of man-hours of digging into the question of ball pressure. Today, we examine one of these heroes.

Brock Jaw woke up in his car. He used takeout cartons for a pillow and a racing form for his blanket even though he had an officially licensed Kansas City Chiefs branded snuggy in his trunk. It was time to go to work. It was always time to go to work.

For five weeks he tailed the Patriots' assistant equipment manager. He knew his apartment, his car, his friends, his bar. He woke when he awoke, slept when he slept, and lived in his shadow. Brock Jaw didn't have to go home anymore, not since the divorce. He figured his wife would take him back after he cracked the incorrectly-branded headphone case, but he was wrong. She didn't understand. She wasn't out here, defending everyone from garish cleats.

Goodell told him not to engage with the equipment manager. The Commissioner said he'd take his badge. But Roger Goodell didn't sleep in his car for the past five weeks and wake up smelling like gas station coffee. Roger Goodell didn't spend hours at a corkboard tracing football needle receipts. Roger Goodell didn't have to watch that smug son-of-a-bitch walk around like there was no Brock Jaw around every corner, held back only by the bylaws of the National Football League and probably municipal laws, but Brock Jaw wasn't sure.

"BROCK JAW, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE," Jaw said as his car fishtailed around a corner into twelve fruit stands. "Did you deflate the balls?" he said, shaking the equipment man. "Did you tamper with them? Did Brady know? "DID BRADY KNOW?" he screamed, wiping produce from his eyes.

"You're with a professional sports league, I don't have to talk to you," the equipment man said.

Brock Jaw launched a pomegranate inches from the equipment manager's face. From his car, the NFL radio dispatch squawked out an emergency signal. "This isn't over," he seethed. But for now it was. Brock Jaw stepped on his accelerator and turned on his siren blaring The Equalizer. It was a code 451: illegal pants. "Jesus Christ," he said.


Our old pal Illinois head football coach and frustrated bear swatting at out-of-reach picnic supplies Tim Beckman has found himself in hot water again. Beck Man has been in fine off-season form since unthinkably wresting The Hat from its rightful place in Evanston and has been clearly driven mad with Hat Power since. In February, he demanded that reporters cover Illinois football positively. "The challenge is still, how important is the University of Illinois to you? It's very important to us. We can be successful if we're all in it together." "I AM THE HAT-HOLDER," he added, throwing on a cape. "I AM YOUR NEWSPAPER. HERE'S A HEADLINE FOR TOMORROW'S EDITION: BECK MAN HAT MAN."

Beckman then announced the creation of a Beckman-edited Illinois 
propaganda newspaper called Iltruthni filled with articles such as 
"Illinois Football's Tractor Procurement Numbers See Dramatic 
Increase" and "Hatless Pig-Dog Pat Fitzgerald Cowers Like Child"

More seriously, former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanovic accused Beckman of mistreating and abusing players. Other former players from Illinois and Toledo have corroborated his allegations while still others came to Beckman's defense. Cvijanovic claims that Beckman and his coaching staffs dismissed injuries and forced players into dangerous and stressful situations. Beckman denies the allegations, and the university has begun an investigation.

One of Cvijanovic's allegations, however, seems completely in line with what we've come to expect from Beck Man, as the Tribune reports:
Cvijanovic said Beckman created a dangerous culture around injuries, forcing hurt players to wear purple signifying the color of rival Northwestern.
"This shows how he views injured players. Like you're weak," said Cvijanovic, who will graduate from Illinois.
There is no doubt that stoking the flames of an intrastate football rivalry between two bad teams that no one cares about is the first priority of all Beck Man practices. Here are some other likely Illini practice scenarios:
  • Recruits are blindfolded and forced to take the hat from a papier-mache Pat Fitzgerald without ringing any of the bells placed on his person
  • Illini football players enrolled in seminar class called "We Have Always Been At War With Northwestern"
  • All tackling dummies now say "Chicago's Big Ten Team"
  • It is the last day of training camp. It's a hazy dusk and Beckman pulls aside the newcomers and says to them your last task is to get to the dining hall. They take their first tentative steps when they see them charging down a hill. It's a dozen makeshift Willie Wildcats built by Beckman at the anti-Northwestern crafting studio he built in a shed, but his costume-making techniques are still crude, so the Willies have crooked smiles and mismatched eyes, and they are coming straight at the players out of the forest and they are on fire.   

Several open questions remain: Will Sepp Blatter ever be successfully removed from his post at the top of FIFA and sent off to some soccer St. Helena?  Will Roger Goodell get his man? And will Embattled Coach Tim Beckman (his title as specified by the latest AP Style Guide) be able to prove that his brand of deranged coaching psychosis is within university-sanctioned bounds of deranged coaching psychoses?  And if he is fired, will he still keep up a one-man anti-Northwestern hatred campaign by standing at Ryan Field wearing a t-shirt with his anti-Northwestern logo on it but no one notices because it is a Big Ten game and only 35 people are cheering for the home team?  Only one man knows, and he is Brock Jaw, and he can't tell you because he's got a hot tip about improperly branded sports drinks.

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