Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Open Letter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter

Dear Mr. President,

As a consumer of your popular television program, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I write you via this electronic communications medium today to solicit your help with a problem I’ve had for some time.

Certainly, the quagmire in which I’ve found myself these past months is not as vexing as the downturns marching across world economies like uncombed crab-lice, nor is it even that of the Jabulani ball which has been linked to Gary Coleman’s untimely passing.

No, my humble predicament is simply this: What should I do with this spare cellular telephone headset that’s sitting around my apartment?

Of course, an astute man like yourself might be wondering what this has to do with your corporation, FIFA, and its valued employees. Please allow me to elaborate with a bit of historical context.

In 2006 I traveled to your quadrennial World Cup. You’ll remember it was in Germany, and boy was it a hoot. Twelve cities across that rejuvenated nation hosted fans visiting from far and wide to take part in a celebration of global unity and peaceful competition. The warm weather, the women, and the weiss beer flowed like wine.

When not in Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion or Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins-Arena to watch football matches, I whiled away my lazy summer afternoons at various fan zones, transfixed upon 72-foot jumbotrons amid modern makeshift M*A*S*H units constructed solely to transfer booze from keg directly to England supporters with nary a swallow. The technology on hand was mightily impressive — an incredibly well coordinated affair, from the matches in the stadiums and the fan fests in urban plazas to the broadcast facilities and security details occupying every available square foot from bahn to shining bahn.

A true Eighth Wonder of the World had been laid before us, assembled of thousands of miles of cable, millions of microchips, and billions of wireless watts cloaking the whole of the nation for one month in the pursuit of delivering the finest displays of our planet’s most popular sport to an eager global audience. Ah, technology at its commercial finest.

Please bear with me as we navigate the time-space continuum to the year 2010, which is this year, when your World Cup is taking place, in fact right now.

Thank you for minding the continuum. Now as misfortune would have it, I was unable to visit South Africa for the production of your famous World Cup reality television series because of its great distance from New York City, so a college buddy of mine and I chose once again to depart for Europe to participate in your company’s and sponsors’ tech-laden extrava-soccer-ganza.

The fan zones in Hamburg, Copenhagen, and London did not disappoint, nor did the marketing experiences provided by the rest of your brand partners. Even more so than the previous Cup, high-caliber technology abounded. In the plazas where thousands of fans gathered for each match, the screens were larger, the audio clearer, the
Hyundai product displays
brighter. Sure was neat.

However, instead of the German smiles we’d encountered so plentifully only four short years ago, I was saddened to be met with frowns throughout the Continent — smiles turned upside-down by the actions of some of your employees.

I am sorry to be the one to alert you to this behavior, but videographic evidence indicates that indeed a few of your employees on the set of your World Cup football television program have refused to admit to mistakes involving some of the highest-profile players and countries in your sport.

That’s where something called digital media come in. One of the more interesting characteristics belonging to these media is that they can save video and audio events for future enjoyment, like the time in 2008 when you said, "Let it be as it is and let's leave football with errors. The television companies will have the right to say [the referee] was right or wrong, but still the referee makes the decision — a man, not a machine." See? I just re-enjoyed that. In fact, you’ve probably already recognized that I wrote this missive using one such machine, and I’ll bet you’re reading this with the assistance of another.

It’s possible you weren’t serious, or perhaps you were loaded. Because certainly a man of global prominence and boundless business wisdom such as you could not mean a thing like that. For instance, I read somewhere that you used a big machine to transport you to South Africa instead of paying a man to carry you there on his back. No, machines don’t talk or drink much, but they sure can be useful.

Or, like so many of us, you may call upon religion to tell you if footballs have crossed the goal line or not. I too am a member of a faith-based organization, and in moments of duress or confusion, I find comfort knowing I can turn to the Rock House Church of Serpent Handlers in Sand Mountain, Alabama for answers.

No, the problem must be greater than this, I thought. Only after further introspection did the realization strike me: the world’s economic slump must have you and your company FIFA in a pickle. Your resources are stretched thin and you’re embarrassed to admit it. It’s okay. I myself can sympathize, for recently I began purchasing cheap toilet paper.

It is reported that FIFA nets US$3 billion from the World Cup, but because the event only comes around every four years, that amount parcels out to a meager sum of just US$750 million per year to spend on things. I mean, that’s what Jay Z spends on hats.

Not much left for technology. So here is my offer: I will give you my spare cellular phone headset.

No, seriously. My gift. This way, FIFA employees can call their coworkers on the grassy set of your World Cup TV shows, from anywhere, and tell them about the images delivered by television networks to everyone on earth in milliseconds, including even to the people in your stadiums not employed by FIFA. Remember the England fans the other day who angered after watching Frank Lampard’s equalizer called back? And the Mexicans who said nasty things in the stadium the other day after Carlos Tevez scored from an offside position?

They were talking about the pictures that I’m talking about. Yep, same ones. So whaddya say Sepp?

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Real life already happens in high-definition and 3-D, Steve, so what do we need it for?” Good question. Due to the self-same time-space continuum you traversed earlier in this letter, your employees on the field aren't always able to witness everything clearly because of their position relative to the event in question. And wanna know something else? Those same machines can save it for review later — or better yet, for instant viewing during the three minutes the players are pulling their shirts off and celebrating their goal before kicking off again.

And I’m aware that today you let the world know that you would “re-open consideration of goal-line replay technology” (via twitter no less; there’s that technology thing). So you’re saying there’s a chance you might choose against adopting it? That's awesome.

Remember now, every other sport on earth has done it, but don’t let that dissuade your re-opened consideration process.

Ultimately, there are billions of dollars surrounding each of your reality TV shows, and I for one would hate to see some of the more deserving participants be voted off simply because FIFA employees can’t talk to each other.

So please, consider my offer of a free cellular phone headset. Because placing referees under police protection after receiving death threats for being human isn’t fun, and rewarding the deserved is.

Thank you for your time.