"Now You Won't Have Cohen to Kick Around Any More"

An event like the demise of Steven Cohen's personal vehicle World Soccer Daily offers a writer any number of literary allusions from which to draw both inspiration and clever title.

For example, you could go with Hemingway: "A Farewell to Cohen"

Or Shakespeare: "I come to bury Cohen, not to praise him"

For fans of 1930's gangster movies, there's of course "Is this the end of Stevo?"

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgGngBampYg&feature=related"]YouTube - Little Caesar - The End of Rico[/ame]

The Bible, as always, provides keen insight in Proverbs 16:18; commonly misquoted as "Pride goeth before a fall" the actual verse is the much more apt "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall".

In this case though I chose the immortal words of Richard Nixon who spoke them after losing the California gubernatorial election in 1962. He ignored the advice of his advisors, who begged him not to, and gave vent to his anger at a working press that - both then and later - made little secret of it's loathing for him.

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb5NV4KtTC8"]YouTube - Nixon's "Last Press Conference" - 1962[/ame]

Nixon of course ended his career as an unindicted co-conspirator in the massive coverup of a signally insignificant event which could have been disposed of in an afternoon.

All he had to do was send his press guy - the almost lifelike Ron Ziegler - out with a simple admission that yes indeed some of his people had gotten all stupid (and for no good reason) during the 1972 election and although he had nothing to do with it he accepted full responsibility for their mistakes, apologized for their actions and would do whatever was necessary to make it right.

A heaping helping of crow-on-the-cob to be sure, but a month or two later it would have been nothing more than a footnote. His enemies wouldn't have liked him any better than they had before, but he would have given his defenders and allies - which were legion enough six months earlier to have given him the electoral votes of 49 states - firm ground to stand on.

Instead, this intensely proud man who was not coincidentally one of the most talented political minds this country has ever produced (even his worst enemy would concede that much) chose to "stonewall", not giving an inch and the rest is, as they say, history.

And in the end, something very similar happened, I think, with Steven Cohen.

He could have made this whole thing go away five months ago. All he had to do was use two or three of the 120 minutes a day he had a microphone in front of him to say:

"Look, I made some references to the Hillsborough disaster the other day that have upset a lot of people and I would like to

apologize for them. Everyone knows that the incident is still fresh in the minds of Liverpool fans and it was insensitive of me to say what I did. I hope you will all understand that, deep down, I meant no malice or disrespect to the memory of the 96 fans who died.

The Taylor report quite clearly and definitively explains what happened, why it happened and who was responsible. The latter group has a lot of members, but the 96 Liverpool fans who died are not among them. Their deaths had nothing to do with ticketing and everything to do with official incompetence."

Abject? Sure is. Laying it on a bit thick? Absolutely. Smart thing to do? You bet.

Instead, Cohen - like Tricky Dick - stuck to his guns. After all, he was Steven Cohen, the voice of football in America, the host of the only daily show devoted to the beautiful game in the USA. He has legions of fans. A few Liverpool gripers and whiners couldn't touch him, right?

Sure. And Nixon won 49 states less than a year before he resigned.(Note: Thanks to those who have pointed out that RMN resigned in August 1974. On the other hand, to those who want to start in again about the posessive apostrophe: pfffffffft.)

By the time the end finally - mercifully - came, Cohen had pulled out every desperation tactic he could. Sob stories about his stepchildren. Anti-Semitism. Terrorism. Freedom of Speech. Racism. Vicious threats. On and on and on, each one more frantic and less believeable than the last.

His podcast from Friday demonstrates that, in the end, he still felt it was all someone else's fault. The problem isn't him or his stupid, insensitive and factually incorrect comments, it is "hate". The hateful haters who hate got him. He's simply the innocent victim of hate. Those dastardly haters.

To listen to it is almost painful, as an obviously bright guy wallows in denial.

And the guy who says he deplores the "terrorist" email tactics that supposedly upset him provides a Nixonian Enemies List complete with email addresses so you can - well, that's left up to you.

Cohen made a lot of mistakes along the way here, but his biggest one and, I think, the dumbest as well, was his cavalier alienation of the group of people most likely to otherwise be on his side: fans of American soccer.

Now I've said many times that my personal problem with the guy was his dismissive comments, bordering on meanness, about MLS. He consistently said that the issue is all the Americans who think MLS is "the Greatest League in the World" and how absolutely absurd that opinion is.

However, as the inimitable Mike Segroves once wrote, "show me one - JUST ONE - person who says that, Steve. You can't because there isn't one". And everybody knew it. I have to believe that even Steve knew better.

But he was playing to a different crowd, fans - like him - of the European game.

Cohen consistently talked about MLS being a "third rate league", it's fans are "morons", the guys running it are idiots who haven't got the first clue, Landon Donovan is a pansy, blah, blah, blah. It was what his biggest fans wanted to hear, and he served it up piping hot. The fact that he was backhanding thousands of potential listeners never seemed to bother him much.

Those same thousands of fans might very well have saved his bacon. Like me, most American fans know little about the Hillsborough ordeal, are not emotionally involved and, while a cursory glance at the facts seems to demonstrate that Cohen's comments were pretty much off base, most of us were hard pressed to gin up much anger over them.

But having already been alienated by the guy, when he then could have used our support, fans of American soccer shrugged their collective shoulders. Cohen could rot for all we cared.

And it was so unnecessary. All he had to do was be a little bit fair about it from time to time: Yes, MLS isn't a top tier league, but it's new, it's trying and we're watching it's progress, sometimes agonizingly slow but progress nonetheless, with great hope.

To put it simply, Cohen anointed himself as Archbishop of the First Church of Eurosnobbery. His schtick (and make no mistake, that's exactly what it was) consisted mostly of a British accent as he reveled in his foreignness.

But when you spend as much time and effort as Cohen did pissing people off, then when bad stuff happens you look around and realize that you're on your own.

Bottom line, Steve set himself up for this. He was wildly vulnerable and didn't know it until it was too late.

As for this being an issue of "Freedom of Speech", the rant he leaned on most heavily at the end, to anyone who has even the slightest inkling of what the Bill of Rights actually means it's simply low comedy.

Until the US government punishes him for something he said, then his rights are entirely intact. He had - and still has - every right to say whatever he wants, any time he wants to say it.

What the Constitution does not guarantee him is that someone else has to pay him to say it.

If I sit down tomorrow and write up a blog piece about how the lousy stinking Native Americans got what they deserved for being a bunch of useless savages, it's absolutely my right to do so. But it's also Huss' right to yank my posting privileges and it's your right to contact BigSoccer's sponsors and tell them about it.

However all of that may be, be advised that Sirius/XM will have a replacement show up in a very short while. A vacuum has been created and nature has a well-advertised way of dealing with those.

But more importantly, I think the real issue is one that has gotten very little attention, ie. that soccer in the US has simply outgrown Steven Cohen.

The fact that he never figured that out isn't surprising; he was never more than a football fan who started a little podcast deal when nobody else was doing one.

Which is to say that when he was riding high he didn't really seem to fully understand why and when he fell he seemed to have even less of an idea what happened.

In the end, it was hubris as much as anything that brought Cohen down. He considered himself indispensable, and like the man says, the graveyards - figurative as well as literal - are full of indispensable people.