The Importance of Being Chuck

Chuck Blazer is an easy guy to lampoon.

(Some people might say "harpoon" in his case, but I'm not going for the cheap laugh here. No siree Bob.)

Aside from making Sigi Schmid look like Kate Moss' twin brother, and the beard which caused one well-beloved internet wag (modesty forbids) to call him "Santas' bad seed brother, Biker Claus", there's that damned parrot, Max, who resides in Chucks' Trump Tower digs (the floor is split between CONCACAF and Chucks' apartment; what is most likely NOT split is the rent check).

Then there's the lifestyle, one which beggars description in it's lavishness, most of it coming on the cuff as CONCACAF and FIFA - neither of which require receipts or documentation of any kind - pick up his tabs anywhere he goes.

And when the World Cup rolled around, here's where Chuck parked his rump:

cape town opening from on Vimeo.

(I'm not sure, but I'm gonna guess that Andy Meads' accomodations weren't quite so commodious)

This year he was FIFA's General Factotum in Cape Town, site of one of the brand spanking new crown jewel white elephant stadiums, Green Point.

He presided over the VVIP lounge (if you only get a badge for the regular VIP lounge, you ain't Jack.) and the various games there as sort of a surrogate Sepp Blatter, the go-to guy and Lord of All He Surveyed.

Pretty heady stuff for a guy who had zero involvement in soccer until he volunteered to coach his sons' U6 side and somehow rocketed from there to Executive Vice President of USSF, Commissioner of the American Soccer League and, his current gig, General Secretary of CONCACAF.

As the first and only American to serve on FIFA's Executive Committee, he is unarguably the most powerful and influential American in world football, but more importantly for us is the very real possibility that he's the most powerful and influential American in American soccer.

Because unlike most of the gray, faceless non-entities who serve on the ExCo at the pleasure of Sepp Blatter, Blazer is a wildly talented, intelligent and capable soccer executive, and when he speaks, all of FIFA listens.

As for example when FIFA was ready to accept the only bid it had gotten for World Cup TV rights in the US, Blazer stood up in the meeting and asked them to wait because he thought he could arrange a better deal. There was literally no debate, and a few months later Blazer, working with Don garber, delivered the ESPN package which has provided all of us with the kind of wall-to-wall coverage that NBC could only dream of.

Or the fact that when he took over CONCACAF (Jack Warner runs the CFU mostly), to call it a Mom and Pop operation would be an insult to Mom and Pop, it's budget barely clearing $100k a year. Currently, CONCACAFs' operating budget is around $40 million.

(And now that Warner has taken a cabinet position in T&T - Our Man Jack as Minister of Public Works and Contracts - what could possibly go wrong - he's already said he'll be spending even less time on Confederation business. Make no mistake - this is Blazers' show)

The man is good, and FIFA knows it. And he's so influential that the England bid committee was almost literally in a panic when they discovered that Blazer was not in the room in J Burg when they made their presentation to the ExCo a few weeks ago. (he has a medical condition which prevents him from traveling to high altitude cities; another reason why he was assigned to Cape Town).

All of this on top of the fact that one of his oldest and dearest friends, from way back in youth coaching days, is a guy named Sunil Gulati.

What it boils down to is that everyone knows when push comes to shove Blazer will look out for US interests behind all those closed doors in Zurich, and that he has Sepp Blatters' ear, absolutely.

So as American soccer fans, we should all be ecstatic about the guy, right?

Right?

Well, there's the problem. He led the coup which installed Jack Warner at the head of CONCACAF and he has been nothing but totally loyal ever since. He's engaged in various dodgy affairs, from the offshore World Cup betting operation that even FIFA couldn't stomach to being called, essentially, a liar by a US Federal Court Judge when he testified in the Mastercard lawsuit against BlatterCo.

What it boils down to is that he's chosen to look the other way when the crooks come out to play, and that doesn't sit well with us normal soccer fans.

How anyone can call Jack Warner, the man who stole $20 million from the T&T players after the 2006 World Cup, his "dear dear freind" and continue to support him publicly and privately grates on our sensibilities.

All of us are sure that, were we in his place, we'd leap to our feet in our first ExCo meeting and shout "j'accuse" at all and sundry.

Which is, of course, why he's there and we're not. And therein lies the moral dilemma.

There is once price and one price only, demanded of those who would rise to positions of power and influence in World Football, and that price is absolute loyalty to Sepp Blatter. All things flow from there, like crap in a stream.

For those who go along, the rewards are immense, both materially and otherwise; I mean, how cool would it be to spend the last four weeks doing what Chuck Blazer has been doing?

So the question that all of us tongue-clucking and finger wagging moralists really need to answer is:

Is US Soccer better off with him there?

And the only serious answer is yes.