NEAR RUSTENBURG / DURBAN, South Africa — Our friends at ESPN treat the World Cup like a luxury safari. A few days ago, I got to see how their leaders rough it. The occasion was a braai, a South African barbecue. But not your typical braai. Think wine and white tablecloth.
The event took place at a swish rustic lodge, and I was never quite clear as to its purpose. I'd bought a ticket for the U.S. Soccer Federation media bus to the England game. USSF decided to make this detour. I was just along for the ride, as were a passel of other reporters.
The purpose of this corporate schmoozefest remains a mystery to me. But that's how this mini-verse operates. Everyone's in bed together. The USSF with ESPN. ESPN with the FA Premier League (the chairman of the FA, Dave Richards, was there), all of them angling for TV rights and future World Cups, all of them slapping each other on the back like golfing buddies. I half-expected Sepp Blatter to emerge from behind a potted plant with a piece of gemsbok tripe dangling from his jowls.
Naturally, I was worried about taking my companion, The Fenian Mob, into this nest of carnivores, particularly under the aegis of this site. He'd put on a Deadspin nametag and was already drinking heavily when conversation in our little group turned to a certain horndoggery exposé. The other reporters chuckled. A guy from ESPN Soccernet pointed out George Bodenheimer, the president of ESPN The Corporation. Bodenheimer, you might recall, was the man who sent out the "stop snitchin''" memo after A.J. dumped his company's naughty bits all over the site last fall. (This memo was subsequently snitched.)