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.)
"I'm here to predict victory for England in 2018 and the U.S. in 2022," Bodenheimer was saying now, arms upraised, the gods of ratings and residuals invoked portentously by one of their high priests. We're all doomed. All of us.
The suits eventually quit complimenting each other, and a few of us began casting about for a way to watch the Argentina-Nigeria game. No luck. It seemed the outfit beaming the World Cup to America had failed to set up a television somewhere so the American press covering the World Cup could actually watch the World Cup. But, then, that was never the point.
We got back on the bus. The Mob was smuggling bottles under his coat. He dropped one. It hit the floor, foaming. Everything grew sticky. So very sticky.
DURBAN TAXICAB CONFESSIONS
In which our correspondent does the Thomas Friedman thing and gleans profound insights into South African culture based on the stray remarks of a cab driver. Today: a filthy cabbie named Ahmad in the port city of Durban.
You can see some nice bums and thighs and legs. I can take you for a good time. Massage. Full one. Blow you. White, colored, black, whatever you want. They're tight and firm. You call me in half an hour's time. You want to have nice, good sex. I'll give you a nice one with a big butt. You won't be able to find the hole. You will be sandblasting.
Luke O'Brien is a writer in Washington, D.C. He's written for Details, Washington Post Magazine, Boston Magazine, SI.com, and other publications. He'll be filing dispatches from South Africa throughout the World Cup.