FIFA Change May Come When Kids Today Reach College: Sports Line

  • Sepp Blatter is seeking fifth consecutive term as president
  • U.S. probe accuses seven top soccer officials of corruption

A few hours after helping to cover the biggest international sports story of 2015, Sports Line went to a local middle school to speak with students about his job.

While there were plenty of questions about the hometown Golden State Warriors and which athletes he hasn’t gotten along with over the years (home run king Barry Bonds is No. 1 on that list, too), there was little interest in the arrest of seven top global soccer officials in Switzerland.

That got Sports Line thinking about whether a probe into possible corruption in the soccer governing body FIFA should matter to U.S. kids.

Even if those charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering are convicted and removed from their FIFA posts, will there really be any immediate change in the game or how it is overseen? Will it change the balance of power on the field, where only eight nations have won the title in 20 tournaments since the World Cup debuted in 1930?

Probably not.

Sure, the $150 million in bribes and kickbacks that U.S. prosecutors charge was paid to soccer officials could be put to better use. And perhaps the 2022 World Cup will be taken away from Qatar and moved to the U.S., so some of those middle-school students might be attending those games while in college.

But the real impact might be a generation away. The U.S. probe could help shake up an entrenched soccer establishment badly in need of change, starting at the top with President Sepp Blatter.

None of the middle school kids asked Sports Line about the Women’s World Cup, which begins June 6 in Canada and garners far less interest than the men. The Olympics have done a much better job of promoting women’s sports than FIFA, which has one woman on its 25-member executive committee.

Blatter, 79, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term as FIFA’s president, once suggested that women’s soccer would be more popular if the players wore tighter uniforms. He also has called himself the “godfather” of women’s soccer.

Yes, it’s time for change.

***

Both the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning have statistics on their side as they head into a decisive Game 7 in the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals, with the winner of Friday’s game at Madison Square Garden advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Rangers are 4-0 this postseason in games when they’ve faced elimination, including Tuesday’s 7-3 win at Tampa to tie the series at three games apiece. New York rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the previous series to oust the Washington Capitals, winning Game 7 in overtime at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist, are 15-3 in elimination games since the start of the 2012 postseason.

“If you look at the record, I think it’s just a good sign of the team showing up for the big games,” Lundqvist said after Tuesday’s win. “We’re willing to work really hard.”

The Lightning already have won two games in this series in New York, and have rebounded well from big losses such as Tuesday’s defeat. Tampa Bay has had three previous losses this postseason by three or more goals, and twice came back to win the next game.

“Whenever we’ve had a low, we’ve found a way to come back with a high, so we have to look at it that way,” center Steven Stamkos said. “There’s a Game 7, and we have to respond.”

***

For Jack Nicklaus, family has always been more important than his legacy.

So it’s only fitting that Nicklaus’s family is prominently featured in the room that this week opened in the Golden Bear’s honor at the U.S. Golf Association’s museum in Far Hills, New Jersey. The record 18-time major champion became the fifth golfer so honored, as his 1,200-square foot gallery of memorabilia joins exhibits for Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Mickey Wright.

“If I worried about my legacy, I think I probably would have prepared myself better and won more like 25 major championships,” said Nicklaus, whose 73 PGA Tour wins rank third on the career list. “I’m just being facetious, but could I have won more? Yes. Could I have prepared better? Yes. Would I have known my family the way I know them? Probably not.”

Nicklaus, 75, later this year will celebrate his 55th wedding anniversary with his wife, Barbara, who is this year’s recipient of the USGA’s highest honor -- the Bobby Jones Award -- and has been referred to as the “First Lady of Golf.” They have five children and 22 grandkids.

“The importance of my legacy is not the golf course, it’s what my life is, and what my life is intended to be,” Nicklaus said. “Golf is a game. My family is my life.”

***
-The New York Yankees lead all MLB teams with 50 first-inning runs this season. They scored eight runs in the first inning of their 14-1 win Monday at home against the Kansas City Royals.

-LeBron James scored 30 or more points in three of the four games as the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Atlanta Hawks out of the NBA playoffs, giving him 75 career 30-point postseason games, tied for third in league history with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Only Michael Jordan (109) and Kobe Bryant (88) have had more.

-Martina Hingis is seeking her third women’s doubles title at the French Open, and with her third different partner. She has won the Coupe Simone Mathieu with Jana Novotna in 1998 and Mary Pierce in 2000. The Swiss player, whose five singles Grand Slam titles include a win at every major except the French Open, is teamed up with India’s Sania Mirza in the doubles this year -- and they’re the top seeds.

-While French Open tennis officials continue their long battle for a roof on the main court at Roland Garros in Paris, perhaps all they need is a change of venue -- the Los Angeles Dodgers have gone more than 15 years since their last rainout at home on April 17, 2000.

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