Dinner with Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini
I didn’t know what to expect that night when I pulled into the parking lot of the Red Lobster. I’d suggested meeting at the Union League—had gotten reservations, in fact—but Mr. Blatter’s assistant called back, quickly, to tell me in no uncertain terms that there’d been a change of plans. I didn’t see them when I got out of the car, so I waited, a little unsure of myself, by the entrance. A sign stuck to the glass of a giant lit-up menu case alerted the public to the fact that it was “Crab Crackin’ Wednesday,” and that a pound and a half of snow-crab legs could be bought for $19.95.
After a few minutes, I felt the telltale buzz of my Motorola vibrating in my pocket. Through a thick French accent, a voice on the other end said, “You are at ze Red Lobster?” Then: “Stup it, Seppy, he says he is zayr, be quiet! Yes? We will arrive shortly. Seppy, stup!”
A loud metallic clanking drew my attention to the 1986 Cadillac Seville sedan slowly rounding into the parking lot. Through the windshield I could see FIFA President SEPP BLATTER with both hands on the wheel, intently piloting the car toward the nearest parking space. Beside him, the unkempt mane of UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI was partly obscured by an enormous fold-out map.
Blatter got out of the car and came toward me, beaming. He had a small cowboy hat in his hands and, as he approached, he planted it firmly on his head. Platini followed—somewhat sulkily, I thought.
We exchanged greetings. Vanessa showed us to our seats.
ME: Did you find the place okay. Did you know how to find the place.
MICHEL PLATINI: Our map, you see, it was from…what is ze name again? Denny’s.
SEPP BLATTER: Look! They have the “Admiral’s Feast”!
MICHEL PLATINI: It did not show anysing but other Denny’s restaurants.
SEPP BLATTER: Great heavens, that’s a lot of food for $18.95!
MICHEL PLATINI: Ze one-way streets…zey were unknown to us.
SEPP BLATTER: I simply adore this country. I feel like I can stretch out!
MICHEL PLATINI: We could easily haf driven from Denny’s to Denny’s, in an unending loop, forever, like two damned souls.
ME: Interesting. Did you try Google maps. Are you familiar with that concept.
MICHEL PLATINI: Bah! I do not understand zis sing, zis “internet.” What is ze meaning of a simulacrum whose purpose is to be co-extensive with ze sing it simulates? Ze reality within, it bears no substantive relation to ze reality without, and yet, zey are ze same? How can I use zis, “sidewalk view”? All zese automobiles frozen in place on ze highways. What are ze semiotics of memory?
BRANDY: Can I take y’all’s order, please?
SEPP BLATTER: I’ll start with the Southwest chipotle Habanera shrimp poppers. Then, the “Admiral’s Feast”.
BRANDY: To drink?
SEPP BLATTER: Great falcon in the morning, I haven’t even considered the drinks menu yet.
SEPP BLATTER: Bring me one Kahlua mudslide with your finest top-shelf liquors, Brandy, if you please.
BRANDY: And for you, sir?
MICHEL PLATINI (miserably): Filet of halibut.
BRANDY: I’ll put that in for you, sir.
ME: So the big news this week is that you have crushed the G-14. How did you do that. What gave you the idea that you would crush the G-14.
MICHEL PLATINI: Peter Kenyon, he says to me, “Michel—
SEPP BLATTER: —my belle!” (giggles)
MICHEL PLATINI: “Michel, we can seize zis opportunity to strike a blow for ze underprivileged football clubs, and for underdogs everywhere, like Chelsea.”
SEPP BLATTER: “These are words that go together well!”
MICHEL PLATINI: So we said, zese big clubs, zey have ze money but zey do not haf ze numbers. You say, one of Barcelona is worth ten of Trabzonspor. I say, but zayr are fifty Trabzonspors. You say, of course, but zayr is only one Trabzonspor, ze well-known “Black Sea Storm” of Hussein Avni Aker Stadium, in Turkey. I say, ah! But it is figurative. You see?
SEPP BLATTER: Look here, it’s like Elvis, understand? Just when the Colonel thinks he can run everything…BAM! (smashing his fist into his palm) That’s when the King strikes!
MICHEL PLATINI: So we formed ze European Clubs Forum. Now, ze G-14? Zey are not ze only organized group. Now zayr is an answer to ze question, “Who will speak for Chelsea?”
SEPP BLATTER: You do not step on my blue suede shoes. You do not step on them!
MICHEL PLATINI: And so ze G-14, zey decide zat it is better, yes, to work wis zis new group. Zey will try to dominate it from within.
SEPP BLATTER: And by the neck of the great Fitzgerald, I’ll stop them.
MICHEL PLATINI: I will stup zem wis you, Seppy. We are a team, remember?
SEPP BLATTER (shaking his torso at Platini in a gesture that is somehow aggressive and taunting): A one for the money! A two for the show! A three to get ready, now, go, cat, go!
BRANDY: Here are y’all’s dinners. Careful, sir, that plate’s hot.
ME: I guess the big question I have for you is this. Why do you keep having ideas. What are your ideas good for. What do you think you will accomplish with them.
MICHEL PLATINI: What do you mean? Ideas are ze ripe mind’s fruit. We are men, we are—
SEPP BLATTER: Sweet Mary mustache, this is a fantastic piece of shrimp.
ME: I mean, the game is pretty good, right? Soccer, right? It’s pretty good? And yet you two are always strutting around on the sidelines in like black vulture hoods tutting about how one thing or another ought to be different.
MICHEL PLATINI (shrugs): Sings can always be improved…
ME: Sure, but I mean, that doesn’t even seem like why you’re in it. Some of your ideas are sort of sensible, but some of them just seem like making chess out of politics, man. Today you want extra officials on corner kicks. Yesterday you were tinkering with the Champions League. Tomorrow it’ll be computer eyes on the goal-lines, and next Thursday you’re going to want seatbelts for every seat in the stadium. You’ve got silver goals and golden goals. It’s about net effect, here, man. You’re giving people the idea that fixed things are broken, man. Why do you do that. Why do you have to do that.
MICHEL PLATINI: You are suggesting we are intellectual vulgarians, Monsieur?
SEPP BLATTER: Are you implying I’m some sort of crass opportunist?
ME: No, it’s just—
MICHEL PLATINI: But listen! Without our ideas we are nothing more than—
SEPP BLATTER: Clerks!
MICHEL PLATINI: Accountants!
SEPP BLATTER: Shop boys!
MICHEL PLATINI & SEPP BLATTER: Ridiculous!
MICHEL PLATINI: What we are doing, why, ze significance is obvious.
SEPP BLATTER: We’re like John Wayne in the closing scenes of Hondo.
MICHEL PLATINI: Ze game is a series of imposed semantic conventions zat cease to mean anysing if zey are not constantly renewed by ze application of materio-dialectical engagement!
SEPP BLATTER: I swear on the soul of Byron Leftwich that I have never loved a woman as much as I love the taste of this sweet Kahlua mudslide.
Brian Phillips is offering Surf n’ Turf at very reasonable prices at The Run of Play.