RECAP: Well, it was a World Cup that many said was the best, most exciting ever. The proof was in the fact that old favorites (Brazil, Germany) were upset, small upstarts (Belgium, Croatia) flourished, and many matches were decided by dramatic penalty-kick shootouts, the stupidest way of deciding a contest this side of the Electoral College. Ultimately, the Big Winner, the Champion of Champions, was, of course, Russia. They ran an efficient, problem-free tournament, in which everything ran smoothly and everyone was happy. Or, at least that’s what its state-run media, i.e., FOX, said. FOX not only cleaned up the present, but also attempted to sanitize the past by running a “report” about Stalin’s vacation home. Now, if you thought the term “Stalin’s vacation home” was a euphemism for the gulags where millions were imprisoned and died, I’m right with you. The piece called Josef Stalin—known as Murderous Josef Stalin to close friends—a “polarizing figure,” you know, in that way Hitler and cancer and the final episode of Seinfeld is polarizing. The report actually tried to paint a human face on one of the worst people to ever live, showing how much he liked Charlie Chaplin movies and enjoyed playing pool. It was the worst example of trying to paint a happy face on human misery since that Jerry Lewis movie in which he plays a clown in a Nazi death camp with no pool tables! Yes, destroying the very essence, the very soul of a nation is exhausting; some need to recharge by playing pool, while others enjoy golf. The whole thing had the air of “MTV Cribs Does Journalism” with the expected results: “Was Stalin a homicidal monster? Who cares—check out that killer view!”
POST-GAME: Putin successfully presented a kinder, gentler Russia. Consider that when several demonstrators interrupted the World Cup Final by running onto the pitch, they were not shot with plutonium-dipped bullets. Not immediately. Putin continued his winning streak after the World Cup by flying to meet with Donald Trump, the bully who becomes absolutely Richard-Speck-After-He-Grew-Boobs-In-Prison smitten when he’s around Vlad. It was at this summit that Trump said he trusted Putin more than the American intelligence community, a display termed “disgraceful” by politicians and journalists and “good slave” by stern mistresses and dungeon masters. One newspaper likened Trump’s performance to “licking Putin’s boots.” That’s not entirely accurate, of course, since it omitted the part in which he was repeatedly made to be intimate with the pointier varieties of vegetables. Then he played golf.