At 400 pounds, with an unruly white beard and mane, he looked like Santa Claus, talked like a bricklayer and lived like a 1-percenter. ... Blazer's big secret, as he looked down on the Manhattan streets, seems so obvious now: He had embezzled his fortune through kickbacks and bribes. And the people who would uncover the scam were with him today, in his apartment, about to dispatch him to take down FIFA. ... There has never been anything quite like the FBI's investigation into global soccer, which resulted in a series of high-profile arrests starting in May 2015. But so far, only the barest outline of the case has been made public. Wiretaps and classified debriefings remain under seal, as do the identities of confidential informants and the grand jury proceedings that have left 25 FIFA officials facing criminal charges. ... He'd attended its meetings when he was with the USSF, and he knew it was a sleepy FIFA subsidiary laden with aging bureaucrats. He also knew it was just the place to make his name, so he schemed to field his own candidate for the confederation's presidency, Jack Warner, a former Trinidadian schoolteacher who was a rising political star in the Caribbean soccer world. Through Warner, Blazer would secure his own ascent.
The first-person-shooter game pits terrorists against counterterrorists and was played by an average of 342,000 people at once in 2016. Its biggest tournaments, such as the ELeague Major scheduled for Jan. 22-29 in Atlanta, can have million-dollar prize pools and as many as 27 million streaming viewers. An estimated 26 million copies of the $15 game have been downloaded since its debut four years ago, helping make its manufacturer, Valve, the world's leading distributor of PC titles. ... While other titles such as Call of Duty offer similar gameplay, one distinctive feature has helped fuel Counter-Strike's growth: collectible items in the game called "skins." Although they don't improve anyone's chances of winning, the skins cover weapons in distinctive patterns that make players more identifiable when they stream on services like Twitch. Users can buy, sell and trade the skins, and those used by pros become hotly demanded. Some can fetch thousands of dollars in online marketplaces. ... Valve controls the skins market. Every few months, it releases an update to Counter-Strike with new designs. It decides how many of each skin get produced and pockets a 15 percent fee every time one gets bought or sold on its official marketplace, called Steam. Valve even offers stock tickers that monitor the skins' constantly shifting values. ... Some $5 billion was wagered in skins in 2016 ... roughly $3 billion worth flows to a darker corner of the internet -- one populated by fly-by-night websites that accept skins for casino-style gaming.