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To the end, Luis Rubiales confounded his supporters as much as his critics. Instead of sticking and fighting or going in some dignified way, he took his big get to Piers Morgan.Reuters

I guess it’s something – doing one of the most talked-about televised resignations since Richard Nixon.

That’s what former Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales has now. At best, he’s a pub quiz answer: What soccer executive lost his job less than a month after winning the World Cup for getting handsy?

But is this the end for him? I doubt it. Things are never that simple.

I’ll give Rubiales this much – his ability to inflame and divide people who did not know him, or care about soccer, or Spain, or sport in general, never flagged.

From his glib, initial denials, to the Politburo-style news conference (clapping not optional) where he cried, “I’m not going to resign” a half dozen times, to sending his mother off on a hunger strike, Rubiales kept the emotional volume at a steady 11.

For a moment there, he had everyone’s attention. One suspects that’s a reason why it took so long for the inevitable to be realized.

To the end, Rubiales confounded his supporters as much as his critics. Instead of sticking and fighting or going in some dignified way, he took his big get to Piers Morgan.

Morgan is one of those British guys who would give anything to be American, but just can’t let the accent go. He loves the swagger, but abhors being thought of as a rube.

The interview appears to be a sort of two-man macho-off – tail feathers twitching, each of them trying to suck up all the oxygen in the room.

“About my resignation, yes, I’m going to do,” Rubiales says.

“You’re going to resign?” Morgan says. Like everyone else listening, he’s having trouble penetrating the lack of hard consonants.

“Yes, ‘cause I cannot continue my work.”

What work?

All these sports executives that talk about their “work,” like they’re out there building subdivisions – what work is it exactly that they do? They go to meetings. They look thoughtful when someone says, “Player X or Player Y?” It’s an occupation, but it’s not work.

Having obtained one of these plum gigs, the only work they’re doing is figuring out how to hang on to it forever.

Rubiales is 46 years old. He never made it as a player. He’s spent half his adult life climbing the oiled pole of the Spanish football hierarchy. Imagine how many bodies he buried along the way. Imagine how many people would love to bury him.

Rubiales knows that if he lets go, that’s it. In six months, he could be selling cars.

What does one do if one has a prestige gig, an insoluble PR problem and nowhere else to go? You flail. You yell “conspiracy.” You get political, even though it’s clear from the way you speak that you’ve never been troubled by a philosophical thought in your whole life.

You know that if you string this out long enough, people will get bored. They’ll never forgive you, or like you. But they may lose interest in getting rid of you.

That was Rubiales’s gambit. It wasn’t going to work – too many continuing, separate investigations offering multiple points of re-entry into the story. There was no end to this. Every time any player wanted to scourge him with it, one Instagram post would reignite the fire.

So what to do then? Make the process maximally painful, for everyone around you as well as yourself.

How ought this have gone down? First, Rubiales should not have done what he did. If someone I don’t know all that well planted both hands over my ears and started pulling, my first instinct would be to knee them in the groin. My second instinct would be to knee them again.

Having done it, he could have apologized unreservedly straight off. Had he done that, this might be a different sort of teachable moment.

Having not apologized, he might’ve read the direction of the wind and stepped down a couple of days later.

Having not stepped down, he might’ve submitted himself to some sort of review process, rather than acting like he’d just been framed for murder.

But no one in sports respects an executive who gives up, even if he should. They want to see him fight, even if he’s wrong. Which is why no one ever just puts their hand up and leaves.

Drawing from the most up-to-date thinking on how to manage a crisis, Rubiales got loud. He made as much noise as possible, in the hopes of creating a general melee.

It worked. After three weeks, Rubiales had spurred a national #MeToo movement, forced every political leader in the country to pick a side and made Spanish soccer a punching bag. Just about every employee of the championship women’s side has quit or been fired. The whole thing lies in ruin.

Back home, they wondered why Rubiales, who just barely speaks English, would choose to quit in that language to Morgan, a guy no one in Spain knows?

It should be obvious. Rubiales is recasting himself as a rebel and an outsider. Spain is finished for him. If he’s going to have a third act in sports, it will be somewhere else. The Morgan interview is his global “job wanted” ad.

He’s not going to be running anything any time soon, but someone will see value in the attention Rubiales brings. It’s the first rule of sports – get eyeballs on. Now that he’s super-famous, there is a team or federation somewhere that will convince themselves Rubiales’s redemption arc can be good for business.

At the conclusion of these flare-ups, we ask ourselves what we’ve learned from this. It’s mostly of the kindergarten variety – keep your hands to yourself, say sorry if you’ve hurt someone else, take responsibility.

And then there’s the middle-aged entertainment-business lesson that supersedes all others – if you’re going down, take as many people with you as possible.

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