The tributes to actor and comedian Robin Williams have poured in since his death last week. Williams didn’t have much to do with sports apart from some stand-up bits (WARNING: Potty mouth involved. Have your fainting couch ready.) and a documented passion for cycling, but there was that one time when he brought some levity to the always-stuffy FIFA World Cup draw in 1993.
Ahead of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, FIFA held the draw in Las Vegas on Dec. 19, 1993, with stars such as Faye Dunaway, James Brown, Barry Manilow, Willie Nelson, Vanessa Williams and Stevie Wonder giving the proceedings some wattage. Sepp Blatter, then FIFA’s secretary general, was joined on stage by Robin Williams, who made sure things didn’t stay too serious.
David Lacey of the Guardian was there:
Robin Williams sent the whole thing up, describing the chart as “the world’s biggest Keno [numbers] game” and insisting on calling Sepp Blatter, secretary-general of Fifa, Mr Bladder throughout. “This is not a comedy,” chided Blatter lamely at one point.
Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe had more:
Williams joked and mocked, wore a surgical glove to select plastic balls containing team names, and talked about “great prizes” for those selected. In fact, the prizes are unimaginable fame and wealth for underdogs such as the Bolivians and Nigerians, and even more fame and wealth for the established stars of the game.
Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times praised Las Vegas’s brilliant new comedy act, video of which sadly does not seem to be on YouTube.
But Blatter’s true starring moments came when Robin Williams was brought out to help with the last fishbowl of balls. Blatter immediately rose to the occasion, providing the ultimate straight man for Williams, a comic genius who seldom needs one.
Blatter welcomed him, shook his hand, and Williams said: “It is nice to meet you, after all these years of feeling you.”
Then, in quick order, Williams watched Blatter break open one of the plastic balls and remarked: “Panty hose?” That was followed by Williams donning a plastic glove for his reach into the fishbowl and telling Blatter to “turn your head and cough.”
Throughout, Blatter was brilliant. Right there, on international television, a foil was born.
Even though Williams did his best to derail the event, Blatter seems to remember it fondly.
Very sad news about Robin Williams. Great memories of him and Faye Dunaway at World Cup draw in ’93. We’ll miss you. pic.twitter.com/unGYcBRMy7
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) August 12, 2014