Reforming American Professional Sports: A Proposal

Please see this article at the LeagueOfFans.org, a consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader and part of the Center for Responsive Law.

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When many people think about professional sports, they think “it’s just a game”. They do not think too much about the organization of our largest leagues and likely would not consider anything to be wrong with the economies of pro sports in America. To most, everyone should be happy to be making whatever money they are already making.

Yet in actuality they are not just games but rather a massive multi-billion dollar industry that has benefited from “It’s just a game” to stifle the economic rights of both its labor and any potential competitors, directly harming consumers and public finances. In a closed sports system, current team owners alone control who is allowed to enter a league and are permitted to place extreme and onerous entry requirements upon any potential entrants.

There is no modern justifiable reason that leagues like the NFL or NBA should enjoy a monopoly and be permitted to prevent new businesses from joining the competition. Whereas the granting of antitrust exemptions were fruitful in the initial development and stabilization of pro sports in America, the industry has grown beyond their need and these protected corporations currently abuse their exempted status.

Considering the rapid evolution of pro sports over the last 40 years, Congress should remove all anti-trust exemptions given to pro sports and pass legislation to ensure that new entrants to each sport are permitted based on objective standards and identifiable criteria. The closed-system leagues must not be allowed to construct subjective and shifting barriers to entry into a marketplace and fandom should never trump the public benefits of economic competition.

Creating an open sports system for America would result in national and regional economic growth heretofore unforeseen and untapped, increased competition and resulting benefits to consumers, increased economic empowerment to minority communities, diversity of ownership of professional teams, the alleviation of the inequities of the NCAA and greatly benefit public finances.

If an investment group or an individual desires to start a sports team and can meet a pre-determine standard with reasonable threshold requirements for capital funding, business structure, etc., then they should not be required to seek the permission of already established entities to compete. The leagues can adjust their structures accordingly to their desire to meet an influx of new entrants.

Open Sports Systems Internationally

Around the world, we are provided countless examples of open sports systems that thrive within nations with weaker or less stable economies. The most prominent example is the league hierarchy system, more commonly known as promotion and relegation and widely used in Europe. Within this system, teams competing in the top league must earn their right to remain in the top league through their on-field performance. This is because the three teams that finish at the bottom of the standings at year’s end are subject to relegation to the next lower league.

Correspondingly, the three teams that finish at the top of the next lower league are promoted to the top league. This process is repeated throughout a multi-league structure with the total number of leagues depending upon how many eligible teams there are within the overall system. In England for example, there are currently five leagues considered professional national leagues atop a vast network of lower regional leagues.

The English Football System via englishsoccerguide.com

This process ensures that every team is incentivized to always compete and never ‘tank the season,’ as suffering relegation would cause them to miss out on large payouts, derived from media rights and profit sharing, that will be given to the teams in the top league in the next season. Instead, the relegated teams will receive an apportionment equal to other teams in the next lower league. Which is usually an amount much less than the apportionments given in the top league.

Other open systems merely employ a multiple conference or large group play system with an expanded playoff format but lack the quality of play benefits of a league hierarchy system.

Yet in all open systems, never are private corporations permitted to arbitrarily limit the number of competitors in the marketplace.

Economic Benefits Of An Open System

Every team created, like any business, means jobs and tax income based off of those jobs. As an example, the NBA has thirty teams, thirty administrative staffs, thirty coaching staffs and player rosters. In total, a few thousand people involved in the sport, deriving incomes they spend in their communities and taxable to local, state, and federal authorities. Along with the direct employees, many thousands more rely on the income the sport creates including support staff, stadium vendors, merchandise manufacturers, hotels workers, security staffs, local law enforcement agencies and so forth.

Overall, in our nation of over 300,000,000, the US sports industry represents only a tiny fraction of our GDP and employment, tallying approximately $14.5 Billion in earnings per year (less than 0.001% of US GDP) and contributing 456,000 jobs (0.3% of all US Jobs). (http://www.economicmodeling.com/2013/07/09/not-just-a-game-the-impact-of-sports-on-u-s-economy/)

England, a comparable economy and culture to the United States, has only a population of 50,000,000 but uses open sports systems. Though their population and GDP is less than one-sixth of the United States, their sports industry generates $24 Billion USD (1.9% of England’s GDP) and 400,000 full-time equivalent jobs (2.3% of all jobs in England). (https://www.sportengland.org/media/3465/economic-value-of-sport.pdf). If the labor percentages between these nations were equal, it would translate to an additional 2.8 Million American jobs. Under our current system, the United States is not close to fully tapping the incredible potential of the economies of sports to grow further in the future.

With an open system, there would not be only 30 or so professional teams across each sport. The amount would be determined by how many teams the American sports market could sustain. Accordingly, there would be multiple the number of executives, managers, trainers, vendors, manufacturers and athletes. The economic expansion of professional sports may be the largest short-term job creation vehicle available to our nation. Job creation that would also benefit the many minority groups which represent a large percentage of the labor within the sports industry.

For many cities like Austin and Louisville or states like Iowa or West Virginia, an open system is the only method by which they are ever likely to have a pro-sports team. Within England, there are thousands of professional football clubs in the interconnected league system, each ensured the same opportunity, based on performance, to enter into to the top league.

Is there any city in America with more than 150,000 people that would not have at least one professional sports team placed into an overall open system like England’s? Per the 2010 Census, there are over 170 cities in America with more than 150 000 people. Green Bay, the 283rd largest city in America and only the 153rd largest metropolitan area already hosts a professional sports team whereas metropolitan areas like Providence (38th), Louisville (44th) and Birmingham (49th) host none. Cities or metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, and LA could likely sustain many multiple teams. By example there are over 30 professional football clubs in London alone, six of which currently compete in their nation’s top league.

Diversity of Ownership of Sports Teams

Creating objective standards to entry and enforcing capitalistic principles of fair competition would also eliminate long-standing concerns regarding diversity of ownership of sports franchises. In order to compete and start a franchise, minority or female ownership groups would no longer need permission from rich men maintaining their monopoly.

Public Financing of Stadiums

Beyond job creation or concerns regarding diversity of ownership, ending this system of corporate protectionism would end the game of exploitation teams routinely play with local governments when asking for handouts to build new stadiums. We allow these professional leagues to limit the number of entrants and their individual teams are able to hold cities and towns hostage with the threat of departure. As there can only be so many teams in the leagues in a closed system, the threat of a team leaving leaves local populations with the tough choice of coughing up millions or saying goodbye to professional sports with little hope of its return.

This scheme of public exploitation would not exist if these protected businesses knew a new entrant could immediately fill the market they left. Cities and towns would not feel as compelled to hand over money, often previously allocated to schools and social services, to a private business. Rather than be able to dangle the threat that a town would be permanently left without a sports franchise, the towns would know that if their market can support a franchise, another ownership group would come along.

via deadspin

The current system places all the negotiating leverage with private businesses and they use their leverage to extort local politicians. Requiring objective standards to entry within the sports marketplace would switch the dynamic and place the leverage with public officials and save billions for cities and towns across America.

The NCAA Monopoly

Open systems would also greatly alleviate many of the economic inequities that persist within the NCAA by providing alternative paths to professional sports. The NCAA owns a monopoly on the path to professional football and basketball and use it to profit immensely from the work of young Americans while exercising draconian rules against their behavior and holding their career hopes hostage. For a university, a scholarship and a dorm room, or simply not charging a student, is cheap currency. Yet, for the athlete, they must take a nominally compensated gamble on their future while actively doing an activity that generates millions in profits.

As we have seen among the many open systems in Europe, removing barriers to entry allows enough entrants into the marketplace that the paths to finding employment within the overall industry also multiply, from lower division or smaller teams holding tryouts to larger teams creating development academies to scout and sign young talent. With this system, young athletes are provided with a choice of whether to enter the workplace and receive compensation for their services immediately after high school or continue to college for an education while also playing sports.

Women’s Pro Sports

An open sports system would also have profound effects on women’s professional sports in America, which has failed to develop in comparison with our European counterparts. Many of America’s professional female athletes seek employment abroad because of the lack of opportunities within the major team sports in America. All notable attempts to start female sports leagues in the United States have been in the form of closed systems with similar obstacles placed upon new entrants to protect the already established entities and prevent open competition from any outside groups.

As such, there is no incentive for individuals or groups to invest in new female teams unless they are provided assurances they will be allowed to enter the closed system or unless they intend to invest sufficiently to establish an entire league themselves. Since the already established entities limit and control competition to protect their investments and since seeking out sufficient investment to form an entire league is an incredibly high burden, the current dynamic works to dissuade new investment into female sports and limits the potential growth of the overall industry in America.

An open system of female sports would provide a stable and reliable structure for which new entities can enter the market and compete against already established entities upon meeting certain objective standards and criteria. Doing so would promote new investment into female sports since new teams would never need permission from established entities to enter the marketplace and never need to seek out sufficient capital to form an entire league.

Rather than permit the development of women’s pro sports to be constrained by closed systems that serve only the interests of a select few, it would be supported by a stable overall structure that allows it to grow organically with the free market determining where in America teams could thrive.

Conclusion

In summation, the potential benefits of reforming the economies of sport could be far reaching for many Americans. Unfortunately, the potential impact and benefit to us all through quality of play, economic growth, direct or indirect employment, tax revenues, consumer benefits, youth and minority economic empowerment, or public finances is prevented to preserve the status quo of current monopolies in our closed sports system.

Thus, I present this for your consideration: to urge Congress to reform the structures of American professional sports with the creation and enforcement of an open and inclusive sport system.

 

Donald the Carpathian

Trump the Carpathian

Donald Trump has a powerful tool at his disposal. He has the power of Vigo the Carpathian, that infamous and fearsome villain from Ghostbusters 2. I am not calling Donald a villain per se. He’s no more villainous to me than the vast majority of American politicians. I think he’s just playing their game better than them since his lack of legislative record allows him to say anything.

Win or lose for Mr. Trump, there are going to be a lot books written about this election cycle devoted to his effect on American politics and its future. Journalists, documentarians and partisan analysts will study how he’s managed to do what he’s done so far.

Assuredly, there will be many reasons attributed. No less his wealth and ability to eschew big donors as well as his business background and loud personality. But he had all of that to start and back then it did not appear he’d get anywhere.

Donald Trump did not start the rise that we have yet to see ebb until he became Vigo the Carpathian.  Vigo’s power of course was that he could channel the hate in society to make himself more powerful.

We must remember that Donald did not start his campaign talking about walls and muslims. He just followed the lead of the American people and its media.  He merely used the hate and fear spouted at different times on cable news and by us to get attention and gain points.

Last July, a lady was walking with her father on a pier in San Francisco when she was suddenly shot in the back and killed.  No one knew what happened or why initially but the story exploded in the media with speculation about gangs or serial killers to whomever. Eventually, it became disclosed that an undocumented immigrant with a criminal past had been taken into custody.  Once this was disclosed, there was only one narrative: Violent Criminal Illegal Immigrant Previously Deported Murders Woman – Migrant Crisis In America!  The media’s hate and fear machine was kicked into high gear with salaciously-titled articles and perspective-less talking heads opining on what must be done.  Of course, every candidate was asked to give a policy statement immediately. All of this and the poor lady had not yet even had a funeral.

At the zenith of the hoopla, and addressed to gain points among a particular voter segment whose emotions had been most heightened by the tragedy, Donald harnessed their hates and fears and announced his wall to a thunderous applause. He spoke about Mexicans killing and raping and swaths of the specific primary voters he needed to support him at that juncture ate it up. All he did was the follow the lead of the U.S Media and its viewers. Like Vigo, he absorbed their hate , used it and became more powerful.

The actual truth about the death, while still tragic and avoidable, was not nearly as salacious as the news had described. The homeless immigrant with a prior history of theft and drug use found a gun in a dumpster. The gun was wrapped in a t-shirt when it fired accidentally, ricocheted off the ground and killed Kathryn Steinle. The perpetrator did not know the bullet hit anyone and never intended to fire the weapon. Not quite the “Immigrants Are Out To Kill Us” that was pitched by much of the media at the time Donald proposed his wall. Didn’t matter though. The message was timed right to deliver the points he needed.

The same thing occurred with San Bernandino. The fear and hate machine, which has done a effective job of equating terrorist with any criminal that is a muslim, turned the dial to eleven when the identities of the shooters were disclosed. Quickly, we were told the shooters had professed allegiance to ISIS on Facebook and the American people were driven again to state of heightened emotions.

When the noise was as loud as possible, Donald announced his travel ban and willingness to consider a national registry for muslims. Donald tapped another supply line of our fears and hates to make himself stronger.  Of course, it didn’t matter that the allegation regarding the shooters professing allegiance to ISIS on Facebook had been retracted. The message was again timed right to gain points among the groups of people he hoped would vote for him.

Let us not forget that the hate of the establishment that pervades within so many Americans was his original appeal and continues to buoy his campaign despite his more outlandish rhetoric.

Amazingly though, not only does Donald  thrive when our hate or the media’s hate is directed to a particular group, minority or class but even when it is directed squarely at him.

Never has a single candidate sustained such vicious insults and ad hominem attacks from so many widespread sources and thrived. With each passing week, the volume within the mainstream media about why we are supposed to hate Donald multiplies.

Yet when it is directed at him, it only humanizes him to the large portion of our populace whose vote is not already devoted to one party. These crude attacks and attempts to limit his free speech only show the other side is as equally vicious, hateful or as absurd as they perceive their enemy to be.  When the insults and hate are directed to his wife or family, such as those on my Facebook feed posting old nude photos of Melania Trump, the humanizing effect upon Donald Trump is tenfold.

No matter its source or direction, our hates and fears only empower Donald Trump.  The same way it did Vigo in Ghostbusters 2.  Except at the finale the American people will not be joining hands in a love-fest, singing pleasant songs together to combat anyone.  And the US Media is never going to change its fear-mongering and hate-baiting ways.

This is not a movie with a scripted ending. Instead, it is the real world rise of Donald The Carpathian.

Election Prediction: Trump beats Clinton

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{{I put this up in March but took it down two weeks later because I was too fed up and disgusted with this never-ending election cycle.  But I’ll leave it up…for now.}}

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If you’ve read anything on this site, you know I despise both political parties.  I vowed long ago to never vote for either party in federal or state elections.

However, this doesn’t mean I don’t know to read the tea leaves to see which way things are going.

Now this Donald Trump thing has happened and everyone says the world is falling apart. Early on, I admit I wasn’t paying too much attention to Mr. Trump. I thought he was an egoist on an absurd adventure that couldn’t go anywhere. Among the GOP candidates, I actually thought Jeb probably had the best chance to become POTUS only because I believed him to be the most palatable to the broader public in a general election against any Dem. Especially against Hillary since she can’t use the term “dynasty” or “corrupt” against anyone as they apply too well to her.

As Donald began to rise, I began rooting against him. I vehemently disagree about that wall and travel moratorium and still do…but I really enjoy him talking about corrupt politicians, giving out Lindsey Graham’s phone number (which I definitely called to tell him he sucks at his job – Thanks, Donald!), and now blatantly using Chris Christie like an obedient tool. How can you not enjoy someone treating politicians with the contempt they deserve?

Like many others, I’m ready to make my prediction for November:

Donald Trump will win the election and become President of The Unites States of America.

The  reason is simple: all things considered, the American people will think he is the best candidate and thus will deserve to win.

Donald will not be running against Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, or even 1992’s feel-good Bill Clinton. He is running against the 2016 version of Hillary Clinton.

People get very upset about the various offensive things Donald has said about whatever group. I know I have several times.  Cursed him aloud, wished ill upon his fortunes and mocked his hair. But let’s not be naive. Donald is a salesman and he has been successfully selling a message to a particular audience. Back when no one would take him seriously, he pitched loudly to the more extreme yet largely-shoved-aside portion of the republican base in order to gain some steam. He could have pitched to the same brands of Republicans that Jeb did but there was always a plethora of the same-as-usual GOP candidates doing the same thing. Wasn’t there more than ten to start? By taking his rhetoric to a slightly more extreme than his opponents, he was able to harness the frustration that exists in the large portion of the GOP base that always feels they are being taken for granted by their leaders.

But that’s all he’s done. Sold a message better than his opponents. With more zing and passion, he says what the audience wants to hear. Does anyone actually think Donald Trump is truly a racist? Or that he truly hates immigrants? Look at his lifestyle and history. I believe Donald will say what he needs to win that GOP nomination. I believe Donald would make a profitable deal with anyone, no matter of their race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. I believe he has essentially one question for everything: “is it good for what I’m doing now?”

Beware when this talented salesman starts selling a broader message with all that zing but to a broader electorate. The anti-establishment sentiment he captured on the right also exists on the left. The left just currently views him as an odious racist and loon. But again, he hasn’t been selling to them…yet.

Soon, the message will shift. He won’t need to make the race-baiting or anti-immigrant statements to get ahead. Or at least he will not need to make them as strongly. We Americans have short memory spans and the rhetoric in the coming months will be very different than what we’ve heard. The large undecided portion of our electorate will make their choice in November based on what they heard in August, September and October of 2016, not 2015.

When I take an objective look at what I think will happen over the next eight months, I must be honest with myself and state that Donald Trump will beat Hillary Clinton. It won’t be a fluke. He will have earned it.

Here’s why:

1) The economy.

In the general election, it’s the economy, stupid. The Clintons know this all too well. While Obama, who kept greasing GWB’s QE debt machine, has seen high stock prices and low gas prices, meaningful jobs is the number one thing people in this country want.

Attacking free trade policies is a winner on both the left and right and Donald knows this. In the general, he will drive this one home over and over again. Hillary on the other hand is weighted down by a terrible legislative record supporting free trade back to its beginning with NAFTA, done by her husband. With her legislative baggage and well-known wealthy corporate backers, she cannot counter this argument. Even Bernie Sanders has used her record against to great effect.

Attacking free trade resonates with Americans and Donald is the only one in the general that gets to support its deconstruction.

2) Foreign policy.

Immigration aside, his foreign policy will be more appealing to a unique yet vast cross section of people.

Donald has said he’d make a deal with anyone if its in America’s interest, including Iran, Assad, Russia, whomever. Does anyone doubt this? The only group he’s said he’d kill is ISIS and everyone is trying to do that already.

Donald said the Iraq war was a mistake and only a moron or liar cannot see this. Meanwhile Hillary voted for the authorization of the use of force in Iraq.  I am 100% certain that before Donald’s rise, Hillary was 100% certain that her Republican opponent would not be able to use Iraq against her.  How unlucky is she!  And no matter what back and forth statements Donald made pre-2003, he was not a public official and did not cast a vote to obliterate an innocent nation and help spawn groups like ISIS…as Hillary did.

 

3) Donald has eschewed all monies from all usual suspects: the lobbies, corporations, rich jerks and special interest groups that always twist our foreign and domestic policies to their desire at the public expense. Donald will continue to state this against Hillary, who is one the most elite-money entrenched candidates in American history.

I have never seen anyone piss off Wall Street, The Kochs, Liberals, and Establishment Media at the same time and succeed at doing it. The more his message of financial independence is spread, the more people will gravitate to him in the general. He gets to appear as the first legitimate anti-establishment candidate in a long time while Hillary appears as THE MOST establishment candidate available. No billionaire could ever be so lucky.

4) Donald does not have Hillary’s baggage. He is a business man and no matter what statements he made in the past, he can always explain them somehow. He has no voting record unlike Hillary and can trot out decades of records from both Hillary and Bill. I bet NAFTA and free trade gets talked about a lot in the coming months. All Hillary can do is complain and say he has no experience in government affairs or mock him.

It is kind of like Obama in 08 – Barack had been around for such a short period that there wasn’t a record to throw against him and the whole “no experience” complaint does not hold water against a charismatic speaker, which both Obama and Trump are.

5)Pro-choice/Pro Gay Rights – I don’t know if Donald has said anything about these issues during this campaign but I don’t care if he has. Donald Trump is not against abortion or gay rights. I would not believe that he has ever cared to be against those positions.

He will be the first GOP candidate that gets to appeal to the broad section of the left for which pro-choice/pro-gays is non-negotiable. The GOP base is not voting for a Clinton so Donald loses nothing with a socially liberal position and gains everything. His socially liberal lifestyle gives him an ability to siphon away alot of voters in the middle or on the left who may like his business background. I know women who like many things about the GOP but would never vote Republican because of their pro-life or anti-gay positions. Trump is not making this mistake and it will undercut a longstanding loyal portion of the Democratic base.

6) Melania Trump. We Americans don’t often base our opinions on real substance after having analyzed both candidates and creating pro/con lists. No, it is more a beauty pageant or popularity contest for many Americans.

One of the most appealing stories about a potential Trump presidency is his wife. They will trot her out as often as possible during the general election. Melania is an immigrant who grew up poor in Soviet-era housing in Eastern Europe. She appears to be sufficiently nice and sweet yet able to defend herself. And she is knock-down beautiful.

The story of a girl going from such humble beginnings to First Lady of White House is pretty darn cool to anyone with an immigrant background. In this country, this is ALOT of people. Inspiring even if its only through marriage and not just inspiring to Americans. It would be inspiring to many people around the world. In a way, her life story and career success along with this enforces a notion that in America, dreams can come true. That we are a nation of built from all kinds of people, that we love all kinds of people, and that any kind of person may one day find themselves in the highest of echelons in America. At least this is what will be sold by Team Trump.

With Hillary, it’s slick Willy Clinton and no matter what message Team Clinton sells, everyone knows or thinks that he will use every free moment to hit on any woman he meets.

The beauty pageant portion of his contest goes hands down to Mr. Trump and his beauty pageant-winning wife with humble immigrant roots.

Team Trump has a lot going for them right now. I am kind of stunned that what I thought impossible just a few months ago appears inevitable.

When I add up all the factors…even subjectively for this socially liberal atheist from a muslim country who is married to a hispanic woman and has many muslims in his family, I think Donald will win.

In November, I believe the perceptions of the electorate will be:

Donald is better than Hillary on the economy.

Donald will make foreign policy deals in America’s interest and Hillary is more of the same foreign policy.

Donald would tell any portion of the establishment to shove it up their ass. Hillary is the establishment.

Hillary has too many scandals.

Donald will not waste time on an abortion/gay culture war so nothing is gained by voting Democrat.

Donald’s wife is much more enjoyable to listen to and look at than Bill Clinton…x 10000

President Trump is coming. Hold on to your britches and get ready.

Stop Wasting Your Vote

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“Stop Wasting Your Vote!!!” has been told to me over and over again in the last few years. It’s because I am a write-in kind of guy. Friends and colleagues tell me I live in a battleground state and that I must help prevent the hated blues or reds from winning the election. It falls on deaf ears.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to take part in this grand charade. I used to believe that voting for my preferred party was essential to preventing the other idiots from ruining things. I know I am not alone. I doubt anyone would be able to count the times they’ve heard, read, or thought the phrase “lesser of two evils” as it pertains to politicians. I know I cannot.

We vote for our party even though we are aware of the horrible skeletons our candidates have in their past. Whether it is the receipt of hidden payments from mega-corps or the use of public resources for personal benefit, being an openly corrupt politician does not prevent anyone from getting elected if they can portray themselves, for a few months in an election year, as a lesser evil than their opponent.

This is the American people’s fault. Not the politicians or awful media.

Everyone knows that voting the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. But when election season rolls around, everyone forgets their distaste for politicians and seemingly resumes a quadrennial job as a political cheerleader, spouting whatever campaign slogan that has been provided and ignoring all negatives. This continues primary after primary after primary…general election after general election after general election…forever…the lesser of two evils. No one seems to realize or care that by continuing this behavior, they will one day die having spent their entire life only voting for evil.

In my humble opinion, that is what I call wasting your vote.

Elections are not horse races. We normal people don’t get paid on a ticket for picking a winner. Never acquiesce your vote to who you think has the best chance to win and never vote for the lesser of two evils. Your vote is sacred. It is your only real measure of control over your government. Your only chance of putting people in power who’d make the world a better place. Don’t sell it out. Only vote for whoever you truly believe in. Even if it means you must write-in your friend, your coach, your professor, your boss, your employee, your spouse, your parent, your mentor, or some person you’ve known about. Vote for someone honest. Value integrity more than ideology.

These corrupt political parties do not deserve your support. Blindly supporting them despite their flaws only ensures their behavior will never improve. Withdrawing your support from either party and seeking out honest candidates would, at worst, finally incentivize both parties to improve their behavior and start holding their members accountable. At best, we might actually find there are plenty of honest Americans throughout this great land who could do the job better than the red and blue snakes we have been electing.

I am asking you to try it. To vote for whomever your heart believes in without compromise. If only just one time in your life, be bold enough to not vote for evil. This way, when you die, you will have the comfort of knowing that you voted for good at least once.

The Next Lockout – Flip The Script

Every few years, one sports league or another undergoes a strike or a lockout. Simply put, a strike is when the players refuse to honour their contracts and a lockout is when the owners do the same. Both are done to garner leverage with the other side and improve the terms of the current structure to their benefit.

But the next time the owners of a league lockout the players (not a strike), the players should realise the golden opportunity the greed of the owners has provided them and turn the tables. How? Just play anyways.

Sports is a unique product. It does not take a high-tech factory, inventory delivery systems and an army of office workers to make this product. It only requires a location, a ball and players who are willing to play. The most difficult aspect would be organising the players to take such initiative without infighting.

Imagine the scenario. Personally, I think the NBA would be best suited for this so let’s use them in a hypothetical. What always happens is pretty simple: the owners lockout the players and the players (and owners) sit idle while terms are renegotiated.

But why should the players sit idle? It’s not as if they do not know how to play basketball without an owner above them and they would not even have to create teams. They could agree for initial/temporary purposes to form teams in accordance with their NBA rosters. Nor would they need to use NBA arenas. They can play anywhere whether it be a free park or a rented gymnasium.

If the players comprising the Oklahoma City Thunder intended to play a game against the players comprising the Golden State Warriors at a rented gym in Oakland, people would show up and pay for entry. If they could reasonably guarantee a modest schedule, they could sell broadcasting rights to whomever, even a YouTube channel, to show their pseudo-NBA games. They would indeed have to front the costs of these games and their own travel to the opposing team’s city but would quickly recoup the money with tickets sold and eventually broadcasting rights. And since none of that money would be siphoned off by NBA owners and execs, it would likely be able to more than reimburse the players for their initial cost outlays relatively quickly.

If the NBAPA, which has more than $100M in assets, put together a three-month schedule and small playoff for its players based on last year’s rosters, the owners would fold faster than we could imagine. The owners would not see this as a farcical exercise but rather the early beginnings of a competing league from which they have no ownership or power. We may look on it as novelty to see Lebron James and the faux-Cavs playing Joakim Noah and the faux-Bulls at a rented gym in Chicago but the owners would only see it as a legitimate threat to their power and the NBA itself. And the owners would know that while they may be playing in small gyms on a YouTube channel now, it could quickly turn into much larger arenas with major broadcasters if allowed to continue.

Does any person in America care whether the owners take part in the game? Of course not. If you gave us a game with the same players, we would watch and the owners know this. If they dared to let the lockout continue, they would only see the competing pseudo-league become more structured, more organised and more profitable over time. And the competing league would have all the stars the old league would be missing.

All it would take is some unity and initial financial sacrifice from already wealthy athletes. Leagues with wealthy unions like the NBA may be able to cover those outlays themselves without any further contributions or costs to players. They could arrange these pseudo teams into a single-entity league owned by the NBAPA. It would be the first league structure, albeit extremely modest at its beginning, owned in its entirety by labor.

Refs and scorekeepers can be hired and coaches designated by each team. Eventually and if the owners continue the lockout for too long, the players could seek to make the structure permanent, devising mechanisms for players transfers, free agency and new additions similar to other leagues. And once permanent the old NBA would be dead and the owners SOL.

The athletes just need to show up when a game is scheduled and play the game they’ve been playing their whole lives.

This is what any unified group of players facing a lockout (and whom are wealthy enough to pay for a flight and hotel) should do. If the owners lock em out, play anyways. Steal the entire league from right under their greedy noses.

That’d be awesome.

Qatar 2022 – The Whiny and Hypocritical US Sports Media Is Driving Me Crazy

A quick(er) rant.

The amount of contrived indignation on this topic is incredible. Since the announcement of Qatar 2022 (and Russia 2018) was made, the U.S. sports media has produced a non-stop barrage of articles complaining about every aspect of the decision. Other than the initial disappointment of having to wait longer for a World Cup in the US, I absolutely do not care that FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar or Russia. Rather, I’m sick of reading whiny articles about it. For both but particularly Qatar 2022.

Some of the complaints we read about Qatar daily:

1) The bribes and shady dealings.

I don’t like bribes or shady deals. Anywhere. But I’m not going to pretend bribes aren’t the way FIFA, the Olympics, UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, AFC and CAF (and U.S. Congress) have always been doing things. Nor would I dare pretend that taking the World Cup from Qatar (or Russia) would accomplish anything. We Americans behave in the same way. Remember the Salt Lake Olympics? The investigations around it also implicated Atlanta 1996. Remember Chuck Blazer? He was made in America and was instrumental in arranging USA 1994. He and his co-horts didn’t get FIFA to bring the World Cup to a country without a soccer league because of their charm. They struck back-room deals like everyone else. Then they set themselves up to profit off the World Cup as much as possible. Sometimes these crooks get busted by authorities (see recent developments or Italian football history) but most often they don’t.

And from what many gather, the United States Soccer Federation, Soccer United Marketing, Major League Soccer, their commingled shell corps and a select few people are behaving in a very similar manner. I would be delighted if our media would spend just a moment looking at those within our own house with the same vigor. There has been too much bold moral positioning against far away foreigners by a domestic sports media engaging in ostrich-like behavior on a lot of topics.

2) Qatar’s slave labor.

There are those who’ve written we should boycott the World Cup because of this. Boycott the World Cup??? This is an absurd idea. Only hurtful to American soccer and for nothing more than irrational and hypocritical grandstanding. To be clear, I don’t support slave labor but if anyone has noticed, Qatar is a U.S. ally. These labor practices have been going on for a long time not just in Qatar but in a lot of countries that are U.S. allies or regimes put in place/kept in place by our government. A lot of the goods you probably used today were built by a labor force who has minimal to no rights.

US Central Command has a base in Qatar. The same labor probably built the some of the buildings our own military is using. So if you care about improving the lives of slave labor in Qatar or anywhere, start with calling our own elected officials and complaining to them. Don’t complain to FIFA about it. This is non-sense that ignores the real causes of these dynamics.

To pretend that the US Men’s National Team or American soccer fans should carry this baggage without any real-world context is ridiculous. Seemingly blind, our sports media is talking about stadiums being built by people who’ve been suffering for decades in a close ally with US approval. And since we are unlikely to stop being allies with Qatar (and their oil) for a long time, these people will likely continue to suffer long after 2022. Everyone of these articles should be addressed to the U.S. government, not FIFA or even Qatar. Or rather, they should be addressed to the apathetic American people who continuously elect the same brands of politicians who continuously behave in the same way with regard to our foreign policy throughout the world. This one, the slave labor complaint, is nothing more than a bunch of self-righteous U.S. media pots calling a kettle black. And it’s an American maintained, armed and protected kettle.

So no, I do not expect FIFA to give a hoot about how Qatar builds those stadiums like I didn’t expect IOC to give a hoot about how China built its stadiums for the Beijing Olympics. I expect FIFA to organize a soccer tournament in a stable nation with hotels and move on to the next one. In fact, I hope FIFA gives that very next one, the 2026 World Cup, to a country with an awful human rights record and which has been in continuous war since 1941: The United States of America. (If only Gulati and our self-righteous media would shut their pious mouths)

3) Winter World Cup:  I don’t care that pompous Europeans or whomever will have to adjust their league schedule for two months for the first time ever. There are a lot of countries which due to weather play Spring to Fall. Finally, for once, these countries will not have to adjust their schedule as they have been doing every four years since their leagues’ creation. Basically, one group has always been asked to adjust and does so happily and now another group is being asked to adjust ONE TIME and they are acting apocalyptic about it. Good grief, what a bunch of selfish jerks. Once in 100 years is not that big a deal. Get over it. Stop acting like the world is falling apart.

And for all those people whining about the World Cup competing with NFL/NBA/NCAA, Qatar is far away. In November, the time difference will be 8 hours, meaning the games will be on in the morning or noon-ish. They will not be on at the same time as any marquee US sports. The noon NCAA games are mediocre and the NFL reserves marquee games for 4pm and primetime. When Qatar 2022 happens, it will likely be the only time in our lives where we will get to wake up, watch amazing World Cup soccer and then immediately watch a full slate of great American pro and college sports . We are talking quintuple and sixtuple-headers of great soccer, basketball and football.

Qatar 2022…CAN’T FREAKING WAIT!

Russia too!

List of Questions Regarding MLS and USSF

1)    Who is the CEO/Chairman of the Board of MLS LLC?  Bloomberg lists it is as Richard A. Peddie, the former CEO of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment). http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4312581 I’ve asked Mr. Peddie on twitter but he simply blocked me without saying no. He was asked by several people over a couple of days and he continued to ignore the question. Then, @sisusoccer (an anonymous account, to me) asked and Mr. Peddie did go on record with a quick “no”: https://twitter.com/SisuSoccer/status/575467792796807168 But Mr. Peddie would not respond to any follow up questions about when he left the position or who is the current CEO.  Also, former USSF president and lifetime director of the USSF Foundation, Alan Rothenberg is named per this site http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/alan-rothenberg/136277457.aspx as chairman of MLS LLC. Is Mr. Rothenberg Chairman of the Board/CEO or has he ever been? None of Mr. Rothenberg’s or Mr. Peddie’s online profiles disclose any employment for MLS LLC or related companies (other than USSF and MLSE, of course).

2)    Who are the majority owners of MLS LLC? I believe it to be The Anschutz Corp, The Kraft Group, and Hunt Sports LLC and maybe a few others: we know the teams are essentially franchises and MLS contracts with all players, parties, and has authority to make all major decisions. The exact structure is discussed fairly well in the first half of the decision from Fraser vs MLS (see end). Though from 2002, I can find no evidence the fake-competition model has changed nor the original majority owners.

3)    If the structure outlined in Fraser is accurate, it would mean the new entrants are transferring ownership of their teams (private corps in NASL) to MLS LLC for a right to be in the corporate umbrella. And they are doing this while also paying entrance fees? Since entry fees are relatively high, what promises of future returns are being made to these new entrants? Since the larger TV deals are mostly locked in for some time and since the attendance figures appear over-inflated in cases (easily proved by photo), are they indeed relying on “suckering” new entrants, similar to a ponzi scheme and as discussed by the soccernomics team?

4)    What is MLS Partners LLC (active)? http://www.corporationwiki.com/p/2espfd/mls-partners-llc  Originally created in Delaware on 2/19/2014 but also recorded in California. I can find no news or explanation about this corporation which appears to be owned, at least in part, by MLS LLC. I have called and emailed people within MLS to ask but they’ve given me no response. I wondered whether it was disclosed to the union during the CBA negotiation so I called and emailed several people within the union, including Bob Foose and John Newman, but received no response. Not even “it’s a non-factor”. Why let me stir a pot at all and why not tell me to buzz off?

5)   What is MLS Consulting (inactive)? http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/mls-consulting-inc/73911463.aspx which was owned and/or operated by Alan Rothenberg and Douglas Quinn, former president of SUM and former President of DallasFC  There was a third related corporation, also inactive, called “De Operating a Professional Soccer Team.” (I’m not kidding) However, for some reason, I cannot find any of the links I had been previously viewing. What are these sister/shell corps owned and/or operated by MLS or USSF officers or them together? How many are there?

6)    What is the exact nature of the lawsuit filed only last December by USSF against the USMNT player’s association? http://dockets.justia.com/docket/illinois/ilndce/1:2014cv09899/304155 It appears there was an arbitrated dispute regarding national team player images that was decided in favor of the USMNT and USSF has sued to undo the arbiter’s decision. This legal dispute has rendered the USMNTPA broke per the reports filed with the Department of Labor http://kcerds.dol-esa.gov/query/getOrgQry.do .

7)    Where is the 2010 CBA? If it is never disclosed and no one has a copy of it, how are contracts being negotiated? The player agents or any lawyer for a player must certainly have a copy they could disclose. Otherwise, how can terms be decided in a uniform manner?

8)   How much money, exactly, has MLS LLC and its wholly-owned subsidiaries received in public funds? Unlike other sports leagues comprised of multiple individual corporations, MLS LLC is one giant corporation potentially worth about or more than $3B (estimated guess from team values per Forbes). Yet it has received $1.5B in public assistance for its stadiums. https://twitter.com/neildemause/status/580709905390284801 Was almost half the corporation’s value derived via welfare? And this welfare-fattenned beast is actually one of the largest sports corporations around. Americans have surprisingly little control over something for which they’ve paid half.

9)   What are the real attendance figures or a legitimate estimate? I recently saw a photo of a Houston-Dallas game at BBVA Compass Stadium. https://twitter.com/EmptySeatsPics/status/594328707516506112  The stadium was clearly less than half full – indisputable. I estimate 40% full. The announced attendance was 19,975 (20K) but the stadium capacity is 22K. Total bullshit. The attendance figures are undoubtedly used to persuade entrants and sponsors. Is this more evidence of ponzi-scheme-like behavior or just number fudging?

10) As a former USSF president (Rothenberg), lifetime director of the USSF Foundation and CONCACAF VP (and if he is/was the CEO of MLS LLC), is this not a conflict of interest prevented by USSF or FIFA rules? With Garber as well, who is a current board member of USSF. Is Mr. Garber permitted to vote on all matters pertaining to division one? Including which corporations/entities should be allowed access?

11) USSF is sanctioned by FIFA. Regardless of the directorships, what are the FIFA rules regarding favorable FA treatment of individual teams/corporations? Are MLS and USSF allowed to collude so openly with no administrative recourse to other entities? IMO, the need for the NY Cosmos or top NASL teams to be allowed a shot at D1 competition is incontestable.

My odyssey with MLS started just a few months ago so I am trying to catch up to everyone on a lot of things. I give great thanks to all the free-market/open system advocates out there for all the guidance, data, info, history and news they provide. They actually care about the future of American soccer. Thank you.

In my opinion as well, an objective analysis shows this company is harmful to American soccer. It’s a centrally controlled, anti free investment, anti management freedom, dictatorial communist system which only ensures the development of American soccer will always lag behind the superior systems of the world. I suspect it is designed in this manner not to sustain growth but to ensure that any value or wealth generated by the sport of soccer within North America is captured by a select few individuals. And to achieve this monopoly on the future of soccer, it does so with disregard of the negative effects such a closed, imprisoned system has on the potential development of the players or overall sport within America.

Though I have been amassing data and info, MLS Media members are for the most part ignoring me completely. I think they view me as an irrelevant nuisance. Admittedly, those I did speak to were incredibly polite (ty!) but none would answer any questions. I will add more to this list as I go along and continue seeking answers.

If you are able to assist with any of these, a lot of people would be greatly appreciative. Also, I personally think it would make a good story for any intrepid sports journalists out there tired of reporting scores and injuries.

______________

 

EDIT: I have been advised that the photos cited in No. 9 were taken early and that the game did fill up further. If anyone has good photos of game crowds at their height, please share them with @TheMehdiMan. I am also familiar that “tickets sold” often exceed attendance. However, for this to be plausible in an example like the HOU/DAL game, there would have to be approximately 9000 empty seats which were purchased. These numbers seem inflated and deserve questioning. Also, unlike other leagues and teams whom most likely also inflate attendance figures, MLS uses these numbers to lure new entrants into the league, who are paying large entry fees and, ostensibly, assigning ownership of their teams to MLS LLC.

———–

MLS’ franchise, faux-competition structure, as discussed by the Court in Fraser vs. Major League Soccer:

Fraser - MLS structure 1

Fraser - MLS structure 2

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Soccer United Marketing…I have not yet even started with you.

What is a Female Politician?

Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Rogers

Having bothered many already, why not go for the mothers of them all? Women. Well, not all women. Current national female politicians to be exact. I am not insane so I am going to throw out several qualifiers and caveats in an attempt to cover my butt from those very fearsome women in my own life whom I love very much.

Let me state I like all men understand very little about women. Nor do I understand why they think whatever it is they are thinking. Remember learning imaginary numbers in calculus and wondering for a moment if your teacher had lost their marbles? They call them imaginary but to me, the square root of negative one is inconceivable. I have a strong imagination and I could never come close to imagining the solution to i. In my opinion, the only other proper use of the word inconceivable may be when trying to decipher a woman’s mind. I will figure out the square root of negative one long before I decipher a woman’s mind.

IluvU

Also, I do not intend to generalize or stereotype all women in any manner as not equal to men. Again, I am not insane. This is done only in private with other males. This was a joke – take it easy. Please know I sincerely and strongly believe in total equality under the law and personal rights for all humans against government intrusion. I am not a “get-in-the-kitchen” kind of guy nor would such a command be received well or complied with by any females in my family.

Hopefully, I have said enough to prevent being dog housed.

He's looks happy to be there.

He looks likes he’s ok with it.

Admittedly, I am no expert on all politicians. While I acknowledge there may be a scant few honest females or males in Washington, history has taught me to view all federal politicians with a strong presumption of scumbag-ishness.

But nevertheless, I have been recently wondering what is a female politician? Not anatomically obviously but behaviorally. I dare not try to define what is behavior which would be considered female, feminine, womanly, ladylike or maternal. I will let a dictionary do this and then add my humble and often confused anecdotal experience. So take your complaints to Websters.

Here are the definitions:

Feminine: having qualities traditionally ascribed to women; such as sensitivity or gentleness.

Womanly: possessing qualities; such as warmth, attractiveness, etc, generally regarded as typical of a woman, especially a mature woman

Ladylike: like or befitting a lady in manners and bearing; refined and fastidious

Motherly/Maternal: of or resembling a mother; especially in warmth or protectiveness

When growing up, I often heard women say “if the world were run by women, it’d be different”. That we would not have all the wars and unnecessary suffering. Total hogwash. From what I can tell, were the world run by the female politicians I see here in America, it would be exactly the same as what we have currently. No change.

Hillary-Clinton-AIPAC

Almost none of the national female politicians with which we’ve become familiar exhibit any of those traits on a regular or non photo op basis. I would not use any of the above words to describe Ms. Clinton, Ms. Palin, Ms. Pelosi, Ms. Bachmann, Ms. Feinstein, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, etc.

To this casual citizen observer, they seemingly run from these characteristics because they actually fear being portrayed as feminine, womanly, ladylike or motherly. They are in a contest to be as man-ish as all the male politicians have been. If you put a man’s face on Ms. Clinton or Ms. Bachmann, would it really make any difference?

Bachmann

Personally, I see nothing wrong with any of the terms defined above. They are qualities exhibited by all the women in my life and these are not diminutive or incapable people. They are intelligent professionals who’ve succeeded in their careers within industries largely dominated by men. While they use the appropriate traits and skills for their professions, they certainly do not fear being portrayed or hide from having positive female behavioral characteristics.

But I do get why the politicians do it.

sarah-angry

The politicians themselves view the traits above as campaign liabilities so they never exhibit them publicly. They fear opponents will call them weak or soft so they over-compensate to what they perceive is tough and strong. From their actual behavior and statements, we know they are willing to drop a bomb for any fabricated reason, kill whomever with any amount of collateral damage, flat out ignore human rights violations and abide the destruction of American constitutional rights. And they do it all with the same speed and vigor as the men. Often with fewer questions asked because in the end, you know, “what difference does it make?”…as one of them famously said.

Clinton Benghazi

I do not think a person possessing the positive traits above would not be worthy of office because they possess them. Quite the opposite actually. My personal experiences have provided me with plenty of examples of women who openly exhibit these traits destroying me in all kinds of competitions/debates. In my humble opinion, this country could use leaders who exhibit maturity, compassion or any other positive female characteristic instead of overly assertive aggression and stubbornness with regard to our foreign, civil liberty and economic policies.

pelosi-angry

So in answering my own question, I have realized there is no such thing as a female politician. There are only politicians. The females in Congress have achieved some mis-guided form of gender neutrality. Doing so by only behaving like all the male politicians throughout history and disregarding most of the positive traits historically attached to woman.

There is no point in pundits opining about what it would be like if America had a female President. It will be exactly the same as if a man had won. Maybe even with more war.

Hillary-Over-copy.jpgqresize580P2C327.pagespeed.ce_.HS2SR3cceP7Z-fL5s4jR

Personally, I long for a “female” politician. It would be refreshing. She’d have my vote.

END____________

The Body Part Kim Kardashian Uses Better Than You

USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala - Reception

For the longest time, I did not know what to make of Kim Kardashian. There are plenty of big booties and pretty faces in this world so her fame baffled me. But I have come to a realization which at first was somewhat uncomfortable: Kim Kardashian is really smart. Personally, I’d like to challenge her to an IQ test before I admit defeat but statistically speaking, she is probably smarter than you or I.

If you type her name into Google, it comes up with 200 Million hits. Abraham Lincoln comes up with 80 Million. Genghis Khan, the ruler/creator of one of the largest empires to ever span this earth and direct ancestor of 4% of the world’s modern population, generates only 8 Million. In terms of fame, Ms. Kardashian blows out of the water modern royalty, heads of state and scholars like Newton, Da Vinci, Einstein and Hawking. According to my hasty non-scientific search, only Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama among a scarce few celebrities like Will Smith and Michael Jordan surpass her Google hit count. But the presence of Presidents ebbs after leaving office and Mr. Jordan and Mr. Smith aren’t getting any younger. She will probably surpass them all with one more decade of this hoopla.

5000 years from now, after World War 75 has wiped out civilization for the umpteenth time, some electronic anthropologist will come upon a semi-decayed and barely functioning server or microchip from our time. In data mining the information, this future scientist may legitimately wonder whether Ms. Kardashian was some kind of global empress. And the confusion of these future anthropologists will not be misplaced per se. Our society is infatuated with Kim Kardashian. Both her fans and her haters.

How did this happen? I am not exactly sure but I know it is not Kim Kardashian’s fault. She only deserves credit.

I work in an industry with many educated men and women. As for morals however, this lot of people varies as greatly as society. Yet when Ms. Kardashian’s name is brought up, I routinely hear the same things from this advanced group of thinkers: talentless hack, lucky bimbo or any of the vulgar terms for women which correlate to “ladies of the night”.  I will admit I at one point believed and agreed with many of these people bashing Ms. Kardashian from afar. (While well aware of her, I have never seen the show)

But I began to wonder what is the real difference between Kim Kardashian and Sharon Stone? Or even Katy Perry? Not physically but rather in terms of business acumen or life decisions. Assuredly, there are several but I think Ms. Kardashian wins where it counts. Do forgive me, Ms. Stone, I love you but I have to call it as I see it. You too, Ms. Perry.

Sharon Stone, if you don’t know, is an incredibly intelligent person and member of the haughty brainiac club Mensa. What I am sure you do know about Ms. Stone is she is/was a major sex symbol in Hollywood. Though I saw it several times, I do not know or care what was the plot of Sliver for one reason: Sharon Stone was in it.

Sliver

Damn straight I’d like to watch!

At that age, triflings like plot and dialogue were totally irrelevant. The only thing I expected was a hot and naked Sharon Stone and god bless her for never letting me down. (make your own jokes)

You see, because Sharon Stone is smart, she understands the importance of having more sex appeal to society than the next actress, who may or may not have been as comfortable filming the same scenes. Ms. Stone was willing to push the envelope further than others and it helped land jobs in a very competitive industry, creating financial wealth for herself. There is nothing wrong with the business choices Ms. Stone made. In my opinion, she made them wisely when facing competition like Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who had basically corned large segments of the non-nude-scene actress industry. While my family does not share the morals of Hollywood celebrities, I fully acknowledge showing her cooter in Basic Instinct was a good career move.

Were I Arnold at this juncture, this movie would have gone in a different direction.

Were I Arnold at this juncture, this movie would have gone in a different direction.

This is the sexist dynamic in which these people live. Promiscuous behavior, public appearances with occasional antics and the attention which follows helps these women land lucrative jobs. And as society changes or slowly continues to degrade, the amplitude of this behavior increases in order for the celebrity to capture the same amount of attention as before. Hence the modern invent of every-celebrity-has-a-sex-tape. All of this is done for the hope of being able to make money in the profession they desire. The hope some rich or well-connected producer, executive or director will make them a star. Essentially, their lives are one long and embarrassing public job audition.

All Ms. Kardashian did was cut out the middlemen. She knows the masses only care about superficial glamor, sex and fame and devised a way to profit from it. She no longer relies on others to make herself wealthy. She will never need a job. She is a product, marketing plan and supply distribution chain wrapped into one human being. She can attach her name to frivolous apps via the hard work of others and expect to receive over $200 Million, per CNN. If Kevin Hart gets $2 Million to tweet a message of support for a movie, I wonder what Ms. Kardashian could command if not already doing so. No matter whether they are wholesome or promiscuous, all those actresses and actors with supposed talent cultivated through years of hard work will rely on bigwigs and financiers to get paid until they are dead. Not Ms. Kardashian though. To her, acting is for suckers.

But don’t think she did not work hard to get here or that she does not still work hard. She like all those actresses was once begging too. She like them worked often in degrading ways to achieve her current status. Ms. Kardashian was not the original “no-talent” phenomena, just the one which lasted.

That accolade belongs to Paris Hilton. Do not forget Ms. Kardashian was basically Ms. Hilton’s lapdog for a couple years. Ms. Kardashian saw what Ms. Hilton was doing turning talentless celebrity into dollars and decided she would do it better. She snaked all the media space and attention away from Ms. Hilton when the only reason we ever knew of Kim Kardashian in the first place was Ms. Hilton.

This is what we call leg work.

This is what we call doing leg work with a boss much dumber than you. Many Americans can empathize with Ms. Kardashian on this. Not me though – I love my boss!

This was probably too easy for Ms. Kardashian. I honestly wonder whether Ms. Hilton could multiply seven times eight and come within fifty-six of the correct answer. There is no way someone so vapid and hollow was going to last while also carrying the charisma and intellect of a brick wall. And while everyone has a sex-tape, Ms. Hilton seems to have had as many as some porn stars. For non-porn stars, one sex tape should be more than sufficient.

So Ms. Kardashian just repackaged what Ms. Hilton did, sex tape and all, but did it more wisely. She was smart to include her whole family in the product so they could contribute material, carry some of the weight and release some of the pressure and workload. It should also be noted there are a lot of people on this planet who would not treat their family so well as to share rising but not yet fully established fame and wealth. She deserves big props for trying and succeeding in securing something not just for her but for those closest to her.

Even beyond her business success, there is a plainly obvious reason to not over-look Ms. Kardashian’s intelligence. I do not care how little she studied in school or what degree she has never earned, her father did not get to his position in life by being anything less than a extremely smart, shrewd and capable man. In his field, one does not achieve his level success without great intelligence.

Robert Kardashian - a very successful attorney.

Robert Kardashian – a very successful attorney.

And from what I gather, her mother manages the family so she is no dolt either. We can be certain the children of such people are not dumb, dimwitted or incapable even if they have never heard of a quadratic equation. Intuition and image management will take you much farther in the world of celebrity than book smarts.

I would guess Mr. Kardashian may have had apprehensions about the way things have gone but even a stubborn father could not deny the incredible business success of this daughter. A daughter who by now has likely exceeded the wealth the father obtained doing things the hard way.

So while Ms. Kardashian is doing it better than all the other questionably-moral actors and actresses out there, is she doing it better than someone like Katy Perry?

Yep. Most definitely.

Musicians unlike actors are able to have more control of their earning potential once they’ve achieved mega status. At this point in her career, Ms. Perry most likely needs bigwigs and moneymen as little as Ms. Kardashian. Same with Madonna or U2. But they still work their butts off.

I did not know too much about Ms. Perry before this year but knew she was a star who hit on Tebow and had a nice song about fireworks. Then I saw the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Amazing! What a show. I have two small kids so I have now seen it at least 60 times and it still doesn’t get old. If you want to see a grown man pretending to be liger with a child on his back, shouting “Boom, Boom, Boom” and shooting imaginary fireworks with his hands, then come to my house after dinner. For this average man and his family, this show blew our minds. And guess what, while I have no interest I am 100% certain I will be buying Katy Perry related products in the future because my daughter now adores Ms. Perry. This is called brand building.

katy-perry-super-bowl-15

Undeniably Awesome Show

Ms. Perry deserves it too. That performance was no small feat. Musicians like her or Justin Timberlake work endless hours in rehearsal and practice throughout their youth to get where they are. They sacrificed for success. Them and those around them. Imagine how many people had to work their butts off to put together this Beijing-Olympic style performance just so Ms. Perry could work her butt off to make it an ultimate success. I would not have been able to physically withstand running around a stadium for twelve minutes changing outfits and doing dance routines.

Further, no one could convince me to do the stunt she did at the end. I wonder what the liability insurance is for someone with her earning potential to be strapped to a pyrotechnic star which is flying through a stadium with TV cables everywhere and while internal fireworks are occaisionally being shot off around her.

Best Finale Ever.

Best Finale Ever.

Katy Perry has big balls and so do her insurers. Not only did she pull this stunt off, she absolutely rocked the entire night, including when looking like the most adorably out-of-place-white-girl during Ms. Elliot’s performance. I think at the very end even Ms. Perry was surprised at how well it went. I sure was.

This is what Katy Perry has to go through to grow her brand and create more wealth for herself in the future. She may not have to do stunts often but she will  have to put in long hours of work to be ready to perform at the requisite level. This is not an easy job.

So screw it, why bother with it if you’re Kim Kardashian? She can achieve the same amount of wealth and stardom as Katy Perry without the cardio training, stunts, rehearsals, physical stress, emotional stress and super-frequent travel required for musicians. She puts in a fraction of the effort of someone like Ms. Perry or Mr. Timberlake and still goes farther. To Ms. Kardashian, all the various ways people have worked to obtain fame and wealth are for suckers, not just acting.

Then there is that photoshoot. I love this photoshoot. It was stated Ms. Kardashian takes thousands of selfies to find the best one before posting to social media. Wise image management. However, I do not know if she could ever take a selfie or professional photo better than the two below. Together they are a work of art. Indeed a metaphor for her life, her success and our infatuation.

Kardashian

First, you almost can not help but stare because they are so unique. A symbol of her entire career so far.

Second, there is the obvious nudity and focus on her rear, symbolizing her use of more-risque-than-the-next sex appeal to rise to stardom.

Third, there is the hilarious tounge-in-cheek stupid human trick with the champagne. It is as if she is mocking her haters by saying: “What do you mean I have no talents? Can any of you do this? HA!”  Absolutely perfect.

Finally, there are the expressions on her face. To me, she has a look of jubilant defiance of societal norms. That she has been successful despite what we all thought. That she will continue to do it and there is nothing we can do to stop her. And that she is having a lot of fun too.

In the words of Mr. Sheen: “Winning”

Ms. Kardashian is not going away any time soon. She is here to stay and we might as well enjoy the ride. Because whether we want to accept it or not or whether we would behave in a similar fashion, the reality is Kim Kardashian will always use her greatest asset to remain in the public eye and generate wealth.

Except it is not the famous asset she carries behind her and on which we’ve all been focusing. Rather it is the asset we’ve long pretended does not exist. It is the smart, shrewd and capable one hidden between her ears.

Congratulations, Ms. Kardashian. I am thoroughly impressed.

____________

Major League Soccer, Who Are You?

usa_soccer_world_cupThis ends only in speculation and is an attempt to catalog my thoughts and actions since Thursday. This is long, starts one way, ends another and has no resolution. I warned you.

A few months ago, we started this rambling site to flush out thoughts stuck in our heads and somewhat go on record with our opinions.

The first thing posted was “The Effects of Promotion and Relegation on American Sports”. Just always seemed like such a no brainer. Shortly after joining the site, I dared to venture out to Twitter to see what others think and engage in various discussions. Being new to twitter, I did not know what to expect. I am stunned at the amount of political cartoons (I know how to define hypocrite, thank you) and simple-minded bickering from all sides and every interest group.

However, if you think the political arguments have lost all sense of reason on twitter, I suggest you survey some of the back and forth between those who desire promotion and relegation and those who do not. It is pretty vicious. By example, just take a look at how much Ted Westervelt, @soccerreform, pisses these people off. He may be MLS’ public enemy numero uno. Either him or Jurgen Klinsmann. All because of their support for promotion and relegation: Mr. Westervelt consistently and Mr. Klinsmann occasionally but from an international media platform.

Personally, I do not like spinning my wheels in slow-moving endeavors. The very diligent Mr. Westervelt and the knows-something-about-soccer Mr. Klinsmann hope to change the game by creating public support and therefore putting pressure on MLS from its fans. A fine strategy but not the shortest path between two points in my humble opinion. Especially when confronted with an army of blindly-loyal MLS team fans, MLS employees and access-reliant media members. All of who are willing to waste hours of time with you arguing over of the pros and cons of changing the system.

I have always viewed promotion and relegation as an incredibly undervalued money-maker for all parties: the owners of the league, private team owners, American workers and our government while not even addressing the undeniably positive effect on the quality of play and development.

To me, the best and quickest option to get this done is to show rich people why it makes sense financially for them. And these kinds of people like boring reports with charts and projections and data for them to consider.

So I was going to create a mock business plan. Essentially, I was going to construct a report showing the benefits of:

  • Announcing the creation of open system hierarchy, dictating entry/membership fees, merchandising and TV rights allocations all controlled by MLS;
  • Selling off the teams at current values (as listed by Forbes) with a premium for the large-market established teams and smaller premium for all teams which would be included in the top division in the first year.
  • Using European or East Asian examples, show a representation or template of the fee structure for established teams as well as new entrants.
  • Using European or East Asian examples, provide some kind of real world example to highlight the positive earnings of the league hierarchy year over year.
  • Using NASL/Whomever attendance figures, point out there clearly exists 40 teams ready for a two division national structure in the USA. (Brazil had only two twenty team national divisions until 2009, when they rearranged after too many smaller teams had grown large enough to support increasing the national hierarchy)
  • Propose a regional structure to accommodate new and small teams since the United States is gigantic
  • Using the US Census, project the number of cities able to accommodate a team in such a hierarchy, also projecting the potential number of employees/players/team workers at a rate of 1 team per city.
  • Reflecting that under modest rate of 1 team per eligible city, MLS’ scope would surpass all sports organizations except perhaps NCAA initially.
  • Using plentiful European examples, note the humble facility and player salary requirements necessary to start a successful small club. – America’s high schools would suffice as stadiums for many new teams and they would still have larger capacity than many lower division European counterparts.
  • Noting the benefits of Billionaire Toy Men throughout the open systems of the world. Many individual teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea operate at massive losses because their billionaire owners do not care and are always willing to put more money into their toy. This cash influx strengthens the league and heightens interests by bringing players who would otherwise never come a la HAVE YOU SEEN REAL’S LINEUP AND BENCH!?! IT’S INSANE!!!
  • Reminding that leagues don’t actually care if the teams lose money or dissolve…i.e. no financial risks or worries regarding failing teams. Replacements are ready to fill the gap from the league below if an adjustment is needed. The league still gets paid and controls everything.
  • Finally, doing a lot of math and charts and providing some kind of revenue projection to a company operating the hierarchy alone in America, using whichever modern example I could locate and adjusting as best as I could justify.
  • Showing that while 20 or 25 MLS teams will never compete with aggregate economic market share of any of the big leagues individually (MLB/NHL/NBA/NFL/Liga/EPL/Bundesliga), a hierarchy of hundreds of teams in the USA (1st ever system here) would eventually match their market share and perhaps surpass many of those mentioned, with a rising tide rapidly increasing the value of the larger market or long-established teams. (My plan was to figure this math projection out later or fudge it completely – when you go this far, you do not turn back)
  • Noting the current single-entity structure means only MLS is reasonably capable of implementing such a system in the United States, thus the competitive advantage obtained against MLB/NHL/NBA/NFL would remain for the foreseeable future. The current structure of those leagues as independent corporations and not a single entity makes a conversion to such a system incredibly unlikely. Only when MLS’ wealth surpasses them would any consider changing and the multiple ownership structure would render it difficult even if a portion of their league wanted a switch to match MLS’ competitive advantage. MLS would likely be the sole promotion and relegation system in America for a very, very, long time.
  • EDITED UPDATE – Discussing the political and social benefits as well as the corporate goodwill having America’s first open system would create because of the positive effect on minority ownership in professional sports.

This was the audacious and somewhat crazy plan I hoped would get promotion and relegation going in this country. So as I started thinking about what it would take to write it, I wondered to whom it would be sent.

I decided I would locate the actual majority owner(s) of MLS since nothing is happening without them taking action, either directly or by allowing a sale of the corporation. It’s better to be denied by the real decision maker, even emphatically with them laughing at you, than to never get to ask the question. And I’d prefer an emphatic denial than arguing on twitter forever. Plus, it can be reproduced quickly if someone with sufficient capital power and balls is ever identified and within my meager electronic grasp.

As it is, another unfinished odyssey began.

So who matters in MLS and who doesn’t? And who are the majority owners?

When looking for info on any corporation, start with the best in the business: Bloomberg. MLS LLC is a private corporation so Bloomberg won’t have the data or info comparable to what is displayed for Apple or a public company but they should have something.

While most think Commissioner Garber runs MLS similar to the way Roger Goodoofus runs the NFL, they are very wrong. The NFL is comprised of individual corporations who essentially vote Goodell to be their King. While he can be removed by the actions of the owners together, there is no one above him. And while he is not an owner, he is the one person who is guaranteed to have direct access to and even leverage with every owner.

Commissioner Garber is not that man. He is an employee who may have no access to owners. Though I’m sure he’s aware of the obvious influence of people like Mr. Kraft, he may not even know the exact ownership structure himself. Unlike the NFL or any well-known sports league, MLS LLC is one corporation and its C.E.O is Richard A. Peddie, the former C.E.O. of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment. At least this is what Bloomberg surprisingly told me.

http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4312581

Surprising because there is no mention of this esteemed position on his profiles online or on twitter, where it does list his former work for the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and so forth. (as of date of writing, 3/8)

Searching online was also made more difficult because of the similarity of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, also an MLS team owner) and MLS itself but it is clear Mr. Peddie’s rule atop the league is obfuscated.

While @thesoccerdon (Commisioner Garber) has 150K twitter followers, the actual don of soccer has only 3K (as of Friday 3/6) and seemingly no one knows how powerful he is within American soccer. I have cousins with more followers. Imagine if Mr. Goodell’s or Mr. Stern’s powerless underlings had 50x the Twitter followers than them.

Nevertheless, someone was located for whom I could plausibly locate a business address and deliver a letter and dupe/convince them to read it. And by some small slither of a World-Cup-hoping chance, maybe the report would go up the ladder rung, only one step now, to the real owners of MLS LLC.

But I still had two questions scratching my curiosity.

  • If Mr. Peddie never gives it the time day (99.X% probable), who are the real owners so I can email bomb/somehow get it to whatever capital corporation they use as vehicle for their bidding (i.e. if it were Warren Buffet, I’d email bomb/certified mail the Board of Directors and various analysts/idea-needy-employees-looking-to-impress at Berkshire Hathaway – not Warren or his family themselves even if I could locate such contact info.) In fact, why not just do my best to go over Peddie’s head straight to the majority owner(s)?

And

  • Why has Mr. Peddie been hiding from what appears to me to be a pretty freaking awesome job? Since I planned to go over his head anyways, I decided to ask him directly. And about a lot of questions about promotion and relegation and MLS LLC.

While he maintains an active twitter account, he ignored me so I checked another favorite corporate site called Corporate Wiki looking for any data or leads.

http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/major-league-soccer-llc/34579837.aspx

You’ll notice MLS LLC is linked to an alternative/sister corp called MLS Partners LLC, which I didn’t think much about at first glance. I did ask Mr. Peddie but he ignored me.

As corporations file reports in many states, a site like Corporate Wiki will pull many duplicates from the public records. Here is the one from Florida:

http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/major-league-soccer-llc-6340548.aspx

Following the information provided, I checked Sunbiz.org, Florida’s Department of State site and located a list of twenty-one corporate directors I refuse to type:

Directors One

Directors Two

It should be intuitively obvious who owns a couple of these corporations but no information on ownership percentages or voting rights is provided.

Since MLS LLC is a large corporation, they get sued and sue people. If you have never been sued, there is this nasty thing called discovery where parties often have to file revealing information into the court system. But guess what, MLS has good lawyers and solid strategy. In every federal case in which they were a defendant (since 2005), they either won on Motion to Dismiss or settled before discovery was due. At least a couple of times with a discovery deadline looming large. There is no recent data on MLS LLC’s structure in the federal court system which I could see.

So next came logic. The voting power within MLS LLC has likely never changed since its inception or rather not significantly. Why would it ever? If you controlled a corporation, the only way you would ever yield voting power to a new investor or another party is if the corporation was struggling and desperately needed a capital infusion or you wanted to spread the risk of failure to others because you are worried. After its initial survival, the default risk of MLS was too low for an owner to consider selling voting stock to avoid financial loss in the event of failure. There is no need to worry about this. If MLS itself were struggling financially at any point, rest assured the billionaires behind the scenes are not. They would merely infuse cash and keep their stake since they themselves, or the parent corporations they control, are not struggling. And even if MLS LLC needed cash to grow or for a capital project, the parent corporations would likely infuse cash rather than yield control to a new investor.

It is a presumption but more than likely, new investors or these “entrepreneur groups” that manage individual teams are only offered restricted/non-voting stock or minor voting interests. There is absolutely no logical reason to ever sell a significant voting interest within MLS. If a potential investor doesn’t like it, tough shit. MLS doesn’t financially need the new investor so much that it would agree to yield power. They’d just wait for another sports-enthused rich guy to come along who’ll happily get paid from a non-voting position and toy around with a team. The World Cup rejuvenates interest in MLS every four years, anyways.

So in searching for the original owners and limiting Google to hits before 1997, the best thing I could find was this Fifa news report about the new MLS league.

http://www.fifa.com/world-match-centre/news/newsid/714/11/index.html

Investors:

Boston: Robert and Jonathan Kraft; Columbus: Hunt family and a group of Columbus investors; Denver: Philip Anschutz; Kansas City: Hunt family and a group of Kansas City investors; Los Angeles: LA Soccer Partners, presided over by Marc Rapaport; New York/New Jersey: John Kluhe and Stuart Subotnick; Washington D.C.: Washington Soccer, L.P., led by API and presided over by Kevin Payne.Dallas, San Jose and Tampa as yet have no investors and may have to be financially supported by the league itself.

Going through the names, the biggest hitters I can tell are:

  • The Anschutz Family and therefore The Anschutz Corporation (mega-big, private), led by Chairman of the Board and owner Philip Anschutz. (TAC is in Denver but Los Angeles is Mr. Anschutz home/sports focus)
  • The Kraft Family and therefore The Kraft Group (mega-big, private), led by Chairman of the Board and owner Robert Kraft. (Boston)
  • The Hunt Family and therefore the Hunt Sports Group, LLC (mega-big, private) led by family patriarch Clark Hunt, son of departed Lamar Hunt and grandson of oil tycoon H.L Hunt (Columbus, Kansas City, Dallas)

The other guys are rich too but there is no way the three above handed over any amount of money without significant control from inception. Also, The Hunt Family and Anschutz Family are related together through a marriage so while I don’t know how independent/connected their interests are, we can assume at least some kind of close or amicable relationship regarding MLS. With Mr. Kraft as well but he does not appear to be as closely connected as Mr. Anschutz and Mr. Hunt are to each other.

It is clear promotion and relegation will not happen in America unless it is done by one of the three parent corporations controlled by these men or them in unison. There is no point in arguing with Alexi Lalas, whose brother is MLS editor-in-chief, or any media member connected to or paid by MLS. It is not their fault either: employees do not get to rock the boat of their own company. Go try it yourself and see how well it goes.

At this point, I was relatively certain I had located the entities who were more than mere minority holders with voting rights but rather the exact majority owners. Granted, the whole thing may also be owned by Lord Rothschild, the Ayatollah and Kim Jong-Un but it appears there is no way anything happens in MLS without the three above letting it happen.

There is also slight empirical evidence supporting this on the pitch. Is it a marvelous coincidence the hometown teams of these power brokers over-perform in MLS? Admittedly, twenty years is a not a large sample but MLS is a single-entity structure with player allocation rules and restrictions designed to provide parity. It is portrayed as pure competition but it is a toy they own and if they so desire they can subtly do as they please. While no one can control who scores a goal, it is essentially the WWF version of soccer. Go Wizards! Go Revolution! Go Galaxy!

I should have stopped here and started the report.

But what the heck is MLS Partners, LLC?

http://www.corporationwiki.com/p/2espfd/mls-partners-llc

(originally created in Delaware on 2/19/2014 but also recorded in California)

Corporations start other corporations all the time for various reasons. They are easy to start. So since first seeing it, I just presumed it does something ordinary and trite.

But I could not stop wondering. I could not find any news about it either and corporate wiki says it was only created last year. If the NFL started a joint corporation or venture, or does anything anywhere, there is always at minimum an online press release followed by an army of click-needy sports sites. Yet I could find nothing and the cross-references with other entities drowned out every search.

It does not appear to be an owner or part of MLS LLC but rather MLS LLC appears it may be an owner of it. So I tweeted Mr. Peddie, who I had been peppering with tweets and questions as well as Commissioner Garber hoping they’d respond if even a no comment. I would have pinned your ‘no comment’, Mr. Peddie.

After being sufficiently annoyed by my repeated questions and tweets, Mr. Peddie simply blocked me. They could have just said it was a marketing vehicle or anything bland and I’d probably left it alone. I pondered starting a new handle just to ask him more questions but thought he may at this point wrongfully construe me to be some kind of stalker.

When you are in a rabbit hole, sometime you fail to see what is going on overtly at the surface. I had completely forgotten MLS is negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, which will dictate exactly how everyone gets paid going forward.

Early in my career, I was at an organization under going such a negotiation and I wanted to be on the union team even if just to learn. This was a good-guy, for-the-people type of organization too. To bystanders and myself going in, you would have thought they’d behave appropriately.

Immediately, management said they are struggling financially and we’d all have to accept no raises rather than what was provided in the past plan. They bellowed and whined in a self-righteous manner about how all of our jobs are so valuable and we should be so happy to not be searching like all the other unfortunate souls out there.

We asked politely to see a current account statement of all accounts and tax returns for two years so that we could be sure the corporation was struggling to a point where we would need to accept their horrible first offer. Let’s just say we did not get good looks from across the table that day. They did not expect this request and because they had brought nothing, we had to adjourn. The next day, they brought a budget from an excel spreadsheet and said this is “the situation”. We advised a budget is useless in determining health unless we can see the actual results and pre-projections of last year’s budget to compare as well as the documents demanded yesterday. We adjourned again but without rescheduling a date to continue. Annoyed, we searched ourselves and obtained five years of tax records because they had a hidden reporting requirement with a particular agency that maintained an active website we could access publicly.

Guess what? The mofos were lying through their teeth. The organization was in awesome financial health and negotiations ended with a properly increased raise plan rather than what they wanted.

This is how bargaining negotiations go. One side hides the ball to project a worse financial situation to get a better deal. Imagine yourself as a tourist in a market overseas: You do not let the merchant know how much money is in your pocket when negotiating the price of whatever you want to buy. Same principle applies.

MLS LLC was the stand-alone umbrella corporation for all of Major League Soccer since 1995. In 2014, they founded/became involved with a sister corporation, MLS Partners, whose purpose is totally unknown. In 2015, they undertook extremely valuable collective bargaining negotiations with the players union. I still believe in the high probability MLS Partners is completely innocuous. I would not be able to conceive the size of the balls of these guys otherwise. Enron-ish. But the timing is definitely curious and modestly suspicious.

So after all this and getting distracted from my original purpose of doing a report to convince rich men to see an obvious light, I am left wondering if MLS would dare commit large-scale commercial manipulation (fraud?). Doing it so they would be able to present the Players Union with financial statements from MLS LLC which would be stamped, signed and audited appropriately but not showing the full picture of the organization.

All of this can be resolved with one question to the Players Union: Do you know of MLS Partners, its purpose or its financials and did you know prior to getting strong-armed?

EDITED 4/8(((: Of course, no one in MLS is going to answer me no matter how many times I ask. And the Players Union has not responded either despite my emails, phone calls, tweets and various attempts. Deadspin and Gawker media advised they would seek an answer, along with others, but no response from either MLS or MLSPU has been made known. )))

Depending on what the answer is (and if it is ever received), this could go several different ways. Some of them would not be good for many people. I hope it was disclosed and not another casually ignored secret like Mr. Peddie’s role as C.E.O. of MLS LLC, as indicated by Bloomberg News as of 3/8/15. Or the other secret regarding the exact ownership structure of MLS LLC.

But maybe, just maybe we will find what is going on within MLS and why the organization sanctioned as division one in America operates so shadily.

_________

As for the business plan, it will have to sit for a while. If some college finance major or graduate student would like to do it as a project, you’d get an A from me. Also, please let me borrow it if you don’t mind.

Finally, if you desire to make an attempt to change the system here in America, I suggest you speak in terms of $$$ rather than sense. That is all these people care about. Do not hate. It is normal.

___________

Edit: Fraser vs MLS discussed the structure in 2002. There is no reason to think this has changed. And as MLS became profitable, it is even less likely to change.   Fraser - MLS structure 1Fraser - MLS structure 2

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