Monday, March 28, 2016

Sports on TV: How to save TV deals? Look to Gaming.

It's a problem that's sneaking around the edges of College and Professional Sports. Namely, what's going to happen as Millions of viewers "cut the cord" and the dollars that have been flowing into league, team and school coffers begins to dry up?

Changing TV Viewing habits threaten Billion Dollar Deals. David Barron, ($$$)

But networks are wrestling with recent subscriber declines as millennials reject or trim back on the cable/satellite bundle pricing system that had fueled unprecedented payouts for the rights to broadcast college sports. Investors are skittish as television executives try to read - and monetize - the whims of a generation that is as happy to watch games on laptops or smartphones as their parents are to watch on 60-inch flat screens.
On the college side, athletic directors are scrambling for new money to support non-revenue sports, pay coaches, and expand stadiums and facilities as part of the athletics "arms race," while meeting NCAA demands to increase benefits for student-athletes.
Viewers abandoning TV networks is a problem but it's not THE problem, THE problem is that the schools and leagues don't really have a viable plan for what follows.  The answer to the question is expanding sports gaming, both online and at brick & mortar locations across the country. Currently, most, practically all, online gaming is limited by the Unlawful Online Gaming Act of 2006. Ironically, this act is also what companies such s Draft Kings and FanDuel rely on to justify their business models (for a primer on why this is, see the law of unintended consequences).

Sports gaming regulation goes back even further, to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. It was that act that pretty much permitted Las Vegas to operate with a monopoly on Sports gaming, especially since New Jersey (and Atlantic City) neglected to take advantage of an election to opt in within a year after the law took effect, a mistake that the state is desperately trying to undo in order to keep Atlantic City alive.

The 1992 law carved out exceptions for Dog & Horse racing and, in a nod to Florida, Jai Alai. This is why you have horse tracks in say, Texas, that offer pari-mutual wagering via simulcast.  Fast forward to today and you're seeing (again) the unintended consequences of this act.  Now we have Bodog, and 5 Dimes and a host of other off-shore based betting sites that operate illegally, but on an unofficial gray market which the Federal Government is all but powerless to shut down due to the offshore locations of most of the books.

One option is to go after the players themselves, which would result in a disaster and, most probably, the indictment and trials of some high-profile public figures, many of whom are probably on the front-lines in the "fight" against gaming. You would have Millions of people charged, tried and (possibly) incarcerated in an already over-burdened system.  Much like online poker sites, the federal government seems content to leave the players alone, and continue to go after the operators.

They are, as we know, unsuccessful.  Since the passage of the Unlawful Online Gaming Act of 2006 (UOGA) sports gaming has boomed, and not just from Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Traditional spread, or side, betting has never been more popular, and even mainstream networks such as ESPN, CBS and NBC frequently mention odds (or lines) in their coverage of live events, sometimes painfully but sometimes brilliantly. In fact, despite their attempts to limit it, Congress and politicians have seen the sports gaming industry boom since 2006.

What does all of this have to do with television?

As less and less people tune into to cable/satellite/content providers who provide the networks with most of their income, the revenues are falling and the anticipation is that the TV money flowing in will as well.  The Networks are going to have to find a supplement for these incomes somewhere, and an expanded gambling network should be ready and willing to act in a manner that allows them to do so.

The fact is this. People are more willing to bet on games that they can actually watch. When ESPN airs a MAC conference football game between two-smallish schools they still draw fairly substantial viewing numbers. Why? Because a lot of gamblers are watching the games.

These online sites/brick and mortar sports books and other outlets would be willing to pay a pretty penny for advertisement, and possibly become partners in broadcasting the games to ensure they have access.

Now, imagine this dynamic greatly expanded.  Because there are casinos in multiple states who are, due to UOGA, not allowed to offer sports betting. Imagine if they could?  Imagine that the illegal off-shore casinos were legitimized and taken off the gray market into a competently regulated one?

Of course, States could still vote to limit (or prohibit) gaming within their borders, but the states that already have casinos aren't going to balk, and many states have already shown a willingness to embrace online services such as Fan Dual and Draft Kings, would sports betting be that much of a reach?

Granted, this is not going to be the golden goose that saves schools or makes the States richer than the dreams of Midas, but it would go a long way to putting a salve on the open wound that are State Lotteries and might provide the leagues and universities money as well.

Yes, there are problems inherent with big-time sports at both the professional and collegiate level. For one, almost all of them survive on the backs of the taxpayer who, in many cases, cannot afford to attend the games in the arenas and stadiums that they paid for. Second, big time college athletics, as administered by the NCAA, exploits the athletes to the extreme, not even allowing them to profit off of their visage while they are "student-athletes" (a term that is, increasingly, meaningless).  The fix for this would be complex and problematic, and it would require municipal leaders who are willing to stand up to the shake-downs by professional sports teams. It would also require reforms by the NCAA. In short, none of that is going to happen barring a disaster.

Then there's the political problem. Many politicians feel that it is their charge to protect the American populace from itself. Gambling can cause addiction and is therefore listed as something that is "bad" and should be outlawed, or tightly contained. That this containment only makes people go to greater, and often-times illegal, lengths to get their fix is something lost on most.

So the proposal I'm making is certainly a non-starter, at least considering today's political and social environment.  That doesn't mean that the conversation cannot be started.  Working (not fighting!) toward a day when sports gaming is more legal. more honest and (yes) better regulated (note that I didn't say 'more' regulated) is something that will always be worth a conversation (or three).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March Madness: Opening Game Predictions.

Since the Tournament (sort of) starts tonight with the play-in games here are my picks for those....(Odds shown are the odds that I took when I made my picks and might not reflect current odds.)

Florida Gulf Coast (-6.5) vs. Fairleigh Dickinson - Florida Gulf Coast should win this and cover. This feels like a 10 point game to me.

Wichita State (-4) vs. Vanderbilt. I like Wichita State to win here but Vandy to cover.  I think this is a pretty even game which should be the most exciting finish of the day, possibly of any of the 4 play-in games.

Southern (-2.5) vs. Holy Cross. Holy Cross is a great story, but I think Southern is just too good for them to compete.  Southern to win and cover.

Michigan (-3) vs. Tulsa Tulsa and Michigan are both teams that I don't think should have made it into the tournament. Both teams have sub-par guard play, Michigan is better on the interior. I think Michigan wins and covers despite their injury depleted condition.

I'm still working on the remainder of my brackets, and I probably won't have them fully completed until Thursday night.  I will upload a screenshot then before the tournament proper gets started.

There are a LOT of betting opportunities in this tournament, go take the casinos for everything their worth.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gambling Options for Houstonians: The Impact of the MGM Profit Growth Plan

Judging from the scuttlebutt around various Las Vegas Message board the recently announced MGM Profit Growth Plan is starting to cut into gambling compensation in a big way.  Anecdotal evidence, again from the chatter boards, reveals that the cuts are starting hot and heavy.

1. Reduced comp percentages:  This is the option that really seems to be getting everyone's goat, because theoretical-based compensations somewhere around 40% of expected loss has been the law in Las Vegas for a while now. Like free-parking, which we'll get to in a minute, 40-45% is almost viewed as a constitutional right by the seasoned high-roller. It's hard to tell just how far the exact rate has fallen but there are reports that it could be by as much as 10%.

2. Death by 1,000 cuts. - A poster on the VegasBoards forum noted that MGM has cancelled the Sirius XM radio service in their luxury fleet of courtesy cars, have cut the schedules of experienced dealers, as well as implemented a series of other cuts that can only be viewed as gambler unfriendly.

3. Raising comp prices.  Call it the third prong in the gambler-pitchfork that is the PGP, by raising comp prices,  (there is a good discussion on this here) In effect, MGM has decided to reward the players less, reduce how much they can get, and charge them more for getting it.

The effect of this is driving more players to less networked casinos like The Cosmopolitan or Wynn/Encore who, while still making cuts, are not doing so with the speed of MGM.Left out of consideration, for the most part, is Caesar's who really doesn't have anything in it's profile that can really cater to the modern high-end player.

MGM does have hotels that can compete however, in the form of Bellagio and Aria but the company seems content to abandon the deep-pockets gambler in return for courting the younger, clubbing crowd that both don't get, and usually don't ask for, compensation.

There are also rumors that the casinos are altering the calculations on their theoretical loss calculations downward. It's going to be difficult to determine whether or not this is actually taking place because they are treated as trade secrets and not readily available. According to one recent report, they are also loss-amount restricting the loss payback to $100K, which is awful.

In the short-run there's no reason to think that this is going to get better before it gets worse. The more casinos clamp down on the players the less revenue comes from the gaming floor. This is acceptable to the casinos because 1. They're currently making up for the lost revenue in retail (both club and store-front sales) 2. Room renovations mean that they can charge higher rates to millennials, who don't gamble as much, don't ask for free stuff, and just come to Las Vegas to party.

It's not that the millennials aren't gambling, it's that they don't do it very often, seriously.  The typical millennial gambler in Las Vegas is stopping off at a black jack table, craps, roulette or even slots for fun. They're typically with a group of friends and are willing to blow $200-$300 on a lark. The ones with a bigger bank-roll aren't any more serious, but they might think they are, and can waste thousands per night making hunch plays.  For this they typically do not get either rated, or comped for an entire weekends play. Or, if they do get compensation they're using it at the buffet, which is very low cost to the casino due to economies of scale.

In fact, despite putting on a show, most properties either at MGM Inc. or Caesar's aren't doing much at catering to larger gamblers at all. By lager, I'm referring to the gambler who's putting at risk approximately $150K - $1MM per day.  For the truly large players, what are referred to as 'whales' in the common vernacular, I'm sure they are still receiving comps and perks.  The truth is though, there are only around 20-30 true 'whales' in the world and the competition for them is very, very intense.

Think of the gambling economy like you would the real economy.  How the casinos react to each strata is starting to look like how politicians react to different economic classes in real life:

1. The poor: These are gamblers who are rated at < $30K per day. These are guppies to the casinos and have little value, other than that they usually have to pay for stuff.  They're the type of people for which $5 Free play and 2 for 1 buffet comps were invented.  These are your penny and quarter slot players, or guys you find betting the minimum constantly at the $5/hand table games with little variance.  The casino wants them there for buzz, but isn't really spending a lot of money marketing to them.

2. Lower-middle class: These are gamblers rated at $30K to $150K per day. They're play is just high enough that they are maybe getting free week-day economy rooms, slightly better free play offers and actual free meals at lower-tier restaurants.  Again, it's not costing the casino much to market to these people, and they do gamble enough to create some buzz in the casino. They also create possible revenue streams from rooms that would otherwise be empty. The biggest loss, for them, is a reduction in availability and compensation in the form of weekend rooms.  Now that the new reality is setting in suites are rarely, if ever, attained, especially without resort fees.

3. Middle-Class: These gamblers are rated at $150K to $1MM as is the case in politics they are eating a LOT of the restrictions that casinos are placing on gamblers.  The comp rates for rooms effects them greatly, as does the reduction in theoretical rating, causing many at the lower end to drip down. The drastic reduction in comps is jarring to them, much like when airlines switched from mileage rewards to dollar-based systems. For the first time in a while many of them are hearing from their hosts that they might have to pay resort fees.

4. Upper-Middle-Class: These gamblers rate somewhere between $1MM to $5MM. They have traditionally been used to having suites comped, as well as other perks considered "high-end" for their levels of play.  They are getting decimated due to the theoretical loss calculation being reduced as well as the reduced percentage and the price hikes.  Some are even losing high-end perks altogether, and their free play offers are being slashed drastically.

5. Upper Class: Players rated $5MM to approximately $20MM. While they are getting hit, it's not near as bad as the reduction for the upper-middle and middle class gamblers. They still run through enough play that their comps are readily available, but they don't go near as far.

6. The Super Rich: As I stated before, there are really only around 20-30 of these in the entire world, and the competition for them is extremely stiff. They are not suffering at all, because the casinos want them in the VIP rooms spending large months of money.

Now, here's the rub.  Most of the gamblers that casinos see are found in strata 2-4. And these are the people being hit the hardest with the comp reduction. What this is doing is creating a world where the haves REALLY have, and the pool of have-nots is getting larger.  This is why many people are transferring their business to Cosmo, Wynn etc.  Not that the calculations are any more in the player's favor, but the service and quality of product that they receive is much, much better than what they are getting from MGM and especially Caesar's.

It also doesn't help that gambling on the Strip is getting worse and worse. Most, if not all, of the casinos are cutting blackjack payouts to 6/5 (from 3/2) only keeping them intact on tables with minimums at $100 and up.  Video poker odds are being reduced, and there are persistent rumors that MGM especially has tightened their slots dramatically.

In a world of competition, this would provide an edge to the casinos located off-strip, either downtown or elsewhere, but few of those have the facilities needed to cater to the serious gambler, although their odds are decisively better.

In a future post we'll talk more about my last trip to Vegas, and how I'm seeing the reduction in theoretical and comps sting me, even as a player in tier #1. Because of this, my next stay will be off-strip, where I'm going to try some tricks that I'm going to share to try and raise my theoretical average.

Either way, Las Vegas is changing, and not necessarily for the better for the serious gambler, unless they're located in tiers 5 & 6, which few of us are.

March Madness: Bad Brackets, Broadcasts and Betting.

In other words, just your typical March Madness kick-off.

A leak spoiled the NCAA selection show, the Internet rejoiced. New York Times

In a way, this was the perfect price that CBS was forced to pay for making their big bracket reveal show stretch to 2-hours. It took them almost an hour to reveal the 1st half of the bracket, and then approximately 20 minutes to reveal the 2nd half after the leak occurred.  They lost out on most of the reaction shots since the teams on the bubble, for the most part, already knew they were in by the time CBS announced.

In place of the old way we were treated to endless "analysis" frequently incorrect, by a group of people who, in many cases, don't even watch college ball.  Unfortunately, I'm sure the NCAA is going to find themselves a sacrificial lamb to be punished for threatening their revenue.

March Madness, who got screwed in the 2016 bracket. Bleacher Report

Kentucky, for one, who was seeded a 4 which ranked them lower than Texas A&M, who the Wildcats had beaten earlier that day. Michigan State won the B1G, and was widely considered to be a 1 seed, they got a 2 behind a Virginia team that had just lost to North Carolina.  Also, any mid-major who was not the American Athletic Conference.

There's no reasonable rationalization for Michigan, Tulsa, Syracuse and Vanderbilt being in, while Monmouth, St. Bonaventure, Valpo and South Carolina are NIT bound. I say this and I'm a Michigan fan.

Clearly the message sent by the committee this: Don't play your championship game on Sunday and choose a better conference. Unfortunately, the conference they decide to fall in love with changes every year and there's really no way to predict it.

Opening NCAA tournament lines. Las Vegas Sun

Most of these lines have already changed, some have changed a LOT. For example, Michigan has climbed to -3 over Tulsa (from -1.5) and I REALLY like the Wolverines at anything less than -5.

Some other picks:

UNC Wilmington (+10) - If you want to be brave, and I'm going to be, change this to a ML bet. You get +438 right now which would make for a hell of a payout.

Butler (-3.5) - Here's another line that is sliding toward the favorite so you better act fast. I put the cap at -5.5 before you hold off.  Tech is pretty much hot garbage from a March Madness perspective and should, IMO be a NIT team.

UConn (-4) - This line is about at the playable limit, but if it starts swinging toward Colorado I'd jump all over it.

Iona (+7.5) - This was in double digits earlier, and many took advantage of it then.  Right now I'd wait and see if there's a move back toward Iowa State.  Definitely one to keep an eye on.  Would buy in at +9 if it can get there.

Austin Peay (+26) - I always like betting against big lines in the first round.  The reason for this is because most coaches rest starters if they get up comfortably, in anticipation for the quick turnaround. That doesn't mean that this always happens, and some times you get burned.

Seton Hall (ML) - This is the classic case of name recognition. The public is betting on Gonzaga because they KNOW Gonzaga. In fact, Seton Hall is scorching hot right now and coming off a great run in the Big East tournament. I haven't filled out my bracket yet but I might have them as a Sweet 16 contender. Bet the ML as long as they remain the favorite, otherwise take the points up to around 4.  If it goes past that, pass obviously.

Dayton (-1) I like the Flyers up until about 3.  To be honest I don't think Syracuse belongs in the tournament and this game will show why.

Oregon State (+4.5) - Another "name" bet as people are leaning toward VCU because Shaka Smart used to coach them.  OSU is a good team and has a better than average chance of winning in my estimation.  If you're really brave take the ML.

Northern Iowa (+4.5) I think Northern Iowa upsets Texas and ruins everyone's planned UT/aTm dream 2nd round showdown.

South Dakota St. (ML) There's always a 12 over 5 upset, and this year I think this is the most likely candidate.  Maryland is very talented, but they have no basketball intelligence as a team. They make poor decisions and Melo Trimble has a knack for losing his head, and shot, from time to time. If bad Maryland shows up, they get run out in the first round. A win would pay +375 so it's worth it to shake a little bit of sugar that way.

Go get 'em.

Standard Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be considered an offer to buy, sell, or otherwise engage in a financial transaction. The preceding our my own personal thoughts and are for entertainment purposes ONLY. Please remember to only gamble what you can comfortably lose and get help if you begin to feel the NEED to win. No guarantee of accuracy is given, or should be inferred from the information above, all gamblers wager at their own risk.

In other words, have fun but don't be surprised if I'm 100% wrong on these.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

AFC South: The Titans and Jaguars get better, the Texans and Colts get worse

News broke over the past week that the Tennessee Titans signed former Dallas Cowboy and Philadelphia Eagle RB DeMarco Murray, Former Texans Center Ben Jones and are seriously considering drafting Ole Miss DE Laremy Tunsil, who is widely considered to be the top prospect in the NFL draft.

This means that new head coach Mike Mularkey is serious about running the football.

In other news, the Jacksonville Jaguars have signed former Saints and Jets RB Chris Ivory, one of the more underrated RB's in the NFL, who is expected to pair with current RB T.J. Yeldon to provide QB Blake Bortles with a fairly potent 1-2 punch.

The Colts have remained fairly quiet while the Houston Texans are stepping back.

First, the team announced that starting RB Arian Foster has played his last down as a Texan.  This is not much of a surprise since he has had a run of injuries of late, is coming off of a horrific tear of the Achilles tendon and appears to be running out of tread on the tires.

A larger problem for the team is the continued exodus of talent from the offensive line.

With Ben Jones leaving for Tennessee the Texans now don't have a NFL caliber starting center on their roster, and they have recently re-signed former Bronco Chris Clark and 7th round draft pick Derick Newton as their first-string tackles.

To give you an idea of the problems at the position, most NFL teams were looking to sign Clark as a back-up swing tackle. The Texans have signed him to start.

So far the only "name" free agent that the Texans are pursuing (publicly at least) is former Broncos QB Brock Osweiler.  For a team that's chock-full of talent holes on the roster I think it is fair to start questioning what plan, if any, GM Rick Smith is operating under?

Now, it could be that batty owner Bob McNair has tightened the purse strings on Smith, which would reinforce the growing belief that he doesn't really want to win, but is content in profit-taking while taking advantage of being blessed with a fan base whose loyalty is seemingly blind. Or, it could be that head coach Bill O'Brien is calling the shots and is operating without much of a plan.

Neither the O'Brien-in-charge scenario or the lack-of-a-plan option makes Smith appear to be all that necessary to the most mediocre team in football. Although, if McNair really has tightened the purse then he should only receive blame for not advocating harder to build a winner.

I said last year that making the playoffs for the Texans might be the worst possible scenario for the team long-term.  Doddering McNair probably viewed that as a success, and (wrongly) thinks that the team is "just a quarterback away" from title contention. If that is the case the Texans might be placing all of their eggs into the Osweiler basket.

If the Osweiler strategy fails then disaster!  And even if they are successful and overpay for a quarterback with middling results in limited starts the team still has so many positions with talent deficiencies that gaining ground on an improving division feels like a pipe-dream.

Last year the Colts backslid greatly and, by keeping sub-par coach Chuck Pagano, have provided little evidence, so-far, that a return to divisional prominence is a given. The Colts still have serious offensive line deficiencies, a running game that's a whole bunch of nothing and a defense that struggles to stop a stiff Junior High marching band. A return of Andrew Luck to good health will help, but he can't run the ball much or stop opposing offenses, and there's still going to be the issue that the Colts will likely be out-coached in most games.

The Titans are putting together an interesting offense. Yes, they still need some more talent at O-line and receiver but, at the least, their running game should be able to take some pressure off of Mariota, who showed promise. Defensively they still have a way to go. I also question their head coach and their overall talent, but they're undoubtedly on the correct track now after years of floundering.

The Jaguars might be the team that surprises most people, they were already a trendy dark-horse pick last year and, depending on how they draft and the progression of QB Blake Bortles (The guy needs to turn the ball over less for one) they could be an even more prominent pick next year. They do need some more help on defense, but I would argue they have less holes right now than the Texans.

Speaking of the Texans, they're backsliding, and getting perilously close to looking like a team on TILT.  If John McClain is to be believed (and that's iffy) then the team is targeting former Dolphins RB Lamar Miller or Tampa RB Doug Martin to replace Foster IMO both targets would be a downgrade from a healthy Arian. Although I tend to like the Miller option better and seems to support that the Texans are in heavy negotiations.  Almost everyone admits that the team has plenty of holes to fill besides RB and QB however.

Last year the Texans (9-7) won the Division title over the Colts (8-8) the Jaguars (5-11) and the Titans (3-13) given the state of free agency right now I'd say both the Jaguars and Titans are gaining ground, but it will be after the draft before we know just how much ground they make-up.

Amazingly, the window of opportunity for this Texans team might be closing already.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Back in the saddle: A hodge-podge of things.

So I took a little time off from the sports blogging.  Not that I haven't been watching, I have, I just haven't felt the need to write about it much.  A lot of things have happened however since I last wrote about anything on February 11th.

Let's take a look.

March Madness: Believe it or not, the University of Houston is squarely on the bubble. If you would have asked me if they could be after the horrible loss to Grand Canyon I would have laughed.  But Kelvin Sampson is a heck of a coach and has the team playing pretty good basketball right now.  A deep run in the AAC tournament and they might not want to tune-out on Selection Sunday.

Speaking of, LSU with Ben Simmons is a candidate for the team that wasted a generational talent (again). Not only are they clearly in danger of missing the Tournament but this will most-likely be Simmons one and done year with the team.

Maryland is probably the most talented team in the country.  However, they also are the worst coached, and worst mental team in the country.  Because of that I see them falling out of the tournament in the first two rounds.

The SEC is a 3-bid league but they're going to get more because of who they are.

Don't talk to me about how good the Big XII is.  Until someone can beat Kansas for the conference title then they are the Big One and the Little Nine.

Saw this yesterday and it's a good question:  So far this year Jim Nantz has not been on the call for one college basketball game.  Despite this he's going to be CBS' lead announcer for the Tournament.

Houston Rockets: Finally gave up on Ty Lawson, the team is still not very good. I will say this again. If you're a Rockets fan then you want them to miss the playoffs.  Also, it's time to start asking the tough questions of Daryl Morey.

Houston Texans:  I saw today that Robert Griffin III was released by the Redskins.  There will be a call to bring him to Houston.  There's also a call to sign Brock Osweiler. If I had my druthers I'd take RG III over Osweiler.  People forget that RGIII was pretty good before he got caught up in injuries and the Gruden mess.  Better yet, you can probably get him for cheap so sign Osweiler, sign RGIII and let the two of them compete in camp.  That would free up a draft pick (that GM Rick Smith would waste by overreaching into a weak QB class anyway) to shore up the many, many other holes in the Texans roster.

Of course, they're not going to do this so welcome to Houston Christian Hackenberg.

On that note: Houston Chronicle NFL writer John McClain has the Texans taking Paxton Lynch with the 22nd pick in the 1st round. (Texans beat-writer Aaron Wilson has them taking Emmanuel Ogbah, DE-OSU at that slot.) Typically McClain's first mock draft is a thinly veiled attempt to troll Texans fans.  This time however I think he might have opened up with what will be his final prediction.  I've seen Lynch go all over the board however and I don't think he'll be available at 22.  Wilson's pick is just bizarre.  Even after a strong combine Ogbah is considered a late 2nd/early 3rd round prospect who has little explosiveness, and a questionable motor.

I haven't put my first round mock draft together but it's sure as heck not going to include the Texans taking Ogbah.

Houston Dynamo: I haven't watched many Dynamo games.  In fact, I don't watch much M(inor) League Soccer at all.  When you're used to watching the International leagues the pace of play is glacial, the skill is sub-par and the tactics are basic.  I don't care what US apologists like Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman say, the product is poor.  I feel that the closed league system that the MLS employs leads to that.  While promotion/relegation isn't a be all/end all fix for US Soccer it is one step in the right direction.

That said, after watching the opener vs. the New England Revolution on Sunday I won't be wasting much more time watching this team.  Horrible defense, shoddy goal keeping and uninspired mid-field and offensive play?  I'll watch the BPL, La Liqa and Serie A thank you very much.

UFC: I'm finding this fight promotion to be more and more unwatchable every event.  The staged fights at the press conferences/weigh-ins are getting stale and the entire event feels more like a side-show than a serious combat sports event.  This makes sense when you realize that UFC President Dana White is nothing more than a glorified carnival barker.

And it's not just the trash talk, I like it as much as the next guy, it's the predictability of the run-up to the fights now.  Also, McGregor jumped up two weight classes to fight a mid-range guy at 170. It's a loss that he never should have had to take.

Now that Holm has lost to Miesha Tate White has already come out and said that Rousey gets the first shot at Tate.  Why?  Let's have Rousey/Holm II and the winner of that gets Tate for the belt. Just another example of Dana White playing favorites and politics with the championships.

I'm done with them.  Back to boxing, which has it's flaws but which owns them, and doesn't try to act like they don't exist.

And finally......

Houston Astros: Big hopes this year.  Early on the pitching is struggling a little bit but the bats appear to be better than last year.  Like most in Houston I'm hoping to get a full year of Correa/Sprinter/Altuve healthy and just ripping the cover off of the ball.

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