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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part One
NOTE: Although I was originally planning on posting this whole review at once, I was about a third of the way through the book when I realized that I was already quickly approaching the full length of my previous posts. So, in the interest of making this a pleasant experience for us all, I'm sharing the first half now, and will follow up with the second half in a few days. And honestly, KKB's writing reminds me of Inception in that it's almost certainly hazardous to spend too much time immersed in any single sitting. So fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride! ------- So, a lot of you guys have been asking about Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! (wow, is this what it feels like to be an influencer?), and I am thrilled to report that my adventure through this book's 264 pages was even more confounding than I could have possibly anticipated. I have a feeling that I'll need every ounce of my strength if I want to have any shot at conveying to you all exactly how bonkers this purported self-help book is, so -- without further ado -- let's begin. I Can Make You Hot!, subtitled The Supermodel Diet, has a fairly straightforward premise. Kelly, who "has done it all when it comes to nutrition and her body," will share her hard-earned wisdom with us, her humble readers. Or, as she says in her own words on the back cover:
In I Can Make You Hot! I'm going to clue you in to all the tricks I've learned from a variety of experts and that I now use to live my own life. I want you to be the best you -- happy, attractive, shapely, interested, interesting, and most of all, smokin' HOT!
The blurb promises that the experience of reading this book will be "like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together." Truly, only someone with Kelly Bensimon's tenuous grasp on reality would say this as if it were something exciting, rather than a scenario taken directly out of the third circle of hell. But before we can truly learn what it means to be HOT!, we're treated to a foreword by none other than Russell Simmons. As he shares with us:
Kelly is a great mother and is constantly instilling strong principals [sic] in her daughters. In my opinion, that's the essence of being HOT. Kelly is smokin'.
And just like that, I Can Make You Hot! is knocked out of the running for First-Book-I've-Read-By-A-Bravolebrity-That-Is-Also-Free-From-Glaring-Typographical-Errors. Better luck next time, champ! In case you were at all hesitant about Kelly's suitability for the job of helping the less fortunate among us reach their maximum potential, Russell clarifies:
Her beauty truly comes from within, and her clear internal compass and well-balanced lifestyle is what makes her an arbiter for what's hot. She has always had her own individual road map and is one of those people who beats to their own drum. Many are amazed by her leaps of faith and courage, which are products of her sustainable soul. And back to that energy! I used to think: If we could only package it. And now Kelly has!
I would kill to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Russell Simmons and Kelly Bensimon. But all of these endorsements are making me impatient to dig into Kelly's advice, so I skim over the next few pages and arrive at the introduction: "What's HOT and What's Not." Almost immediately, Kelly reassures us that she was not always the gorgeous, talented socialite she is today -- "No. Let's just say that I was never one of those tiny, cute blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after." Excuse you what?I literally just walked away from my laptop to go talk to my boyfriend and make sure I'm not just ignorant of some otherwise well-known traditional male courtship ritual in which young men adopt rodents and christen them after the women they love. That doesn't seem to be the case, although please reach out if you can shed any additional light on this situation. Reasonably enough, before we can learn how to be hot, we have to know what hot is. Fortunately, Kelly wastes no time in getting us up to speed:
When I was trying to come up with a title for this book, I kept asking myself how I would define what I love. "HOT" is the word that best describes what I love, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. "HOT" is attractive, unique, and first-rate -- never mediocre. Avril Lavigne made a video called "HOT." There are "HOT" issues of all my favorite magazines. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper. Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.
For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.
…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.
pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley. Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself. Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant. Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!" The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!" If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats. We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think. We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
For every cheeseburger and fries, you owe me 12 cartwheels on the quad with your friends.
to bizarrely specific and also racially insensitive.
If you starve yourself for a day because you want to lose weight for Homecoming, you owe me 5 minutes of sitting Indian style in a corner and meditating on why you thought that was a good option.
Upon further reflection, I think I would actually be extremely motivated to stick to a diet if the alternative was being reprimanded by Kelly and forced to think about my poor life choices. As a scientist myself, I was ecstatic to see that Kelly has drawn from a diverse array of scientific disciplines to develop her HOT tips and tricks. Physics, for example:
From Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion A body in motion stays in motion. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. So if you want to step up your exercise routine, try running in sand instead of on the pavement, or bike through gravel. That way your body will have to work harder in order to stay in motion.
Even biology has something to teach us about how to be HOT:
You are a living organism; life is an organic process. You need to be up and active, ready to enjoy the process. Be open and available and ready to do fun stuff. Participating in what you love is HOT.
I'm truly impressed by Kelly Bensimon's unparalleled ability to reframe the most basic common sense as divinely inspired wisdom. We see this in lines like
If you're feeling a bit frazzled and you need to calm down, you might want to take a yoga class.
or, as we read in another "HOT Tip" panel
Don't be afraid to drink water while working out.
I refuse to believe that this is a problem any person has ever faced. Even Aviva Drescher is not afraid of drinking water while working out (although, for the record, she is afraid of aluminum foil). Kelly closes out this chapter by encouraging the reader to "do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone." If you find yourself lacking inspiration, she provides helpful suggestions, such as "try a fruit you've never eaten" and "try tap dancing." As she asserts, "there's nothing more foolish than sitting on your butt when you could be moving your body and having fun." I turn the page, and the clock rolls over to Wednesday -- "Diet = 'DIE with a T.'" Cute. I bet Kelly would find that Tumblr post that's like "she believed" to be unbearably clever. She wastes no time in letting us know:
I don't believe in diets; diets are for people who want to get skinny. I want you to be happy. If you feel good about yourself, you'll make good choices. If you starve yourself to be skinny, you'll be undermining your sense of self-worth and you'll be unhappy every day. Eating well -- a variety of high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods -- is for people who want to be happy -- and if you're not happy you won't be hot! Happy is always better than skinny.
This is starting to feel like some sort of word problem from Algebra II. If happy is better than skinny, but hot is equal to happy, diet = die + t??? Kelly tells us that all women fall into two categories: overachievers and underachievers. Being an overachiever is good, and being an underachiever is bad. Here are some things you can do to become an overachiever:
Make good choices.
When in doubt, have fun.
Kelly's motivational-phrasebook app apparently starts to glitch out right about here, but she continues on:
Stay positive and move forward. This is your last try at today. Yesterday may not have been great, but, today is better -- you just need to see it that way. The choice is up to you.
The idea of someone being in such a dark psychological place that they are able to find inspiration in those words is so deeply sad to me that I can hardly bear to consider it. Thankfully, Kelly has already taken a hard left turn into what I think is some sort of extended metaphor:
I've already said that you need to treat your body like a Ferrari, but maybe you prefer a Maserati, an Aston Martin, a Corvette, or even a Bentley. Whatever your luxury car of choice, if you treat it well, it will increase in value; if you treat it like a bargain rental car, it's just going to wear out -- and being worn out is not hot!
Ah, yes, I'd momentarily forgotten that cars almost always increase in value after they're purchased, and don't have a culturally ubiquitous reputation for losing most of their resale value immediately. Solid analogy. Apropos of nothing, we get a "HOT Tip" list of "model diet secrets that DON'T work." I'm extremely glad that Kelly encouraged us to take notes while reading -- I'd be devastated if any of these pointers had escaped my attention.
Eating Kleenex to make yourself feel full does not work.
The Graham cracker diet does not work.
Drugs do not work.
Well, I suppose this clears up some Scary Island confusion. Had Kelly indeed been doing meth (as the reported cat-pee smell might suggest), she would be fully aware that many drugs are, in fact, extremely effective ways to lose weight. But lest you start to lose faith in the expertise of our fearless leader, read on: "when it comes to food choices, I've probably made every mistake in the book." By which she means that she ate Chinese chicken soup before giving birth to her first daughter and it made her sick, so she ate a turkey sandwich before giving birth to her second daughter and she didn’t get sick. To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to find a way to apply this wisdom to my own life, but I'm sure it will become clear in no time! Kelly is relatable for the first time so far in the following passage:
When I was accused of being a "bitch" on national television, I was really upset. My response was to find comfort in Mexican food and margaritas for lunch and dinner three days straight.
But we promptly return to form on the next page as she recounts her daily diet of "2 green juices," "a KKBfit lunch," and "a KKBfit dinner." I'd like to take a moment to appreciate how generous it is of Kelly to share her wisdom -- earned through a lifetime of catastrophic missteps -- so freely. It certainly didn’t come without a cost, as the following anecdote illustrates:
On the last day of my juice fast, I took my older daughter to a Yankees game where we gorged on sushi. (Yes, they have sushi at Yankee Stadium) As a result, I was stuffed and blinded by carbs when A-Rod came up to bat and hit a home run. Was I able to savor that A-Rod moment with my daughter? Absolutely not. I was in a food coma. Will I ever let myself be thrown into a food frenzy again? No! Lesson learned: I made another stupid food choice, and because of that choice I missed that home run moment with my daughter. From now on, when I go to a Yankees game I'll have a small hot dog instead….I want you to do the same.
Verily! Heed her words of wisdom, lest ye not also lose the precious chance for thine own A-Rod moment. But don’t think this caution means that you have to get caught up in the minutia of your day-to-day. On the contrary, appropriate planning means "you can stop obsessing about your carrot intake and concentrate on what it is that's going to make you a great person in life." To help illustrate this point, Kelly introduces us to the "Kelly pie."Otherwise known as a pie chart. This is a helpful way to really visualize how much time you'll have now that you can cut that pesky carrot-pondering out of your day! Kelly even offers some thoughtful "hints" to divide your pie:
Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
Get up in the morning and say, "I'm so grateful to be where I am and look the way I do," no matter what your size is.
Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
Be mindful of what you eat. If I have to be mindful of what I eat, so do you. We're in this together.
Ooh, sorry Brad, I won't be able to make it to this afternoon's meeting -- it actually conflicts with my daily session of believing in my ability to make good choices today and every day. No, I understand how that could seem like an abstract sentiment rather than something that actually takes up time within your daily schedule, but if Kelly has to do it, so do I! And to be honest, my day is packed enough as it is -- it takes at least a second or two for me to tell myself I look HOT (because I do!), and I'm just worried that if I try to squeeze anything else in, it will cut into my mid-morning health celebration. Wish I could help! In a strangely threatening aside, Kelly commands: "Write down what you ate for the last two days. Don't lie. We can start fresh tomorrow, one bite at a time." In a section titled, "What I Eat Every Day," Kelly enumerates her "three go-to breakfasts": "two oranges or a plate of mixed berries if I'm not going to be very active, all-bran cereal or some other high-fiber cereal with almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk if I'm going on a long run, riding, or doing something else that requires extra energy, and on weekends, I love making pancakes to eat with my girls." As should be apparent, this is far more than three breakfasts. I am irrationally angry, in the same way I was when a Bachelor contestant said their favorite food was a charcuterie platter. That's cheating. (And yes, I do strongly identify with my Virgo moon, thanks for asking.) Kelly inexplicably (apologies if I've used that word for the zillionth time already) tells us that "a plastic cup that says 'Forced Family Fun' from www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag! Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong. Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.
Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate."Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know. The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
Always go with a list and never buy more than two items you planned on taking home.
This is incoherent, right? I know I need to wrap up Part 1 of this write-up pretty soon, because I've read this sentence at least two dozen times trying to make some sense of it, and am still at an utter loss. I assume she's left out a negative somewhere, but at this point, I realize I've already thought about this tip for approximately ten times longer than Kelly ever has, so I'll move on. For the third or fourth time so far this book, Kelly segues into a literal grocery list. To be fair, this is a very effective strategy to take up several pages with minimal text. And what could be more compelling than
Shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs
Truly the voice of a generation! Decades from now, English teachers will be teaching their students about a fabled wordsmith who once uttered those eternal words, "shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs." Because this book has absolutely no respect for logical cohesion, we are hurled immediately into a diatribe about how expensive it can be to buy organic -- "I recently walked out of an organic market having paid $400 for just three bags of groceries." As I read on, however, it becomes quickly apparent that Kelly has no idea what the concept of 'organic' even means:
"Organic," in any case, seems like something of a misnomer to me. I know the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for certifying foods organic, but to me, for foods to be truly and totally organic, they would have to be grown in a test tube or a greenhouse with no exposure to the natural elements.
Well, sure Kelly. If that's what you would like to use the word "organic" to mean, be my guest. She tosses us another crumb of helpful guidance, but it only serves to make me feel exceptionally sorry for Kelly's daughters and everything they have to endure:
Plate your food as if it were being served to you in a fine restaurant. Use a fancy foreign accent as you invite everyone to come to the table. Or try saying it in French. My girls love it when I announce, "Le dîner est servi!"
We learn in yet another "HOT tip" that "fast food doesn't have to be fat food," and Kelly tells us for the eighth time that she eats two oranges every morning. In what has already become a recurring theme for me in this book, the following passage makes me desperately curious to know how Kelly thinks science works:
One question people frequently ask me is whether I believe in taking vitamins or supplements, and the answer is "yes, I do," because, even though I know my diet is healthy, I can't be sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I need. All the vitamins and minerals we need can be found naturally in foods, but how do we know, even if we're eating a healthy diet, that we're getting everything we need?
I flip back two pages to confirm that Kelly told us quite recently how important it is to read nutrition labels to know what is in the food we eat (to make sure we avoid foods "whose labels are full of words you can't pronounce"). Exactly how she is reading these nutrition labels yet still manages to have no inkling how anyone could possibly begin to assess their vitamin and mineral intake eludes me. She continues:
I don't want to take that chance. I think of the food I eat as fuel and vitamins as my oil -- my body's engine needs both. Vitamins and supplements are not food replacements, but we're exposed to so many environmental toxins on a daily basis that I believe we need to supplement our diets to counteract all the harm those substances can cause.
I can certainly think of something that is causing harm to my psychological stability at this particular moment, which I should probably take as a sign to wrap things up for today and go read some incredibly dense Victorian prose or something to remind myself what a properly constructed sentence looks like. Promise I won't leave you waiting for long!!
The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe
The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team,Puskás Akadémia FCmight seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football.(Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing). Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.
Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM
Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there. Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role. No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team. Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achievedpromotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season. Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy. He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born. Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.
Part 2: No stadium left behind
Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season). Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium. Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán). Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money). The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó”= corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division. Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.
Part 3: Small place, big game!
As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots. First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program. The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home. Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in. While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons. It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI. Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”. The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”. Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community. PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league. Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget,making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Construction of a new tea kitchen for youth players for 650,000 EUR
Employment of a 45 person “cleaning and maintenance staff” for the academy.
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs. Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán. Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss. Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.) PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%. On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!
Epilogue: What's in the future?
As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title. However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football. But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you. And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say. TL,DR Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
CMV: Males are genetically predisposed to gambling
Gambling or betting on things seems to be an extremely male-dominated behaviour, especially here in Australia (and we spend the most on gambling per capita worldwide). On a subjective level, almost every one of my male friends and colleagues gambles daily, and social conversations amongst friends often tend to steer towards what's going on in the horses/greyhounds/NRL betting/AFL betting/under-12 disabled Ukrainian volleyball if that's all that's left. Blokes will make bets with each other over things like the coin flip before a game, the exact time of kick off and if a racecaller will say a catchphrase during a race. I believe that part of the reason is that betting advertising has become part of our daily life here. TV ads, radio, print media, social media; literally everywhere you look. They've even managed to seamlessly entwine betting watching sport - every ad break or pre-game show there is a representative from one of the bookmakers showing live odds, tips and gambling strategy. They have TV pop-up ads showing live odds. They even have banner advertising that is cookie-generated so you literally can't escape being marketed to if you're online at all and have looked up a sports result that day. In recent years, gambling ads are now primarily for racing and sports betting rather than, as in the past, for lotteries. On the flip side, none of my female friends or colleagues have any interest in gambling. Quite a few follow sport here but never put any bets on or talk about gambling. Is this because sportsbetting marketing is extremely targeted towards the male demographic? Here in Australia we also spend the most on gambling advertising over all other countries in the world. Our major bookies (Sportsbet, Ladbrokes, Neds, BetEasy) have incredibly male-oriented advertising with TV ads that specifically target men from 18 to 40 - this is obviously their bread and butter market but why? Sports betting advertising often features men standing together, drinking and watching a sporting match. Have a look at some examples of this targeted advertising all showing the single male demographic. Is this due to the fact that sports in general are more popular with men, and this is the reason for the propensity to sports bet? I think men are genetically predisposed to gambling or betting. From an evolutionary point of view, men have been more likely to be competitive with each other in providing for their family/tribe and having the ability to fight for alpha male status. END NOTE: I am not referring to casino gambling. For some reason Casino gambling is a lot more gender equal.
Gambling or betting on things seems to be an extremely male-dominated behaviour, especially here in Australia (and we spend the most on gambling per capita worldwide). From a subjective level, almost every one of my male friends and colleagues gambles daily, and social conversations amongst friends often tend to steer towards what's going on in the horses/greyhounds/NRL betting/AFL betting/under-12 disabled Ukrainian volleyball if that's all that's left. Blokes will make bets with each other over things like the coin flip before a game, the exact time of kick off and if a racecaller will say a catchphrase during a race. I believe that part of the reason is that betting advertising has become part of our daily life here. TV ads, radio, print media, social media; literally everywhere you look. They've even managed to seamlessly entwine betting watching sport - every ad break or pre-game show there is a representative from one of the bookmakers showing live odds, tips and gambling strategy. They have TV pop-up ads showing live odds. They even have banner advertising that is cookie-generated so you literally can't escape being marketed to if you're online at all and have looked up a sports result that day. In recent years, gambling ads are now primarily for racing and sports betting rather than, as in the past, for lotteries. On the flip side, none of my female friends or colleagues have any interest in gambling. Quite a few follow sport here but never put any bets on or talk about gambling. Is this because sportsbetting marketing is extremely targeted towards the male demographic? Here in Australia we also spend the most on gambling advertising over all other countries in the world. Our major bookies (Sportsbet, Ladbrokes, Neds, BetEasy) have incredibly male-oriented advertising with TV ads that specifically target men from 18 to 40 - this is obviously their bread and butter market but why? Sports betting advertising often features men standing together, drinking and watching a sporting match. Have a look at some examples of this targeted advertising all showing the single male demographic. Is this due to the fact that sports in general are more popular with men, and this is the reason for the propensity to sports bet? What's going on here? Are men just genetically predisposed to being competitive? END NOTE: I am not referring to casino gambling. For some reason Casino gambling is a lot more gender equal.
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Updates I’ve seen posted that would be really good to have:
Make North Korea a country and add in how they really aren’t allowed to do much so there would be a mini game of trying to illegally cross the border to escape
renting out your houses, jets, yachts
being able to buy hotels, casinos, restaurants, shell companies, insurance companies, car dealerships etc. and get money yearly from them
making your own business and being able to pass it down like an asset to your legacy also you should be able to own multiple businesses you made and some would be more successful than others
Being able to continue as your child in the next life without having to kill yourself. I’m tired of getting the wasteful banner on every person because I need to for my legacy
adding time periods where you could choose if you want to love in past, present, or future
mythical things where you could play regular mode or magic mode where on magic mode there’s ghosts and haunting a (like there is already in regular it would just be moved over) and you could go to wizard school and become a wizard or a witch and there could be monsters like zombies and instead of diseases you could get bit by a zombie and try to get cured or if you have a curse put on you you’d get it removed at a place like the doctors but magical, and maybe instead of cars you could buy flying broomsticks and magic carpets. Also there could be superhero’s too (I guess like police almost) that catch supervillains as their job
Family tree that would keep expanding and you could see the family of your legacy that would probably get huge the bigger your legacy got
moving to different cities similar to moving countries
under mind and body you should be able to play mini games of board games like tic tac toe, chess, checkers, and connect 4 to slightly boost your intelligence but mostly for happiness
being able to continue as your grandkids instead of your kids
being able to choose how much you leave in your will, maybe if you wanted to leave your wife and son $100,000 each but leave your daughter only $1
if they go to university in finance they get a job relating to that and may even want to go to law school. Don’t make me pay for university and they randomly decide to become a trucker. I mean maybe every once in a while if it’s very rare but I’ll i ever get is me paying $50,000 of tuition but then they either become a grocer, trucker, or librarian
make god mode better, for example I should be able to kill of anyone with god mod, I guess by striking them with lightning like I thought I would be able to because it said that in the description
add special ops military teams as a job, and they should have difficult mini games for missions
Adult activities like joining a garage band, playing adult sports (not professionally, recreationally) or even clubs like a biking club. These could increase your health, happiness or even your intelligence depending on what the club is about
Investing in Stocks
Being able to buy illegal weapons from weapons dealer and have a collection of weapons in assets
Famous YoutubeSocial media influenced and athlete career
More gambling options like coin flip and betting on sports or a roulette wheel
NOTE: not all of these ideas are mine, most are from my community bitlifesuggestions from people that posted ideas on there. Anyway, upvote and tag u/bitlifeapp if you want to see these added into the game
How the country's feminist rulers and their hordes of dumb bitches doomed Spain to the plague
March 8: Sánchez bets big on women in Spanish campaign
MADRID — Pedro Sánchez made feminism a banner as soon as he became prime minister nine months ago, and now he's doubling down on women's votes to keep him in office after Spain's election on April 28. With an openly anti-feminist party — the far-right Vox — on the rise, Sánchez's Socialists and their mainstream rivals trampled on each other to get the feminist seal of approval ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday. The country's robust feminist movement has called its second annual women's strike, with hundreds of thousands of protesters expected to take to the streets. On March 8 last year, labor unions estimate that about 5 million women joined the first ever women’s strike in Spain, a success that the organizers hope to emulate this time. Sánchez, an avowed feminist who beat the OECD record by putting women in 65 percent of his Cabinet positions last June, rushed through legislation on gender equality last week, such as an increase in paternity leave and rules on wage transparency aimed at reducing the gender pay gap in companies (the measures are still pending approval in Congress).
"We must be strong and fight for the rights of all of us, to be equal, to be paid as much as men," One of the drummers, Marina Martin, told Reuters. One protester held a sign that read: "Machismo kills more than coronavirus." A number of events have been called off or postponed in Spain to minimize the possibility of the coronavirus spreading but health emergency coordinator Fernando Simon said on Saturday the Health Ministry did not consider the marches a risk. Health Minister Salvador Illa appealed on Sunday to those with symptoms not to attend the demonstrations.
March 13: The example of Poland vs the coronavirus: what the Spanish Gov should have done and did not
Before that first death, on Tuesday March 10, with 18 infections, the Polish government prohibited public gatherings and canceled sports events. The measure was announced by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a press conference just 6 days after the first contagion. Contrary to what happened in Poland, where the Prime Minister has already held several press conferences in the days following the confirmation of the first contagion in that country, the President of the Spanish Government, the Socialist Pedro Sánchez, did not appear before the media until 6 weeks after the first contagion in Spain. Likewise, 37 days after the first contagion, with 674 people infected and already 17 dead, on March 8 the Spanish government authorized large feminist demonstrations in several Spanish cities (the Madrid march brought together 120,000 people, among whom were several ministers of the Government), thus facilitating a mass propagation medium for this epidemic.
March 15: Wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tests positive for the coronavirus
There was also controversy on Saturday when Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias attended a Cabinet meeting, despite his partner being infected Tests earlier in the week confirmed that the minister for territorial policy, Carolina Darias, and the equality minister, Irene Montero, had also contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “Both are in their homes and in a good condition,” La Moncloa sources stated on Saturday night. Begoña Gómez and Irene Montero were present at a march in Madrid for International Women’s Day last Sunday. The Spanish government has been widely criticized by the opposition for letting the demonstrations go ahead across Spain, given that the coronavirus was already spreading fast through the Spanish population at that point.
March 20: How Spain’s coronavirus outbreak got so bad so fast — and how Spaniards are trying to cope
The politics alone are daunting. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, weak after forming a minority government, likely didn’t want to risk his fragile hold on power by banning large gatherings, experts say. Instead, he allowed thousands to attend soccer games last week, as well as permitted a 120,000-strong feminist rally in Madrid to proceed. Hietsch was at that demonstration. “I regret going,” she told me, fearing it may have accelerated the spread. “I’ve felt anxiety ever since that I could be a carrier of the disease.” So far, though, she’s healthy.
March 30: Spain and Italy deaths continue to soar by hundreds each day
The number of people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus has risen by 838 in Spain and 756 in Italy. Spain's number of deaths rose from 100 to 1,000 quicker than Italy, where 10,023 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19. Sky's Europe correspondent Adam Parsons said: "The pace of which people are dying of the coronavirus in Spain does seem to be stripping even the records established by Italy.
Reposted fromgeegees I only just found out this morning about the entire thing about people shipping rival (or sometimes not rival) universities and I am simultaneously impressed and disappointed in our generation. Good job! And now, for the past 5 hours, I've been earning my own place in hell by contributing to the chaotic mess that is the uni shipping wave, so I hope that people get a kick out of this even though the wave is lowkey dying and probably over by today ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I spent way too much time on this and I absolutely hate how much detail I put into it
Welcome to uOttawa x Carleton
For the most part, Genevieve liked her roommate. Corbin was rather considerate of her studying hours, kept their shared apartment clean, and generally was a pleasant person to be around. It helped that they came from the same city and had bumped into each other on occasion in years past. The only time she didn’t like Corbin was when the younger woman was in one of her “moods”. “Ugh. This sucks.” She resisted the urge to look over at the couch, but she could see in her peripheral vision a pair of legs kicking at the air. Over the past nine months, she had come to recognize that particular tone of voice and she didn’t like what was coming. “What does?” said Genevieve evenly as she fingered the page of her novel. She’d been stuck on the same sentence for several minutes now. “I don’t know, summer? Rez? Class?” The legs stopped kicking and swung over the edge of the couch. “You don’t live in rez anymore,” she pointed out. “You haven’t been for almost a year.” “Doesn’t matter! Rez here sucked,” said Corbin. “If I was gonna run a university, I’d make sure living on campus isn’t a pain in the ass.” “Uh huh. You do realize residence programs suck at every university, right?” She turned to look at her roommate. “None of the universities are known for their residences.” “So? Mine would be the first. Our slogan would be, ‘Ours, the comfort eternal!’” The woman spread her arms out as if picturing the words on a banner. It was a little endearing, if she had to be honest. “I can see it now! Carleton University, topping charts for student comfort!” “Seriously?” deadpanned Genevieve. “Your theoretical university is named after where you live? Your area doesn’t even use the name ‘Carleton’ anymore.” “And? If you were running a uni, what would you call yours?” Corbin shot back. She had to think about that one for a moment. “Probably something like the University of Ottawa.” “How’s that any different from naming mine Carleton?” “It’s different because I get to easily translate it to l’université d’Ottawa. Mine would get to be bilingual and our region is still called that.” Her roommate’s face scrunched up at the French words. “Don’t give me that look, you’re the one who didn’t want to take the DELF test.” “I can survive in a French conversation!” Corbin protested. “It’s just that you always act so pretentious about getting some flimsy piece of paper!” “Yeah, yeah, ferme ta gueule,” she muttered, turning her attention back to her book. She could hear her roommate huff and fabric rustling before something soft struck the side of her head. “What the– did you just throw Pedro at me?!” The small stuffed panda laid innocently on the floor and the person who threw him just pointed smugly at a raven-themed coaster on the table. “Pedro’s been on my side for the past month, Gee-Gee.” “First of all, I have a name and you can use it instead of my initials” –Corbin stuck her tongue out at her and she scowled– “and second, give me the coin.” Corbin stood up and passed her the decorative coin that they kept Pedro with. “I call tails!” “Fine.” Genevieve flipped the coin with her thumb, watching it land on the table. It spun for a few seconds before settling on the visage of the reigning monarch. Triumphantly, she reached over to turn the coaster over to the horse painted on the other side. “He’s on mine now, Corby.” The other woman made no comment at first, which she found odd. When Genevieve looked over, Corbin quickly bent down to pick up the stuffed animal. Was her face redder than usual or was that just what makeup her roommate had thrown on that day? “He’ll be supporting the Ravens again soon enough!” “What’s that, Carleton’s mascot?” Genevieve scoffed lightly, making a show of opening her book again. Maybe this time she could finally get through this chapter, but with a rather noticeable distraction beside her, she wasn’t placing any bets on it. “Hey, that’s not a bad idea!” Corbin fell silent more a few moments. “Hey, Gee-Gee?” “Yeah?” She decided to let the nickname slide this time. The young woman fidgeted in the corner of her eye and she turned to look at her again. “What’s up?” Corbin was fiddling with Pedro in her hands, tapping his paws together nervously. “After you graduate, where are you gonna go?” Genevieve shrugged. “I’ll probably head back home for a while. Look for jobs and another apartment to rent. Why?” “Do you, ah, do you think I could come with you when I finish school?” She raised her eyebrows and Corbin’s face flushed with embarrassment to an adorable shade of red. “I don’t really know anyone back home other than my parents? And I think I’m going to need some help besides them to stand on my own…” “I mean, sure,” said Genevieve and her roommate let her shoulders fall in relief. “I already lived with you following me around like a lovesick puppy for almost a year. What’s another two or three?” “Wha– Who said I was lovesick?” Corbin stiffened and somehow managed to make her face the reddest she’d ever seen. Something clicked in Genevieve’s head. “No one, technically. I said you were like a lovesick puppy, not that you were one.” She got up and lightly slapped a hand on the younger woman’s arm, smiling delightfully at how Corbin’s eyes darted from her hand to her face and everywhere in-between. “But if you are going to admit that you’re a lovesick puppy, I’m not going to stop you.” “Wh– No! I’m– I’m–“ she struggled and Genevieve gave her a small wink, and she could’ve sworn Corbin’s pulse faltered under her touch. “I’m going to go get started on making dinner,” she said, making her way into the other room. “You might want to figure yourself out before then!” Some flustered whining was all she got as a response. - so here are the extra lore details because I truly hate myself:
Genevieve is a French name for girls! Her surname, (Guiges), is the same as the founder of the College of Bytown, which later became uOttawa.
Corbin is a name that is derived from the corvus genus, which ravens are a part of. Her surname, (which is not written but it's Tory), is the surname of the chair of the Carleton College Committee which created Carleton if I'm reading their history page right.
Genevieve comes from Sandy Hill (a neighborhood in Ottawa) while Corbin technically lives in her own neighborhood because Carleton is its own neighborhood in Ottawa???
Genevieve is Corbin's upperclassman. No clue what she studies, but she's bilingual in English and French.
Carleton's motto is (in Latin) "Ours the Task eternal". You can guess where I put it in the story.
Corbin's "moods" is when she wants to fight anyone and everyone.
The nine months weren't picked from nowhere! If you take the year uOttawa was founded as the College of Bytown and subtract the year Carleton was founded, you'd get something around 94 years. I took that and turned it into 9(.3) months!
Genevieve's initials are G.G., hence why Corbin calls her "Gee-Gee". The uOttawa name for our sports (and our mascot) is the Gee-Gee, which is the first horse out of the gate in a race.
The Carleton mascot is a raven, hence Corbin's raven mascot and the raven on one side of the coaster. Ours is a horse, and that's why the other side of the coaster is a horse.
Pedro the Panda is the name of the stuffed panda (and trophy??) at the heart of the Panda Games. The flipping of the decorative coin is supposed to represent the football games but I didn't match it up to any specific seasons.
I briefly considered making Corbin male, but then I was like "nahhh". Then I briefly considered Corbin being a trans woman, but seeing as there was no place to actually mention it in the story, I ended up not writing it in and it ultimately isn't important what bits you got down there; you are who you say you are and that's all that matters!
I like to think that Corbin isn't her actual name and something that she chose for herself to make her sound cooler.
Yeah, I wasted 5 hours on this. I'm never getting that time back.
The Truth About Most NFL Or College Football Picks
I know you've seen them. I run across them every day with banner ads and sometimes bombardments of spam email claiming to have guaranteed NFL or College football picks. They flash up some type of ridiculous record with no actual proof of the record. That's exactly why I wanted to clear the air about most of these sports handicapping services. Keep in mind I say most because just like any tainted industry there are still diamonds in the rough. The first thing that ropes people in are the so called professionals teaser picks that they give away. Which actually reminds me of a Simpson's episode where Homer is scammed by free picks through the mail. They sent different picks to different people so that a certain percentage of those people would always get winners, but this was of course by blind luck. This is exactly what these teaser picks boil down to most of the time. They are strictly a promotional method to get you to buy the very expensive premium picks. Which often are not much better than the free picks. So lets say you actually find a good service that you feel will give you the picks you need to become a regular winner. The fact about these premium picks is that they are so expensive you have to then bet way more than you normally do just to cover the cost of the pick. This in turn completely destroys your bankroll strategy and your profit margin. The guarantees also cause some controversy. Most of the guarantees you see come with a "If your pick doesn't hit you get your money back" guarantee. The only problem here is that you just raised you betting unit to cover for the cost of the pick and wiped you out. So getting that money back doesn't always mean it's a good deal. The second downfall to the guarantee is that most of the time in order to avoid a refund they usually offer a few premium picks for free instead of the refund. So if you can't find a quality service that actually gives good picks what's the alternative? The alternative is simply putting in the effort to analyze each game like a pro. This can take up to 3 hours per day which most people would rather be spending with their family instead of in front of a computer screen looking at stats. Or you could continue to be an average bettor with the ups and downs and never getting ahead. But there is another alternative. And that is hooking up with a professional that will give you all their picks for free.
An exposé on some of the most fascinating and amusing characters that graced or continue to grace Greek pitches. Entirely subjectively I excluded certain personalities who I felt were cashing in on a manufactured persona. This one is devoted to those who managed to steal the spotlight with their authenticity or charisma. If enough worthy candidates are mentioned in the comments there will be a part 2. After the positive response on the previous post I had to do some more extensive research for this one. Vlassis Tsakas I'd try and give you a description on what this man does for a living but the truth is no one actually has a fucking clue. Things that he has been involved in include a furniture business that went tits up and he ended up in prison for cutting unbacked cheques, manager at 5 star hotels at the popular tourist destination of Halkidiki and working with a solar panel company in the similarly exotic Kilkis. His first involvement with football came in 2001 when he approached PAOK as the representative of an Argentine investment group looking to buy the club for 12 billion drachmae or 36 million euros not adjusted for inflation. The two sides were far from an agreement as PAOK representatives were making some obscene requests such as being given a phone number to verify the interest of said group or Tsakas depositing some of the money promised. The deal fell through when center back Venetidis got sold to Olympiakos at which point the offer was withdrawn. It seems the Argentines really only cared for Venetidis and the rest of the club came in just to sweeten the deal. It should have been obvious by then that Vlassis Tsakas had as much reliability as a Nigerian prince however eleven years later the man was back in the spotlight with a vengeance and with an Arab prince. It's 2012 and Panathinaikos is struggling financially. The saviour came out of a taxi in the form of the T-shirt wearing mediator of an Arab prince willing to buy the club for 220 million euros. His promises of bringing Ronaldinho, the wet dream of all big teams at the time flooded the press. That prince's name began with Sultan and ended in Al Saud but it also contained a variable that changed every time Tsakas uttered his name such as Harhan, Farfan, Afrahan, Rahman while on his excellency's passport it was Farhan. Not to mention the "bin" that changed place frequently. Unsurprisingly the deadline for the first deposit of the 220 million was missed but surprisingly the Greek press did get to see Al Saud in a press conference in Athens six months later. While he promised 70 million in the next two years after that his interest sort of fizzled away. Perhaps the attack with eggs and yogurt against Tsakas just before the press conference by Panathinaikos fans discouraged the ambitious investor whose saga officially ended in early 2013. Panathinaikos would eventually find an investor with a surname beginning with Al, unfortunately it was Giannis Alafouzos. Tsakas would go on to buy the small club of Kavala, scam 80 thousand euros of a local businessman and get convicted. Makis Psomiadis A man whose life beyond football would probably make for a more interesting read. I'll just name a few of his other escapades for the sake of brevity; torturing political prisoners dressed as a priest during the military junta, smuggling gold, owning multiple nightclubs, getting shot in the buttcheek by a fellow nightlife mobster and escaping bleeding from the hospital to evade arrest for pending warrants, accused at least twice of kidnapping and recorded torturing fellow crime associate. The majority of these were already documented by the time he got involved with AEK. In all his public appearances (here's a best of) he came across as a shrewd and no nonsense businessman always brandishing his trademark cigar. His intimidating physique and his visible frustration to any challenge of his authority were probably indicative of the way he ran all his businesses. The distinctive tone of his voice, his way of speech that showed him as a man of the laity and his minimal understanding of tact solidified the mold for the satirical stereotype of the mob boss/club owner. "Makaros" was involved with AEK from 1988 but it's in 2001 that he would become president of the football department. His presidency was short -only till 2003- but definitely memorable with AEK winning the Greek cup in 2002 and losing the league on the last matchday. He laid the blame on the "watermelon farmer from Estoril" ; Fernando Santos. One of the highlights of his tenure was the transfer of proud Olympiakos fan Georgatos from Inter with Psomiadis marking this a day for celebration while dozens of ultras outside were protesting by turning Georgatos' car into a convertible. Coincidentally a few days later one of those ultras would see his own business severely damaged. Psomiadis would probably have had a longer presidency had he not have opened a conflict with team legend Demis Nikolaidis. The moustache wearing businessman had been doing late night social calls along with a group of neckless bodyguards to players to ensure they were not out clubbing. When he decided to pay a visit to Demis, Nikolaidis misunderstood the president's concern as an intrusion on his privacy and told him to get lost. Psomiadis grabbed him by the neck and threatened him, Nikolaidis pressed charges and shortly left for Atletico Madrid. The incident marked the beginning of the end for Makis who fell out of favour with the entirety of the AEK fanbase and passed the presidency for a transitional period onto his cousins; Charilaos Psomiadis and... Charilaos Psomiadis. (In order to tell them apart they were given the nicknames Charilaos "past five" and Charilaos "five to".) It was later found out Makaros had embezzled about 20 million euros from AEK and died owing the club 80 million with interest. He had owned the club of Kavala which in 2010 he promoted to the Superleague getting them a handsome 6th place. The club would get relegated after the ensuing match fixing scandal the following year with Psomiadis convicted. The rest years of his life were spent half in prison and half in North Macedonia evading arrest until he died in 2016. Upon his death AEK offered its sincere condolences. Giorgos Minos Like a lot of other state television employees he wouldn't be working in any other country's broadcasting corporation. However he is a product of different times and the small society of Thessaloniki. And thus Giorgos Minos has been a reporter for 39 years. For as long as I can remember Minos has been covering the news for PAOK in the longest running sport show in Greece, his raspy voice and incoherent speech becoming staple of our Sunday nights. What comes across quite subtly as he covers the news for PAOK is that he may actually support this team. Some such subtle indications include the amount of times he mentions the name PAOK in his every reportage. During the past years with PAOK's increasing success he has really come into his own. In the 2017-18 season Apollon's Giannis Kontoes (former AEK) who was a guest on the show dared to say he thought AEK had a better team. Minos visibly distraught tried to ask what was supposed to be a question but turned out to be nonsensical fast paced jarble containing some stats about PAOK's results in an attempt to change the doubter's mind. The answer of a laughing/pleading Kontoes; Please Mr Minos, I'm sorry, I'm just a footballer, I just said my opinion. It was the same season that he tried to take a jab at AEK's Galanopoulos by telling him to ask a former PAOK player and teammate how it's like to play in Toumba. What he forgot was that Galanopoulos had indeed played in Toumba the season before that and won 1-0 and the footballer in fact reminded that to a dumbfounded Minos. And if that season's title was lost, Giorgos Minos would be rewarded for his lifetime loyalty to covering PAOK with the 2018-19 title. Great moments from that season include him wearing PAOK'S coach Razvan Lucescu's trademark cap on live coverage , getting two musicians to perform Ivan Savvidis' favourite traditional song for the PAOK owner's 60th birthday and the bus parade after the award ceremony during which he would have his name chanted by PAOK fans while also managing to mix up Superman and Batman referring to a shirt with the trademark giant S that our goalie was wearing. I do apologize for the great deal of clips of him that I left out, however the one that is a guilty pleasure of mine is this potato quality one pronouncing in its entirety the name of another less remembered cult icon. Ognen Vranjes This one may come with a hint of recency bias. Vranjes came to Greece as a center back for AEK in 2017, having already built a reputation for controversy, and immediately became a fan favourite. Maybe it's due to his passionate defending. Maybe it's due to his hot temper that makes a bet on him getting the most cards in a season, one of the few safe investments in Greece. Or maybe it's due to his numerous trashy Instagram posts either attacking Olympiakos , praising AEK ultras or both at the same time In any case his 2017-18 stint in Greece was so memorable that both sides never really got over their one year break and the Bosnian returned. In large part that was due to his behaviour outside the pitch, his constant misdemeanors in the dressing room and the aforementioned Instagram posts including one with similarly hot-headed Croat teammate Marko Livaja singing chants against Olympiakos. All these would suffice to build a turbulent relationship with his club(s) and a love affair with the AEK fans. The reason he makes it on this list however is for a different love affair. The one he had with the married Bosnian singer Jelena Karleusa. The two were involved in a dramatic Instagram feud with Karleusa posting their interactions strife with mutual emotional abuse, in response to him jeopardising her wedding by publicizing their relationship. More importantly she also shared this legendary picture of him crying. He in return posted her nudes, pleas from her to rebuke his statements and proof of their affair with a video of them visiting the Acropolis. Fair to say the Greek public opinion was thoroughly entertained and Olympiakos fans couldn't drop the chance to poke fun at the Bosnian in this season's derby with this banner. Vranjes once again to the club's dissatisfaction replied in his usual mature and thoughtful way ; you can only wank over this bitch, only aekara. Savvas Theodoridis 85 yr old former Olympiakos keeper and father of UEFA executive Theodoros Theodoridis was a footnote in Greek football history until the 2010s. Few remember his playing days in the fifties and his presence as something of a team staff member at the club afterwards was not that memorable. He first started making ripples with his statements from 2013 onwards;
"Olympiakos has always answered on the pitch and never used TV to slander other clubs." "These are human mistakes. Stop with all this fairytales about referees, it dishonours the great club of Panathinaikos." "All they want is to slander Olympiakos and intimidate the referees."
No one really mulled over these statements too much but the public opinion formed for Mr Theodoridis was that of a senile old man that people shouldn't pay that much attention to. And thus he was given the fond nickname of "Kyr Savvas" or "Mr Savvas" as you would call the elderly shop owner of your neighborhood. For a bit of historical background, from 1996 to 2016 Olympiakos won every single championship apart from two. The majority at least a month before the season ended. 2017-18 and 2018-19 are the only two seasons that Olympiakos had a significant title challenger in this decade. In both occasions they lost the title to AEK and PAOK, coming third and second. I won't comment on the integrity of refereeing prior or after the 2016 intervention of UEFA in Greek affairs as most people already have an opinion. Instead here are some handpicked quotes (in contrast with those he previously made) from Mr Savvas during the past three seasons that gave him his cult icon status;
"I found out this German referee is from the 3rd division. Mr Pereira (UEFA refereeing supervisor) is certainly involved with this and is bringing us every 'faulty device' from Europe. Because of Pereira we've lost two Greek championships. He should leave Greece immediately. Him and the other guy -whatdyoucallhim- Fusek (UEFA supervisor of Greek football). They should hit the road and leave." "I want to thank our fans for putting up with this referee, appointed by Mr 'Fereira' and all these dogs inside the federation. I will not stop from now on with lawsuits. [...] They should leave me alone because I have a glorious history with huge certificates behind me... huge.... And if I show them the world will.. (incomprehensible). No one is worthy to get such papers of decency and admiration and congratulations. In my life I've won 45 trophies, how can little PAOK compare, it's laughable. [...] I'm talking as Savvas Theodoridis, the servant and soldier of Olympiakos." "I cannot talk to ERT (public broadcasting corporation). I'm not talking to you as Olympiakos but as Savvas Theodoridis, 70 years honorary president of Olympiakos with 45 trophies. We have great complaints from ERT, not just me but the 5 million fans of Olympiakos (author's note ; Greece's population is 10 million) who haven't heard a nice word for the president of Olympiakos, Mr Marinakis in four years. We cannot accept this. I'm struggling to keep these 5 million calm."
Unfortunately a lot of his stuff does get lost in translation such as the racially undertoned comparison of his team's reception at AEK with things happening in his invented African country home to the "Bazibuzuks". Despite his age he still follows the team everywhere and likes to give his two cents after every game in front of the cameras and I for one I'm glad. Aggelos Anastasiadis As a player he can boast two championships and three cups however he is neither a man to boast nor is his playing career what he's known for. Anastasiadis has been a coach since 1994. His resume includes historic teams such as Panathinaikos, PAOK (three times), Iraklis (two times) and Larissa as well as many other smaller clubs, a successful tenure with the Cyprus NT and a very recent not so successful tenure with the Greek NT. He lead PAOK to an unlikely cup win in 2003 and the CL qualifiers of 2005, Iraklis twice got to play European football with him, his time in Panathinaikos was not bad, he's never been relegated and he took Cyprus out of the bottom feeders with some big wins. With that said, the reason he makes this list is for his quotes and habits. While he has a great way of reading the game and making incisive subs he always came across as someone who doesn't quite understand football tactics. One of the many such examples after he won the 2003 cup final when he was quoted;
Don't ask me about tactics lads after a cup final, that's for you to talk about.
Indeed it's fair to say by those who have followed his career he doesn't seem to really worry about these details. It's that attitude that Sokratis didn't appreciate when Anastasiadis was NT coach and after a loss to Armenia, said either me or him prompting the manager's sack after four qualifier games. Apart from football tactics he seems to not fully grasp foreign players, (having famously come to a disagreement with Souza at Panathinaikos) or their names for that matter. Eyal (Golasa) turned into the easier Giannis as well as Facundo (Pereyra) who switched to the more convenient Fanouris. More to the point the easiest excuse he gives for ridicule is his love for the Holy Mother. He frequently mentions Her as the driving force behind his teams' success in previous or upcoming matches. As he said on his last time with PAOK;
From now on I leave the team on the hands of the Queen. Now some will say ; is he going to be sitting? [as in not working] I don't know who would say such a thing and why.
One particular display of his affection towards the Theotokos during this clip before the start of a match. He has stated in an interview that he doesn't accept a job unless he asks his priest and has rejected a manager position at AEK when he received a negative response. Anecdotal stories exist of him taking the team to church on Sunday and players to Mt. Athos so it's perhaps fitting that his longest interview was given to a small ecclesiastical TV station which I watched in its entirety for the sake of research... I think... I feel though that part of him has been persecuted with a vengeance by the media and far be it from me to mock a man's faith. Besides he is probably the only innocuous man on this list. There's dozens of others that I have left out so feel free to complain and if you also have someone in your country's football of similar grandeur you can do them justice by mentioning them in the comments. Edit; Thanks for all the positive responses and awards, they're very much appreciated.
A long, angry, ill-advised, half-joking tirade against Pittsburgh and the Steelers.
Warning: Grown-up language TLDR: Fuck the Steelers and everyone that roots for them. NOTE despite this tirade, I actually think Pittsburgh is a beautiful city and I'm proud to have served with plenty of Steelers fans who were nothing short of kind, selfless, and good-humored. I hope they'll forgive me for this. Fuck this waste of a city. What version of God, across all quantum possibilities and religions long forgotten, thought it wise to flood a swath of pristine appalachian wilderness with hundreds of thousands of unemployed factory-workers twirling yellow towels crusted with the seed of their fathers and their fathers before them? What purpose could this franchise ever serve except to remind other teams what urine and sweat smell like when neither has ever been washed out of an 80 year-old bumblebee costume? Pittsburgh is a soot-filled labyrinth built to house Art Rooney's half-aborted minotaur children. Fuck the Steelers and fuck everyone that roots for them. Pittsburgh is just West Virginia wearing lipstick to hide the cold sores. Pittsburgh was founded by colonial toilet ghosts who performed Andrew Jackson-style bukkake on the native population and the only solace I take is that whatever indian curse was bestowed that day still seems to be in effect. The only thing they ever did right was admitting that steel was dead at which point they promptly sold their toothless grandparents off and brought in the only thing that could pose a greater threat to their children - tech bros. I cannot wait for one of their bridges to collapse under the combined weight of their self-driving cars and overweight bloggers only to be rebuilt out of the mountain of untested rape-kits they're sure to continue accumulating. This team is the absolute worst. They lost in the playoffs to the Jaguars. The goddamn Jaguars before they were even moderately good. That's the equivalent of having to clean up after a friend's bachelor party you weren't even invited to just to find out that you still caught hepatitis C. That is like showing up for a casting call with Harvey Weinstein and still getting passed over for the role of Quentin Tarantino's newest foot fetish. That is like staying completely celibate before marriage only to hear your husband use the phrase "tig-ole bitties" during your consummation night. At least this franchise used to be open about their desire to craft a team made entirely out of 150-pound Irish-Catholic linebackers. Now that secret is just a racist wish-upon-a-star that gets passed down by increasingly inbred generations of hill people who definitely use the word "uppity" every time an athlete asks to be fairly compensated for their efforts and maybe not shot by the police. Honestly, this is the team that killed Ryan Shazier by asking him to play zone defense alone on every single down while Tom Brady methodically carved them up like a turkey. It is 100% understandable that he would try and tackle people using only his neck after suffering that. The worst part is that this team is still waiting to put Shazier onto the field as soon as he can walk unassisted only to watch him instantly sever the two pieces of twine that are holding his spinal cord in place. Mike Tomlin will captive bolt stun him right between the eyes Anton Chigur-style and then this team will somehow turn him into an emblem of courage instead of the cautionary tale of completely-preventable violence that this sport really is. I have zero sympathy for whichever pimple-faced fraternity pledge lost the game of limp biscuit and has to wear the Steely McBeam costume this year. He 100% deserved it and frankly there weren't enough men in that circle. Jesus Christ, the team didn't even need 4chan and the alt-right to sabotage their mascot naming process for them. All of those people already lived in Pittsburgh. Because of course they fucking did. The "beam" in the name came from someone's husband whose favorite beverage was Jim Beam. Not favorite liquor. Favorite beverage. Fuck this town and everyone in it. Fuck the Steelers and their bloated Will Ferrel-lookalike quarterback. The amount of unconsensual sex Big Ben has is equaled only by the sheer volume of empty McDonalds bags that trace the path between his sunken bed frame and ruined toilet bowl. Motorcycle accidents can't happen frequently enough. This hotdog-chugger can't wait to retire right up until the exact second when his team begins planning for his departure at which time he transforms back from cinderella's pumpkin into a petulant child who flaps his roast beef lips to every news outlet about how terribly the franchise is treating him. Never mind the fact that this team's ownership will abandon their wives, sister-wives, and daughter-wives in the delivery room every single time he gets his gangrenous penis stuck in another foam pool noodle. This guy gets paid to eat blue cheese dressing by the fistful 30 weeks a year and somehow he's the victim? The man only has two brain cells and they're so busy sodomizing each other that he can't even close his mouth when he breaths. He probably has wet farts even when he's dehydrated. This man's idea of a romantic gesture is pretending he can't hear the word "no" screamed at him and on the off-chance that he isn't traumatizing some preteen he's making her to watch him force whole turkey legs down his gullet pelican-style between trips to the liquor store. His greatest legacy in life will be getting a sandwich named after him that's 90% french fries and 10% perpetuating the cycle of abuse. I refer back to my comment about the motorcycles. Fuck the endless victim complex that pervades this garbage heap. Fuck the pure saltwater tears that spring out every single time a ref isn't on their payroll. Just throw more money at them! It's not like the Steelers are about to spend it to retain their players. Shit, they could give the officials an envelope of cash while the cameras were rolling and nobody would be surprised. For fuck's sake, Mike Tomlin walked onto the field to trip Jacoby Jones when he was about to return a punt and the refs did fucking nothing until well after the game had ended. Jesus Christ, I bet he forces them to make eye contact when they blow him too. Don't get me started on Mike fucking Tomlin. No, you know what? Let's talk about Mike. How is this guy, who made his bones in the NFL as a defensive backs coach, not on the hook for having a secondary weaker than Stephen Miller's hairline? This team will give 400 yards to the first quarterback who flashes them a flirty look then turn around and fire their offensive coordinator and hang a "mission accomplished" banner. His team defends the pass worse than Kevin Spacey defended his pedophilia. The Steelers cheated in a fucking preseason game. A meaningless preseason game! This team is the porn parody of the New England Patriots. Mike Tomlin's team won a game by 25 points and he still felt so much like the victim that he complained until they fined him. His best player snapped his neck wide open and Tomlin is pissed that all his other players can't openly shiv the rest of the AFC North. Emmanuel Sanders once pretended to be injured just to buy time. I guaran-fucking-tee you that Tomlin taught him that. His only redeeming qualities are drafting wide receivers and never once changing his facial hair. You could count the cellulite rings (plural) in his thighs to see how old he is and you can count his Super Bowl ring (singular) to see whether he's even remotely successful at maximizing what is easily the most talented and morally reprehensible roster a coach has ever been in charge of. Barely. Barely is the answer. He has absolutely used the phrase "flea-flicker"as a sexual innuendo and frankly, that should carry a jail sentence with it. Tomlin emboldened the worst football fans on earth by giving them a glimmer of hope and they'll one day cannibalize him headset and all because walking to the other end of the food court is too far for the morbidly obese cult that calls themselves "Steelers Nation". Everyone in this fan base deserves to be carjacked repeatedly. Their fucking accent is the equivalent of throwing a brick into a washer during spin-cycle. I'd rather let Gilbert Godfried scream erotic fanfiction directly into my ear canal than have to hear the word "yinz" ever again. The road to hell is paved with the teeth of Steelers fans; all of which, I know for a fact, were knocked out by other Steelers fans. Every bar fight there begins with the phrase "No, your mom is the whore!" The official pastime in Pittsburgh is cashing a dead person's Social Security check. A Pittsburgh annulment is just a mobile home cut into two pieces. This city was the inspiration for the the third Godfather movie. Jar Jar Binks, the Menendez brothers, and probably Hitler were all conceived there. A Pittsburgh hot tub is just cold water and thick farts. This city is the geographic epicenter of a venn diagram comparing broken dreams and substance abuse denial. I wish hurricanes lasted all year and made it further inland. Fuck the Steelers.
The Nek'var Empire marches across the stars. Their campaign to purge all life from the galaxy has crushed a thousand years of peace. The Galactic Union stubbornly battles for survival, but hovers near the brink of defeat. If they fall, the galaxy falls with them. Humanity is an unknown power emerging from their little speck of space when they are inexplicably attacked by a powerful alien fleet, forcing the ever squabbling nations of Sol to forge a grudging alliance in the face of defeat. Corporal Erik Shields finds himself far from home, embroiled in a life or death struggle on the surface of MX-1, battling for humanity's future against a seemingly unstoppable enemy force. A glimmer of hope arrives when Fleet engineers manage to develop a miniaturized reactor core that unlocks the potential of the Power Armor program, and a desperate mission is cobbled together to deploy the hastily formed Armor Corps to the surface of MX-1 in hopes of stemming the enemy tide. This is a tale of defiance in the face of annihilation, of the soul-crushing horror of interstellar war - and the death of dreams. ---
ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ The skies over MX-1 blaze with war. Armored drop ships thunder into the atmosphere amid a storm of flak bursts and enemy disruptor bolts streaking past on all sides. Their ablative heat-shielding burns white-hot across a smoke-blackened sky as hyper-sonic escorts intercept spiraling Nek'var fighters with sweeping blasts of their pulse cannons. Occasionally, one vanishes in a boiling explosion of disrupter fire and expanding debris. They streak down to the war-torn surface of MX-1, humanity's besieged colony world. A once radiant forest moon of glittering cityscapes, towering into the sky. From orbit, sapphire oceans sparkle brightly under the sun and lush forests stretch to the horizons where hazy, white-capped mountains, sketch a jagged outline across the sky. Indeed, a pristine world before the Nek'var invasion scorched her surface into an apocalyptic ruin. A blackened, hellish landscape of intersecting craters, fields of charred stumps, raining ash, and smoldering structures that crush all life from the planet. A crystal-pure dream turned dark nightmare where desperate human forces defend the Sol transwarp gateway from a relentless Nek'var assault. If they fail to hold here, the Nek'var Empire will flood the heart of Humanity with an unstoppable army of darkness. Nek'var forces have besieged Ellis Forward Operating Base - the last remaining human stronghold, and there is heavy fighting in the streets. A fleet from Sol lands reinforcements on the outskirts of the western wall with orders to push east and hold the base - no matter the cost. Among these reinforcements, is a new breed of soldier. A power-armored soldier. A devastating warrior out of the realm of science fiction, now a fearsome reality. But resources are limited, and the new armor has yet to be proven in the field. Will this fusion of man and machine prove to be the key to victory? Or will they fall before the Nek'var onslaught? The battle for MX-1 starts now. --- "Hold on tight to yer panties, boys!" Warrant Officer Lu Xiajun called over the dropship's comm in a voice tight with concentration. "It's gonna get a little rough." Energy-scatter from anti-aircraft bursts slammed into the dropship and rocked the armored soldiers around in the jump-bay. Shrapnel clanged and scraped along the ship's outer skin like a thousand little gongs. Erik clenched his jaw tight and began to inhale deeply through his nose. "What do you guys think it's like down there?" Private Jethro 'Doc' Wiley asked Corporal Erik Shields from across the drop bay, then anxiously glanced at Private Stolley sitting next to him. "I bet it's bad. It sounds really bad." The dropship rocked violently with a near hit, shaking them within their armor docking stations. Private Wiley was their resident medic, a former MD who was convicted of performing Nano-surgery on a patient while drunk. The Judge must have been feeling generous that day because she offered him a choice, prison, or enlistment. Erik only half-heard him. He was busy concentrating on his meditative breathing and trying to calm the pounding in his chest. "Thirty seconds to drop," Warrant Officer Lu Xiajun cut in over the comm. "Standby ready." When Erik finally answered, his voice was cold and controlled, revealing nothing of the fear and anxiety boiling under the surface. "I dunno, Doc," Erik replied behind a cool mask of indifference, glancing at the far end of the drop bay where the pilot's cabin was situated. "I'm more curious about this new platoon Sergeant we are reporting too." Private Wiley paled further but didn't speak, just fiddled with his armor. Stolley, who sat with his eyes closed, praying, didn't respond at all. Erik's frown deepened. The man had been acting strange since he was born again, and Erik found it hard to trust anyone that didn't speak. He noted a bead of sweat trickling down Stolley's face and chuckled silently to himself. Faith must still be a work in progress. The drop lights began to flash amber and crimson. "Ten seconds," the pilot's voice came again. "Ready line." Erik tapped a couple of touch keys on his docking station, and his armored helmet descended into place with an electronic snikt! and a slight hiss of air, while its holographic HUD glowed to life. He disengaged from the armor docking station and turned to face the drop bay door as the ship's groaning hydraulics finished absorbing the impact of touchdown. Erik stepped forward and unclipped his pulse rifle from a rack near the door and snapped it into place on his back with the rest of his platoon quickly following suit. "Good luck out there," Lu Xiajun's digitized basso sounded within their helmets, his voice suddenly very serious. "I expect to be picking every one of you up when this is all over." Erik's helmet nodded in the direction of the pilot's cabin, and he keyed the drop bay door. "Take care of yourself, flyboy," Erik responded with sincerity, before switching from proximity band to delta prime. The drop bay door swung up with a hiss, and a telescoping ramp extended toward the ground through a swirl of atmospheric vapor. A towering shape loomed out of the dark. "Welcome to hell, people." An armored figure sporting the stripes of a Gunnery Sergeant greeted Erik's platoon over the high-pitched shriek of their drop ship's anti-grav engines as they double-timed it down the ramp to where a storm of flashing tracer rounds, and blinding-white explosions lit up the night. "I am Gunnery Sergeant Moore, your new platoon Sergeant," the grizzled Marine's digitized voice resonated calmly over the comm despite the chaos surging all around them. "Our orders are to push east across the base eliminating any enemy we encounter along the way, then reinforce Lieutenant Dree at the intelligence command center, directly." Erik stared at the Gunnery Sergeant in blank astonishment. He couldn't believe the Gunny had just been calmly waiting for them by himself out in the middle of this fucking warzone. But then, the five red pips glowing on the man's helmet caught his eye, and it all made sense. Twenty-five-years of soldiering would forge even the softest man into a hardened instrument of death. Maybe I'm not a coward after all, he mused. Gunny is just bat shit crazy. Then silently laughed at his feeble attempt at self-delusion. He was rather fucking terrified. "I know this is your first drop, and some of you believe it's unfair that you are here, now," the Gunny began, explosions rumbled in the distance, and fast attack fighters shrieked past overhead. "You're supposed to start at the very rear of the front lines - yet here you are, in the shit. We've all heard the stats - it boils down to genetics. And most of us aren't born wired for the new armor. We lucky few." He looked around at them and the great armored shoulders rose slightly, almost apologetically. Erik remembered his time training for the recently established Armor Corps, and the Gunnery Sergeant was correct. Out of his starting class of five-hundred, only one-percent were capable of using the armor in a sufficiently normal manner as to be combat effective. He could still picture their stricken faces when a cruel trick of genetics crushed their dreams of donning the armor. "You've trained for this; you're equipped for this," Gunnery Sergeant Moore continued, undeterred by the dropship roaring into the sky. "You know what to do; watch your six, and each other's, and you will come through this." He fixed his flat-black faceplate onto each of them in turn. "I have only one standing order here at Ellis FOB - don't get yourself---" he barked gruffly, holding up an armored digit. Nervous titters bubbled over the comm. "---Or your squadmates killed! Questions?" Gunnery Sergeant Moore disengaged his pulse rifle from a mounting bracket on the back of his armor and panned his gaze over them while he waited. "Ok then -- single-file formation, flank teams on both sides - on the double," he looked to Erik as he gestured into the distance. "You've got the lead Corporal. Expect resistance. Now let's go, MOVE OUT!" A staccato of explosions, pulse rifle chatter, and booming artillery rounds wove into a discordant symphony of war. Erik heard the Gunny's words, but still, he froze, pulse rifle in hand, when the shock of smoke, fire, and death assaulted his senses. Six months of Fleet training simulations hadn't adequately prepared him for the stench of burning flesh, boiling blood, and spent ordnance, amplified by the horror of mangled bodies, some still smoking with explosive afterglow, strewn about like discarded rubbish. Erik wasn't the only one as someone gagged loudly into the mic. "You guys smell this shit?" Bracken gagged again. "I can't believe my armor isn't filtering that out. What good are we gonna be if we are too busy puking on our faceplates to fight?" Specialist Sara Ito snorted out a laugh, a blast of white noise in Erik's ears. "I don't smell anything," she said in a voice bubbling with amusement. "Didn't you activate your suits environmental controls?" "It ain't automatic?" "No, it's not," She answered while struggling to suppress another wave of laughter. "The default setting just pulls unfiltered air into your suit from outside." "Oh." 'Bracken, you dumb ass." "What? Fuck you Rivers," Bracken retorted. "Like you knew?" "Well, I ain't gagging, now am I?" "Shut up..." "There are three settings," Sara went on. "Fresh, unfiltered; fresh filtered; and the suits reserve supply of air, which incidentally, can be replenished with one of the first two." "You taking notes Slacken Bracken?" "Rivers, I swear to God man..." "The operating system is not going to use up NBC(nuclear, biological, and chemical) space filtering out the particulates responsible for bad smells unless you tell it too," Sara concluded with a natured chiding. "You really need to pay attention in briefings from now on, Slacken Bracken." "Yea, Slacken..." Bracken ignored the last comment and worked a few keys on his forearm to get the filters working and breathed the filtered air in deeply. "Wow, so much better..." "Better'n what?" Rivers taunted. "Yer boyfriends cologne?" "Rivers I'm gonna fucking kill you..." Erik barely heard the entire exchange. The unfiltered scene of carnage was arresting, nauseating. "Well?!" The Gunnery Sergeant's voice burned a hole through Erik, and he could practically hear veins bulging from the Gunny's neck and forehead. "What are you waiting for, sweetheart?! A written fucking invitation? MOVE YOUR SQUAD OUT!" Erik registered the Gunnery Sergeant's anger from some distant corner of his mind as if it were being filtered through a slow-motion lens. He willed his stubborn legs to comply, but the treacherous limbs betrayed him, feet firmly rooted to the pavement. A group of soldiers pounded past where Erik stood frozen next to the Gunnery Sergeant, and vanished into a drifting cloud of smoke, which hung heavy over the besieged base, stinging eyes, and lungs, and obscured his line of sight, lending a nightmarish quality to the horror of battle. It was as if Erik were a spectator in his own mind watching it all unfold on watery film. He broke out in a cold sweat. And the stomach-churning promise of a gruesome death imprisoned his heart in its icy grasp. During the pre-drop briefing on the HSS Bulwark, they were mobilized and attached to the 1st Defense Battalion, Delta Company, Ellis forward operating base, as third-line auxiliaries, per Colonel Wen's orders. Standard operating procedure. All new recruits were deployed to the rear of the forward lines and rotated up to replenish losses as they gained combat experience. This ensured that your most experienced and battle-hardened soldiers remained on the front lines at all times. Statistics showed a marked improvement in overall combat effectiveness, and a significant decrease in casualty rates, using this method. It allowed the raw recruits to psychologically harden themselves to the brutal rigors of war while gaining valuable combat experience from observing and assisting their veteran peers at a safer distance. Dropping a platoon of green-boots into the front line meat-grinder of an active warzone served nothing but to increase casualty rates, compromise your veteran troops, and rob you of your next generation of combat effective soldiers. In short, if this were a professional sports team, they would be the third-string rookie reserves who were never intended to see the field their first season. But things have changed, haven't they? A new kind of enemy, a new type of war. An Armor Corps outside the scope of the original rulebook. A rulebook that hasn't even been written yet. Desperate times... "MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!" The steely-eyed Gunnery Sergeant seized hold of Erik's armor and slammed an open palm against the side of his helmet, breaking the ethereal shock that gripped his mind with a second, more forceful chop and a shove that staggered Erik forward a step, jerking a fist at the rest of the platoon who'd stumbled to a stop behind Erik. "I said move your asses, god damn it! Don't just stand there playing grab ass, Corporal. You want to get everyone killed?!" Erik waded back from his sea of dark despair that flooded his mind and glanced at Gunnery Sergeant Moore. The man was the embodiment of unbridled intensity and yet, maintained an aura of calm confidence bolstered by a lifetime of soldiering in the field. A matte black nameplate stamped on the right side of the Sergeants armored chest, next to his rank-plate, confirmed the salty veteran's identity as Gunnery Sergeant Moore, in dark green letters. "Acknowledged, Gunny," Erik managed to rasp out of a desert-dry throat, a flood of shame rushing up into his face. "Moving out." Erik gave the hand signal to move out, and started forward, moving off toward the shielded bunker entrance marked on his HUD by a green trail terminating in a pulsing arrow in the distance with a tremendous powered stride that kicked up chunks of asphalt from the tarmac. He quickly accelerated to top speed, his armored boots pounding divots into the pavement beneath him. Tracer rounds flashed on all sides, and the orange-white bursts of plasma tipped artillery rounds pulsed behind thick curtains of smoke. The landscape appeared to jump and repeatedly skip like a stuttering motion picture. Buildings and signs moved in jerky, robotic motions, vying to disorient him in the broken darkness. "Contact! Three-o'clock!" Pfc Thael called out from his position on the right-side flank, followed by a brief, but intense gun battle that left a squad of Nek'var commandoes crumpled in the street with glowing holes drilled into their armor. Erik approached the group of fallen Nek'var soldiers cautiously, to get a better look at the monsters who'd been terrorizing his sleep. It was not a conscious act, but a strange sort of temporal compulsion that pushed his armored form across the street. Like the hand of some unseen deity silently prodding him forward. He had to see... They were big, massive creatures. A black viscous fluid leaked in oozing streams from the many, many wounds perforating their corpses. Idly, he nudged at one of the bodies with his armored boot, and it slowly turned over, still clutching one of the disrupter rifle's they favored in a thick, three-pronged grip. This one was missing its helmet, apparently blasted right off the creature's hideous, scaley grey head. Sharp ridges jutted from above its brow and traced down the creatures wide, angular jaw to a shockingly human-like mouth, that sat below four, black faceted eyes staring up at Erik from behind death's glaze. So you're the boogeyman everyone's afraid of, Erik's grim thoughts churned as he gazed down at the bullet-riddled corpses. They didn't appear all that threatening to him lying there in a bloody heap, but alive and on their feet, they were a fearsome sight indeed. At over two meters tall and five-hundred kilos of clawed-killing-machine, supported by legs the size of tree trunks, they were almost as big as a suited man. Their spikey, jade-colored armor, seemed to be designed more for striking fear into the heart of their enemies, than for ensuring their survival on the battlefield, he decided after a cursory inspection of the holes left behind by their pulse rifles. He turned his pulse rifle over thoughtfully and ran his eyes over its oversized frame. Perhaps, these new pulse rifles, which were designed solely for use with the armored suits, and were far too heavy for an unsuited human, were particularly effective against Nek'var armor? He suddenly had a new found appreciation for the eggheads who'd created these things. The blurred Nek'var corpses hovering behind his rifle, suddenly snapped back into sharp focus. How many of us have you bastards killed? He wondered, a searing hatred for the creatures swelling in his chest. Hundreds? Thousands? You mother fuckers. "Holy shit!" Ramirez cried out, clapping Erik on the shoulder, still running on the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He turned back toward the others, and repeated himself, louder this time, with the overzealous, adrenaline-fused relief of someone who'd just survived their first life and death encounter. "HOLY SHIIIIT! WHEW!" "Simmer down, Ramirez," Specialist Sara Ito snapped into the comm. "Don't want to hear your shit." "What's yer problem, Ito?" "Just shut up." "You'd think the eggheads back at fleet would have come up with something to counter the after-effects of adrenaline," Pfc Bracken muttered over the comm. "I can't stop shaking." "I'm for that." "Me too." "I think Bracken pissed in his armor." "Rivers you asshole!" "Yea, but it doesn't take a whole lot to get you shakin', Bracken," Private Cadwell cackled over the comm. "I heard you still sleep with the light on." "Enough, chatter," Gunnery Sergeant Moore barked into the comm, cutting off Brackens retort. "Overwatch report." "All clear, Gunny," came the digitized reply, and he signaled for them to form up and resume their march. "Tighten up, move out." Similar scenes played out all across Ellis forward operating base. Troop transports; hydraulic ramps; growling Sergeants who drove stun-shocked young recruits from their respective troop transports with threats of retribution. Some barely had a chance to get their boots on the ground before the ship's engines spooled back up and streaked for orbit, where a silent battle raged out beyond the planet's gravity well, far from the horrors of surface combat, in the frozen blackness of space. Warships, from every human faction, now united under a single banner, the newly branded Alliance Fleet, engaged the colossal world-ships of the Nek'var Empire with a veritable wall of offense. Energy particles from boulder-sized plasma bolts joined with turbo-laser fire powerful enough to vaporize a small town, to form a scintillating lattice of interlocked threads spanning the vast distances between the opposing fleets. Bolstering Human forces were its the dreadnoughts. Vast capital ships haloed in shimmering energy shields that flared and rippled with energy dispersion as they shrugged off enemy torpedo attacks and disruptor fire. The newest and deadliest ships in the fleet, plexium-hulled titans, bristling with the latest in electronic warfare, turbo-laser weaponry, and a complement of fast attack interceptors that crowded the emptiness of space around them. Supporting these monstrosities were the smaller, but equally impressive and more maneuverable battlecruisers. Large support ships with state of the art point defense and anti-ship missile batteries. Carriers and their squadrons of sleek human hypersonic starfighters who rolled and slipped in behind the Nek'var bioraptors through a sea of anti-fighter flak bursts, which raked shards of shrapnel across millimeter thin hull plating in a steel-nerve rollercoaster duel of high-octane maneuvers. The battle from the inside was a gut-wrenching panic of terror and resolve and desperation. And the jaw-clenching determination that not one Nek'var bio-raptor would get through their lines to the infantry drop ships shuttling troops to the surface - no matter the cost. A gauntlet of explosions and sizzling energy beams that sometimes skimmed their whirling starfighters so close it scorched paint from their hulls. The pilots pushed themselves, and their starfighters, beyond engineering limits with the desperate skill, tenacity, and determination of someone not only fighting for their own life, but for the lives of everyone they've ever known, or loved, or served with, grew up with, laughed with. Even while spiraling out of control after taking enemy fire, with their starfighter disintegrating around them, they dared to utilize their final weapon to strike a deadly blow to the heart of the enemy. Doomed pilots rammed their stricken ships into enemy raptors in a last, glorious bloom of superheated gasses. They fought with an unbridled ferocity that the battle-hardened Nek'var zealots had never seen before. They fought together, feared together, and died together in a bitter struggle to ensure Humanity's future. The battle for the MX-1 system raged far beyond the sensor capabilities of Erik's power armor. Sprawling across thousands of kilometers of empty space. Stretching from high lunar orbit all the way to several distant planetoids that spun within the outer limits of the moon's gravitational grasp. Occasionally, wreckage from the orbital battle trailed fiery comets across the sky. Remnants of this smoldering debris streaked down and crashed into a column of unarmored infantry grenadiers that Erik's platoon had just passed on a side street, immolating them all in a blazing inferno. "JESUS CHRIST!" Someone screamed over the comm. "MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!" "Oh fuck, oh shit!" Erik's armor-powered legs flashed madly beneath him, leaping over rubble, gunning down a Nek'var commando, and stomping past a soldier's disembodied face, which he stubbornly refused to recognize as human, lying next to a pile of burning debris during their mad dash through the hellish firestorm. A sound like rolling thunder reverberated from a short distance away, and the boot-sole-shock of missile strikes vibrated beneath his feet. Fast attack fighters screamed by overhead as Erik hurtled past a Nek'var Krezz Tka rocket-system, the scarlet glow of their twin stardrives looping in evasive spirals before cutting sharply into the stratosphere in pursuit of their prey. Rockets quaked the ground behind them, and disrupter bolts sizzled past his helmet. A few found their mark, slamming into his upper back, but his armor held, shattering the bolts into a thousand prismatic splinters. He grunted with sudden exertion and an explosion of speed that sent him hurdling over a crumbling building blocking the street with a tremendous powered leap, blasting molten holes in the armor of several Nek'var soldiers below him as he sailed past overhead, tucking into a slick roll that had him up, on his feet, and in the ready position sending rounds downrange on the other side. Private Stolley rolled up beside him and added his rifle to the mix. Private Min, who'd lost her entire family during the first Nek'var assault on MX-1, attacked with unmatched ferocity. Memories of her mother, father, and four siblings, three sisters and a brother, all younger, burned like a firebrand in her mind. All gone, in a brilliant flash of light. "Diiiiieee!" Private Min screamed into the night, rolling to the right and blasting the remaining Nek'var soldiers off their feet. Erik glanced at Min, who stood with her chest heaving in the street, glaring at the corpses. He counted twenty-six Nek'var soldiers twitching on the ground. "Remind me never to piss her off," he mumbled to Stolley, who was also eyeing Private Min with newfound respect. "Agreed." A moment later, the rumblings of battle were sliced by a piercing electronic screech that red-lined their helmet's sound dampeners. Automated anti-aircraft turrets swung to life, whirled, and tilted, all while unleashing a thundering torrent of turbo-laser bolts from glowing-hot barrels. They tracked and transformed a squadron of inbound enemy bioraptors into expanding clouds of gas that littered the sky in fiery ribbons of debris. A chorus of cheers went up from Erik's platoon, and rifles were raised to the sky in salute. "Shaddup!" Yelled the Gunny. Who flashed the hand signal for possible enemy presence. "Focus, people. Remember, our radar doesn't pick them up." Erik slowed as he approached the darkened intersection where storage depots crowded the streets and dropped into a tactical crouch, his rifle panning back and forth in an attempt to cover both sides at once. "Rocket!" Someone screamed into the comm, a split second before the world exploded in a boiling white light. Squads of Nek'var commandoes surged from between two anti-matter silos and opened up on their position with plasma rockets and a hail of disrupter bolts. Private Stolley was blown backward into Private Bracken, and they both flew several meters before touching the ground where they rolled and spun and skidded sparks across the pavement, finally crashing to a stop against a plexcrete barricade. Private Min screamed wildly and stomped up beside Erik, dropping to a knee and hurling a nova-bomb at the attacking Nek'var like an outfielder throwing for home. It erupted amidst them in a ground-quaking whump, that sent a semi-circle of them rag-dolling away, helpless puppets. Erik joined her, and together they did their bloody work. A pair of Nek'var commandoes thought to flank them, but Erik locked them in his holo-sights and, with grim satisfaction, watched through his holo ACOG as his pulse rounds ripped into their thighs and torso. A disrupter bolt crashed into Erik's helmet, glancing off the angular impact plates but still snapping his head violently to the side. Private Min put two searing holes in the offender's faceplate. It ended as quickly as it began. "All Clear!" Gunny called out. Two full squads of Nek'var commandoes lay motionless in the street, oily streams of the black goo they call blood pulsing from smoking holes in their armor. Private Min clapped Erik on the shoulder and gestured with her helmet at the pile of corpses. "Just think, Corporal," she said in a fierce voice. "You could be missing all this fun back on Earth." Erik was still pondering her words when the scream shattered his thoughts. "MEDIC!" Came the chilling call over the comm, and Erik's heart dropped between his knees. With two powered strides, he was next to the group of armored forms huddled around the crumpled figure being urgently worked on by Doc. "God damn it, they got him, Gunny, they fucking got him," Pfc Bracken wailed over the comm. A garbled jumble of voices all tried to talk over each other at once. "Those mother fuckers!" "Shaddup!" Gunnery Sergeant Moore yelled into the comm. "Corporal Shields, I want eyes up there, NOW!" Sergeant Moore pointed to a tall plexsteel communications hub a few feet away. "Roger that, Gunny," Erik responded through his shocked haze, directing an overwatch team to the location Gunny had indicated by marking it on their HUDs. "Timmons, Min, Stolley - overwatch, now. Move your asses." The chosen team bent their knees, swung their arms, and leaped to the roof of the building where they quickly took up a position behind the plexcrete ledge, "Overwatch, in position." "Defensive formation!" Erik continued, waving frantically in his direction, and everyone moved at once. "Deploy tactical defense screens around Wiley." A group of soldiers hustled forward and slammed black boxes onto the pavement and began working the control keys on the side of their bulky frames. The black boxes snapped open, extruded telescoping emitter rails that extended to the sides, then flared to life in a blue shimmer of energy. "Hang in there, Cadwell," Doc was saying while administering stims and nanites and sealing the wound in the Private's stomach with a stabilizing foam. "Fucking hang in there, man!" Suddenly, the world was bathed in the boiling-white wrath of God. All color was burned from the night, and a tremendous thunderclap shattered the heavens. Its crashing reverberations echoed and rumbled like the planet was cracking open, releasing armageddon. They all looked up in slack-jawed astonishment at a blinding-white mini-supernova expanding high in the cloudless sky. It blotted out the stars; spawned an artificial sun. The hazy silhouettes of two-mile-long capital ships vanished within a fireball of such intensity that Erik's HUD had to fully tint to prevent the searing light from burning out his retinas. Fiery contrails streaked ribbons through the strange half-light of the night. And everyone held their breath. "Is it them or us?" a stunned Ramirez asked over the comm as a blazing meteor shower set the sky on fire. "Gotta be one o' them," a deep male voice responded in awe. "Can't tell who it is from here," a voice that Erik recognized as Private Min snarled into comm, "But, I hope those Nek'var bastards are burning." "All of you idiots shut up!" Gunnery Sergeant Moore commanded, tilting his head as if he were listening to something only he could hear. "No more speculating." Erik watched the burning wreckage streak through the sky with clinical, detached attention. How many worlds had these bastards burned? How many lives snuffed out by their cruelty? How many more before they are stopped? Can they be stopped? How much is enough? END PART ONE. First, thank you for reading :) I write in my spare time, for fun. However, if you feel I deserve a little something(Thank you!) you can check out my Patreon page, or drop a one-off in my Tip jar Chapter 2
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