What is Juice? Betting Juice Explained - The Spread

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!
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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.
to nonsensical
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.

Keep smiling.
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:
  1. Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
  2. 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.
  3. Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
  4. Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
  5. 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:
  1. 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

Dog treats

Lavender pepper
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!!
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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part Two

I hope you all have taken full advantage of the past 48 hours or so to regain some sense of normalcy after our adventures through Part 1 of Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! Without further ado, Part Two:
I resume my journey through the truly incomprehensible mind of Kelly Bensimon with a chapter entitled, "Thursday: Tricks of My Trade." Now that we've learned about the basic building blocks of hotness, Kelly promises to share even more hard-earned advice to help us really kick things up a notch. And, as she reassures us:
I'm actually glad for the mistakes I've made because anyone who doesn't make mistakes doesn't learn, and if you don't learn, you're boring!
And if you're boring, you're not HOT! I think I'm starting to get the hang of this!
One of Kelly's most important life lessons came at her first horse show, when she made an unbelievably devastating misstep: "I decided to have an egg on a bagel from the food-service van." What kind of unimaginable ripple effects did this poor decision set off? I continue on to learn that Kelly "did all right in the competition." And…that's literally the whole story. Kelly legitimately refers to this as "one of my biggest lessons," as it taught her "to never eat more than I normally would." If life-changing breakthroughs were this easily sparked in my own life, I can't even begin to imagine how self-actualized I would be at this point.
At this point in my reading, I have reached the book's first insert, which contains about a dozen glossy color photos from various phases of Kelly's life. Unfortunately, I am far too preoccupied by this picture, in which a carefree, wind-swept Kelly clenches her infant daughter under one arm with all the grace of an NFL wide receiver, to pay the rest of the spread much mind.
We continue on as Kelly introduces new dimensions to the basic tips she's previously introduced. For example, you may have had some vague idea that water was important, but Kelly -- always there to help us learn and improve -- digs into the specifics to make sure we're up to date on the HOTtest tricks of the trade:
Staying hydrated is important no matter what you're doing, so I always try to drink eight glasses or about a liter of water a day. Soda isn't water. Coffee isn't water. Water is water. Drink throughout the day; don't try to get it all down at once. You wouldn't drown an orchid, so don't drown yourself.
I am putting in my formal request for a Public Service Announcement in this format, but using the last line of that passage. Also, Kelly clearly does not know how poorly I tend to my houseplants.
The next page informs us that, "hot isn't just caliente; it's also spicy and sultry." Kelly promptly launches into yet another list of miscellaneous grocery items, this time focused specifically on "red-hot foods." Except it includes entries like "popcorn with sugar and cinnamon," and "Mike and Ike candy," so I'm not convinced Kelly didn't just lose track of the thread entirely by the time we got a few items in. However, this does seem like an appropriate time to introduce this picture, from the book's second photo insert, which clearly depicts the sleep paralysis demon that has haunted my dreams for the past several nights. We're also treated to this chapter's first "hot button issue" panel, in which Kelly pulls back the curtain on the shadowy, pro-salt cabal trying to control us all with their anti-sodium legislative agenda:
We keep reading about how bad sodium is for our health, but if you eat fresh foods that you prepare yourself, you can determine and control the amount of salt you want to use. I, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, am perfectly capable of deciding how much salt I want to put on my food. I don't need anyone else to salt my food for me. I know that the amount of salt I choose to sprinkle on my food is not going to hurt me.
I read on to find a two-page spread in which Kelly expounds, in rhapsodic praise to rival that of Song of Solomon, upon her ardor for her beloved dehydrator -- "I though I was in love with coffee, but now I think my dehydrator is my truest love." Most of the passage is taken up by an unstructured list of the various things Kelly has attempted to dehydrate ("cucumber," "mangoes," "avocado") but she does manage to squeeze in a few infomercial-ready lines -- "Really, you should buy one; I promise you won't be sorry."
Since repetition is the key to reinforcing new concepts, I appreciate that Kelly's next list (of "a few more lean tricks I've learned along the way") repeats a note she originally relayed to us just a few pages ago:
Drink water throughout the day (not all at one sitting).
She's also been thoughtful enough to provide a list of resources for us to use as we soldier on along the perilous journey to HOT. After all, as Kelly says, "I don’t expect you to carry this book wherever you go -- as much as I would love that." As someone who has never before ventured into the wild world of cyberspace, I really appreciated Kelly introducing me to so many fun, useful websites that I might want to check out! In case you, too, just haven't figured out how to navigate this whole Internet thing, I've included a few examples below:
www.amazon.com
One-stop shopping for just about any book, periodical, or product you might want to read or buy in order to get HOT.

www.espn.com
Everything you need to know to stay up to date on any sport.

www.webmd.com
Useful, up-to-date, trustworthy information on medical and health issues.

www.yummly.com
Claims to have "every recipe in the world"
Can't wait to check these out later! That Amazon one sounds super cool!
I'm reminded quickly just how inelegant the transitions in this book are as we move directly from that list into the following:
I suggest that you take a picture of yourself every day…Some days when you're feeling your fattest, you may be surprised to see that you really look great.
Okay, so fat is NOT HOT. Except being comfortable in your body is HOT. And trying to be skinny is NOT HOT. But being skinny is HOT. Thank goodness I still have a few more chapters to go -- I clearly still have a ways to go before I truly understand the logic of HOTness. As it stands, I must admit that I'm a bit baffled.
Of course, returning to the previous bit of advice, Kelly doesn't actually have to worry about taking her own pictures like us plebeians -- "Having been photographed so often has provided me with a permanent retrospective catalogue of my life." The chapter closes with these words of wisdom:
The best kind of vanity is being vain about what you put in your body.
Friday's chapter promises to introduce us to the world of "Hot Couture," and I am excited to see what tips and tricks Kelly has managed to accrue over her lifetime in the cutthroat world of modeling . But first, we abruptly transition to a story about Kelly meeting Madonna shortly after both women had given birth. Kelly had "gained a healthy fifty pounds," which I am led to believe, from the context of the anecdote, is NOT HOT. Madonna, on the other hand, was "flat-stomached" and therefore "HOT and cool." Of course, Kelly reassures us hurriedly that she lost all the weight within the following six weeks and was "actually thinner than I'd been prepregnancy." I am at an utter loss as to what the point of this story could possibly be, but -- blessedly -- Kelly is gracious enough to explain:
So what's the lesson here? That Madonna had personal trainers and chefs to whip her back into shape, and I didn't -- and still don’t. I shouldn't have been comparing myself to her in the first place. My advice to you is: don’t compare yourself to anyone else, only to your own personal best.
This is a perfect example of something Kelly does throughout this book, which is to present a completely reasonable piece of advice (don’t compare yourself to others), but couched within such a bizarre and logically disorganized narrative that by the time I reach the ultimate moral of the story, my brain feels like it's been run through a series of meat grinders, and I'm reduced to just nodding along in bemused acceptance.
We get a "Kelly's Cardinal Rule" reminding us to "let your body be what your body is and be happy with what you've got." I'm starting to wonder if there is some sort of Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde thing going on behind the scenes here, in which two versions of Kelly are frantically grappling over control of the book's body-positivity dial. I'm literally don't even have to flip the page to see Kelly commiserating with us that "we all have days or occasions when we feel fat" and quipping about her "go-to fat outfit." But also:
Stop praying for what you don't have and be grateful for what you've got.
This amount of cognitive dissonance is truly proof that Kelly contains multitudes. Or has recently acquired some sort of debilitating short-term amnesia. Nevertheless, we continue:
But whatever your shape, show it off. Don’t try to hide it. Hiding is not hot.
Kelly next walks us through figuring out which "season" we are, based on the wisdom extolled in "Color Me Beautiful, the groundbreaking book that was so wildly successful in the early 80s." It's no surprise to me that Kelly, who earlier encouraged us to make our lives easier by using our PDAs, finds this to be an exciting new trend to share. Also, in case you weren't aware, "hair color is also important. You can lighten it or darken it or cover the gray." Lighten it or darken it? The boundaries of my mental universe are truly expanding.
Some more fashion tidbits:
Scarves are hippie chic, cool, and always HOT.

If you're narrow, show off how narrow you are with a monochromatic palette.

Ankles are the new cleavage!
Narrow ankles only, I presume. Kelly's selfless, giving nature is highlighted yet again in the following passage, in which she explains:
All these celebrities have stylists who pull the clothes, accessories, and shoes that make them look the way they do. They charge a lot of money for what they do, so why not get some free advice based on my experience.
And what, pray tell, is this coveted advice that Kelly is so lovingly sharing with her readers, free of charge?
  1. Save sweatpants for the gym.
  2. Save PJs for the bedroom.
  3. Dress as if you were the boss.
  4. Remember what Carrie Bradshaw says: "Nothing is casual anymore, even when it says so on the invitation."
  5. Manolo Blahniks are a girl's best friend.
Okay, so far be it from me to complain about the quality of free advice. But. Out of the five pearls of wisdom that make up the "KKBStyle Rules," two of them are rudimentary instructions to wear somewhat-situationally-appropriate clothing, and the other three are the kind of cute sayings that you would find on a piece of poorly bedazzled wall art in the clearance aisle of your local TJMaxx. I'm not impressed.
Kelly next tells us how important it is to eat well and exercise, even "when you're premenstrual or having your period." That way, as she continues on, "you'll feel better because your endorphins will be flowing while your body is sloughing off unwanted endometrium and mucus." To be fair, Unwanted Endometrium does sound like a sick band name.
Thankfully, the mental image of Kelly's mucus slough is promptly booted from my mind by a careening diatribe about the color red (HOT!):
I even painted my nails red the minute I started writing this book. I wanted to see my short red nails tapping away on my Macbook Pro. Almost every red dress is smokin' HOT, and I've never met a guy who doesn't think a woman in a red dress isn't hot. He's a liar if he denies it.
To repeat, Kelly says she's "never met a guy who doesn’t think a woman in a red dress isn't hot." Poor dear got a bit carried away with her negatives, but I'm sure she'll redeem herself in no time:
When I was sitting in the front row of a Marc Jacobs fashion show a few years ago, I wore a full, red short skirt, a tight red sweater, and red open-toed shoes. One of the editors from The New York Times was sitting across from me, and as we were waiting for the show to begin I kept crossing and recrossing my legs to make him laugh.
Sure, Kelly. To make him laugh. I can only assume she must have written some kind of hilariously clever joke on the gusset of her underwear to have had this editor so tickled pink red.
It was a long wait and after a while some guy I didn't know who was at the other end of the row, leapt towards me and screamed that he was obsessed with my feet. How crazy is it that red open-toed shoes and red toenails could create such a reaction. Red is HOT, even stalker HOT. Yikes!
I'm not clear where "stalker HOT" fits into this whole complex web, but it's reassuring to know that a wise soul like Kelly has such a nuanced appreciation of all of the different ways to be hot. She also gives us some "HOT tips for heating up your image." Like,
Put on a pair of jeans and a white tee shirt.

Put your hair in a ponytail.

Put on a pair of hoop earrings.
And also
Wear your jeans a size smaller instead of a size larger.
For some reason not entirely clear to me at this moment, wearing jeans in your actual size does not seem to be an option.
The chapter continues with a reminder to "remember what's on top of your head!"
There's nothing hotter than a HOT head of hair (unless it's a hunky bald guy).
Kelly follows up by offering a list of what she calls "HOT healthy options." Based on the preceding paragraph, you might assume that these tips would have something to do with haircare and hair styling. However, you would be wrong. Instead, we're instructed to:
Enjoy as much watermelon as you like.

Pack a picnic lunch of dehydrated fruit, chamomile iced tea, and mini pizzas made with corn tortillas, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Eat your picnic in the park.

Come up with something fun you want to try and do it!
Personally, it seems like a bit of a cop-out to make one of the items on your list of fun things to do "make up your own fun thing to do." But who knows? Maybe cop-outs are HOT!
Before my faith in our fearless leader starts to waver, however, I read on through the end of the chapter, and my surety is promptly restored:
Besides my hair and my legs, the one thing people always ask me about the way I look is how I keep my teeth so white. And yes, that's also a matter of genetics. I'm blessed with the whitest teeth on the planet, and, no, I've never had them professionally bleached.
The weekend begins as I turn the page to the penultimate chapter -- "Saturday: Heat Up Your HOT Image with Healthy Options Today." Saturdays, as Kelly tells us, are for fun activities. For example:
If you're in the mall, go to different stores and figure out which looks will make you HOT. Ask other shoppers for advice.
Also:
Parks are great for people-watching. Who looks fit and healthy?
I sincerely hope that any and all of my friends would give me a stern talking-to if I informed them that my weekend plans consisted of going to a park and…pointing out people I think aren't healthy enough?
Kelly then warns us against overindulging on late-night snacks or alcoholic beverages, lest we wake up Sunday feeling "bloating, sluggish, and with deep regrets." Presumably, Kelly then proceeded to rail a massive line of cocaine and hammer out the following frenetic spiel:
You're not going to get fat from having a few drinks a week. You will get fat if your routine is to drink, eat late, and then lie around watching television the next day, eating and making bad food choices. Going out is fun, but when you sacrifice the next day, it's never fun enough. Don't have regrets; enjoy every day. This is a life plan, and yesterday isn't coming back ever again.
The chapter comes to a close with a reminder to "wrap up every day with a great big bow and be ready for your next adventure. But before we close out our week of HOT, we're provided with what I anticipate will be an incredibly useful reference material for us all, the "KKBfit HOT Quiz." If you'd like to take the quiz yourself, you can find it here. However, I'm not entirely sure I would classify it as a "quiz," since it seems to be mostly a set of questions followed by Kelly's feedback on various possible responses. For example:
  1. How Kelly Green are you?
I had a Kelly Green Juice -- Wasn't it yummy?
I had a smoothie from the health food store with a splash of spinach -- Great choice!
I had kale chips, spinach, and quinoa for dinner last night -- I bet you woke up feeling great this morning!
Other?
I presume that the lack of response after the "Other?" choice is supposed to represent Kelly staring at me in deranged disappointment for a few painfully protracted seconds. Some questions, like the one above, don't seem to have any wrong answers at all. In contrast, other questions have clear wrong answers, which Kelly wastes no time in making apparent:
  1. Are you getting enough protein? How many days did you eat chicken, fish, or meat for at least one meal?
I had a grilled chicken salad for dinner on three different days -- That's good, but I wish you'd get a little more adventurous in your choices.

  1. How KKBfit are you?
Haven't had a meal since last night, but I'm going to skip breakfast and go on a run. I won't eat anything until lunch. -- Sorry, but starving your body is not KKBfit.

  1. Are you drinking enough?
I drink when I'm exercising but that's about it -- Not good enough! Try harder next week.
The quiz ends, leaving me entirely unsure of whether or not I've actually made any forward progress towards my HOTness goals, but the next page does promise help for those who "still need more inspiration." Here, it seems that Kelly has compiled a loose assortment of quotes, most of which (I have a sneaking suspicion) were found by searching the keyword "hot" on BrainyQuote.com. Also, this masterpiece from Kelly's ex-husband, noted fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon:
HOT--
It is not about the look,
It is not only about the charm,
It is the perfect combination:
Sweet and tough,
Sexy and reserved,
Fragile and powerful,
And definitely smart.
-- Gilles Bensimon
Move over, Rupi Kaur! I hope with every fiber of my being that Gilles Bensimon has published his collected poetry in some kind of volume that I could purchase, read, and have, I'm sure, nothing but positive things to say about. After about a dozen similar quotations, Kelly continues:
Now, as you get ready for Sunday Funday, take a few minutes to think about how you define HOT. Has your definition changed or evolved since you started reading this book? If so, I'm doing my job.
In all honesty, my definition of HOT has definitely been…affected by this experience. So we'll call that a win! Kelly tells us a few stories about times when her friends and family members have come to her for guidance on how to be hot. She explains:
I'm not the food police, but I've made myself the Sven-arbiter (as opposed to Svengali) of what's HOT and what's not.
Case in point:
It's just not hot to belong to the clean plate club.
The chapter closes with a list titled "Why Don't You," which I believe is supposed to be a list of fun activities we can try during a Sunday Funday. Or possibly a list of terrible life hacks for stoned college freshmen:
Use an electric teapot as a clothing steamer.

Make grilled cheese sandwiches or press wraps using a hot clothes iron.
There are very few things sadder to me that imagining someone taking Kelly up on this last bit of advice as a fun way to liven up what must be the most preternaturally boring existence possible. If your idea of fun is white bread and Kraft Singles getting slowly warmed over on your clothing iron, I can only imagine the fit of hysterics that you'd be thrown into by a passable Minions meme.
And that brings us to the end of the week. But not -- lucky you! -- to the end of this book. Au contraire -- the remaining 100 pages or so of I Can Make You Hot! feature dozens of unique recipes from the culinary mind of none other than the indomitable Kelly Bensimon herself. In her intro, however, she makes it clear that
No one on earth would ever call me a chef.
Of course not, Kelly -- they'd call you a cook. Otherwise, it's creepy.
This portion of the book begins, reasonably enough, with Breakfasts. These include such thoughtfully named delicacies as "My Favorite Cereal" and "My Favorite Pancakes." The recipe for the latter begins with the following introduction:
I'm not the greatest pancake maker, and I probably never will be. But what I am very good at is thinking of unusual things and doing them.
Frankly, I can't argue with that. As she continues:
When in pancake doubt, have fun, add fruit, and see if pancakes can be a vehicle for creating great memories for your family.
Next time I'm in pancake doubt, I'll know just what to do! We move right along into the Soups and Salads section, and are promptly introduced to Kelly's "Jimmy Achoo's Chicken Soup." Which is apparently a play on Jimmy Choo and also described by Kelly as "filled with veggie exploitation," which sounds terrifying. Of the next recipe, "Rich and Skinny Cauliflower Soup with Kale Chips," Kelly reflects:
I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Internet. I wish I could tell you exactly where, but I can't.
The recipe calls for kale chips, which Kelly goes out of her way to inform us can be purchased "at health food stores and many well-stocked supermarkets." We also get a few general "HOT salad tips" that can be applied to many of the recipes throughout this book, such as
There are so many different types of lettuces available today! Try different ones to see which you like best
and
When you order a salad in a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side. You're a grown-up and you should get to decide how much you want to use.
With that under our belts, the grown-ups among us move on to "Meat, Chicken, and Fish." In her recipe for "Grilled Rib Eye with Herbes de Provence", Kelly tells us about meeting the famous chef who inspired this dish:
When I met Eric, who was still in his thirties at the time, he still had dark hair. I was caught off guard because I thought all chefs were older, had gray hair, and smelled like garlic.
So perhaps Bethenny should have taken it as a compliment? Kelly continues,
He's since invited me many times to go into his kitchen and cook with him, but my fear of losing a finger by being overzealous has prohibited me from accepting.
It's unclear to me exactly what this means or why Kelly would even be particularly worried about this possibility. Does she have habit of excitedly snatching vegetables out from other people's knives? Does Eric have a reputation for slicing anyone who dares to get in his way? Before I make any headway with this particular mystery, we're introduced to the next recipe, the "Pencil-Thin Skirt Steak." As we learn, "Everyone looks slim in a pencil skirt, so it's only fitting that skirt steak is one of the leanest cuts of beef you can buy." We get a recipe for "Sultry Roast Chicken" in which Kelly shares with us that "in fact, chicken without ginger doesn't taste like chicken to me anymore." This would be more believable if we weren't, a mere two pages later, introduced to a notably ginger-free recipe for "Second-Chance Chicken." As Kelly explains,
I hate the idea of leftovers. To me, eating leftovers means you're too lazy to start over, and I've never wanted my girls to think that we weren't starting fresh.
In the introduction to the recipe for "Bad Girl Wings," Kelly gives us yet another poignant insight into her life as a mother:
These chicken wings are Sea's favorite. I'm sure she loves them because she knows I love wings (she's a cutie like that).
It would obviously be ludicrous to assume that Sea actually enjoys chicken wings authentically. Much more likely that she just loves them because Kelly does. HOT! In a segment labeled "hasta la vista taco bell," Kelly recounts a traumatic experience in which she "discovered that my favorite food choices [at Taco Bell] added up to 580 calories." To me, this seems like a perfectly reasonable amount of calories for one daily meal out of three, but according to Kelly, I am embarrassingly off the mark. Rather, she sighs, "I guess that means my Taco Bell days are over -- unless I decide to chance [sic] Sunday Funday into Fatso Food Day." Not HOT.
Kelly tells us about the creative process behind the development of the next recipe, "Spicy Sultry Shrimp and Mango Stir-Fry" (which, for the record, is the second recipe to have the word "sultry" in its title).
This was one of the first dishes I made when I started to cook -- as a science experiment. My "method" was to think of foods I loved and which ones I thought would go well together.
Fascinating! Think of ingredients you like and combine them into a dish that you will then likely also like! The next recipe, for "Kelly's Kalamari," features the following introduction:
I still love fried calamari, but it doesn't love me. Whenever I eat it, it goes right to my stomach and makes a little pooch -- eww!
As a reminder, this is the same Kelly Bensimon who told us that loving our bodies is HOT and dieting is die + t. But also, eww!
We trek along into the next portion of the recipe book, succinctly titled "Pizza, Pasta, Potatoes, Grains, Vegetables, and Sides." We get a recipe for "Pizzzzzzzza!," which instructs the reader to obtain pizza dough, pizza sauce, mozzerella cheese, salt and pepper. Spread out the dough, add sauce and cheese, and cook! This is yet another time I'm glad Kelly told us early on in this book to take detailed notes -- these kinds of nuanced culinary creations can only come from the mind of a true master.
The same kind of true master who would, as we soon learn, conceive of this particular travesty -- "Pink Pizza." Imagine with me, for a moment, that a dear friend invites you over to their house for dinner. I'm making pizza! they implore you. Come over -- we'll hang out, have a couple beers, catch up on old times! Excited for a chance to relive the glory days, you eagerly accept, only to be met -- upon your arrival -- with this abomination. I thought you said we were having pizza? you sputter nervously. This is pizza, your friend intones, as their eyes slowly fade to black and their hands reach out to wrap themselves around your throat.
Kelly goes on to share a recipe for an "Asian-flavored noodle dish" that she has christened (and it truly pains me to type this), "Me Love You Springtime Noodles." Somewhere, the last ember of hope for humanity quietly fizzles out.
The following recipe, for "Pasta with Oddkavodka Sauce" begins with a warning:
When you make this (especially for children) just be sure you cook off the alcohol so that you aren't serving vodka to minors or have to assign a designated driver for your guests.
This seems like reasonable and conscientious advice. Until I read on and learn that the recipe calls for 1/8 cup vodka, and makes four servings. If your guests need a designated driver after consuming a half-tablespoon of vodka each, I would strongly encourage them to seek medical advice forthwith.
I am reminded once again how different Kelly's and my worlds are with the following exclamation:
Try using quinoa in this recipe instead of the rice -- I call that having your cake and eating it too!
Oh, to live a life in which your most selfish indulgence was quinoa. I suppose this should have prepared me for a few pages later, when Kelly remarks:
Both hummus and guacamole make great toppings for steak or fish. They're my version of béarnaise sauce.
I love hummus. Hummus is great. But there is no possible existing parallel universe in which hummus and béarnaise sauce are interchangeable. One of the final recipes in this section is cryptically titled "Have an Impromptu Pepper Party" and instructs the reader to scoop out the insides of a bell pepper and stuff it with "whatever ingredients suit your fancy." Again, I feel like this fails to meet the definition of an actual recipe, per se, but it is supposedly "quick, fun, and satisfying."
We're nearing the book's end (for real this time) with a section on "Breads and Desserts." This includes an inspirational passage in which Kelly shares a personal anecdote:
On Season 4 of the Real Housewives of New York City, I made a mixed fruit pie for my kids with what was left over in the fruit bowl…Don't be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and have fun doing it.
I can only hope to someday be brave enough and fearless enough to make a mixed fruit pie.
Blessedly, the final section , titled "Beverages", looks like it might have exactly what I need in the aftermath of finishing this book. The "GIN-Ginger Beertail," for example, which "was originally made with gin, but I don't like serving gin drinks because I think it makes people mean." We also get a recipe for something called "Babylove," which (thankfully) seems unrelated to another of my favorite reality TV cesspools.
It only seems appropriate to share the final recipe of I Can Make You Hot! with all of you. I will definitely be downing approximately seven of these tonight, and I hope some of you will be joining me in spirit. Cheers:
Gummi Bear Martini
If you don't have a paper umbrella handy, Gummi Bears are a great way to put more fun in your drink.
Makes 1 Drink
2 parts orange, grape, or other-flavored vodka
1 part Triple Sec
1 part white grape juice
Splash of cranberry juice
Gummi Bears, as many as you like
Combine the vodka, Triple Sec, grape juice, and cranberry juice in a tall glass. Add ice and fill the glass with Gummi Bears.
ETA: I am so disappointed in myself for forgetting to include that Kelly has a ceviche recipe that instructs you to marinate raw fish in lemon juice for exactly two minutes before serving. In the interest of food safety, perhaps it was for the best that this nugget momentarily slipped my mind, but sharing this information with you all is the burden I have been cursed to bear. 🙏🏼
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How to Trade societal collapse

Alright, first time poster so we’ll see if you retards like what I got as I put way more effort into this than you deserve (even some charts for you to look at as you pretend to read).
TLDR; guns & ammo, lots of people are buying lots of guns & ammo. SWBI, RGR, OLN, VSTO calls.
COVID-19, Riots, and Protests = Lots of New Gun Owners
It’s been highlighted in the news starting with COVID but with protestors calling for the defunding of the police (WCGW?) and police budgets actually getting slashed across the country people are understandably feeling a little anxious and becoming gun owners is massive numbers.
MILLIONS OF FIRST-TIME GUN BUYERS DURING COVID-19
Coronavirus Fears Have Produced A Lot Of New Gun Owners
Street violence stoke demand
Even gun hating CNN commented on how many guns are being bought
The FBI keeps track of background checks for firearms through their NICS system. For the latest months data (May) there were over 3 MILLION background checks run. It’s not a direct comparable but this loosely means there were roughly 3 million firearms transaction in that month. Third highest ever recorded (March 2020 and December 2015 were higher). The clear trend is that these purchases are only increasing over the short term.
https://i.imgur.com/CWCfQB5.gif
Source: FBI NICS records
The FBI has provided a handy ‘Top 10” list and half of ‘highest days” and ‘highest weeks’ on record happened in 2020. Likely you’ll see a few more 2020 on that list by the end of the year.
https://i.imgur.com/cAslVO0.png
Election Years
Common fact that election years always see a spike in gun sales as the NRA and Republicans always fear monger their base into thinking the next Democrat is going to take away all of their freedoms and surprise it works. Gun sales are again spiking in 2020.
Why was this election years panic buying delayed compared to 2016?
In 2016 no one thought Trump was going to win and Hillary aka satan was going to take everyones guns away so people started buying earlier since the “writing was on the wall”. But whoopsies CNN and MSNBC got it wrong and guns were safe for another 4 years and sales declined.
In 2020 the polls and ‘experts’ assumed Trump basically had his reelection in the bag given how the economy was harder than a teenager on Viagra and was his to lose… and he lost it. COVID-19 tanking the economy with record unemployment and his attacks on protestors, stupid shit posted on twitter, all while threatening to deploy the US military has given Sleepy Joe a 10 point average lead in the polls by doing nothing but hide in his basement. So now everyone that thought their guns were safe are once again panic buying in earnest.
2020 is a bit different than years past in that Gun Control is a major part of the democratic policy platform that they are campaigning on. Francis O’Rouke in the primaries only had one policy that he was campaigning on and that was gun control with his famous "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47."
Guess who Joe Biden picked to lead his gun control initiative? It rhymes with ‘Pork’. Here’s a few tid bits from Sleepy Joe’s gun control platform
· Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
· Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act
· Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
· Reduce stockpiling of weapons
How does an anti-gun presidential candidate help sell guns?
The greatest gun salesman in American history was good ole Barrack Hussein Obama and all he ever did was issue press conferences and talk a big talk but never actually did anything. Fun Fact: Donald Trump has issued more gun control edicts than Obamas entire presidency, but facts don’t matter, only perception does. People actually believe that the string pullers behind Joe Biden will go hard on gun control (but the NRA says that every election).
Basically, I’m saying there is a high probability that if Joe Biden wins the election he’ll replace Obama as the greatest firearms salesman of all time and there will be a whole lot of gun buying leading up to that.
Alright you’ve convinced me the world sucks and people are scared and buying lots of guns.
How do you play this?
Not to many names to choose from but we have 2 publicly traded companies that sell guns directly to the public and both have seen some big short term rallies, but there’s a lot of juice left in these names and the election is only going to create more gun & ammo buying. Both these names haven’t hit their 2016 peaks (last presidential election) and I think there’s enough other shit going on to help these names surpass those 2016 peaks due to new gun buyers (not seen in 2016) and panic buying because protests, rioters, and cops being terrible in additional to the normal and expected right wing buyers every election year. If we use 2016 as an example we see a trend upward as buying intensifies and then with the surprise Trump win a massive drop and then a continued trend down through his presidency as people stop panic buying.
https://i.imgur.com/EuOdsD3.png
https://i.imgur.com/b5lMPPu.png
Here’s what I’ve done with the expectation that I’ll be buying more as the election cycle heats up.
TLDR; Gun play SWBI 7/17 22.5c and RGR 7/17 80c if you have balls of steel oryou can go longer dated and holding through the election.
Thanks for the tip asshole these names have already stonked…
Logic dictates that if you buy a gun you’ll buy ammo next. On top of that the panic buying of ammo goes hand in hand with the panic buying of guns. The hoarding of ammo is part of the American dream. The popular .223 and 5.56 rifle round has doubled in price since the end of 2019. The little 22lr has tripled in price.
Ammo.com did a special news update that ammo sales are through the roof from COVID. Directly from their site
· 602% increase in revenue
· 511% increase in transactions
· 242% increase in site traffic
· 84% increase in conversion rate
· 16% increase in average order value
We’re seeing the news report on this all over the country and this trend will only continue as we ramp up into election season. Couple examples.
'Ammo is really a scarcity:' Iowa gun stores feel effects of coronavirus hoarding
Panic At The Gun Shop
Floridians stockpiling guns and ammo amid national crises
You can bet all the major ammo suppliers are operating at full capacity to try and meet this new found demand. Federal Premium Ammo posted on facebook a pic of their president in the shop loading ammo into boxes. Obviously a PR stunt but point being demand for ammo is up.
https://i.imgur.com/BcvLnIU.png
The two biggest retail ammo manufacturers in the country are Federal Premium and Winchester owned by Vista Outdoor (VSTO) and Olin (OLN) respectively. Both of these names haven’t stonked like the others and will likely see uplift from ammo sales but there’s a catch. Winchester Ammo segment for OLN represents 10-15% of EBITDA for the company so even if ammo sales is through the roof the rest of the business may choke on COVIDS donkey dong tempering said uplift from ammo sales.
VSTO has higher exposure in that Federal Ammo represents 2/3rds of their sales but the other 1/3rd of the business is golf, camping, and camelbak gear that no one gave a shit about during COVID but could potentially see a resurgence in demand with lockdowns being lifted across the country.
TLDR; Ammo Play is VSTO 11/20 15c and if you understand chemical jargon that I don’t OLN 8/21 15c



***EDIT*** 6/21/2020 Update
Time for the follow up. If you bought at the time of this post all names are up with the clear winners being RGR and VSTO. OLN has been a kangeroo all week but I gave no promises on this one considering 70% of its EBITDA is tied to the energy sector which has more ups and downs than a bipolar teenager.
I was disappointed with the markets response to SWBI's earnings report out after thursday's close which the market met with a collective "meh" with the name trading off from its pre-earnings release run up. The gun segment of SWBI beat even the highest inflated expectations of the street but it seems this was lost on the $90 million write off for the non firearms business that is being spun out in August. Management was very instructive highlighting that this buying spree is different as it includes lots of new gun owners with the expectation that some percentage of these new buyers will continue in shooting sports. Take away is that gun demand is only going to increase in 2020 with most likely a cool off in demand in 2021. The 4 analysts that cover the name upped their price targets with the average being $22.50.
Hindsight is always 20/20 but if I could play SWBI again I would have bought the same 7/17 22.5c on Monday and then on Thursday you could have sold a 7/17 25c for more than what you'd paid for Mondays 7/17/ 22.5c locking in a 10% profit and essentially keeping a free call option through the earnings report.
RGR and VSTO were pure money ending the week up despite the broader market kangeroo court.

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Part 2/3 My Introduction to a Professional Sports Betting Syndicate

PART 2/3
The train ride home from that meeting I was excited and nervous. I played out every possible scenario of this arrangement. My first concern was what would happen if my employer found out. It definitely didn’t benefit George or me telling anyone about this so it wasn’t really a loose lips sink ships concern but rather my company noticing a pattern of delays on injury reporting, our company kept logs and tested speed but usually I was the one doing that and nobody ever checked them, but would that change if delays started to happen regularly? I figured I could just play dumb if it ever came up, “I’m sending them out as fast as I can boss, it was really busy”. These are convos I was playing back n forth in my head. I even thought about the possibility of this being some sort of loyalty test from my boss. It was unlikely but after all George and him went way back, my boss operated a sportsbook in Costa Rica back in the day and George was a big thorn in his side as he was killing bookies in Costa Rica during that time.
My second concern was about money which during the meeting he glossed over briefly. To me money isn’t everything, it’s the only motherfucking thing that matters. So the terms he explained to me was that I would be paid a flat rate only for each accurate report for players listed as probable. I would get 15% for each accurate report on any questionable players, 25% on accurate reports on players that were doubtful and finally when I reported a player being OUT and he was in fact out for that game I would get 35%. This was for key players and starters only. He said it would be based on the following wager amounts of each report, if I reported a player questionable he’d be betting $5,000, $7,500 for Doubtful and $10,000 for out, $200 flat rate for players reported probable. Now a few things I have to mention, me reporting this information to him doesn’t guarantee that the team loses, especially if I’m reporting something along the lines of BK-F-[Joe Harris]-Lower Leg-Doubtful, it didn’t matter if Brooklyn lost or didn’t cover I would be getting paid as long as the information was accurate. If I reported a player questionable or doubtful and he ended up playing I didn’t get paid. I know some of you might be thinking the deal sounds awesome and it did. I could report a player OUT and if he didn’t play I could get $3,500 which even thinking about it now is insane.
One thing I learned at a young age is you never accept the first offer you receive, so as good of a deal as it sounded and the thought of how much money I could be making was mind blowing I began to think about his earning potential. He did his best to convey that nothing was certain and that it’s really not too often a key player is scratched from the lineup, blah blah etc. I imagined George didn’t become a successful sports bettor by giving everyone great deals. I put myself in his shoes and started to think about what I’d do if I had access to thousands of sports book accounts, a capable team and the ability to bet while getting injury info before books adjusted lines. Having this injury information didn’t mean an automatic win George made sure to hammer that fact home to me. George didn’t tell me this but what I realized is it didn’t matter who won or lost for George because he wasn’t actually risking anything. I’ll explain: Let’s say NBA Phoenix vs Utah and Utah is -5, I get a ping -PHO-G-[Devin Booker]-Left Foot-OUT and I send it to George and what I assume his team did was they would program his software to bet Utah -5 at every book that has it listed at -5 or better. His automated bet software allows him to place bets on hundreds if not thousands of different accounts within 10 seconds, it even auto-confirms the username and password.
He now has X amount of money on Utah-5 who is playing Phoenix who is without their best player. While George and his team are finishing up pounding Utah I’m likely just hitting send at work reporting the Devin Booker injury status, within seconds books are now moving the Utah line as the public is also reacting to this news. Within a couple minutes it is widely known Booker is doubtful. Let’s say the line eventually gets up from -5 to Utah -8 which would be likely in this case. Most of you can guess what George and his team does then, they come back and bet Phoenix +8 for the same amount of money they bet Utah-5, Hence the no risk part, he now just sits back and hopes for the game to land on 6 or 7(Utah -5 & Phoenix +8). Of course there is no guarantee Utah would win by exactly 6 or 7 for him to cash both sides but even a Utah win by 5 and 8 would be great considering he’s only risking juice.
It’s been a couple days since the meeting and it’s all I’ve been thinking about. It’s not like I can really ask anyone for advice either, the only people that can know about this is myself and George and his team. A few things I realized was he would definitely be betting more than $5,000 to $10,000 per injury report but my % was based on those figures he said. I understood not every player I would be reporting would result in a big line move but then again I’d only be reporting key players and starters. Also if a player is reported out for 3 or 4 days it’s not like I’d be getting paid to report him being out each night. It was really just players that played in their previous game and their status has changed before the next game. I figured I would still make a ton of money but it all depended on players getting hurt and missing games. Tough to say how many times this would occur, could be 0 or 10 in a week,
Another big thing I was hung up on is the morality of it all. I knew I wouldn't be doing anything illegal but it was definitely straddling the fence between right and wrong. It’s also important to note that at this time in my life this was one of my first real jobs, you know the ones that have dental and eye insurance. Prior to this I was an illegal street bookie, among other things, all illegal. No shocker this eventually led me to prison and I had only been out of prison for about 2 years before I started working for this company so staying on the straight n narrow was important not just for me but for family members, I could finally answer questions about what exactly I do for a living. It was a good feeling and here I was contemplating jeopardizing it all. Or at least that’s what I was thinking at the time.
Exactly one week after the meeting I get a text message from a number I don’t have saved, (I’m paraphrasing, it was a long time ago) but the text read “Hey I work for George, he told me to connect with you to set up messenger apps and establish lines of communication,”. My anxiety immediately spiked. I haven’t even confirmed with George that I’m officially in. So I responded with “Ok, sounds good but first could you pass along to George that I have a few questions before getting started”, No response. I realized I gave George my number but didn’t get his number so all I had was the number from this text message and didn’t even have a name. I’m thinking I just blew this whole opportunity which looking back now was stupid of me to think but this whole process was just nerve racking, a lot of potential money on the line for everyone involved and the thought of going from no responsibility at work and just bullshitting around to having to be on point and super focused as id be playing a major role in the betting syndicate. Not to mention I still had questions and would like to negotiate and counter his offer. Also it’s worth noting that a customer asking me for a deal on an ounce and me saying no was the full extent of all my previous experience negotiating deals.
It’s now a few days since I got that text and roughly 10 or 12 days since the conference. A small part of me was hoping he had a change of mind and doesn’t want to do it or something came up. The other part of me wanted to make money and to become a part of his team.
My shift at work was 2pm - 10pm and after 5pm I was the only one working, except on weekends when it was busy there were two of us. It was a weekday night right as I was finishing up work, I got a call from a private number, I normally don’t answer private or unknown numbers but since the conference I started answering them. Me: Hello George: “What’s up? Are we going forward or what? Mario said you had some questions, what you don’t like money (fake lol) Me: George! I would’ve reached out sooner but didn’t have a number for you. Something I realized down the road was George knew that I was the night employee, NBA games start between 7pm -10pm at least on weekdays, so what good would an employee that works 8am to 2pm do for him, especially when breaking injury news is typically announced the hour leading up to tip-off. He also knew there’s only one employee after 5pm on weekdays.
I realized quickly that I wasn’t going to be fun and games working with friends, this was strictly business and everything was so serious, of course I realize now why. That phone call was the first of a series of phone calls back n forth over the next day or 2. As I suspected the terms he initially quoted were low and he eventually agreed to an increase on the doubtful and out percentages only. We ultimately reached an agreement and we planned that the next 3 days would be when we start running some trial tests. He said Mario would call me to set up the messenger apps and explain where to send the information, I just had to make sure it got to them accurately and fast. It all hit me, there is no turning back now, I’m all-in with this and looking back on it now, this decision alone is the turning point in my professional career and would ultimately set off a chain of events that led to shit I just never imagined.
To Be Continued....
Will likely just release Part 3 later today because I’m going away for the weekend.
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The HEL Jumper [Chapter 3.11]

Book 1 of The HEL Jumper
Book 2 of The HEL Jumper
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‘Good morning, Admiral Kaczynski. To what do I owe the pleasure?’ Io greeted him, clad in an emerald silk bathrobe. Her hair hung loosely around her head, the rest partially tied up behind her in an approximation of a ponytail while a toothbrush hung from her mouth. It was all Natori could do to not leap from his seat on the bridge and proclaim her magnificence to the gods. He nodded politely at her instead while taking a sip of his morning coffee.
“I apologize for waking you.”
‘Oh that’s not a concern for me, but unless you are only here to speak with me I shall have to rouse the Lieutenant and Veera,’ she explained, finishing her dental hygiene and tossing the toothbrush behind her as it evaporated into digital nothingness.
“If you would?” Kaczynski requested, taking another swig of his beverage. The manufactured variety was passable, but it was nothing compared to the fruits of his homeland. He missed it dearly.
‘Of course. A moment please,’ Io requested, her screen immediately changing to a relic from long before Natori’s time. An old television ‘please stand by’ advisement. He took a bite of a ration bar and chuckled as he accepted a report from one of his watchstanders. Engineer Prakash had begun an analysis of various Maran soil samples sent up by Alice with one of the prior evening’s shuttles. Even preliminary results showed an absolute bevy of microorganisms and it was becoming clear that they would need to adapt their genetics laboratories to handle organisms with x-nucleotides. Natori made a note to speak with Gerard Dupuis as well as the science teams at the Forge about the issue while he waited for Io to re-establish connection. On the other side of the line the AI decided to have a bit of fun, activating the B-MASS to project herself dressed as a classical butler. She held a silver tray with an old rotary phone that began ringing softly, rousing her roommates from sleep.
“Hmm?” Veera groaned, shifting groggily under their furs and pulling her knees closer to her chest. “You’re damp, darling,” she whispered, faintly aware of a slightly sweaty human beneath her.
“That’s because I have a living blanket and it’s not winter,” Russell replied quietly, kissing her on the forehead and slowly working his way out from under her. “Io? What’s the deal with the Jeeves getup?”
‘You have a call from the Event Horizon, sir. One Natori Kaczynski.’
At Io’s word Russell quickly hopped out of bed and dressed himself. Her brain still muddled by sleep, Veera reached out for him and waved her hand about, as if swiping at a ball of yarn or waving him off. He caught her hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles before tucking her back in. “It’s the Admiral,” he explained. “You go back to sleep, Veera. We’ll make breakfast when I’m done.”
“Alright. It’s mmm…my chesko,” she muttered before closing her eyes again as Io stifled a giggle.
‘Or perhaps a lay in is called for?’ Io suggested. ‘I wonder if Cauthan get dream zoomies…’
“I blame Alice,” Russell replied offhandedly, collecting his gauntlet and slipping it over his left arm as he walked out into the street and left his wife to sleep. He took a second to compose himself and rub the sleep from his eyes before accepting the call. “Admiral?”
“Lieutenant Winters, good morning! I do apologize if I’ve interrupted anything?” Kaczynski began. Russell demurred politely.
“Not a problem, sir. Veera’s quite good at sleeping.”
“I see. A good skill to possess if you ask me. Our excitable xenobiologist kept you up last night?”
“I’m used to it, sir. That and I’m still just happy to see her,” the Jumper explained.
“Yes, I suppose we are still within that two week window she mentioned. I’m not sure this will come as any sort of surprise to you, but I was hoping to speak with you about your sister and her plans for the Cauthan. Is this where you’ve lived for the last year?” Natori made a bit of small talk as his avatar looked around, taking in the wooden houses and dirt streets of Winters’ neighborhood. “It is quaint.”
“It’s seen some improvement, for sure,” Russell acknowledged his own impact, nodding and waving to the Cauthan who shared his district as they headed off to begin another day of labor. After a year he knew most of them by name, and none seemed particularly surprised that he was talking to a disembodied human head made of light. One greeting in particular had Natori scrutinizing Winters. Between Io’s shenanigans in his manufactories, the nascent research station at Kel’s Forge, and the baseline duties of running an HEL dreadnaught, he’d had little time to review the introductory materials that Io had loaded into the Event Horizon’s databases about Cauthan life.
“Ursae slayer? Is that the name of the tribe that attacked this village last year?” He asked tactfully. There was no need for either man to bring up the fact that Winters had killed them to the last man. Russell shook his head.
“No, sir. That’s a different story,” he said simply. When the dead air between them had lasted for a good ten seconds, Io interjected.
‘Since my operator is apparently not in a sharing mood this morning, it will suffice to say that from the Cauthan perspective…oh what’s a good one?’ Io wondered, shouldering in to share the limited projection space of the B-MASS. ‘Cerberus! Yes, Cerberus was also big, fluffy, and likely voracious. Admiral, imagine that this mythical beast was real and we killed it. There was food in every pot, a cloak of the finest fur on every Cauthan! I’m more than willing to admit that in the moment I was terrified to the point I couldn’t think straight; but Ursae Slayer has a wonderful ring to it, don’t you think?’
Natori raised his brows, nodding silently as he processed Io’s fantastical analogy. Winters waited patiently, leaning against the doorframe of his home and looking up at a cloudy sky. It looked as though Felen would be gracing them with nurturing rains that day. He tried not to remember the grating scrape of those claws against his chest. “Well, let’s talk about your sister then, shall we? Happier subject?”
Winters grunted in agreement. “Yes, let’s. She didn’t do anything dangerous yet, did she?”
“I will admit I don’t enjoy the fact that you included the word ‘yet’ in that sentence but no, Lieutenant. I do not believe she has done anything dangerous. Oh, on the subject of danger, please inform your wife that we have completed the metallurgical analysis of her cookware. I’m not sure it would hold up to modern safety standards by nature of whatever crude process was used to refine the alloys, but there should be no risk acute to your or her health. And please extend my thanks to her for her cooperation in this matter.”
“I will, sir.” Winters nodded, leaving the issue of cookware aside. “Now what exactly did Alice do?”
Natori chuckled briefly, more than capable of picking up the skepticism in his tone. It was not unwarranted. “Nothing yet, I assure you. However she has made some curious inquiries around town from the sound of things. I received a written report from her last night, requesting authorization for Mrs. Yvonne Dupuis to travel to the village, pending the approval of Antoth.”
Russell remained silent for a moment, recalling the woman he’d been introduced to briefly a couple days prior at Alice’s behest. She and her husband had been polite and were clearly good friends with his sister. He didn’t remember much else. “Why does she want her to come down?” He asked. At his question, Natori launched into a brief explanation of Alice’s proposal, which boiled down to an establishment of the medical field of Cauthan obstetrics. Io whistled quietly.
‘This could end…rather poorly depending on a variety of factors,’ the AI declared.
“And she said Asha consented to this?” Russell demanded. Natori took a moment to reference his notes.
“Asha is one of your acquaintances in the village, yes? Light gray fur and green eyes, married to an apprentice smith?”
“He’s no longer an apprentice,” Russell clarified with some measure of pride. Natori gave him another nod of acknowledgement and updated his personal records accordingly.
“I see. Yes, it appears that Alice secured conditional medical consent from Asha for at least a meeting with Madame Dupuis as well as the recording of certain elements of Cauthan prenatal care. A Gentia is also involved?”
‘Oh, well then in that case everything should be fine!’ Io declared happily. ‘Gentia is a delightful old woman, but she has no patience for shenanigans when it comes to her duties around pregnancy and childbirth.’
“I’ll talk with Alice,” Russell cut them both off. “If I may ask, sir, why come to me with this? She was here last evening and said little to nothing of this plan.”
“Is that right? Well the cat is out of the bag now, or perhaps the Cauthan?” Natori proposed, taking a moment to chuckle at his own joke and stroke his chin in thought. “I cannot say why she would have glossed over this with you and I will not put words in her mouth. However, I came to you because you are the foremost Cauthan expert in the entirety of the HEL, a title your sister no doubt covets. I wanted your opinion on this proposal. The will and resources are absolutely there from my side and my crew, but this is a great deal beyond something like giving them the knowledge to build an aqueduct or water wheel. I thank you for your discretion on that matter as well.”
“Told you,” Russell jabbed at Io with a smile. She rolled her eyes.
‘How was I supposed to know they were bringing a Ghaelen along? I will win this bet yet, sir,’ Io insisted, referring to her own opinions regarding the potential for rapid Cauthan uplift. Russell glanced skyward as a drop of rain or two landed on his recently trimmed hair.
“I hope you do too, Io. Admiral, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to get in Alice’s way on this but I think you’re right. This is a risky move by her. If it works…and by work I suppose I mean we save the life of a Cauthan cub or mother, it will likely solidify a bond between them and us. If the alternative happens, even after what I assume will eventually be invasive medical examinations, blood draws, and genetic sequencing…it might be the end of this entire relationship for good.”
Russell’s evaluation took Natori aback momentarily. “I am only left to wonder if humans felt the same way many millennia ago about their children. Might I ask what you intend to do with your sister?”
“I’m going to talk with my wife first,” Russell replied easily. As if summoned, a golden furred paw reached from the doorway to rest on his shoulder, soon joined by the rest of Veera. The Admiral inclined his head politely her way.
“Veera, good morning. I apologize for borrowing your husband so early.”
“Come inside, dear,” Veera commanded softly before glancing at Natori. “Is anything the matter, Admiral?”
“No, not at all, Veera,” he reassured her. “I believe your husband will be filling you in quite shortly. Lieutenant?”
“Yes sir?” Winters replied formally.
“You should know that my Jumper team made contact with the Forge and is establishing a research camp there as we speak. As of yet nothing has emerged from the facility other than local wildlife. I will be ordering your psychological evaluation within the next couple of days so that we may discuss fully the things you have seen and done on Mara. I will not make any promises, but given what I understand of the circumstances I do not think you have much to worry about.”
Winters pulled one side of his mouth into a grimace but remained composed, setting about the business of a cooking fire. He missed Natori’s surprised look. “Understood, sir. Any advanced notice you can give us would be appreciated.” Kaczynski did not miss his meaning.
“Of course. I would also like an informal report on your discussion with Alice, including your personal thoughts on how we as a group should proceed on this sensitive matter. That is all, Lieutenant.”
“Understood, sir. We’ll have that for you by the end of the day at latest,” Russell agreed, putting flint to tinder before any significant amount of moisture snuck through the opening in the roof to ruin their prospects for a hot breakfast.
“Thank you. Kaczynski out.”
When the B-MASS went silent and Io regained full use of the projector, Veera knelt by his side and helped fan the tiny flames. “Are there many humans like him that you need to behave that way around?” She wondered, understanding that Natori was something like Antoth for him. “It’s just…not natural.”
To her surprise and then relief, Io and Russell began laughing long and loudly as the sprinkling of rain turned to a light, drumming melody on the roofs and streets outside, heralding a day of rest for many of the farmers in the village. “Don’t worry. Unless there’s a Marine commander aboard it’s probably just Natori. Io looked it up and I already outrank all the Jumpers on board. So a handful at most. Now if we get back to Earth, that number goes up quite a bit and includes my father. Hey, what’s up?” Winters asked as Veera draped herself over his back and started purring into his ear.
“That’s good. I prefer you when you’re a little wild and only obey me,” Veera whispered. Russell’s response was to kiss her soundly on the lips as Io shook her head.
‘I knew I should have increased the coolant factor of my processors,’ she lamented as her partners parted and began the task of preparing breakfast, with Russell explaining to Veera what he’d heard from Kaczynski. He asked her opinion on the matter as he began cooking some chesko for the two of them as well as Alice. Veera turned the question over in her head for a few moments as dry logs popped and snapped in the flames.
“I am not sure Alice should be the one to do this,” she eventually replied. “We trust you, Russell, not anyone else.”
“Alright. Just wanted to run it by you first. Let’s eat together and I’ll bring her something after. If I know her she’s probably enjoying a bit of a lay in given how late we were up last night.”
“She is very excited about us,” Veera said approvingly, moving her feathers subtly as she tried to lay out her honest opinions without insulting her sister-in-law. “I think that one day she will hold the same level of trust you do, but she must be patient.”
“Then we’re on the same page. Here, first bite!” Winters offered, slicing a rare piece of chesko from the steak and tossing it Veera’s way. She caught it easily in her mouth and chewed, savoring the succulent juices from the fresh cut.
“Mmm, delicious! I think I’ll come with you today,” she offered. Russell saw no reason she shouldn’t.
“Fine by me. Let’s finish up here then and fish out our leather cloaks. Looks like Felen woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.”
“You only say that because you aren’t a farmer, my love,” Veera opined, throwing him a winning smile. She couldn’t help but do so when he made mention of her gods and culture as though they were his own. After finishing their meal and leaving a low fire to burn through the rain, they headed out in search of Alice.
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“Oh hey, Rusty! Great timing. I was just about to head out and speak with Antoth if I can. Oh, breakfast? You two are the best! Hello there, Veera! Come in, please,” Alice offered as her brother and sister-in-law stepped into her sparsely furnished home which, to her credit, was now lit by a portable lamp that she’d requested from the Event Horizon. Its LED’s mimicked the properties of an outdoor halogen lamp one might find zapping insects on a warm summer’s night. Veera was immediately drawn to it as a moth to a flame, captivated by the eerie blue light that reminded her of Auril.
“You’re not going to speak to Antoth, Alice,” Russell informed her in no uncertain terms, handing her a breakfast of charred chesko and kina slices. Like him, she’d taken to the spicy vegetables quickly. “And before you get all steamed at me, this is straight from Natori.”
“I…what?” Alice stammered, looking dumbfounded and crestfallen at the same time. She accepted his hug nevertheless as her brother tried to comfort her with the arm that wasn’t holding her food.
“I’m just trying to protect you,” he promised. “And if things go well when I speak to Antoth, Asha and your friend can still meet and we’ll see where things go from there.”
“Wait, wait! Why…why are you suddenly getting to do this?” She demanded as Veera kept quiet in the background. Russell remained patient, understanding his sister’s frustrations.
“Because they trust me, Alice. They do not trust you. I know they’ve been kind to you, and they’re giving you a chance on account of me. It’s a great beginning but you need to earn it, hopefully a lot less violently than I did.”
“That’s not...that’s not fair, Rusty,” Alice replied sadly. “How should I do that if not like this?”
“No, it’s not fair. But you were the one who went straight for the heart, so to speak,” Russell said, sitting down on the floor and encouraging Alice to eat. “Alice, I’ll be honest with you here. If I didn’t know Asha and Ratha so well I would tell you to abandon this whole idea and stick with something mundane like growing crops on the Event Horizon or showing them how pulleys work. But if something happened to Zolta’s cub, or to Asha…”
“Rusty, we want the same thing here. I’m sure I can explain it to Antoth and-”
“It’s not about that, Alice,” Russell cut her off, earning himself a harsh glance as she popped a piece of meat into her mouth. “If anything goes wrong with this and you’re associated with it I don’t know what would happen to you. I’ve seen it happen. If Ratha were to lose her cub, let’s say, she would blame you or kill you. Maybe both. This is about protecting you long enough for them all to understand that you aren’t here to exploit them or take advantage of them.”
“But how do you expect me to earn that trust if you don’t let me!” Alice protested.
“Did you become an ob-gyn when I wasn’t looking?” Russell quipped. “Are you going to be giving Asha ultrasounds or taking her blood samples or doing whatever it is that lady doctors do?”
“Lady doctors?” Alice snickered at her brother’s tiptoeing around vaginal health.
“You know what I mean,” he groaned. “And the fact that you’re joking with me means the answer is no. You won’t be. You trust this Yvonne woman, right?”
“Of course I do!” Alice insisted. Her brother nodded.
“Good. Then let me speak to Antoth and if he gives the ok I want you to make the introductions, and then step back. Let her and Gentia and the pregnant females in this village sort things out for themselves. Trust her to do the work she was trained to do.”
“And what am I supposed to do then?” Alice wondered dejectedly as Io appeared at his brother’s wrist just to say hi and attempt to bring a smile to her face. It worked for a moment. “Hello there, Io.”
‘Good morning, Alice. How is your arm feeling.’
“Much better, thanks to you!” She affirmed before throwing Russell an annoyed glare. “But it looks like I’ll have plenty of time to rest now?”
“Oh come off it, what can’t you do?” Russell demanded. “There is a whole village of Cauthan that could use your help and your guidance in matters that don’t involve the life, or Kel forbid the death, of the next generation. Xan needs your help, Alice.”
“I think if you asked him, Xan would say he doesn’t need anyone,” Alice pouted, still a bit annoyed at how that particular Cauthan had dismissed the Event Horizon to Thantis the prior afternoon, referring to it as a ‘floating metal cave in the sky’.
“That’s because Xan is an idiot boy!” Russell snapped, looking over Alice’s shoulder at Veera. Her eyes were already waiting for his as she cocked her head at him. “Just like I was.” Russell heaved a sigh and shook his head as if to clear it. “Look Alice, I’m not asking for a miracle or anything. But he is their apprentice death priest. I think you should be spending the majority of your time with him instead of wandering around offering your services to whomever strikes your fancy.”
“I can only do so much, Rusty,” Alice protested softly.
“I know, I know. Just…look, I want Xan to realize that he isn’t destined to live a shell of his former life. Everyone around him who cares for him has told him that, but he’s a young man and I’m sure you remember what teenage boys are like back on Earth. He doesn’t care for comforting words or pity. You’re one of the few people who can show him that there is a full life waiting for those who follow the path of knowledge instead of fighting.”
Alice wiped her hands gently on the rough leather that Russell had delivered her meal in, contemplating the things he’d said. She hated to admit it, but he was right on both counts. “I suppose I wouldn’t be too happy in his position either,” she agreed. “Thantis is a charming and wonderful individual, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wouldn’t want to be him at my age, certainly not if I were even younger. Just…tell me how it goes with Antoth, alright?”
“You know I will. Come here,” Russell offered, standing and helping his sister up and into another hug, one that Veera joined in, adding an extra element of fluff and compassion to the embrace. “I’m on your side here, Alice. I want Asha delivering her cub in safety on that ship just as much as you do.”
“Thanks Rusty. I’ll do what I can with Xan, alright?”
“Can you explain to me how you’ve trapped cold, blue fire in this marvelous contraption first? And how is it so clear?! Did you sneak off to Auril when we weren’t looking?” Veera demanded of Alice’s lamp. The three of them broke apart and Alice winked her brother’s way.
“Looks like I’ve got something to do, Rusty. Get going then.”
“Already acting like this was your idea? Never change, sis. I’m going. Veera?” He called after his wife as he stood by the doorway, rain splattering lightly against his boots.
“Yes dear, I’ll find my way back home or to the barracks. Alice, this is so light and powerful! How does it work? Is it portable? Does it work at night? Could I carry one?”
‘It would appear a new era of the town watch may be upon us, sir. Let us be off. By my calculations the shuttle window is already open if Madame Dupuis is to arrive this morning.’
“Understood. See you later, girls!”
“Bye Rusty!” Alice waved as he departed, content with a full stomach and a curious Cauthan who wanted to understand the finer points of LED’s.
-----
“Winters, each time I speak with you and your sister the demands become more and more steep,” Antoth complained, his voice deep and contemplative as the two of them walked through the sodden streets. Hoods and a good downpour made for excellent auditory concealment.
“That’s why I came to you and left her with Veera. Her heart is in the right place, but I know you’d only consider this if it came from me directly.”
“You are not wrong about that,” Antoth agreed as they wandered through the narrow avenues that made up the southeast quadrant of the village.
“You know I helped Zolta and Asha get together. That cub isn’t mine but it’s special to me, Antoth. Same with yours. We fought together. I want Ratha and your cub to be healthy.”
“Now that I am less inclined to believe,” Antoth chuckled as they walked past the Temple of the Twin Moons.
“Like I said, Antoth, it’s your cub too,” Winters repeated, coming to a halt as Antoth paused his pace and sought shelter under the eaves of the side of the temple. “Antoth, what is it?” The human demanded. The Cauthan’s scars were pulled taut across his face as he grimaced.
“I have already lost one cub and mate to Kel. I cannot lose another…I cannot trust your people.”
Io had appeared in Winters’ visor, which he sported in lieu of the Aegis on that day. Her hands were clasped over her mouth and she was trying to hold back tears. They had never known. How could they have? Winters felt much the same, a leaden weight filling the pit of his stomach as they learned something new about the former Guardian even after a year of kinship. “I’m sorry, Antoth.”
“And were you that Admiral I would tell you that I do not need your pity, human. But you are my brother in arms, and to you alone I will say that my heart still aches for them; even as I know the love of another female and feel the cub grow within her belly. I assume you are listening, Spirit Io? Do not worry, I count you among that order to which I, perhaps unwisely, am choosing to show weakness.”
‘Oh you big, furry, idiot! Du flauschiger barbar!’ Io gasped tearfully. ‘Anytime you need to talk we are here for you! Right, sir?!’
“Yeah, what she said,'' Winters agreed, resting a hand on Antoth’s shoulder. “And you should know that the only reason I’m speaking with you of this is because I truly believe that if the worst happens we together have a better chance of saving Asha, Ratha, or any of your cubs and mothers than Gentia and her acolytes do alone.”
Antoth exhaled heavily, resting a hand on the pommel of his sword and looking up past the overhang of the wooden roof at the turbulent gray skies above. He found it an apt analogy. “Your people are as Felen,” he eventually spoke. “When does rain and the promise of a bountiful harvest turn to flood? When does a gentle breeze turn to the gale that fells the trees of the forest and rips our crops from the ground? Where is the line between savior and oppressor?”
“I don’t know, Antoth,” Russell admitted freely. “But my people have been asking questions like that for centuries. You and your people will fit right in. That and it’s not an exaggeration to say that Alice’s literal job is to protect your culture. It’s a fine line where to help and where to step back,” the soldier admitted. “But that doesn’t change the fact that she’ll do everything she can. And it doesn’t change my answer either.”
“And you have met this female? I find her name difficult to pronounce,” Antoth said, pressing off the wall and continuing their walk around the village. Russell fell in quickly at his side.
“I have, though only briefly. It was when Xan and the rest of us went up to the ship,” he explained.
“Mmm, I see. And your impression of her?”
“Let’s just say if she can handle my sister she’s got a fighting chance with Gentia.”
“Ha!” Antoth’s laughter boomed through the drenched and sparsely populated streets. “Your words are wise, human. I should have faith in my own people as well.”
‘Do not be so hard on yourself, Antoth,’ Io encouraged him. ‘I don’t think it’s an understatement to say your reign will be the most important in the entire history of this little village. And while we are not unbiased, the Lieutenant and I are always around to lend an ear.’
“Biased as in we are on your side,” Russell added as the two men recalled the words exchanged on the night he was married to Veera.
“Spirit Io?”
‘Yes, Antoth? How may I help?’
“Tell your Admiral that we will permit this human entry to our village, and that her continued presence will be subject to the discretion of Gentia and her acolytes. As for your sister…”
“Let me stop you there for a second,” Russell offered as Io pinged the communication satellites and passed a written message to Natori that Yvonne should prepare her affairs for an introductory visit to Mara. “I’ve already spoken with Alice about this. She agreed that for now things should be kept between Gentia, her acolytes, Asha, and Yvonne, as well as any other expectant mothers who might wish to participate,” he added.
“I do not sense that she came to this conclusion of her own accord,” Antoth proposed keenly.
“No, she didn’t. But she saw reason. She’s excited, Antoth, but she is not a healer by training. As such she’s agreed to remain on the sidelines and receive information indirectly from Yvonne. What I do know is that this woman is a doctor. It’s her trade and that means she’s held to a set of various moral codes including the secrecy of patient information. Alice will not learn anything that Asha or Gentia don’t want her to.”
‘This duty of patient care is referred to as the Hippocratic Oath,’ Io clarified. ‘On the subject of, well, subjects...where is Ratha, Antoth?’
“She is hunting,” the sun priest replied shortly, sudden agitation in his voice. “She says the rain makes stalking easier. Perhaps she simply enjoys the sound of rain in the trees.”
“She’s not going after hyrven still, is she?” Russell wondered nervously. Antoth shook his head.
“No, just chesko. But that does not mean the hyrven have stopped hunting her. I am hesitant to keep her here, from what she loves. But I worry for my mate and my cub endlessly,” he admitted freely. Io and Russell shared a glance via his visor. Such matters were certainly outside of their wheelhouse. Eventually Russell hit upon an idea, smiling as he grabbed Antoth by the shoulder.
“What was the last time you sparred, Antoth?”
“Too long ago. Serving Seil is more burdensome than I imagined,” Antoth replied sadly. “Besides, it is Staroth’s purpose to train our guards now, Veera included. I would only be infringing on his responsibilities.”
“Well I don’t ever recall signing up to be a guard,” Winters observed casually, turning around and heading back towards the roads that would lead to the barracks. He continued to playfully goad Antoth. “And I think your troops could use a lesson or two in human combat styles, a show match maybe? I’m sure they’re slacking and sitting inside on their asses during this rain.”
Behind them Antoth calmly shook his head, chuckling and baring his teeth. “You are a good friend, Winters. Do not blame me when your ass is in the mud.”
“Now that is what I like to hear! You’ll be the one drinking dirt by the way,” the Jumper cried happily. “Io, status?”
‘The Admiral acknowledged our message, sir. Yvonne Dupuis will be arriving with the next shuttle.’
-----
“Ma chatounette, are you sure that this is wise?” Gerard worried, stroking his moustache more forcefully than usual as Yvonne packed an overnight bag as well as a larger duffel full of what portable medical equipment she had been able to put together over the course of an hour. It included an ultrasound machine the size of a vintage typewriter as well as standard PPE and the tools of a general practitioner. “No matter our intentions they will not understand what you are doing, and there is no greater threat than to their young. They have claws and talons, Yvonne!”
“And I will have a pistol as well as a Marine, mon loup. Shouldn’t you be figuring out how to produce a viable method to map xDNA genomes?” Yvonne suggested, zipping up her medical bag and sashaying over to her husband, dressed in clothing much more reasonable for a trip to the surface than a one piece jumpsuit. His nervous face softened as she pressed her body against his. “You have been given the chance of a lifetime, Gerard. We even have a field camp set up next to a thermal hot spot. I am sure your heat-resistant x-polymerase is just waiting for you!”
“And until I have the means of extracting an appropriate polymerase from our new furry allies or the microbes of the planet I will continue to worry for you, Yvonne. You know as well as I do that x-nucleotides fluoresce. A simple recalibration of our sequencing hardware should suffice, which leaves me even more time to worry. Though I suppose new anchor sequences will be needed as well. Perhaps there is a way to shorten the length given the increased information density of xDNA itself…”
“And this is why I love you,” Yvonne laughed delightfully, leaving a feathery kiss just below his facial hair. “But you know how difficult this journey has been for me, Gerard.”
“And that is precisely why I intend to burden you with the guilt born of my worry before stepping aside and allowing you to depart for the shuttle bay,” he assured her with a sly smile. “Do you know who your first patient will be?”
“Her name is Asha. All Natori would say is that she is a friend of Alice’s brother. And you know better than to ask!” She insisted, swatting him lightly on the chest and collecting her bags. Gerard moved swiftly to cut her off.
“Ah ah ah, ma chatounette. I will be taking those,” he insisted, taking up her things and making to escort her to the shuttle bay. “Should I expect you for dinner?”
“In all likelihood, oh husband of mine,” she cooed, taking satisfaction in the sight of him lifting heavy things for her. “While I will not miss those jumpsuits, I do not expect I will simply be welcomed with open arms. I may not even conduct an examination today. I am to meet with the village’s midwife, or perhaps chief midwife. I am unsure. That tale, at least, you will hear upon my return.”
“I look forward to it with rapturous anticipation,” Gerard declared as they reached the tube station nearest to their berth. He set her effects down gently and embraced her once more. “I love you, Yvonne. Go make history, my dear. It is what we came here for.”
“I will go and care for my new patients,” the French matron corrected him, a glint of excitement in her eyes. “The papers will take care of themselves.”
“I suppose this is why our children ended up so well adjusted,” Gerard laughed. Yvonne ran a finger over the wrinkles that marked the creases of his face. There were far more in the places he laughed than frowned.
“And you are the reason they are humble.”
“Tell Alice I wish her well when you see her,” he requested.
“Of course Gerard. Do not get too lonely now.”
“Perish the thought my dear. I have one blood sample left from the young Cauthan lad. Perhaps I will take a gander at his red blood cells, assuming he has any!” With a final peck on the lips, Gerard assisted his wife into the waiting transportation pod, handing her the bags next. When she was ready the door closed shut and the two waved goodbye as Cassia’s voice announced the departure of the pod. The interaction had Gerard scratching his head as he turned and headed for the mess hall, a light lunch on his mind before returning to the laboratories. “I really must get to the bottom of that rumor. She does sound a bit more…Germanic of late.”
-----
“Yvonne Dupuis, I assume?” Pilot Cromwell asked politely as a buxom, black-haired woman floated gracefully from the entrance of the hangar to just beside her shuttle.
“I am indeed. This is the shuttle to the village?” Yvonne requested, the distinction made necessary thanks to the handful of sorties that now headed to the nascent research facility at Kel’s Forge.
“The one and only Mara Express,” Cromwell affirmed proudly. “I think the locals have started to recognize me now, so I’m the one to keep going down there. That's all you’re bringing?”
“I anticipate returning this evening,” Yvonne clarified. Cromwell nodded, gesturing to the open hatch.
“Understood. Hop on in and feel free to set your things with the rest of the supplies. Alice always seems to need something or other.”
“Brilliant and eccentric,” Yvonne confirmed, stepping into the shuttle and securing her baggage before strapping herself into her seat. Cromwell walked past her and took her position in the cockpit, closing the exterior doors and spinning up the engines.
“This is Pilot Cromwell to the bridge. Passenger secured. Requesting clearance for take off.”
“Granted,” came the voice of a watch-stander. “Loading your entry telemetry now.”
“Thanks. Cromwell out,” the pilot replied, cutting the feed and pushing brick off the floor of the hangar. As she eased the shuttle out past the force field, she struck up conversation with her solitary passenger. “So what’s your story, madam?”
“I was brought aboard to offer care to children and infants. With none left following the change in mission, I find myself in the position of possibly tending to the Cauthan. A great deal remains to be seen.”
Cromwell whistled long and loud as the main thrusters engaged and began pushing them towards the surface. “You’re going to have your hands full. Those feathered teddy bears are full of energy, and their parents watch you like a hawk the moment they get close to you. But MacGregor has one hanging off him almost every time I see him now, couldn’t be that bad. Best of luck to you.”
“Thank you very much, Pilot. What else can you tell me about this village?” Yvonne inquired, her tablet open and active in her lap.
“You’re asking the wrong person. I’ve never been on the inside. I’m sure Alice and Lachlan will be there when we touch down; they can fill you in. I’m just the chauffeur,” Cromwell said, making light of her own role in the exploration of Mara.
“We all play our part,” Yvonne agreed.
“Who knows, maybe I’ll chat up one of those guards before the window closes later today?” Cromwell suggested. “Hang on to your things, it looks like clouds and rain below. Turbulence might last a bit longer than normal.”
Yvonne did as instructed, clasping her tablet tightly and shutting her eyes. She breathed deeply as the jostling of re-entry gave way to the turbulence of the clouds that were blanketing the forests and plains below with a summer rainstorm. “Is it always like this?”
“Nope, first day of rain I’ve flown through down here. You sure picked it.”
“I did not pick it,” Yvonne insisted. “But it will be good to get the bad luck out of the way before touching down.”
If Cromwell had any thoughts on luck when it came to the Cauthan, she kept them to herself. After only a couple more minutes they had a visual on the village, and soon after Yvonne was embraced by a rather soggy Alice Winters, who had come to greet her under the protection of the open shuttle door. Behind her stood Lachlan MacGregor the Marine escort, and a female Cauthan unknown. It was clear enough that the young Cauthan in the Marine’s hands belonged to her. The ‘feathered teddy bear’ in question was sheltering under a leather cloak far too large for him, but he paid it no mind as he gazed at the shuttle, his curiosity not dampened by the weather.
“Uttle!” Ursol clamored as Cromwell emerged from the cockpit and waved playfully at him. He pawed back at the vehicle, excited by the sounds and moving parts.
“That’s ‘shuttle’, young fluffy lad. Just because yer mum is off work doesn’t mean you get to slack around on yer words. Aren’t ye gonna be five soon?”
Alice watched Yvonne with a smile a mile wide. “Aren’t they precious?” The matronly Frenchwoman did her best to remain reserved and composed as a handful of Cauthan assembled at the gates, looking on with curiosity and skepticism.
“He is the most delightful bundle of fluff I have ever seen.”
-----
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What a USL D1 league might look like

TL;DR: Man with too much time on his hands goes deep down the rabbit hole on a concept this sub already didn’t seem that enthusiastic about. If you really want to skip ahead, CTRL+F “verdict” and it’ll get you there.
Two days ago, u/MrPhillyj2wns made a post asking whether USL should launch a D1 league in order to compete in Concacaf. From the top voted replies, it appears this made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
But I’ve been at home for eight weeks and I am terribly, terribly bored.
So, I present to you this overview of what the USL pyramid might look like if Jake Edwards got a head of steam and attempted to establish a USSF-sanctioned first division. This is by no means an endorsement of such a proposal or even a suggestion that USL SHOULD do such a thing. It is merely an examination of whether they COULD.
Welcome to the Thunderdome USL Premiership
First, there are some base-level assumptions we must make in this exercise, because it makes me feel more scientific and not like a guy who wrote this on Sunday while watching the Belarusian Premier League (Go BATE Borisov!).
  1. All D1 teams must comply with known USSF requirements for D1 leagues (more on that later).
  2. MLS, not liking this move, will immediately remove all directly-owned affiliate clubs from the USL structure (this does not include hybrid ownerships, like San Antonio FC – NYCFC). This removes all MLS2 teams but will not affect Colorado Springs, Reno, RGVFC and San Antonio.
  3. The USL will attempt to maintain both the USL Championship and USL League One, with an eventual mind toward creating the pro/rel paradise that is promised in Relegations 3:16.
  4. All of my research regarding facility size and ownership net worth is correct – this is probably the biggest leap of faith we have to make, since googling “NAME net worth” and “CITY richest people” doesn’t seem guaranteed to return accurate results.
  5. The most a club can increase its available seating capacity to meet D1 requirements in a current stadium is no more than 1,500 seats (10% of the required 15,000). If they need to add more, they’ll need a new facility.
  6. Let’s pretend that people are VERY willing to sell. It’s commonly acknowledged that the USL is a more financially feasible route to owning a soccer club than in MLS (c.f. MLS-Charlotte’s reported $325 million expansion fee) and the USSF has some very strict requirements for D1 sanctioning. It becomes pretty apparent when googling a lot of team’s owners that this requirement isn’t met, so let’s assume everyone that can’t sells to people who meet the requirements.
(Known) USSF D1 league requirements:
- League must have 12 teams to apply and 14 teams by year three
- Majority owner must have a net worth of $40 million, and the ownership group must have a total net worth of $70 million. The value of an owned stadium is not considered when calculating this value.
- Must have teams located in the Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones
- 75% of league’s teams must be based in markets with at a metro population of at least 1 million people.
- All league stadiums must have a capacity of at least 15,000
The ideal club candidate for the USL Premiership will meet the population and capacity requirements in its current ground, which will have a grass playing surface. Of the USL Championship’s 27 independent/hybrid affiliate clubs, I did not find one club that meets all these criteria as they currently stand.
Regarding turf fields, the USSF does not have a formal policy regarding the ideal playing surface but it is generally acknowledged that grass is superior to turf. 6 of 26 MLS stadiums utilize turf, or roughly 23% of stadiums. We’ll hold a similar restriction for our top flight, so 2-3 of our top flight clubs can have turf fields. Seem fair?
Capacity is going to be the biggest issue, since the disparity between current requirements for the second-tier (5,000) and the first tier (15,000) is a pretty massive gap. Nice club you have there, triple your capacity and you’re onto something. As a result, I have taken the liberty of relocating certain (read: nearly all) clubs to new grounds, trying my utmost to keep those clubs in their current markets and –importantly--, ensure they play on grass surfaces.
So, let’s do a case-by-case evaluation and see if we can put together 12-14 teams that meet the potential requirements, because what else do you have to do?
For each club’s breakdown, anything that represents a chance from what is currently true will be underlined.
Candidate: Birmingham Legion FC
Location (Metro population): Birmingham, Ala. (1,151,801)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Legion Field (FieldTurf, 71,594)
Potential owner: Stephens Family (reported net worth $4 billion)
Notes: Birmingham has a pretty strong candidacy. Having ditched the 5,000-seater BBVA Field for Legion Field, which sits 2.4 miles away, they’ve tapped into the city’s soccer history. Legion Field hosted portions of both the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 1996 Olympics, including a 3-1 U.S. loss to Argentina that saw 83,183 pack the house. The Harbert family seemed like strong ownership contenders, but since the death of matriarch Marguerite Harbert in 2015, it’s unclear where the wealth in the family is concentrated, so the Stephens seem like a better candidate. The only real knock that I can think of is that we really want to avoid having clubs play on turf, so I’d say they’re on the bubble of our platonic ideal USL Prem.
Candidate: Charleston Battery
Location (Metro population): Charleston, S.C. (713,000)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Johnson Hagood Stadium (Grass, ~14,700)
Potential owner: Anita Zucker (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: Charleston’s candidacy isn’t looking great. Already disadvantaged due to its undersized metro population, a move across the Cooper River to Johnson Hagood Stadium is cutting it close in terms of capacity. The stadium, home to The Citadel’s football team, used to seat 21,000, before 9,300 seats on the eastern grandstand were torn down in 2017 to deal with lead paint that had been used in their construction. Renovation plans include adding 3,000 seats back in, which could hit 15,000 if they bumped it to 3,300, but throw in a required sale by HCFC, LLC (led by content-creation platform founder Rob Salvatore) to chemical magnate Anita Zucker, and you’ll see there’s a lot of ifs and ands in this proposal.
Candidate: Charlotte Independence
Location (Metro population): Charlotte, N.C. (2,569, 213)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Jerry Richardson Stadium (Turf, 15,314)
Potential owner: James Goodnight (reported net worth $9.1 billion)
Notes: Charlotte ticks a lot of the boxes. A move from the Sportsplex at Matthews to UNC-Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson stadium meets capacity requirements, but puts them on to the dreaded turf. Regrettably, nearby American Legion Memorial Stadium only seats 10,500, despite a grass playing surface. With a sizeable metro population (sixth-largest in the USL Championship) and a possible owner in software billionaire James Goodnight, you’ve got some options here. The biggest problem likely lies in direct competition for market share against a much better-funded MLS Charlotte side due to join the league in 2021.
Candidate: Hartford Athletic
Location (Metro population): Hartford, Conn. (1,214,295)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Pratt & Whitney Stadium (Grass, 38,066)
Potential owner: Ray Dalio (reported net worth $18.4 billion)
Notes: Okay, I cheated a bit here, having to relocate Hartford to Pratt & Whitney Stadium, which is technically in East Hartford, Conn. I don’t know enough about the area to know if there’s some kind of massive beef between the two cities, but the club has history there, having played seven games in 2019 while Dillon Stadium underwent renovations. If the group of local businessmen that currently own the club manage to attract Dalio to the table, we’re on to something.
Candidate: Indy Eleven
Location (Metro population): Indianapolis, Ind. (2,048,703)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lucas Oil Stadium (Turf, 62,421)
Potential owner: Jim Irsay (reported net worth of $3 billion)
Notes: Indy Eleven are a club that are SO CLOSE to being an ideal candidate – if it weren’t for Lucas Oil Stadium’s turf playing surface. Still, there’s a lot to like in this bid. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what current owner and founder Ersal Ozdemir is worth, but it seems like there might be cause for concern. A sale to Irsay, who also owns the NFL Indianapolis (nee Baltimore) Colts, seems likely to keep the franchise there, rather than make a half-mile move to 14,230 capacity Victory Field where the AAA Indianapolis Indians play and expand from there.
Candidate: Louisville City FC
Location (Metro population): Louisville, Ky. (1,297,310)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lynn Family Stadium (Grass, 14,000, possibly expandable to 20,000)
Potential owner: Wayne Hughes (reported net worth $2.8 billion)
Notes: I’m stretching things a bit here. Lynn Family stadium is currently listed as having 11,700 capacity that’s expandable to 14,000, but they’ve said that the ground could hold as many as 20,000 with additional construction, which might be enough to grant them a temporary waiver from USSF. If the stadium is a no-go, then there’s always Cardinal Stadium, home to the University of Louisville’s football team, which seats 65,000 but is turf. Either way, it seems like a sale to someone like Public Storage founder Wayne Hughes will be necessary to ensure the club has enough capital.
Candidate: Memphis 901 FC
Location (Metro population): Memphis, Tenn. (1,348,260)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Liberty Bowl Stadium (Turf, 58,325)
Potential owner: Fred Smith (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: Unfortunately for Memphis, AutoZone Park’s 10,000 seats won’t cut it at the D1 level. With its urban location, it would likely prove tough to renovate, as well. Liberty Bowl Stadium more than meets the need, but will involve the use of the dreaded turf. As far as an owner goes, FedEx founder Fred Smith seems like a good local option.
Candidate: Miami FC, “The”
Location (Metro population): Miami, Fla. (6,158,824)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Riccardo Silva Stadium (FieldTurf, 20,000)
Potential owner: Riccardo Silva (reported net worth $1 billion)
Notes: Well, well, well, Silva might get his wish for top-flight soccer, after all. He’s got the money, he’s got the metro, and his ground has the capacity. There is the nagging issue of the turf, though. Hard Rock Stadium might present a solution, including a capacity of 64,767 and a grass playing surface. It is worth noting, however, that this is the first profile where I didn’t have to find a new potential owner for a club.
Candidate: North Carolina FC
Location (Metro population): Durham, N.C. (1,214,516 in The Triangle)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Carter-Finley Stadium (Grass/Turf, 57,583)
Potential owner: Steve Malik (precise net worth unknown) / Dennis Gillings (reported net worth of $1.7 billion)
Notes: We have our first “relocation” in North Carolina FC, who were forced to trade Cary’s 10,000-seat WakeMed Soccer Park for Carter-Finley Stadium in Durham, home of the NC State Wolfpack and 57,583 of their closest friends. The move is a whopping 3.1 miles, thanks to the close-knit hub that exists between Cary, Durham and Raleigh. Carter-Finley might be my favorite of the stadium moves in this exercise. The field is grass, but the sidelines are artificial turf. Weird, right? Either way, it was good enough for Juventus to play a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara there in 2011. Maybe the move would be pushed for by new owner and medical magnate Dennis Gillings, whose British roots might inspire him to get involved in the Beautiful Game. Straight up, though, I couldn’t find a net worth for current owner Steve Malik, though he did sell his company MedFusion for $91 million in 2010, then bought it back for an undisclosed amount and sold it again for $43 million last November. I don’t know if Malik has the juice to meet D1 requirements, but I suspect he’s close.
Candidate: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Location (Metro population): Pittsburgh, Penn. (2,362,453)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Heinz Field (Grass, 64,450)
Potential owner: Henry Hillman (reported net worth $2.5 billion)
Notes: I don’t know a ton about the Riverhounds, but this move in particular feels like depriving a pretty blue-collar club from its roots. Highmark Stadium is a no-go from a seating perspective, but the Steelers’ home stadium at Heinz Field would more than meet the requirements and have a grass surface that was large enough to be sanctioned for a FIFA friendly between the U.S. WNT and Costa Rica in 2015. As for an owner, Tuffy Shallenberger (first ballot owner name HOF) doesn’t seem to fit the USSF bill, but legendary Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Hillman might. I’m sure you’re asking, why not the Rooney Family, if they’ll play at Heinz Field? I’ll tell you: I honestly can’t seem to pin down a value for the family. The Steelers are valued at a little over a billion and rumors persist that Dan Rooney is worth $500 million, but I’m not sure. I guess the Rooneys would work too, but it’s a definite departure from an owner in Shallenberger who was described by one journalist as a guy who “wears boots, jeans, a sweater and a trucker hat.”
Candidate: Saint Louis FC
Location (Metro population): St. Louis, Mo. (2,807,338)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Busch Stadium (Grass, 45,494)
Potential owner: William DeWitt Jr. (reported net worth $4 billion)
Notes: Saint Louis has some weirdness in making the jump to D1. Current CEO Jim Kavanaugh is an owner of the MLS side that will begin play in 2022. The club’s current ground at West Community Stadium isn’t big enough, but perhaps a timely sale to Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr. could see the club playing games at Busch Stadium, which has a well established history of hosting other sports like hockey, college football and soccer (most recently a U.S. WNT friendly against New Zealand in 2019). The competition with another MLS franchise wouldn’t be ideal, like Charlotte, but with a big enough population and cross marketing from the Cardinals, maybe there’s a winner here. Wacko idea: If Busch doesn’t pan out, send them to The Dome. Sure, it’s a 60k turf closed-in stadium, but we can go for that retro NASL feel and pay homage to our nation’s soccer history.
Candidate: Tampa Bay Rowdies
Location (Metro population): Tampa, Fla. (3,068,511)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Raymond James Stadium (Grass, 65,518)
Potential owner: Edward DeBartolo Jr. (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: This one makes me sad. Despite having never been there, I see Al Lang Stadium as an iconic part of the Rowdies experience. Current owner Bill Edwards proposed an expansion to 18,000 seats in 2016, but the move seems to have stalled out. Frustrated with the city’s lack of action, Edwards sells to one-time San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who uses his old NFL connections to secure a cushy lease at the home of the Buccaneers in Ray Jay, the site of a 3-1 thrashing of Antigua and Barbuda during the United States’ 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Breather. Hey, we finished the Eastern Conference teams. Why are you still reading this? Why am I still writing it? Time is a meaningless construct in 2020 my friends, we are adrift in the void, fueled only by brief flashes of what once was and what may yet still be.
Candidate: Austin Bold FC
Location (Metro population): Austin, Texas (2,168,316)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 95,594)
Potential owner: Michael Dell (reported net worth of $32.3 billion)
Notes: Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has some unexpected competition and it comes in the form of tech magnate Michael Dell. Dell, were he to buy the club, would be one of the richest owners on our list and could flash his cash in the new first division. Would he have enough to convince Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (I’m not kidding, that’s its actual name) to go back to a grass surface, like it did from ’96-’08? That’s between Dell and nearly 100,000 UT football fans, but everything can be had for the right price.
Candidate: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Location (Metro population): Colorado Springs, Colo. (738,939)
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Falcon Stadium (FieldTurf, 46,692)
Potential owner: Charles Ergen (reported net worth $10.8 billion)
Notes: Welcome to Colorado Springs. We have hurdles. For the first time in 12 candidates, we’re back below the desired 1 million metro population mark. Colorado Springs actually plans to build a $35 million, 8,000 seat venue downtown that will be perfect for soccer, but in our timeline that’s 7,000 seats short. Enter Falcon Stadium, home of the Air Force Academy Falcons football team. Seems perfect except for the turf, right? Well, the tricky thing is that Falcon Stadium is technically on an active military base and is (I believe) government property. Challenges to getting in and out of the ground aside, the military tends to have a pretty grim view of government property being used by for-profit enterprises. Maybe Charles Ergen, founder and chairman of Dish Network, would be able to grease the right wheels, but you can go ahead and throw this into the “doubtful” category. It’s a shame, too. 6,035 feet of elevation is one hell of a home-field advantage.
Candidate: El Paso Locomotive FC
Location: El Paso, Texas
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Sun Bowl (FieldTurf, 51,500)
Potential owner: Paul Foster (reported net worth $1.7 billion)
Notes: God bless Texas. When compiling this list, I found so many of the theoretical stadium replacements were nearly serviceable by high school football fields. That’s insane, right? Anyway, Locomotive don’t have to settle for one of those, they’ve got the Sun Bowl, which had its capacity reduced in 2001 to a paltry 51,500 (from 52,000) specifically to accommodate soccer. Sure, it’s a turf surface, but what does new owner Paul Foster (who is only the 1,477th wealthiest man in the world, per Forbes) care, he’s got a team in a top league. Side note: Did you know that the Sun Bowl college football game is officially, through sponsorship, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl? Why is it not the Frosted Flakes Sun Bowl? Why is the cereal mascot the promotional name of the football game? What are you doing, Kellogg’s?
Candidate: Las Vegas Lights FC
Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (2,227,053)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Allegiant Stadium (Grass, 61,000)
Potential owner: Sheldon Adelson (reported net worth $37.7 billion)
Notes: Sin City. You had to know that the club that once signed Freddy Adu because “why not” was going to go all out in our flashy hypothetical proposal. Thanks to my narrative control of this whole thing, they have. Adelson is the second-richest owner in the league and has decided to do everything first class. That includes using the new Raiders stadium in nearby unincorporated Paradise, Nevada, and spending boatloads on high profile transfers. Zlatan is coming back to the U.S., confirmed.
Candidate: New Mexico United
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Isotopes Park – officially Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (Grass, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion)
Potential owner: Maloof Family (reported net worth $1 billion)
Notes: New Mexico from its inception went deep on the community vibe, and I’ve tried to replicate that in this bid. The home field of Rio Grande Cr---I’m not typing out the whole thing—Isotopes Park falls just within the expansion rules we set to make it to 15,000 (weird, right?) and they’ve found a great local ownership group in the Lebanese-American Maloof (formerly Maalouf) family from Las Vegas. The only thing to worry about would be the metro population, but overall, this could be one of the gems of USL Prem.
Candidate: Oklahoma City Energy FC
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. (1,396,445)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Grass, 13,066)
Potential owner: Harold Hamm (reported net worth $14.2 billion)
Notes: There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow and it says it’s time to change stadiums and owners to make it to D1. A sale to oil magnate Harold Hamm would give the club the finances it needs, but Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (home of the OKC Dodgers) actually falls outside of the boundary of what would meet capacity if 1,500 seats were added. Could the club pull off a move to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma – home of the Oklahoma Sooners? Maybe, but at 20 miles, this would be a reach.
Candidate: Orange County SC
Location: Irvine, Calif. (3,176, 000 in Orange County)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Angels Stadium of Anaheim (Grass, 43,250)
Potential owner: Arte Moreno (reported net worth $3.3 billion)
Notes: You’ll never convince me that Rangers didn’t choose to partner with Orange County based primarily on its name. Either way, a sale to MLB Angels owner Arte Moreno produces a fruitful partnership, with the owner choosing to play his newest club out of the existing Angels stadium in OC. Another baseball conversion, sure, but with a metro population of over 3 million and the closest thing this hypothetical league has to an LA market, who’s complaining?
Candidate: Phoenix Rising FC
Location: Phoenix, Ariz. (4,857,962)
Time zone: Arizona
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): State Farm Stadium (Grass, 63,400)
Potential owner: Ernest Garcia II (reported net worth $5.7 billion)
Notes: We’re keeping it local with new owner and used car guru Ernest Garcia II. His dad owned a liquor store and he dropped out of college, which is making me feel amazing about my life choices right now. Casino Arizona Field is great, but State Farm Stadium is a grass surface that hosted the 2019 Gold Cup semifinal, so it’s a clear winner. Throw in Phoenix’s massive metro population and this one looks like a lock.
Candidate: Reno 1868 FC
Location: Reno, Nev. (425,417)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Mackay Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000)
Potential owner: Nancy Walton Laurie (reported net worth $7.1 billion)
Notes: The Biggest Little City on Earth has some serious barriers to overcome, thanks to its low metro population. A sale to Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and 1.6 mile-move to Mackay Stadium to split space with the University of Nevada, Reno makes this bid competitive, but the turf surface is another knock against it.
Candidate: Rio Grande Valley FC
Location: Edinburg, Texas (900,304)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): McAllen Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion)
Potential owner: Alice Louise Walton (reported net worth $45 billion)
Notes: Yes, I have a second straight Walmart heiress on the list. She was the first thing that popped up when I googled “McAllen Texas richest people.” The family rivalry has spurred Walton to buy a club as well, moving them 10 miles to McAllen Memorial Stadium which, as I alluded to earlier, is a straight up high school football stadium with a full color scoreboard. Toss in an additional 1,500 seats and you’ve met the minimum, despite the turf playing surface.
Candidate: San Antonio FC
Location: San Antonio, Texas (2,550,960)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Alamodome (FieldTurf, 64,000)
Potential owner: Red McCombs (reported net worth $1.6 billion)
Notes: I wanted to keep SAFC in the Spurs family, since the franchise is valued at $1.8 billion. That said, I didn’t let the Rooneys own the Riverhounds based on the Steelers’ value and it felt wrong to change the rules, so bring on Clear Channel co-founder Red McCombs. Toyota Field isn’t viable in the first division, but for the Alamodome, which was built in 1993 in hopes of attracting an NFL franchise (and never did), San Antonio can finally claim having *a* national football league team in its town (contingent on your definition of football). Now if only we could do something about that turf…
Candidate: San Diego Loyal SC
Location: San Diego, Calif. (3,317,749)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) (Grass, 70,561)
Potential owner: Phil Mickelson (reported net worth $91 million)
Notes: Yes, golf’s Phil Mickelson. The existing ownership group didn’t seem to have the wherewithal to meet requirements, and Phil seemed to slot right in. As an athlete himself, he might be interesting in the new challenges of a top flight soccer team. Toss in a move to the former home of the chargers and you might have a basis for tremendous community support.
Candidate: FC Tulsa
Location: Tulsa, Okla. (991,561)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000)
Potential owner: George Kaiser ($10 billion)
Notes: I’m a fan of FC Tulsa’s rebrand, but if they want to make the first division, more changes are necessary. A sale to Tulsa native and one of the 100 richest men in the world George Kaiser means that funding is guaranteed. A move to Chapman Stadium would provide the necessary seats, despite the turf field. While the undersize population might be an issue at first glance, it’s hard to imagine U.S. Soccer not granting a waiver over a less than a 10k miss from the mark.
And that’s it! You made it. Those are all of the independent/hybrid affiliates in the USL Championship, which means that it’s time for our…
VERDICT: As an expert who has studied this issue for almost an entire day now, I am prepared to pronounce which USL Championships could be most ‘ready” for a jump to the USL Prem. A reminder that of the 27 clubs surveyed, 0 of them met our ideal criteria (proper ownership $, metro population, 15,000+ stadium with grass field).
Two of them, however, met almost all of those criteria: Indy Eleven and Miami FC. Those two clubs may use up two of our three available turf fields right from the outset, but the other factors they hit (particularly Silva’s ownership of Miami) makes them difficult, if not impossible to ignore for the top flight.
But who fill in the rest of the slots? Meet the entire 14-team USL Premier League:
Hartford Athletic
Indy Eleven
Louisville City FC
Miami FC
North Carolina FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saint Louis FC
San Antonio FC
New Mexico United
Phoenix Rising FC
Las Vegas Lights FC
Orange County SC
San Diego Loyal SC
Now, I shall provide my expert rationale for each club’s inclusion/exclusion, which can be roughly broken down into four categories.
Firm “yes”
Hartford Athletic: It’s a good market size with a solid stadium. With a decent investor and good community support, you’ve got potential here.
Indy Eleven: The turf at Lucas Oil Stadium is no reason to turn down a 62,421 venue and a metro population of over 2 million.
Louisville City FC: Why doesn’t the 2017 & 2018 USL Cup champion deserve a crack at the top flight? They have the market size, and with a bit of expansion have the stadium at their own SSS. LCFC, you’re in.
Miami FC, “The”: Our other blue-chip recruit on the basis of ownership value, market size and stadium capacity. Yes, that field is turf, but how could you snub Silva’s chance to claim victory as the first division 1 club soccer team to play in Miami?
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: Pittsburgh sacrificed a lot to be here (according to my arbitrary calculations). Their market size and the potential boon of soccer at Heinz Field is an important inclusion to the league.
Saint Louis FC: Willie hears your “Busch League” jokes, Willie don’t care. A huge market size, combined with the absence of an NFL franchise creates opportunity. Competition with the MLS side, sure, but St. Louis has serious soccer history and we’re willing to bet it can support two clubs.
Tampa Bay Rowdies: With a huge population and a massive stadium waiting nearby, Tampa Bay seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up for the USL Prem.
Las Vegas Lights FC: Ostentatious, massive and well-financed, Las Vegas Lights FC is everything that the USL Premier League would need to assert that it didn’t intend to play second fiddle to MLS. Players will need to be kept on a short leash, but this is a hard market to pass up on.
Phoenix Rising FC: Huge population, big grass field available nearby and a solid history of success in recent years. No brainer.
San Diego Loyal SC: New club? Yes, massive population in a market that recently lost an absolutely huge sports presence? Also yes. This could be the USL Prem’s Seattle.
Cautious “yes”
New Mexico United: You have to take a chance on New Mexico United. The club set the league on fire with its social media presence and its weight in the community when it entered the league last season. The market may be slightly under USSF’s desired 1 million, but fervent support (and the ability to continue to use Isotopes Park) shouldn’t be discounted.
North Carolina FC: Carter-Finley’s mixed grass/turf surface is a barrier, to be sure, but the 57,000+ seats it offers (and being enough to offset other fully-turf offerings) is enough to put it in the black.
Orange County SC: It’s a top-tier club playing in a MLB stadium. I know it seems unlikely that USSF would approve something like that, but believe me when I say “it could happen.” Orange County is a massive market and California likely needs two clubs in the top flight.
San Antonio FC: Our third and only voluntary inclusion to the turf fields in the first division, we’re counting on San Antonio’s size and massive potential stadium to see it through.
Cautious “no”
Birmingham Legion FC: The town has solid soccer history and a huge potential venue, but the turf playing surface puts it on the outside looking in.
Memphis 901 FC: Like Birmingham, not much to dislike here outside of the turf playing surface at the larger playing venue.
Austin Bold FC: See the other two above.
FC Tulsa: Everything’s just a little bit off with this one. Market’s slightly too small, stadium has turf. Just not enough to put it over the top.
Firm “no”
Charleston Battery: Small metro and a small potential new stadium? It’s tough to say yes to the risk.
Charlotte Independence: A small new stadium and the possibility of having to compete with an organization that just paid over $300 million to join MLS means it’s best for this club to remain in the USL Championship.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: When a club’s best chance to meet a capacity requirement is to host games at a venue controlled by the military, that doesn’t speak well to a club’s chances.
El Paso Locomotive FC: An undersized market and a turf field that meets capacity requirements is the death knell for this one.
Oklahoma City Energy FC: Having to expand a baseball field to meet requirements is a bad start. Having to potentially play 20 miles away from your main market is even worse.
Reno 1868 FC: Population nearly a half-million short of the federation’s requirements AND a turf field at the hypothetical new stadium makes impossible to say yes to this bid.
Rio Grande Valley FC: All the seat expansions in the world can’t hide the fact that McAllen Memorial Stadium is a high school stadium through and through.
Here’s who’s left in the 11-team Championship:
Birmingham Legion FC
Charleston Battery
Charlotte Independence
Memphis 901 FC
Austin Bold FC
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
El Paso Locomotive FC
Oklahoma City Energy FC
Reno 1868 FC
Rio Grande Valley FC
FC Tulsa
With MLS folding the six affiliates it has in USL League One, the league is a little bit thin (especially considering USSF’s requirements for 8 teams for lower level leagues), but seems definitely able to expand up to the necessary numbers with Edwards’ allusions to five new additions this year:
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Forward Madison FC
Greenville Triumph SC
Union Omaha
Richmond Kickers
South Georgia Tormenta
FC Tucson
Format of Assorted Leagues – This (like everything in this post) is pure conjecture on my part, but here are my thoughts on how these leagues might function in a first year while waiting for additional expansion.
USL Premier – We’ll steal from the 12-team Scottish Premiership. Each club plays the other 11 clubs 3 times, with either one or two home matches against each side. When each club has played 33 matches, the top six and bottom six separate, with every club playing an additional five matches (against each other team in its group). The top club wins the league. The bottom club is automatically relegated. The second-bottom club will enter a two-legged playoff against someone (see below) from the championship playoffs.
USL Championship -- 11 clubs is a challenge to schedule for. How about every club plays everyone else three times (either one or two home matches against each side)? Top four clubs make the playoffs, which are decided by two-legged playoffs. The winner automatically goes up. I need feedback on the second part – is it better to have the runner-up from the playoffs face the second-bottom club from the Premiership, or should the winner of the third-place match-up get the chance to face them to keep drama going in both playoff series? As for relegation, we can clearly only send down the last place club while the third division is so small.
USL League One – While the league is so small, it doesn’t seem reasonable to have the clubs play as many matches as the higher divisions. Each club could play the other six clubs four times – twice at home and twice away – for a very equitable 24-match regular season, which would help restrict costs and still provide a chance to determine a clear winner. Whoever finishes top of the table goes up.
And there you have it, a hypothetical look at how the USL could build a D1 league right now. All it would take is a new stadium for almost the entire league and new owners for all but one of the 27 clubs, who wouldn’t feel that their property would be massively devalued if they got relegated.
Well that’s our show. I’m curious to see what you think of all of this, especially anything that you think I may have overlooked (I’m sure there’s plenty). Anyway, I hope you’re all staying safe and well.
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Juice - This is the percentage of all bets taken by the bookie as profit. The juice is also known as the vig, short for vigorish. Sometimes bookies take a straight percentage of the handle, but more often the vig is figured into the odds. The spread - The point spread is used in high-scoring sports like football and basketball. It is basically a handicap used to make all games competitive in the eyes of bettors. For a first-time sports gambler, checking out odds and betting lines in a casino sportsbook can leave you feeling less than confident. All you want to do is make a simple bet but all you can see are an assortment of team names with numbers next to them, all of which, for some reason, are 110 or higher. Juice, or vig, in sports betting, is the cut or amount charged by a sportsbook or bookie for taking a bet from a gambler. Sportsbooks use juice to ensure they make money on a bet, regardless of the outcome. Nickel Line - A sports wagering line where the juice is five percent. No Action - A wager in which no money is lost nor won. Off the Board - A game that the bookmaker is not offering action on at that moment. Outlaw Line - The earliest line in sports betting. This is an overnight line that only a handful of players are allowed to bet into. The term “Juice” is actually a slang term for Vigorish or “Vig”. In sports gambling is the amount of money or commission a sports book receives for taking your bet. Most of the time, the sports books takes a 10% cut for the amount of each wager, but the juice amount can vary from book to book and from sport to sport.

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