Sunday, April 5, 2020

MLS In Trouble

As the social distancing clock ticks onward it's becoming increasingly clear that major sporting events might not be played for quite some time.

Donald Trump pulled together a large contingent of pro sports commissioners yesterday to talk about possible futures. Not too much is known about the meeting, but Trump does indicate a desire to get things rolling again. How? Who knows.

Meanwhile, in Germany, they are preparing the people for this to continue on for the duration of 2020. In Michael McCann's latest for Sports Illustrated he suggests that this will possibly alter things for years to come.

The blowback is already being felt on a team level. Every day there is news about a club like Liverpool cutting wages or stories about loss of TV revenue if the season isn't finished.

In the United States, leagues fall under a more corporate umbrella. Meaning it's a "we all survive or we all die" type approach. To my knowledge, no players or coaches have had wages cut from the major leagues thus far (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS). However, in talking with some industry folks it seems like the wheels are turning on dropping office staff until things get going again.

A QUICK CRYSTAL BALL LOOK-IN

MLB: Things hit right before opening day. I have a feeling they will take a mulligan on the season. Perhaps, if possible, play a few closed-door games in the fall. They likely have a massive war chest and can survive a season off.

NFL: I think they will do anything to play, but doing so in front of 60-80k fans isn't going to happen. At best, I see them trying to force the door open to play games in front of small groups of fans, but the likelihood of that is tiny. NFL can survive either way.

NHL, NBA: Both were just a couple weeks off finishing their season so a lot of the revenue from TV probably kicked in. They likely needed it. I don't think they could last (in current form) if a season was called off.

MLS: I believe this will be devastating. About a third of their revenue comes from gameday activities and I do not see any part of the 2020 season being played. With a number of high profile stadium builds going on and many other cities on the hook to somehow support the teams with (severely diminished) local taxes... it's going to be hard to fire everything up as it was. Salaries will have to be slashed and a fresh round of capital will be needed. In effect, restarting the league but with a whole bunch of existing cost.

UPCOMING TV DEALS

They only two that need highlighting here is the NFL and MLS. Both leagues have negotiations going on now in advance of expiring deals in 2021 and 2022. With broadcasters hemorrhaging money right now because of the lack of live sports it is difficult to tell what will happen.

Everyone wants to get sports back on TV, like granddaddy Johnson liked to say, "If there ain't money there, there ain't money there."

The NFL will likely soak up most of the broadcast dollars (to say nothing of a number of College Football deals coming up) so MLS is in a world of hurt and will need support to restart.

Compounding the issues for MLS is that half the league's players are not from the United States. If other leagues start playing games, what will/can they do to try and keep players from leaving? For example, in training is still going on in Sweden where restrictions aren't as tight and reports out of China are that things are slowly returning to normal.

Lastly, and further compounding things for MLS is that the league is propped up by it's marketing arm SUM. They profit not by MLS, but by international tournaments and the Mexican National team matches played in the United States.

With the other major sports leagues (and college athletics) I can see a way forward, even if the impact of COVID-19 is felt for years. For MLS and a potentially lost season? The future is very murky. And that's not good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How to get PPE to Hospitals



Since the start of the pandemic here in the United States, we have all heard the calls for PPE. Now, PPE is not a term I have ever heard outside of my warehouse employment, particularly Amazon (CMH2, DCM1 AMZL). PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment.

THE PROBLEM

PPE items are running out or are out at hospitals all across the country. In particular masks, but other basic items that you see healthcare professionals wearing during this event. I'm not terribly concerned with the exact type or model numbers of what is needed here, just the logistics of getting it to the people that desperately need it.

The current set up (if you can call it a set up at all) is not working.

HOW IT WORKS NOW

Everyone orders online. That's basically it. If it can't be delivered then we get the modern "OMG WE ARE OUT." I see this from a lot of younger nurses and doctors - which then gets picked up by the news. The result is that if it isn't available on Amazon or Walmart then there is a global shortage because that's all most people know now.

The truth of the matter is that online shops are not vetting who gets important materials/items and who doesn't. So, it just disappears quickly when it's posted that there is inventory - it is a free for all. This is a problem because the people that need it most don't have time to park themselves on Amazon.

Before the advent of online shopping, we had to call ahead and load up in a car and drive to find it. That's was a giant pain, yes, but (the positive was) stores could easily control who got things and who did not. We are seeing a version of this already with specific hours for seniors.

THE SOLUTION

The US can use physical stores as mini storage centers.

Work with CVS and Walgreens. Supply their physical stores. The government should direct this activity and work directly with the big box stores to stock the areas in most need. Employees at the physical stores (preferably pharmacists) can work directly with the local network of hospitals in the area.

We don't have time to set up some sort of goddamn ERP inventory system before we get this going. Simple phone calls, barcodes, and spreadsheets worked for generations and they will work here.

CVS and Walgreens get a warehousing %. Amazon Delivery, UPS, FedEx, USPS can deliver to the stores, depending on the origin of the items.

CVS and Walgreens vet the buyer before selling the item, ensuring that it goes to where it is most needed.

Between the two stores, there are almost 20,000 locations in the United States.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Inserting an extra layer of governmental control is not something I particularly like, but it's necessary here to ensure PPE and any other items get to the people that need them most. We have the manufacturing capacity in this country to meet demand, especially on paper products. It just requires a little extra admin.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Top Rated Crew Performances

Last week I covered the only perfect "10.0" for Crew players since WhoScored started recording it in 2013, so today I'm just going to list the top 20 Columbus Crew performances since WS started tracking.

YearRoundRatingName
20171210.00Justin Meram
201536-P9.91Kei Kamara
201669.86Justin Meram
2018349.74Gyasi Zardes
201699.62Kei Kamara
2015339.62Federico Higuain
2016129.53Ola Kamara
2016289.50Ola Kamara
2014339.40Aaron Schoenfeld
2015249.39Kei Kamara
2013249.33Federico Higuain
201579.28Ethan Finlay
201835-P9.24Federico Higuain
2013299.20Chad Marshall
201735-P9.20Zack Steffen
2017189.17Federico Higuain
2013279.15Justin Meram
2019169.15Pedro Santos
201339.15Gláuber
201529.13Justin Meram

This is out of 3,553 tracked game performances. That's the top 0.5% listed above. Justin Meram and Federico Higuain are tied at 4 each in the top 20.


Coronavirus and Columbus

Children's Medicine
I reckon a post about what's going on in and around Columbus, Ohio during the Coronavirus pandemic is something I might regret not posting down the road.

CLOSED (and Open)

Restaurants, bars, sporting events, K-12 schools, universities, standing within 6 feet of each other, etc are all closed or canceled. Citizens have been ordered by the governor to stay home. But that's a nice to have. Amazon, Walmart, Target, grocery stores, coffee shops (take out only) are still operational. With the big box stores, their distribution networks are still functional. As a matter of fact, they are growing. That means employees at those cavernous warehouses, delivery drivers, truck drivers, EVERYTHING is still going.

If you travel on the roads you might not notice any difference in traffic at first. It kinda looks like it does when school lets out for the summer. But if look at IT a little closer, especially at peak rush hour times, you can tell it's less. My estimate is about 30-50% fewer cars and trucks on the road.

FEWER CARS, COOLER WEATHER

This probably deserves its own post, but I'll never get to it (if I'm being honest with myself). COLUMBUS IS A SUV CITY. Meaning, huge growth in this town has run alongside the modern sport utility vehicle. What this means is that new roads, city and town planning, EVERYTHING is built around large cars.

Walmart - TP and Paper Towels
Delivering for Amazon really opened my eyes to this. If you haven't been here, Columbus is not so much a "city" as it is a massive collection of suburbs. The go on for seemingly ever. In older suburbs, you see the classic layout with smaller roads and culdesacs. Outside of the smaller houses, one way to tell it's an older community is the number of cars. They are everywhere. Why? The kids you had when you moved in 20 years ago are now teens and you gave them cars.

Newer communities are enormously wide streets that wind safely around. Included are even spots for the giant SUV's that resemble yachts to turn around. I favored these as a delivery driver, but it is incredibly wasteful.

Regardless, Car City Columbus roads are now only about half full and I've noticed a slight change in the weather towards the cooler side.

Weatherman and women are almost always correct these days. They might miss on how long it will rain or the temp by a degree or two, but that's about it. But when I was working a job in 2018 that required me to travel out to Perry County, Ohio a lot I noticed that without fail, it was about 5-8 degrees cooler. This area is only about 30 miles away. That shift in temp might not seem like much but it is. 82 degrees in Columbus was 75 degrees in towns a little East. Or 36 degrees and rain in Columbus was 28 and snowy in New Lexington. It made a difference, and I saw it.

With the weather in Columbus this last week, it was about 5 degrees cooler than the weather people forecasted each day. What that meant is that last Sunday they were saying the week was going to be in the 50's and then by Friday get to 70. Instead, it was 40's Monday to Wednesday with frosty mornings and 50's Thursday. Yesterday (Friday) was correct, but we got a hellish storm that nobody saw coming.

I believe this is because there are fewer cars on the roads. I've always believed that car traffic and impact local weather a great deal and Columbus is a perfect example. Not just the pollution, but the heat coming off the asphalt. Like firing up an oven to heat the house.

ANYWAY

As for our little family of my wife and our 3-year-old, we are doing well. A long-planned trip back (for me) to Virginia is about to happen this coming week. Yesterday was our daughter's last day in daycare (still open) as we start to prep our move.

We spend most of our time in the house "social distancing" with occasional trips to the store. I'll post some pictures of grocery shelves so we don't forget the panic buying that's going on.

Video games, a few movies, writing, soccer analysis, taxes (yay!), and watching government officials on TV is the daily routine.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Meram's Perfect 10.0



WhoScored (WS) has been rating MLS players using Opta data since the beginning of the 2013 season. Nearly 40 different player activities are tracked and recorded for every game, every player. WS assigns a final player rating based on these actions.

In the 250+ games and 3,500 individual performances, there has only been one 10.0 awarded to a Columbus Crew player.

Justin Meram. Back in May of 2017, he recorded a hattrick playing the Impact up in Montreal. His final goal was a game-winner in added time.

Justin owns two of the top 5 WS ratings for Crew players.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

MLS: An Altered Future

The last week has reshaped our world in ways that we quite possibly never imagined. Here in Ohio, they seem to know that the Coronavirus is much more widespread than the official number of confirmed cases (50 as of this writing) because they have now closed just about everything in the state, including schools, for an indefinite amount of time.

MLS, like all the other professional leagues across the globe, have closed their doors, but curiously added a timeframe of 30 days. Given the news at the time, and especially now, 30 days is not in any way a realistic number. The NBA is very open about plans to restart the season and they are not expecting to restart until at least June. And that is without fans.

There are pressures on MLS that might not be on other leagues.

MLS was only able to play two rounds of games. That's only 6% of the regular season. Include the playoffs and it shrinks even further. NBA, NHL, College Basketball conferences all almost made it to their playoffs. If the season is truncated (which I think is likely), they will take an incredible hit. Not just on the TV side, but also on the game-day revenue side. Games will likely have to be canceled.

MLS also doesn't own all the facilities where they play, so a long stoppage will start bumping up against everyone and everything trying to squeeze in their event like concerts, conventions, NFL and College gridiron games, etc. MLS also does not have the resources to pay employees wages during the work stoppage like the other "big four" leagues in the United States.

MLS just doesn't think this will blow over in 30 days. They NEED it to blow over in 30 days. If this lasts longer, MLS investors will have to start getting very creative in how to hold things together until they can start training and playing again.

Best estimates have that happening in June or July. That only gives MLS a few months to cram in as much as they can. I don't see that as an option at this point. So, now what.

I DO NOT BELIEVE MLS WILL RESTART THE 2020 SEASON.

If my hunch is correct, MLS is looking at flipping the calendar. The MLS 2020 Season will become the 2020/21 MLS Season with the season starting in August or September and going to late spring, early summer.

Here are three reasons why:

1. Lines up transfer windows. 
Primary and secondary windows in Europe see completely different amounts of money being spent. Right now MLS is starting their season in the "secondary" window, where the biggest spenders are only looking for a couple players. If MLS wants to join the party they have to switch.

2. LigaMX is merging with MLS.
MLS and LigaMX have made it clear that they want more games vs. each other. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. MLS provides some stability (bottomless pits of money) and some added structure. LigaMX brings passion, fans, and better soccer. Currently, LigaMX plays a Fall - Winter / Winter - Summer schedule. The two leagues already face off during the CCL, various friendlies, and a new summer tournament. Switching the calendar greases the rails for advancing the merger objective.

3. Hot Weather Ruins Games.
Baseball is the perfect summer sport. Soccer is the furthest thing from it. Midfield players can run around 6-8 miles during a match. No timeouts, foul shots, or quarter breaks to give you a blow or reset the players mentality. The league is increasingly moving south. To continue to play games in the summer not only slows the game down to a crawl, but it's also dangerous for players. With a short winter break that lines up with team retooling during the secondary transfer window couldn't fit more perfectly. More games in reasonable weather, including the playoffs and league final, is a no brainer that easily offsets a few December and February inconveniences. With more teams in warm/moderate weather, they can be scheduled around, anyway.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

MLS Suspends Season

I'll have more thoughts on this soon, but this should get it's own post. MLS is suspending the season for 30 days. It's interesting that they put a timeframe on it, but anyhow:

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Major League Soccer has suspended all games, effective immediately, for 30 days, the league announced Thursday as it continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 (the coronavirus).

Read the full statement:
Major League Soccer has suspended match play for 30 days, effective immediately, as the league continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 with its medical task force and public health officials. 
At the appropriate time, the league and clubs will communicate plans for the continuation of the 2020 season and update the status of league events. 
“Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season – based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “We’d like to thank our fans for their continued support during this challenging time.”
The MLS announcement comes in the wake of the NBA suspending its season on Wednesday night. Prior to the suspension of the MLS season, two MLS matches scheduled for March 21 had already been postponed in Seattle and San Jose as measures are taken to contain COVID-19, which to date has seen over 1,000 confirmed cases in the U.S.

Earlier this week, eMLS Cup, which was scheduled to take place on March 21 in Austin, was postponed following the cancelation of South by Southwest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Crew are Playing - Don't Go

Jay Inslee, Governor of the State of Washington, is expected to announce today that he will be banning events that have gatherings of more than 250 people. This includes sporting events.

Now, a governor "banning" gatherings is a pretty big deal in the United States. Many US citizens believe that they can make their own decisions on what they attend and what they don't. There are others that might take a more legally minded approach to it and say that it is outright illegal to make such a ban.

As much as it might make some sense to ban events in favor of "social distancing," I do not think this is something a governor can enforce. Yesterday, here in Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine made suggestions and recommendations. Perhaps that's the way to go? I'm not sure.

That said: With all the information available to us, I do not think it is a good idea to be going to sporting events (or any large gatherings). Young and old. This includes the Crew home game this weekend.

You, dear reader, are young and strong and can fight off any super-duper virus that you get. I'm sure of it. But, in a few week's time I will be in Virginia with my 80+-year-old father. I am going to be taking as few risks as possible over the next few weeks to reduce the chances of getting the Coronavirus. Not because I think I'll get ill, but because I know that it is possible that I could make someone else gravely ill.

MLS will not make decisions to postpone games or otherwise do anything that will hurt revenue. You have to do that yourself.

It would be wonderful if Dr. Pete Edwards, part Operator of the Columbus Crew and someone I'm sure knows better, came out and recommended to MLS the game be postponed to later in the year.

The data out there tells us that reducing the "spike" in cases is the best thing we can do. That means it might be a little uncomfortable for a few weeks via social distancing, but ultimately, it will get under control and minimize the impact on communities.

The Crew are already the last team to have played in Seattle before a serious lockdown on events. That's a bit scary in and of itself. If MLS doesn't do anything this weekend, I would say as a red-blooded make your own decisions American...

...do not go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

COVID-19: Crew Still Open for Business

Last night the San Jose Earthquakes found out that Santa Clara County officials do not want gatherings of more than 1,000 people until early next month. What this means is that at least one home MLS game will be either played in front of no fans or postponed to a later date.

At this time - No other MLS team is under mass gathering restrictions nor have any taken it upon themselves to take important measures similar to events in Santa Clara County to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus.

That said, just today, the Columbus Crew issued a statement as to what is happening this weekend. The game is being played as normal. There are no major changes to the game except for adding hand sanitizer and removing "non-essential pre-match, halftime and post-match activations (whatever that means).

The timing of this Crew statement is likely because Ohio State University has decided to keep students out of classrooms for the next few weeks.

The loss of game-day revenue for MLS over a number of weeks would be devastating. They will continue to have games in front of fans for as long as they can. As of this post, both Italy and Spain have decided to play closed-door matches.

Below is the full statement from the Columbus Crew:

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COLUMBUS — Columbus Crew SC announced today that Saturday’s home match against Real Salt Lake (5:00 p.m. ET) remains scheduled to be played as planned.

Columbus Crew SC, along with Major League Soccer and its other member clubs, have been closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and will continue to do so. Major League Soccer’s task force has been regularly communicating with MLS clubs regarding appropriate measures to take as the situation continues to evolve.

The health and safety of the players, staff and supporters are of utmost importance. Crew SC and MAPFRE Stadium, through their dedicated task force, will continue to work with relevant governmental agencies and Major League Soccer to monitor the situation and react as necessary throughout the week.

MAPFRE Stadium undergoes a detailed cleaning procedure before and after every match or event. Many parts of the stadium, including high-traffic areas, will receive extra cleaning prior to and during Saturday's match.

Additionally, Crew SC will have the following protocols in place for the match:

- Hand sanitizers available in restrooms, guest services and first-aid locations.
- Attendants in both the men's and women's restrooms to regularly clean surfaces.
- Non-essential pre-match, halftime and post-match activations will be temporarily postponed.

Additional information on COVID-19, including health tips, news updates and other resources, is available via the Ohio Department of Health. Guests attending Saturday's match are encouraged to frequently wash their hands and avoid contact with their eyes, nose and mouth.

Should they choose to do so, Crew SC Season Ticket Members can take advantage of the Club's ticket-exchange program by contacting their Account Services Representative prior to the upcoming match.

For additional updates, please continue to monitor www.ColumbusCrewSC.com and all team social media accounts at @ColumbusCrewSC.
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As I mentioned before the last game the Crew played away in Seattle: THIS GAME SHOULD NOT HAVE FANS ATTENDING. The best thing to do is postpone it. Postpone them all until at least the beginning of April.