Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

The Holiday Season is here, the traffic and busy nature of the stores as well as the crush of the final shopping days are upon us, and then it will all be over. The holiday parties for companies, the gatherings for family and friends, and then it will be quiet again. I continue to reflect on the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I realized something that compelled me to write this commentary.


In all of the stress, the lists, the rushing around, and the unpleasantness of travel leading up to the holidays, we as a collective society have the tendency to miss out entirely on the joy and peace that Christmas can provide to us. We can get so caught up in our needs and the pressures existing in our own lives, that we can easily neglect the needs of others in our own families as well as those less fortunate.


I am guilty of it myself, it is difficult at times to see “the big picture”, but it is critically important to take some time to reflect and do that for your own sake, and for those around you. Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, it is a time to look back on your work and your life over the past year. It is a time of looking forward to the New Year ahead, and the promise and challenges that it will present.


It is a time to prepare to make adjustments in our lives, to set new goals, and to reevaluate the various components in our lives. Christmas is a holiday that has an ever changing meaning throughout our lives. That is a key difference from other holidays, which remain for the most part, pretty static through the years.


Early Memories


My earliest memories of Christmas are of my Grandparent’s home in a New York suburb, and the warmth of the house as the preparations for the holiday were being made. I remember going with my extended family into Manhattan and looking at the windows set up with holiday scenes in all the large department stores. We also would stop at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and we would visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for some moments of quiet prayer.


I remember the excitement of Christmas Eve, going to Mass that evening all together, returning home for the big family dinner, and then talking with my sisters and my cousin about what we thought would be underneath the tree for us the next morning.


The excitement of a child on Christmas morning is one of pure joy, when you are younger, the spiritual component of the day is not fully understood. The secularization of the day has made it about Santa Claus and toys, and that is a big component of Christmas when you are a child. The world is so innocent, and as a kid, that morning was a really special time because later in life you get stripped of that excitement; until you have it with your own children or other children in your extended family.


I spent every Christmas at my Grandparent’s home through my entire childhood and through high school and college. I have some warm memories of those days. It was very nice to spend it together with my family. I am grateful and appreciative of that time spent with my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. My Grandparents enjoyed hosting the holiday too. I loved how happy those days made my Grandparents, and I am fortunate to celebrate this year with my Grandfather.  My Grandma was always one of the first adults up with us, her grandchildren, early in the morning.


She would make Folgers coffee and joke about the commercial and whether the aroma really would wake up the other adults in the house. I think our screaming and mayhem must have woke everyone up! Those days, those memories are good ones that I am blessed to have. So many people have had it far more difficult than I have, though every family has their fair share of hardship. The years moved forward, and family dynamics change, and those days are now just memories to me.


Later years


The spiritual meaning of Christmas has taken on an increasingly significant role to me as I grew older. I have a different perspective on the day and the meaning of Christmas than I did when I was a child. In my life, as in the journey that each one of us is on, I have experienced hardship, pain, and loss.


The circumstances around these events have shaped my life and had an impact on the person that I am today. I remember some years where the future was very uncertain, and I would sit next to the Christmas tree and feel the light and peace that the season can deliver. I felt hope for the days and weeks ahead.


Conversely, I have had other years where I would listen to Christmas music and not feel anything. I would sit next to the Christmas tree at night, and feel so lonely, so isolated, and so alone. The medical community can attest to the increased level of depression and anxiety at Christmas and throughout the two weeks that mark the holiday season.


It is helpful at those points to get out of your own head, and offer to assist others. It is helpful, and at some points, necessary, to talk about what you may be feeling. We all have problems or issues which may seem to get increasingly difficult at Christmas. I was watching a business news channel the other day, and I was thinking about all the people who have lost their jobs in corporate layoffs at Christmas and how terrible that must be for them.


I also think about the veterans, the homeless, and those who are sick either physically or mentally. I hope that the New Year will bring me an opportunity to do more to help them, to rise above my own limitations and to find a way to make a difference in the lives of others.


In closing, as Christmas is upon us, it is a time to celebrate and reflect on the blessings that we have, and to identify the changes each one of us can make to have a greater impact, in a positive way, on those we come in contact with each day. I hope that this commentary has helped you to determine ways in which you can initiate those changes. I thank you all for your continued support of my blog and my other writing work.


I wish all of you, from my family to yours, a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed and Happy New Year!

Choosing Love: The Story of Jesse Lewis

On the morning of December 14, 2012 the parents and children of Newtown, Connecticut went through their usual routines. Jesse Lewis was picked up by his father, they went to a local deli to get his favorite breakfast sandwich: sausage, eggs, and cheese and a hot chocolate. However, before he got in the car with his father he left a message on his mother’s car. It was a cold morning, and in the frost on the car window he drew with his finger and wrote “I love you” (


Jesse’s mother, Scarlett Lewis, was planning to go to the school later that day to help out in her other child’s class, where they were going to make gingerbread houses. She took a picture of Jesse that morning smiling next to his artwork on her car window (  She did not realize that morning that her son would never come home again.


This is the incredible story of Jesse Lewis, a 6 year old boy from Newtown, it is a story of courage, sorrow, pain, loss, hope, reconciliation, kindness, mercy, nurturing, and love. It is a story that I am honored to help tell in my own way, with dignity and respect, in a manner that will honor his memory.


Full of life


The family friends of Jesse Lewis describe him as being full of life, adventurous, and happy. His favorite toy was the soldier, and he was known to wear an Army helmet, ripped jeans, and boots to romp around in the fields of his rural Connecticut surroundings (


I remember doing the same thing back when I was Jesse’s age, I would “play Army” with my friends in the woods near our respective homes. Jesse was a typical boy, who liked to run around and get dirty.


Other family friends describe Jesse as someone that would leave a mark on your heart once you met him ( It is those types of statements that compel sadness and this extremely deep hurt caused by the tragic events at Newtown, now one year ago. The loss is just so hard to comprehend because most of the victims were children, innocent children.


Bravery in action


On December 14, 2012 at approximately 9:30 AM, Adam Lanza fired several rounds from an automatic weapon in order to blast a hole in the entrance door to the Sandy Hook Elementary School (


Lanza opened fire in the first classroom he entered killing the teacher and 14 children. He then entered Jesse Lewis’s classroom which was led by 27 year old teacher, Ms. Victoria Soto.


The Hartford Courant was the first to report Jesse’s actions and put together a timeline based on information provided by the Connecticut State Police and other eyewitnesses. Ms. Soto had the children hiding in a closet in the back of the classroom, the gunman shot and killed her. He opened fire in the classroom killing six children, and when his clip of ammunition had run out, Jesse ran out of his hiding spot and yelled “Run!” to his classmates.


The other children ran past Adam Lanza to safety, in all 11 children from Jesse’s class survived, and at least six escaped based on Jesse’s actions. The gunman loaded another clip, and fired a shot into Jesse Lewis’s head killing him instantly (


In the months following the tragedy, stories of many heroes emerged on that horrible day, but the story of Jesse Lewis struck a chord with me.  Here was a 6 year old child, who had just witnessed his teacher get killed, and he stepped out into danger to help his friends. I cannot comprehend such bravery in a dangerous situation from a child. Jesse had the courage to face the gunman and the awareness to know that he had a window of time to save others, what a completely selfless act.


In a variety of media reports, his parents have discussed that in the days since the event they are proud that their son died in the way that he lived: fearless and brave. They have discussed their healing process from losing their son, which I cannot comprehend how difficult that must be for them.


Nurturing, healing, love


Scarlett Lewis decided to start a foundation in honor of the memory of her son, Jesse, and the inspiration behind the foundation was from a message that Jesse had left on the kitchen chalkboard (


Jesse had written these words: “nurturing, healing, and love”. The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation encourages communities to do just that:  “choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement, and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness” (



The foundation develops school-based programs to enable educators to change the culture of aggression and violence into one of calm and peace. To learn more about the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, or to make a donation please visit their website: for further details.


Jesse Lewis was described in his obituary as a boy with “an infectious and radiant smile”, and as someone who was “smart and compassionate beyond his years”. I would certainly agree based on his actions during that terrible day last year. I do not have the expertise to comment on the state of mind of the gunman, Adam Lanza, I do not have any comprehension of how he could have carried out this horrible, senseless act before taking his own life at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. I do not think we will ever know the real reason why he choose to carry out this violent act, let alone involve innocent educators and children.


Reflecting back


The people of Newtown have requested that the media leave the town alone on Saturday so that they can mourn and grieve those lost in a private manner. The families of the victims have asked that Americans consider doing an act of kindness that day in remembrance of their loved ones who were lost.


Before I close with some reflective thoughts, I would like to share with you some poetry I wrote on that tragic and emotional day, and in the days since:


“The Low Sun Over the Trees”

My wife said with a sad voice;

“I thought we would never see another Columbine”

I wish I had the power to make the choice.

A day, normal, unsuspecting, with sunshine;

I had appointments, errands to run

Then the news, a school shooting occurred;

A tragic event which would stun –

Myself and everyone. Everything blurred –

By the tears I wept for those lost;

In a Connecticut elementary school today.

The lives that are twisted and tossed

Upside down – there is no explanation, no way

To understand the evil that caused it

As I spoke to my wife late in the afternoon

The information is coming in bit by bit.

Christmas will come to us soon

To lift the spirits of some

Those children will never forget.

No matter how many years are to come;

There are some things time will not let.

I hope that God hears my pleas

As I watch the low Sun over the trees.





Twenty seven are dead today

By the gun of a sick young man

I asked my sisters to pray –

With me to understand God’s plan.

A Connecticut school filled with children

Filled at one time with laughter, joy

You just never know where or when

This one day, one act, it would destroy.

Through the hallways bullets were flying

Images, things no child should see

Children, huddled, screaming and crying

In the end twenty seven are dead

Many of them between the ages of 5 and 10

I can’t think of it, the sense of dread

You never know what will happen

In this crazy, fallen world today

Moving forward will be a difficult road

Some may never find their way

Others will block out the whole episode

Twenty seven are dead today

By the gun of a sick young man

We all have to stop and pray

In order to understand God’s plan


“Will It End?”


Will it end – this tragedy, this pain?

Just when I think it will –

Something happens, so horrible, so shrill

I listen to others dealing with pain


Will it end? Children killed in school

By a deranged man for no reason

Right in the middle of the holiday season

Will it end? A husband drowns his wife in a pool


Will it end? This disrespect for life

Will the next generation bring change?

The next wave of criminals is born

A world filled with chaos and strife

Will it end? Will it rearrange?

Will societal morals continue to be torn?



“The Root”


Trees grow strong and tall;

An example of beauty of scale.

Humans in love some of us fall

Then we feel we cannot fail

The root of it all is love

It’s the greatest gift –

Endowed from our Creator above

Without it – you’ll feel a rift

My life, through love, has been enriched

The love of family, the love of my wife

Others have lost it, or been ditched

Love has been the root, the stability in my life,

Faith, hope and love there to help when we fall

The greatest of these is love, love above all.



Scarlett Lewis has spoken with the media in the past about living by The Golden Rule. My father used to say it all the time when I was younger, and in fact, we spoke about it just the other day. My father would say, “If people lived by The Golden Rule, this world we be a better place”, if people would love one another it really would be a better world.

This article was being finished when I learned of another school shooting in Colorado down the road from Columbine High School. The reports are that two students are injured and the gunman is dead ( This senseless violence has to stop.


We will all have distinct memories in the next few days regarding the Newtown school shooting, and the depths of pain we felt for those lost that day will return. The parents of the children who were so horribly killed that day ask us to move forward from this disaster by being kind to each other, to forgive those who have hurt us in some way in our lives.

We all have pain and suffering in our lives, each in various forms and degrees. We all get angry or frustrated at points as well. We all have days where we may feel tired and lonely or afraid. We have to remember the courage that a boy like Jesse Lewis showed that day, to have the strength to face our own fears.




We have to remember when we feel anger, to do what Scarlett Lewis would ask us to do: choose love. It will honor the memory of those children to choose love and forgiveness in those situations, to live by The Golden Rule:  to love your neighbor as yourself.  If we all did that, our society would be better, our world would be a better place for us and the generations of children to follow.







TV Markets and the Expansion of Sports – Part 5

This series has demonstrated the importance of particular demographic information on the decisions to expand a specific professional sports league. Each league has varied rationale behind the importance of this information and it can be weighted differently based on the respective league.


The first four parts of this series focused on the “Big Four” professional sports in the United States and North America. This final part of the series will focus on the emerging sport of professional soccer in the U.S. and their top league, Major League Soccer (MLS).


Unlike some of the other major sports reviewed in this series, Major League Soccer has already announced their intention to expand in the future. The league currently consists of 19 teams split into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.


MLS Commissioner Don Garber has publicly detailed some of the future expansion plans for the league. Mr. Garber has indicated that the league wants to expand by 5 teams to 24 teams in the next four to five years. They have several candidates and have already announced 2 of those 5 expansion teams (


The expansion criteria outlined by the Commissioner is:

  • Location
  • Ownership stability
  • Stadium Plan
  • Demonstrated fan base
  • Sponsors and TV market
  • Strategic Business Plan


Overall, the league has seen a drop in TV ratings, which they are going to have to address. MLS is currently televised by ESPN and NBC nationally, and many of the individual teams have deals for television coverage with Regional Sports Networks (RSN).


This past week, Forbes conducted a survey of the league and detailed the values of the franchises as well as providing some other data on the overall business side of league which just concluded its 18th year of operation.


On the Rise


The report noted that the average franchise value for MLS is $103 million, which represents an increase of 75% in the last 5 years ( The most valuable franchise is the Seattle Sounders at $175 million.


The report continues by detailing the TV ratings slide on ESPN and NBC. The ratings for ESPN are down 29 percent to an average of 220,000 viewers. The NBC telecasts (air mostly on NBC Sports Network) are down 8 percent to 112,000 viewers (


However, the league is up for a new TV contract before the 2015 season begins, and MLS currently earns $30 million combined per year in national TV revenue from NBC, ESPN, and Univision according to Forbes. I have covered in other articles the trend toward huge sums of money being spent by networks to obtain the rights to live sports programming of any kind. MLS should be able to negotiate for a substantial increase in their next TV deal.


A particularly interesting note on the future TV deal negotiations is that Fox launched a new sports network, Fox Sports 1, in August. The Fox group lost the bid to retain the English Premier League television rights in the U.S. to NBC, so Fox will be looking to pay a premium to obtain the rights to MLS.


The Game Experience


The biggest statistic in the Forbes report was regarding the attendance figures for MLS for their games. In 2011, the average MLS attendance was 17,872 and in 2012 it rose to 18,611 ( The figures for 2013 are not yet available, but the figures from both 2011 and 2012 are better average attendance numbers than both the NBA and the NHL. That is very impressive for a league that is only 18 years old.


Many trends drive that increase for attendance for MLS in recent years. First, the popularity of soccer is on the rise in the U.S. with so many youth leagues popping up everywhere. Next, the quality of players in the league has been dramatically upgraded. The league is starting to gain traction and so many youth leagues run trips to their local MLS team games and go in large groups.


The final and most lasting change in the trend toward attendance growth is that the younger people and teenagers who went to games in the early years of MLS entering the U.S. sports landscape are now older. They have jobs and disposable income and they spend it by going to MLS games with their friends. I am a perfect example of that trend because that is exactly how my affiliation with MLS progressed.


In fact, the average MLS team earned $26 million in 2012 from in-stadium revenue streams (tickets, merchandise, luxury suite sales etc.) according to the Forbes report.

In my own experience, I have gone to several games for my home area team, the New York Red Bulls. The live game experience is very good. The skill level of the players and the speed of that level of the sport translates so much better in the live experience compared to watching an MLS game on television.


However, I watch numerous Red Bulls games on TV and I think MSG Network (the RSN for the Red Bulls) has an excellent production value for their telecasts of the games. I do not like the camera angles or production presentation of the NBC telecasts, and I think ESPN does a very good job at presenting MLS, but most of their games are West Coast games which air very late in the Eastern time zone.


Two New Teams


The first two expansion slots of the five teams that MLS wants to add have already been announced. The league will expand to the following locations in 2015:

  • New York
  • Orlando


The long anticipated addition of a second team in New York will be a reality in 2015 and it is a very lucrative deal. The team will be called NYC FC and it is owned by a partnership between the New York Yankees and the owners of the English Premier League team, Manchester City ( The ownership group paid $100 million dollars for the expansion rights in New York, which is a sign that MLS has truly gone up a notch.


The Yankees will be handling the logistics of building the stadium and operating the team in New York. The Manchester City side of the group will handle the player personnel side of the team, evaluating talent and stocking the roster with players. The team will be based in Queens, and the new stadium site has not been completely finalized but it is likely going to be constructed near the US Tennis Center and Citi Field in Flushing Meadow (


The league just last week announced the Orlando expansion approval. The city in central Florida has a very successful minor league level team called Orlando City FC, which will be elevated to MLS in 2015 ( The team is nicknamed the Lions and will keep that name and their purple uniform color scheme, which is extremely popular with the fan base there.


These decisions keep with the MLS expansion directives of a demonstrated fan base and strategic business plan. However, the biggest key piece in the Orlando expansion approval was the stadium plan approval by the government entities in Florida.


The new stadium will be built in an area of downtown Orlando that is in the midst of a huge development trend. The stadium is a major component of an MLS expansion bid and is required for any new teams to enter the league (


The new stadium requirement is very important to MLS because it significantly improves the live game experience for both the fans and the players. MLS began playing in the mid-1990s in mostly gigantic NFL or college football stadiums, which were not conducive to hosting soccer games. The adjustment to the configuration for soccer created some poor sight lines, and made the fans feel too far away from the action.


The MLS move to the Soccer Specific Stadium (S.S.S.) provided a huge lift to the revenues of the teams and the league. The teams were able to use the majority of the revenue to improve the quality of the players and the operations of the team rather than paying rent on a stadium that they were tenants playing within.


Potential Expansion Candidates


The following cities are currently on the short list for an MLS expansion team either by 2017 (three slots are left) or in a future expansion round. The revenues are going up so steadily for MLS that many analysts believe that they can add several more expansion teams in the future.


The league has openly discussed that they intend to target the Southeast region for near-term expansion (  That region of the country has no presence for MLS currently and will have only the Orlando club by 2015. MLS prefers to develop regional rivalries, which will require additional teams around Orlando very soon.


The list of potential expansion franchises for MLS are as follows (all TV Markets data is courtesy of , the population demographic information is courtesy of and the Fortune 500 corporate data is courtesy of ):

  • Atlanta, GA – the largest city in the Southeast is a major city of high interest from MLS for future expansion.

TV Markets Rank: 8th

Metro Population Rank: 9th

Fortune 500 Company HQ: 5

Synopsis/Overview: The Atlanta bid achieves many of the expansion directives for MLS. The rumor is that the current owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank, is interested in owning an MLS team. Blank has a son who plays soccer and the Falcons are going to be moving into a brand new stadium in a few years in downtown Atlanta (  The stadium could be built with coverings that will drape the upper levels of seating so that it makes for a more intimate seating configuration for soccer. This is similar to the system currently used in Vancouver who plays in a shared stadium with a football team. The sponsorship support should be excellent. MLS has current franchises in all of the metro population centers larger than Atlanta, with the exception of Miami.


  • Miami – This bid is intriguing to MLS but could have some issues.

TV Markets Rank: 16th

Metro Population Rank: 8th

Fortune 500 Company HQ: 4

Synopsis/Overview: The Miami bid is a bit complicated because it centers upon David Beckham. Part of the bid by MLS to lure David Beckham to play in L.A. and raise the profile of the league included an option for Beckham to, upon retirement, gain an expansion team for a bargain price fee of $25 million in a city of his choice (  It has been widely reported that Beckham intends to move forward with the expansion bid and that he likes Miami for the bid. The issue here is that he needs other partners to be able to finance the project, and he has had some trouble lining them up. Beckham has a December 31 deadline to get an ownership group together and get approval of a stadium plan ( It is not known if MLS will give him an extension if he gains an ownership group and needs additional time to gain government approval on a stadium deal. Beckham has approached basketball megastar LeBron James about partnering with him and James is interested in a piece of the MLS team but nothing is agreed upon (  Beckham also has to find a temporary home field until the soccer stadium is ready. MLS seems interested in Miami and has stated that the demographics there have changed since the league was there previously (MLS had a team in the Miami area – Fort Lauderdale and the team folded because of lack of support and financial losses). Other sources say that MLS is lukewarm on the Miami market and wants assurances on the stadium financing before moving forward there. This bid has very strong potential if Beckham gets it done because MLS feels indebted to Beckham for putting the league on the global map.




  • Sacramento, CA – location in Northern California is an area where MLS has only one other team (San Jose) and the bid has many positive aspects.

TV Market Rank: 20th

Metro Population Rank: 27th

Fortune 500 Company HQ: 0 (several large companies located in city/metro area)

Synopsis/Overview – The Sacramento bid to MLS is one that is very positive but also has a few potentially problematic issues. The city has a solid TV market rank but the population of the metro area is smaller than other cities they would competitively bid against for a team. The bid has many moving parts because right now the city is fielding two bids on alternative tracks to gaining an expansion franchise. The first group is headed up by the co-founder of the Sacramento River Cats (minor league baseball) Warren Smith, who has purchased a USL-Pro minor league soccer team franchise to play in downtown Sacramento in 2014 ( Mr. Smith’s plan is to establish a fan base (part of the MLS requirements for expansion locations) build a front office that understands American pro soccer, and then deliver a new stadium downtown. The other area bid is from the suburb of Elk Grove which is being spearheaded by a public-private partnership involving Mayor Gary Davis and the City Council. The Elk Grove bid is focused completely on the business side of the scenario with the focus on building a brand new stadium on the site of an unfinished mall called Elk Grove Promenade (  The Elk Grove contingency has had discussions with MLS and is rumored to be the favored bid of the two. The area having two competing bids would not be good and would most likely resort in the city getting passed over by MLS. Mr. Smith has stated to local media outlets that if it looks like one bid is progressing better, they would all get in a room and rally around one bid for Sacramento (  Time will tell if they are successful.


  • Detroit – The “Motor City” is in the mix for a MLS team but it is more of an outsider at this point at least in terms of the initial expansion to 24 teams.

TV Markets Rank: 11th

Metro Population Rank: 14th

Fortune 500 Company HQ: 9

Synopsis/Overview: The Detroit rumor of expansion to MLS began four years ago, when the Apostopoulos family and their company, Triple Sports & Entertainment submitted the winning bid for the Pontiac Silverdome, which is the former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. The dome has not been used much since the Lions moved out in 2002 to play in downtown Detroit. The Silverdome is about 30 miles outside of Detroit and can seat 70 -80,000 depending on the type of event. That would be too large for MLS standards, so they would have to renovate the stadium or tear it down and build a new stadium on the site (  The family has deep pockets and would control all of the parking and other revenues at the stadium, which MLS finds favorable in a venue setup. The family had an elaborate plan to renovate the site which has changed dramatically. Now, the roof had been deflated in early 2013 to save energy and it has been torn apart by high winds ( The family has said it is installing a solar paneled roof and they have winterized the building. The TV market ranking is very good, the corporate sponsorship support would be strong as well. The big issues with the bid are the state of the economy in Detroit, the population demographics, and the ability of a fan base to support the team long term. At the time of Triple Sports buying the dome site, Detroit had not had a major soccer event since the 1994 World Cup. Since then, the city was awarded a minor league team, Detroit City FC, and they have pretty solid attendance numbers ( The population demographics are trending on the decline and MLS is probably unsure of the long term fan support based on the bankrupt city economy in Detroit (though Triple Sports maintains that they need no public money to build the stadium). The very latest proposal is for a new soccer stadium at the old dome site along with a 275,000 square foot retail space development project (  This bid seems like an outside type of bid based on the priority system of MLS at this point.





  • Minneapolis, MN – A very strong contender for the final expansion spot of the first wave announced by the league.

TV Markets Rank: 15th

Metro Area Population Rank: 16th

Fortune 500 Company HQ: 18

Synopsis/Overview: The Minneapolis area has all of the elements of a successful MLS expansion bid. They have a potential ownership group, they have an established fan base, and they will have a world class stadium in the near future. The media market size has been the draw for MLS, they need a franchise in the top 15 TV markets and in that northern region of the U.S. Midwest. The Minnesota United currently play in the minor league NASL and are the defending champions with an established loyal fan base (  The owner of the Minnesota Vikings NFL franchise has so much interest in an MLS team, he had the soccer configurations built-in to the plans for the new NFL stadium for the Vikings, which broke ground last week and will be completed by 2016 (  In a move that is very similar to the Atlanta bid, the roof would be lowered for soccer, or a covering would enclose the entire upper bowl of the stadium to bring the seating capacity in line with other MLS facilities. This is a very solid bid which has great potential.


  • San Antonio, TX – A rapidly growing city with a successful minor league soccer team and a diverse population.

TV Markets Rank: 37th

Metro Population Rank: 25th

Fortune 500 Company HQ: 5

Synopsis/Overview: The San Antonio bid for MLS has been ongoing for several years. At one point, the city was hoping to obtain an expansion franchise as a tenant for the AlamoDome, which was built with taxpayer dollars in the hope of getting an NFL team, and has never had a primary tenant. The city abandoned that plan and moved forward to explore other uses for that facility when MLS informed them they did not get an expansion bid in the prior round in 2007-08. A few years ago, San Antonio was awarded a second tier minor league soccer team, the Scorpions (  The Scorpions are regularly near the top of their league in attendance at their new soccer stadium, Toyota Field, which is considered by many to be among the nicest soccer facilities in the minor leagues (  The stadium can be expanded to MLS standards, and most definitely would be if the bid was accepted. The ownership group would not be an issue and the corporate support for sponsorship would be very strong. The fan base is established through the Scorpions current presence in the market, and the population is growing there and is very diverse, which is attractive for MLS. The TV market is small, which could be an issue, but remember that ranking is of a lower priority to MLS than it is to other sports leagues (  San Antonio has great potential for an expansion bid, however, it may be in the second wave of expansion further down the line. The success or failure of this bid is tied to whether or not the Miami bid falls apart (because MLS is still a bit lukewarm on that market) and the progress of the Sacramento bid as well. Those are the main bid cities in competition for those last two slots with San Antonio in the mix.



In the end, the demographics of the TV market, the metro area population, and the involvement of Fortune 500 corporate support are all very crucial elements in the expansion of professional sports.


The role of government is also of paramount importance in the expansion of professional sports leagues because the politicians are involved in many facets of developing land for a new arena or stadium and to garner support for the team within the business community.


This article series covered the interaction between all of these elements as they contribute to a bid for a potential expansion franchise. The series also covered each major sports league, their respective current situation, and the challenges which are uniquely inherent to each league regarding expansion.


In a society that is becoming more technologically advanced, where job related stress is expected to rise due to many factors, and where family time together or time to spend with friends is becoming more limited; sports has and will continue to take on a larger role.


The outlet which sports provides through following a team or a particular athlete, attending games or events, participating in sports fantasy leagues on-line, and the interaction it provides with others: either family, friends, or members of fan clubs are going to combine to make sports increasingly relevant as a source of entertainment.


That demand for professional sports of all types will create a need for more teams or leagues. The demographics of the country will shape that trend as well with population shifts to other regions of the U.S., for instance the migration of people out of the Northeast to Southern states. The trend is also evident in the population increase in Texas due to the economic growth there and in the migration of more people to the Western United States.


It will be interesting to follow the developments over the next several years of some of these situations described in this article series. The scenario currently in Detroit with the bankruptcy filing by their city government is a case study into the rationale behind the impetus by these other cities to explore gaining professional sports teams. The theory being that if their city obtains one or more teams, they can develop and revitalize their downtown centers with an arena or stadium as the centerpiece.


The domino theory being that these developments will bring jobs and population retention keeping the tax revenue within the city and making their city vibrant for years to come. The future will determine whether sports will play a central role in the rebirth of the American city. One factor is clear, the money involved in expanding these leagues is too significant to ignore, so expansion is in our future. The other details will be filled in over the course of the years ahead.



China – New Claims of Sovereignty

China, Japan, and the U.S. in the South China Sea


The most recent actions by China in their attempt to assert their claims to territory in and around the South China Sea has heightened tensions in the region in an unnecessary manner. The latest attempt of the new Chinese prerogative of territorial expansion deals with a small island chain that has large potential regional security consequences.


Here at “Frank’s Forum” I have stayed away from posting content on foreign policy in the past because it is not one of the areas my blog was set up to cover. However, this issue is one of high importance and the ramifications for the United States regarding their relationship with both China and Japan are so far reaching that I had to include this commentary.


If nothing else, I hope to raise awareness on a very important topic effecting a huge area of interest for the United States in Southeast Asia.


The Chinese government announced an “air defense zone” for the airspace surrounding the islands they call Diaoyo about 200 miles off their coast in the South China Sea. This announcement included a provision that any planes travelling within it would have to notify the Chinese government.


The United States made headlines by flying two B-52 bombers through that airspace without any notification to Beijing. This was seen by many as an indication by the United States that they will not accept China’s new attempts at expanding their sovereignty into that part of the Western Pacific.


The more troubling issue here is that China is trying to stake a new territorial claim on islands that Japan believes are within their sovereign holdings. The United States is essentially trapped in the middle because they are bound by treaty to come to the defense of Japan in the event of a threat on Japanese territory or interests.


Regional Shakeup


The Japanese have long claimed those same islands, which sit 200 miles from Okinawa, and refer to them as Senkaku or “pinnacle points”. Japan also claims the airspace around the islands, and will not back down from the Chinese and their aggressiveness regarding this claim.


Japan is in a difficult position because they view the islands as their territory and if they escalate the situation with China it could result in potentially volatile military or political repercussions. However, if Japan decides to back away from these islands, it will only serve to embolden China in their desire to extend their sovereignty to the rest of the South China Sea. That will result in the potential for instability throughout the entire region.


Furthermore, the foreign policy officials from the U.S. State Department are concerned that this air defense zone creates conditions for an accidental incident such as Chinese jets shooting down a Japanese or U.S. plane in that air space. That would initiate a cascade of military activity that would be a serious problem for stability between these very powerful countries.


At the center of this entire tug-of-war for territory is the high yield potential of oil and gas reserves contained in the waters surrounding the Senkaku islands. China is dealing with a vastly growing population, which carries with it an increasingly high demand for more energy.


Conversely, Japan is trying to rebound their economy from a terrible recession, and they need to make use of any resources potentially available to them to grow their industrial capacity and economic output.


Caught in the Middle


The United States finds itself caught in the middle of two very important international partners in China and Japan. The experts on this subject feel that this latest incident with the B-52 bombers, and China sending their lone aircraft carrier to that area of the South China Sea for the first time, will not result in military action by any party involved.


Vice President Joseph Biden is in the region on a very timely official trip to Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. The Vice President will attempt to ease the tension caused by China in their unilateral declaration of this protected air space surrounding that chain of islands.


Mr. Biden was in Japan first, where he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding this matter and several other foreign policy items. The threat of the air defense zone by China is expected to be a key issue. Many foreign policy experts believe that this expansionary exercise by China is being carried out in order to test the new Japanese leader.


However, Mr. Abe has shown a willingness to stand up to China and their territorial assertion regarding these islands. Then, at the same time, the prime minister is looking for the United States to be more demonstrative in their support of Japan in the case of this sovereignty claim for the Senkaku Islands.


Washington seems to have developed a position that takes the high ground in this circumstance. The United States does not want to get involved in a territory dispute between China and Japan for obvious reasons, and the White House has maintained that they recognize the claim of those islands by Japan but that the two countries need to work out a resolution.


Vice President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for over five hours yesterday, according to the Associated Press, and the Chinese made no concessions on the air defense zone. At this point no consensus was reached in a pathway forward to help ease tensions in this volatile region. Beijing feels that the U.S. has sided with Japan on this matter and has ignored the aggressive tactics of Tokyo towards Chinese territory recently.  Washington is trying to ride the middle ground here between two regional allies in Japan and China respectively, and trying to deescalate the tension which exists between the two nations.


The United States may be forced into a situation where that stance may become untenable, and the White House may have to change their strategy here to lead these two nations to explore a diplomatic solution to this issue.  The State Department may have to intercede to avoid a further escalation in the region because the United States is bound by treaty to defend Japan. A policy of indecision could result in an act of aggression by China against Japan, which is not a military situation that anyone wants to be involved in at this point.


The Sino-Japanese relationship has been fraught with problems for many years dating back to the two wars between them and then the brutal Japanese occupation of China during World War II. The Chinese government has requested on several occasions, including recently, for a formal Japanese apology for this brutality and Tokyo has refused to comply.



In the interests of all sides involved in this matter, we have to hope that the United States is successful, or else this situation may get heightened further, and has the potential to go beyond just saber rattling.


However, China is looking to expand their sovereign reach, and this is probably just the first step in that new functional imperative. It is critically important for the stability of the region that the U.S., Japan, and other nations determine a strategy for how they will address these expansionary efforts by China in the future. The consequences of ignoring these attempts could be detrimental on many levels.




Beach Replenishment Post- Hurricane Sandy

The New Jersey coast, which was battered in some places and destroyed in others by Hurricane Sandy, is undergoing a beach replenishment via federal hurricane relief funding.


The project had started earlier this year, and then was halted by the federal government shutdown. It is continuing now in the Long Branch area, which is going to receive $40 million in funding to rebuild their decimated beach ( The work began last week and is part of a $102 million beach replenishment project which covers the area of the New Jersey coastline from Sea Bright to Manasquan Inlet.


The project will bring 3.3 million cubic yards of sand to the Long Branch beach areas alone. The scale of this project is, by far, the most ambitious yet in New Jersey ( The question becomes whether or not it makes sense to continue to pursue this course when the storms continually pull the sand back into the ocean.


The proponents of the beach replenishment plan feel that it is vital to the economic recovery of the New Jersey Shore area to have larger beaches to accommodate tourists and visitors.


Some other groups in the general public believe that this project will provide additional protection to the beaches and the surrounding coastal town neighborhoods. The addition of that much sand calls for not only the beaches to be built back again, but the dunes system in many of these coastal areas as well.  The dunes will potentially hold back the tidal waves during a high wind and coastal storm event.


The other side


The other side of this situation is the view of the environmental and other community groups who believe that the beach should be repaired naturally and not with the involvement of engineered sand and sediment being dropped into place in huge quantities.


The sand is also dredged from the continental shelf, which causes the disruption of the ecosystem there as well as the underwater plant life in that area. The sediment caused by the addition of large amounts of new sand has an impact on the fish, birds, and other wildlife on the coast.


The beach replenishment projects have been growing steadily over the years, and this latest project is massive because of the extreme amount of damage caused by the mammoth Hurricane Sandy last year. The grain size of the sand in these projects is also problematic because it is usually larger than the grain size of the sand currently on the existing beaches. This causes the beaches to be muddy and changes the way the waves break on the shore especially during tidal periods. I have experienced it myself walking on the beach after the new sand has been installed, the sand is muddy and different in appearance.


These same groups will point to the fact that the same coastal areas were the beneficiaries of a beach replenishment project in the months leading up to the summer of 2012, and then Sandy and the Nor’easter storm which hit right after Election Day,  wiped out all of the sand from the last nourishment project.




I understand both sides of this complex issue, the fortification of the beaches is needed to build the dunes, provide protection for the infrastructure of coastal communities, and provide support to the tourism industry. I am also a long time resident of the New Jersey Shore area, so I am very familiar with this situation.


Conversely, the beaches are being artificially engineered by man and machine to bring tons of new sand into a specific area with potential consequences to the environment and the natural habitats of fish, birds, and other wildlife. Then, every two years, the government looks at replenishing the beaches because the sand is being pulled away by the ocean during coastal storms.


The reduction of sand in the Continental Shelf has to have some effect on the ecosystem there as well. I am not sure if it is rational to keep restoring a coastline against the will of nature. I understand that the dunes are a source of protection but I think it is not a good situation to keep artificially enhancing them.


Then there is the sediment build up and the effect it has on the waves, especially during the peak tide cycles, and the role that the sediment has on fish and other wildlife. I am also concerned about the effect this enhancement of the beach can have on erosion. Some reports I read indicate that the expansion of the coastline through beach replenishment can actually accelerate erosion.


I think that the potential risks to the environment are too great and too costly for this type of beach nourishment to be effective. I also do not like the impact it can have on the ecosystem and the marine and bird life.


An argument can also be made for the cost of the beach replenishment process and using that money to make other infrastructure improvements. This could include building up the jetties which allows for a more natural tidal flow and can have less impact on the fish and wildlife. The money could also be used to make improvements to roads and bridges which were damaged during Sandy.


In the meantime, the project will continue with this phase in Long Branch and then will continue to work its way to the north to Monmouth Beach. The debate on whether this enhancement of the beach is good for the protection of coastal communities, or bad because of the environmental implications will continue on in the weeks and months ahead as well. The residents of New Jersey have to decide how they want the government to address this complex issue both in the present situation and in the future.


The stakes are high, and it is a problem which is not going away any time soon.