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Soccer, mostly, but some other stuff, too

Taking Attendance 2/1/2016: Checking On MASL Numbers

With a month and a week to go in the Major Arena Soccer League‘s 2015-2016 season, here are the latest crowd figures for the latest attempt at a pro indoor soccer league in North America.

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Baltimore 8 44,922 5,615 4,376 9,442 3,204
Sonora 7 37,036 5,291 5,450 5,811 4,621
St. Louis 7 36,667 5,238 5,281 5,851 4,391
Missouri 8 30,398 3,800 3,762 4,911 2,973
Milwaukee 7 24,043 3,435 3,228 5,652 2,091
San Diego 7 21,280 3,040 3,134 4,441 2,004
Ontario 7 19,670 2,810 3,078 4,052 1,832
Cedar Rapids 9 24,080 2,676 2,721 3,110 2,254
Chicago 9 21,764 2,418 2,510 3,778 1,174
Tacoma 7 16,089 2,298 2,148 3,710 1,715
Dallas 9 20,369 2,263 2,130 4,486 1,307
Syracuse 6 13,535 2,256 1,964 3,279 1,616
Harrisburg 8 14,507 1,813 1,740 2,515 1,401
Waza Flo 5 5,209 1,042 1,067 1,290 754
Baja 6 3,157 526 522 850 184
Las Vegas 6 2,866 478 458 595 393
Turlock 8 3,313 414 406 525 269
Sacramento 8 2,738 342 356 525 127
Brownsville 7 2,197 314 200 1,000 124
Saltillo 6 1,660 277 207 500 117
MASL TOTAL 145 345,500 2,383 2,109 9,442 117

NOTES:

  • Baltimore continues to lead the league, but its margin over expansionist Sonora is down to <200 people per game. St. Louis (which would like you to believe they had 4,971 folks show up at 11 a.m. on a recent Friday when they had to reschedule their game against Syracuse) is third and those are the three teams averaging more than 5,000 announced per game.
  • You want consistency? MASL games played Monday through Friday to this point have averaged 2,384 in attendance. Those played on Saturday or Sunday have averaged 2,382.
  • After 145 games last year, the league average was 2,327. It’s 2,383 at the moment (with two games not reported).
  • Except for one game in early March (which, for all we know, may be played after the playoffs actually start, which happened last year), February is the final month of the season. If the teams hold their current averages, the league will finish with a 2,291 average. Last year, the MASL averaged 2,519, which was the lowest by an indoor league since the 1980s.
  • With only a month to go, the chances improve that all the teams that started the season (which the stillborn Hartford club did not do) will finish it. But I would expect at least four or five of the 20 teams above to not be around by the start of the 2016-2017 season.

1978 PBA Tour Replay: A Lane Change



Having previously played APBA Baseball and Football, Statis-Pro NBA Basketball and the Title Bout boxing game, I’ve recently added another game to my replay repertoire: the APBA Pro Bowling Game, which was only produced from 1979-1991. 1

I’m not a big bowler (I only hit the lanes about once every couple of years, and don’t do well), but the game is fun and fast and interesting and I’m always up for a trip to the 70s. I recently acquired the original game and 48 bowlers’ cards representing the 1978 PBA Tour season, so I’m in the midst of a replay that, so far, has been a blast.

Like the other APBA offerings, the bowling game uses individual player cards mathematically created to replicate each player’s previous season’s accomplishments. Bowlers have a strike column and a spare column, whose results show if a kegler has knocked ‘em all down or left a tough spare or split. (There are lots of all of those, as well as drama and fantastic finishes.) Perhaps best of all, APBA accuracy comes with brevity, as you can play a game in under 15 minutes and replay the entire stepladder finals of a tournament 2 in about an hour.

I’ve played the stepladders of the first eight tournaments on the 1978 PBA Tour schedule so far. Results and leaders are after the jump.
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APBA32: The Babe Is Back

babe_ruth_baseball_cardBabe Ruth hit six home runs in his first seven games in my APBA mini-replay of the 1932 baseball season, but the sultan hadn’t swatted one out in his last eight games as the Yankees and A’s started a three-game series in the Bronx on June 24. But with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning against Lefty Grove, Ruth drilled his seventh homer of the season into the seats in right to give New York a 1-0 lead.

Then with two out in the bottom of the tenth inning, tied 2-2, Ruth delivered a double1 down the right field line off Tony Freitas, scoring Doc Farrell from second as New York won 3-2 to break a tie with the A’s atop the AL standings.

Ruth is now hitting .377 in the replay, with 19 RBI. Athletics’ first baseman Jimmie Foxx leads the league with nine homers and 23 RBI, but he went 0-for-4 against Johnny Allen and it was left to Philadelphia’s Dib Williams to drive in the tying runs with an eighth-inning double.

At the other end of the AL standings, the Red Sox and White Sox played an exciting series opener at Fenway Park. The two bottom-feeders combined for 17 hits and five errors and left 17 men on base between them, and the game was decided on a throwing error by Chicago catcher Charlie Berry in the bottom of the tenth.

In other AL games, the Tigers stayed within a game of the top by beating the Browns and the Senators sent the Indians to their fifth straight defeat.

National League-leading Philadelphia won their seventh straight game and kept a two-game edge over Boston (who has won five in a row). The Pirates beat the Cubs, the Braves shut out the Cardinals (that’s six losses in a row for the defending NL champions) and the Reds smacked the Giants.

Results, standings and notes after the jump.

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It Was 25 Years Ago Today

A quarter-century can go by pretty quickly if you’re not careful. A full 25 years ago today, the Fort Myers (Fla.) Sun Sox of the Senior Professional Baseball Association folded, taking the league with it in short order.

I covered the league – which was designed to draw snowbirds to Florida’s spring training sites in the winter to see former major leaguers play – as a sports anchor for WINK-TV in Fort Myers, and vividly remember that Boxing Day when the team went under. (I wrote more about the league and its teams’ uniforms a while back.) The SPBA never did get much traction, and the warning signs were there well before the league actually struck out for the final time.

You can see more videos – including game highlights and such – here. There’s no really good repository of information on the SPBA, unfortunately. Maybe someone should create one.

#TBT When Paul Gardner Said Columbus “Is Not A Soccer Town”

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With the Columbus Crew set to host MLS Cup 2015 this Sunday against the Portland Timbers, it’s worth looking back to early 2002, when soccer’s resident curmudgeon Paul Gardner of Soccer America1 lamented the fact that Major League Soccer had just contracted its Miami and Tampa Bay clubs in favor of Midwestern outposts like Kansas City and Columbus.

“Starkly put, MLS has abandoned largely Hispanic Florida in favor of largely Anglo Midwest. I was in Columbus recently for the (NCAA) College Cup. The country’s only custom-built pro-soccer stadium was virtually deserted and the community interest non-existent.

Nothing more needs to be said. Columbus is not a soccer town. But MLS prefers to have a franchise there than among the Hispanics in Florida.

The gentlemen who make that sort of decision are Anglo businessmen. Short-sighted Anglo-businessmen whose myopia will not allow them to see that a soccer league might occasionally need decisions to be made for soccer, rather than financial, reasons.”

This probably isn’t the earliest written example of this Englishman’s odd, enduring obsession with Hispanics in soccer (especially in American soccer), which continues to this day. Were you so inclined, you could likely find even earlier examples of his insistence that “Latino flair” is the cure for what ails us.

But the point of the 2002 article – that MLS was being short-sighted for folding its Florida teams while keeping whitebread Columbus and Kansas City around – looks even sillier than it did at the time. (Some folks called him out on it then, to their credit.) Kansas City has a jewel of a stadium that it fills most of the time now, while Columbus is a traditional and tradition-filled site for big soccer matches. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay area has a middling NASL franchise playing in a baseball stadium on the wrong side of the Bay and the would-be owner of MLS’ new Miami(ish) club can’t exactly come up with a place to play.

You’d think “largely Hispanic Florida”2 would have given us more over the last 14 years. Or that decisions made for financial reasons would have been proven by now not to be the right ones.

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The Fishing Line: And That’s That

Tampa TarponsFinishing with a mini-flourish, the Tampa Tarpons concluded their maiden season in TSL with a 9-9 November that was their second straight .500 month but was far too little and far too late. The club finished 71-87, well off the playoff pace, but did go 41-38 in front of the home fans at Al Lopez Field.

November did see the team’s first-ever series sweep, and while it was only three games, the month-opening wins over their nemesis the Carolina Speerits were satisfying. Felix Hernandez and two relievers combined to set down the first 25 Tarpon hitters in the second game of the series, but Tampa broke open the perfect game, no-hitter and, eventually, the contest on Gregor Blanco’s game-winning home run in the bottom of the twelfth. All three games were one-run affairs, with the Tarpons’ bullpen turning in 13 scoreless innings.

Shutouts were the name of the game in the next home set against Park City, with a 6-0 combined shutout by four pitchers sandwiched between 8-0 and 5-0 losses to the Pickers. The Tarpons’ offensive woes continued in a trip to Carolina, as they managed just three runs (all in the final game) and lost all three to the Speerits.

Extra-inning heartbreak was one of the storylines of the season, and an 8-6 loss in 12 on the first game of a three-game set in Park City dropped the Gamefish to 3-8 in extended games. Tampa squared the series with a 3-2 win in game two, but dropped the series finale 5-2.

All that remained were six games against The Superbas to wrap up the month and the season. Needing four wins to break even on the month, the Tarpons got them, winning each series 2-1. A 15-inning loss in the opener set the tone for how close the competition would be, and each of the six games was decided by one or two runs. Returning home for the final three-game set, the Tarpons won 3-2, lost 3-1 and claimed the season finale 2-1 as Adam Wainwright got the win, Al Alburquerque his 33rd save and Justin Ruggiano the game-winning hit on a sixth-inning home run.

Midseason trade acquisition Dioner Navarro was the hitting star for the month (and, in fact, was TSL Player of the Month for November), with a .351 average (20-for-57) and six doubles while contributing solid defense behind the plate. (Catchers were a problem spot for the club all year, as receivers hit just .194 and slugged just .273 on the campaign.) Meanwhile, Wainwright went 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his final six starts, and was unlucky not to go 6-0.

Designated Hitter/Firstbaseman/Thirdbaseman Miguel Cabrera was the team’s Most Valuable Player for the season. The big fella hit a team-high .270, with 26 home runs, 83 RBI and 45 doubles. By drawing a team-high 57 walks, he managed a .334 OBP and .756 OPS. As a team, though, the Tarpons hit just .221 and averaged just 3.4 runs per game.

Wainwright won 14 games, tying with Jered Weaver for the team lead, but claimed the Tarpons’ Cy Young Award thanks to his 2.66 ERA, 11 complete games and staff leadership. Alburquerque’s 33 saves came in 45 appearances, and he had a 3-4 record and 2.61 ERA. The staff’s combined ERA of 3.80 wasn’t terrible, but the rotation could use some strengthening over the offseason.

With a 67-71 record from May on, the Tarpons proved they could be competitive in their first season. Building on that and finding the right combination at the plate and on the mound will be a key to their prospects for 2016.

APBA32: Numbers Game

blog_zach_uniformNumbers on baseball uniforms are ubiquitous at all levels of the game today1, but in 1932, the idea of numbering major leaguers’ jerseys was still not universal.

The Cleveland Indians had worn numbers on their sleeves as far back as 1916, and the St. Louis Cardinals experimented with it in 1923, but the Indians were the first to wear numbers on their backs on April 16, 1929. The Yankees were planning to go with numbered jerseys that same day, but were rained out, so they had to wait until the next day2. The American League – except for Athletics’ manager and owner Connie Mack, who feared a reduction in the sales of scorecards3 and resisted until 1939 – had adopted jersey numbers in 1931, but the National League was slower to come around.

On the eve of the season – which I’m replaying in a mini-format using the APBA Baseball Game – the Boston Braves announced that they would become the first NL club to add numbers to their players’ jerseys – apparently against the wishes of their league, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame4. Because there were no rules about how to do this, and because we were far from the time when athletes would become attached to particular numbers, batting orders had been the easiest way to determine who would wear which digit5. The Braves’ lineup on Opening Day, April 12 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn was:

1 Rabbit Maranville 2B
2 Red Worthington LF
3 Wally Berger CF
4 Wes Schulmerich RF
5 Art Shires 1B
10 Billy Urbanski SS
7 Fritz Knothe 3B
8 Al Spohrer C
11 Ed Brandt P

(Apparently Bill Akers was intended to be the starting shortstop and sixth-place hitter, but Akers didn’t become the regular until June in what would be his final big-league season.)

Dick Bartell of the Philadelphia Phillies - wearing No. 2 - slides in as Cubs' catcher Gabby Hartnett - who not only is wearing No. 7 that you can't see, but has the team name in script on his left sleeve - awaits on September 7, 1932. (H/T to BehindtheBag.net.

Dick Bartell of the Philadelphia Phillies – wearing No. 2 – slides in as Cubs’ catcher Gabby Hartnett – who not only is wearing No. 7 that you can’t see, but has the team name in script on his left sleeve – awaits on September 7, 1932. (H/T to BehindtheBag.net.)

The Pittsburgh Pirates, meanwhile, took a different approach: they had no players with single-digit numbers, gave outfielders numbers 10-19, infielders numbers 20-29, catchers numbers 30-39 and pitchers numbers 40-49. (Only one AL pitcher – Boston’s Ed Gallagher – and no NL pitchers wore single-digit numbers, establishing a tradition that – largelyendures to this day.)

Finally, on June 22 at a mid-season meeting6, National League owners acquiesced and adopted jersey numbers, putting an end to what must seem to today’s fan to be the most innocuous argument ever. NL President John Heydler announced the settlement thusly:

“The numbers will appear on the uniforms as soon as each club can make the necessary arrangements.

“This matter of numbering players has been up before the league several times in the last three or four years, and the club presidents have held different opinions on the subject. But these opinions were promptly merged today into one general vote for numbering the players.”

Within ten days, the rest of the league had put numbers on uniforms. The highest numbers were the #49 worn by the Cubs’ Vince Barton and the #48 on the back of the Pirates’ Erv Brame. (The AL’s highest numbers were the #49 worn by – at various times – the White Sox’ Greg Mulleavy and Billy Sullivan.)

All but two teams – the Pirates and Athletics – had players wearing the number 1. Nine were infielders, four were outfielders, one was a pitcher and one was a catcher (Frank Grube of the White Sox)7. Today, we see all sorts of bizarre uniform numbers on big-league fields and they make only minor waves. It’s hard to imagine a time when the idea of any number on a uniform was cause for great debate and consternation.

Looking Ahead

The next series of games in the replay (scheduled for June 24-26) includes interesting sets at the top and bottom of the American League. The Yankees and Athletics, both 11-4, play three at Yankee Stadium, while the bottom-dwelling Red Sox and White Sox meet for three games at Fenway Park. Boston will have a new leader, as Shano Collins resigned as the Sawx’ manager on June 19 with a 3-12 record8. The other two series have Washington at Cleveland and St. Louis at Detroit.

In the National League, the red-hot Phillies (six straight wins) host the Brooklyn Dodgers for three, while the Boston Braves will try to stay close behind as they play at St. Louis. The Giants are at Cincinnati and the Cubs and Pirates (who were the real life 1-2 finishers in the league) play three in Pittsburgh.

The 42-game mini-season format obviously lends itself to outlandish stats and a reversal of results from real life, but I quite like it for my purposes, which are to have fun and (hopefully) get this thing completed in under two years.

Twisted

blog_pretzels_getzienFormer 19th century big-league pitcher Charlie “Pretzels” Getzien (right) passed away on June 19, 1932. I had not heard of Getzien (that’s part of the fun of doing all this), but reading about his career and the conflicting reports of how he acquired his nickname was intriguing. And then I got to thinking about whether you could create an “All-Snack Food Team” of former major league players. Here’s mine:

C Ricky Joe Sweet
1B Sean Robert Berry
2B Octavio Victor “Cookie” Rojas
3B Harry Arthur “Cookie” Lavagetto9
SS Francis James “Salty” Parker
OF Peter Martin Fries
OF Candido “Candy” Maldonado
OF Harry Lee “Peanuts” Lowrey
P Charlie “Pretzels” Getzien
DH Walter William “Chip” Hale

Can you think of anyone else who should be included on the All-Snack-Foods team?

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Taking Attendance 11/27/2015: First Look At MASL Crowds

Now that every team in the Major1 Arena Soccer League has played at least one home game, let’s take a quick look at the announced attendance figures for our latest attempt at a top-flight indoor soccer league in this country2:

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Baltimore 3 16,786 5,595 4,140 9,442 3,204
St. Louis 1 5,368 5,368 5,368 5,368 5,368
Sonora 2 9,669 4,835 4,835 5,048 4,621
Missouri 2 8,973 4,487 4,487 4,911 4,062
San Diego 2 8,474 4,237 4,237 4,441 4,033
Ontario 1 3,302 3,302 3,302 3,302 3,302
Syracuse 1 3,279 3,279 3,279 3,279 3,279
Tacoma 2 5,928 2,964 2,964 3,710 2,218
Milwaukee 2 5,628 2,814 2,814 3,228 2,400
Cedar Rapids 1 2,721 2,721 2,721 2,721 2,721
Harrisburg 1 1,911 1,911 1,911 1,911 1,911
Dallas 2 3,385 1,693 1,693 1,750 1,635
Chicago 2 2,773 1,387 1,387 1,599 1,174
Waza Flo 1 1,067 1,067 1,067 1,067 1,067
Brownsville 1 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
Las Vegas 1 595 595 595 595 595
Saltillo 2 950 475 475 500 450
Turlock 3 1,156 385 400 401 355
Sacramento 3 1,100 367 425 450 225
Baja *0 0 0 0 0 0
MASL TOTAL 33 84,065 2,547 2,218 9,442 225
*One game not reported


The league average is down slightly from the first 33 games of a year ago (when it was 3,017). Part of that is Dallas’ decline (from 3,632 for the 2014-2015 season to less than half that through the first couple of home dates) and Monterrey and Rochester (who had good pre-Thanksgiving crowds last year) sitting out the season. Still, it’s a wee early to draw any grand conclusions. The teams you’d expect to have drawn by this point have, for the most part, and the bottom-feeders are feeding at the bottom. Sonora is a slight surprise, Tacoma is a pleasant surprise and Dallas shouldn’t really be a surprise given their new owners took over at the eleventh hour, but it’s unfortunate to see the Sidekicks seemingly decline in relevance.

Speaking of the Stars and Sidekicks, Tacoma is marketing their two-game set against Dallas next weekend as “Throwback Throwdown” and claiming it’s “Payback 30 years in the making.” Of course, they’re referring to one of the greatest playoff series in the history of the game, the 1987 MISL finals, won by Dallas in front of the largest crowd in indoor soccer’s history. (As a digression, that should have been the turning point, shouldn’t it? Things should have taken off from there, right? Only the MISL was already on shaky ground and they never did capitalize on a wondrous playoff and the amazing crowds.) Only very few people would confuse those Stars and those Sidekicks for these Stars and these Sidekicks and, realistically, very few people have been waiting 28 years to get revenge on Mark Karpun. But here’s hoping it goes well for them.

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APBA32: The Philadelphia Story

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Just over a third of the way through my APBA Baseball mini-replay of the 1932 season, both of Philadelphia’s teams are in first place1. In all the time2 the teams shared the market, the closest they came to both finishing first was in 1913, when the A’s won the AL pennant and the Phillies finished second, 12 and a half games behind the Giants. Two years later, when the Phillies lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, Connie Mack’s dismantled club finished dead last, 58 and a half games out. In 1928, when the A’s finished second a year before starting a three-year pennant run, the Phillies finished eighth, 51 games off the pace. The normal distance between the two clubs’ fortunes far exceeded the distance between their two ballparks, which were only separated by a few city blocks.

In real life in 1932, the Athletics finished 13 games behind the pennant-winning Yankees, and, as has been noted before, it’s easy to see why they were a very, very good team. The Phils, meanwhile, finished fourth in the actual 1932 campaign, going 78-76 under Burt Shotton, and it’s also easy to see why: they scored a league-high 844 runs3, but their pitching staff gave up a league-high 796 runs4. Early on in this 42-game sprint, though, the Phils’ offense is a juggernaut and their team ERA is a majors-best 2.265. With three of the NL’s top five hitters (Don Hurst, Chuck Klein and Hal Lee), the Phillies are crushing it, having scored a league-high 83 runs, helping them sweep each of their last two series. On June 17 in the replay, Philadelphia rallied with three in the bottom of the ninth to beat St. Louis 6-5 and maintain a two-game edge atop the league standings.

The A’s, meanwhile, took advantage of St. Louis’ 8-6 win over New York and moved into a first place tie with the Yankees6 with a 7-1 thumping of the hapless Red Sox in Boston. Mack’s men also lead the league in runs scored, but by only five over Ruth and company, and their pitching staff’s 2.98 ERA is the best in the American League. Roy Mahaffey (2-0, 1.00) leads the league in ERA, but Lefty Grove is third at 1.33 (and is 3-0) and Rube Walberg is sixth at 2.09 (to go with a 4-1 record). It would be an upset if either Philadelphia team were able to outpace the real-life pennant winners, the Yankees and Cubs, but part of the fun of a mini-replay is that almost anything can happen.

In other games on June 17, the Senators crushed the White Sox 17-1 and the Tigers pummeled the Indians 12-5, while the Braves finished a sweep of the Reds to stay within two games of the Phillies.

Results, standings and notes after the jump.

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Schmeling Fells Louis!

blog_schmeling_louisNEW YORK, June 22, 1938 Max Schmeling became the first man to regain the world heavyweight championship tonight by beating reigning champion Joe Louis by fifth-round TKO in front of 72,000 fans at Yankee Stadium.

Schmeling, who came into the fight a 3-to-1 underdog, was in control from the outset, landing repeated jabs to Louis’ head and body in the first two rounds. One knocked the champion to the canvas for a five count in the second and another tore a gash in Louis’ mouth.

Louis – in his fourth title defense – recovered and got back in the fight by doing some damage with crosses while withstanding more blows from the German in the third and using jabs and uppercuts to score direct hits to Schmeling’s body in winning the fourth.

But the fifth round was all Schmeling as he came out the aggressor and landed punch after punch to Louis’ body and head. While Louis tried to cover up and hold on until the bell, Schmeling scored with a late flurry of two right jabs and a left cross late in the round that prompted referee Arthur Donovan to step in and stop the fight.

It marked the second time in two years that the Black Uhlan from the Rhine bested the Brown Bomber at Yankee Stadium, following the 12th round knockout that was Louis’ first-ever defeat on June 19, 1936. With the world title back in his possession, Schmeling’s record now stands at 53-7-4, while Louis is now 35-2 as a professional.
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Regular readers know of my hobby of sports simulations, primarily using the APBA baseball and football games. I recently acquired a vintage (1979) copy of Title Bout, a boxing game featuring hundreds of fighters from throughout history, and while I’m not a big fan of the Sweet Science, the game is fun and it’s cool to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of immortal fighters of the past and replay some of the sport’s greatest bouts.

The story above recounts my first effort, a replay of the famous Louis-Schmeling fight of 1938. In real life, Louis avenged his knockout defeat of two years previously by crushing Schmeling and knocking him out just two minutes into the first round. But Schmeling was a strong fighter – he would finish with a record of 56-10-4 with 40 KOs and was world champion from 1930-1932 – and everything went right for him in my replay.

Schmeling’s boxing career was interrupted by World War II, in which he served as an elite paratrooper in the German Luftwaffe. He died in 2005, seven months shy of his 100th birthday and 24 years after the passing of Louis (with whom he had become friends after their history-making bouts).

What other bouts – either actual historic fights or what if? matchups – would you like to see?