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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary


December 11, 2015

It has been a maddening experience for me over the past few months seeing the battle over Daily Fantasy Sports play out, watching and observing and being acutely aware of what's going on and not being able to openly write much about it. That's not to say that I've been muzzled, or strong-armed into signing a non-disclosure by sinister forces (this isn't TV news), but I know anything I write about the DraftKings/FanDuel vs. corrupt politicians battle could potentially be used against my best interests.

Luckily, as I've told anyone who will listen, DraftKings is run by people who are very intelligent. If anyone is going to find a solution to the infuriating quagmire that the Daily Fantasy Sports industry finds itself in right now, it's them. So, at least for now, I have to be patient.

I decided to pipe down on everything for a little while after this tweet that I had pinned to my Twitter profile was then mirrored (perhaps coincidentally) by Chris Christie in a GOP debate. To me, it was a sign that perhaps I was flying too close to the sun, so to speak. Sometimes in life you have to know when to lay out.

My Twitter post: "Mass incarceration, $18T+ in debt, corruption in DC... but my NFL Draft site is what's wrong with America? Who knew?"

Chris Christie (10/29/2015): "We have the government involved in fantasy football? We have, wait a second, we have 19 trillion dollars in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and Al Qaeda attacking us, and we're talking about fantasy football?"

News broke yesterday that Father Ryan High School head football coach Bruce Lussier, 64, is retiring after 11 years running the team. No word yet on who will replace him, but whoever lands the gig will face some challenges. FRHS plays in Tennessee's Division II-AA, a private school grouping that is loaded with great teams.

In reality, there are plenty of alumni who are very unhappy that FRHS hasn't beaten Montgomery Bell Academy in football since the 1997 state championship game. What once was a close all-time head-to-head record between the two schools in the sport has tilted sharply in MBA's favor. Here's hoping that changes in 2016, though it's going to be an uphill battle with MBA having such a strong squad.

To point, their star RB, Ty Chandler, is without question the best high school RB I've ever seen in person, and he's only a junior. To be sure, there's a reason that so many top-tier universities are clamoring to land him. It won't be easy for Father Ryan to beat MBA next year, but of course I'll be pulling for my alma mater to make it happen.

The most fascinating story of 2015, at least in my estimation, has been the sustained success of Donald Trump in polls in the Republican presidential battle. And with the holiday season here to distract the general public, there are no indications that will change any by the end of the year.

Because he is self-funded, Trump isn't beholden to the lobbyists and PACs and Super PACs and the big money that rules both major political parties in the United States. The result has been fascinating, a loose cannon candidate who behaves like a heel pro wrestling manager and speaks his mind with impunity.

Some of Trump's positions and claims have been outrageous. He said that waterboarding, which is simulated drowning, isn't torture and should be an option to use in interrogations. He wants a giant wall between the U.S. and Mexico. His call for all Muslim immigrants to be temporarily denied entry into the United States is untenable on several levels, starting with it being unconstitutional, and it stirred the media into a frenzy this week.

At the same time, Trump talks about things that other candidates almost never mention. He openly questions why the U.S. has military bases set up all over the world while the country approaches 19 trillion dollars in debt. He even called out Saudi Arabia, which is unheard of from the GOP.

And, in a refreshingly common sense view, Trump supports medical use of cannabis, which is more than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is willing to do. And, hey, you can take stands like that when you're not depending on money from Big Pharma to help fund your campaign. It's a strong sign that the blind belief of the lies perpetuated by William Randolph Hearst and Harry J. Anslinger is slowly but surely being eroded.

So, why is Trump finding success? He's very believable in a business that is short on honesty and long on vague promises and generalized themes. He's not easily thrown off by hard questions. He's an established brand name, a celebrity who has used puffery and grandeous exaggeration for years to his advantage. He makes harsh comments about members of the media, not to mention other candidates, and does so without apology.

In short, when you listen to Trump, you don't hear the usual political double-talk. You might not like what he says, but he comes across as the lone sincere mainstream candidate among a group of propped-up phony politicians following the way the political winds blow -- and the cash of the real power brokers behind the scenes.

Conventional measures used to take out candidates who won't play ball with the big money types haven't worked against Trump. Opponents knock him and he retorts with an escalation that would make Joe Pesci's character in Casino proud. As a known entity, he has done well enough in the polls that he can't be ignored, like what used to happen to Ron Paul. The media runs negative stories on him, but they seem to have little impact.

For the Republican Party, it has created a real quandary. As of this writing, there is no clear-cut establishment front-runner to rally behind. If the GOP tries to upend Trump at the end with a brokered convention, he almost for sure will run as an independent, giving a huge advantage to the Democrats. There has been (and still is) hope among many Republicans who don't like Trump that he would eventually do something to accidentally deep-six his campaign.

Of course, that tactic has been ineffective to this point. Trump has had several moments on the campaign trail where he has said something outlandish, ranging from the aforementioned ban on Muslim immigrants to insulting John McCain over being captured in the Vietnam War. But, thus far, he has been able to overcome gaffes that would have sunk most other politicians.

There's no way to know for sure how it will all play out, but if nothing else the GOP campaign has been far more entertaining than it would have been otherwise with Trump's involvement. And, with 2016 almost here, it's looking more and more likely that he will have a powerful influence on how the general election in November plays out, win or lose. As always, we shall see.

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