Archive for August, 2012

With the return of college football on Thursday night, here’s the season premiere of the weekly post combining my SBNation BlogPoll ballot, parlay picks for 3 games each for college and the NFL (including every Illinois and Bears game) and a classic music video (heavily tilted toward old school rap, ’80s trash rock and ’90s one-hit wonders as always).  Let’s get to it:

(1) BlogPoll Ballot

Nothing too crazy here, as evidenced by the fact that I ranked #2 out of more than 100 voters in the “Mr. Dumb Existence” category for having a low standard deviation between my personal ballot and the overall poll.  I feel pretty good that any of the top 5 can make it to the national championship game (look at Florida State’s schedule and tell me that they can’t run the table there) while it’s more of a crapshoot afterwards.

(2) Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

Navy (+15.5) over Notre Dame (in the land of Guiness) – These schools will be completely out of their element overseas, which means that this is way too large of a spread for my tastes.

Western Michigan (+10) over ILLINOIS – I don’t know what it is, but Illinois always sleepwalks against the Broncos.  Being a Chicago and Illini sports fan, I’ve accumulated a lot of rooting scar tissue over the years and the Illinois loss to WMU at Ford Field in 2008 is up there in terms of sheer horror.  I’ll be down in Champaign with my wife and twins for this one, so I hope I’m wrong here.

AUBURN (+3.5) over Clemson – Clemson has a habit of burning gamblers in high profile openers.  I’d take a solid SEC home team and the points.

(3) Classic Music Video of the Week: “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit

This song from my college days has held up fairly well over the years, but its video in particular has held a special place in my heart since the main feature of the town that I grew up in (Glenwood, Illinois) was its old school bowling alley that circulated the same nicotine-tinged air from the 1950s through its closing in 2008.  R.I.P., Glenwood Bowl.

Enjoy the sweet smell of a brand new football season and your Labor Day weekend!

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

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“Notre Dame is no longer relevant.” That’s a fashionable phrase among sportswriters and the bloggerati as we head into a new college football season next week. Rick Reilly kicked up the dust like many others before this past week with his “Demoting Notre Dame” column. His argument is that Notre Dame hasn’t won anything for a long time, therefore:

(1) Notre Dame doesn’t deserve “special treatment” from the BCS.

(2) Notre Dame doesn’t deserve its NBC TV contract.

(3) Notre Dame doesn’t deserve all of the preseason hype.

(4) Notre Dame doesn’t deserve to be independent and needs to join a conference.

These statements have been made by many people many times before, with the only difference for Reilly is that he gets to trumpet his view on the front page of ESPN.com.

Of course, the mere fact that so many people feel the need to proclaim that Notre Dame is “irrelevant” is de facto proof that they are very relevant. Sportswriters might take some time to review the latest hookers-and-blow scandal at Miami, but no one has written that the Hurricanes are “irrelevant”. When a whole host of power schools went through down periods over the past decade, including Alabama and Michigan programs that will be playing a massive opening weekend game at Jerry World next week, I don’t recall anyone complaining that they were still on TV too much or living off of their respective histories.

Look – I’m an Illinois alum that lives and works in the Chicago area. Unlike the vast majority of college football fans, I actually have to deal with Domers (actual Notre Dame alums as opposed to subway fans) on a daily basis. To say that they have an inflated sense of self-worth about their school is an understatement – the football elitism that comes out that school makes Texas, Michigan and USC look like humblebots.

However, it has always bothered me when sportswriters and college football fans claim that Notre Dame doesn’t “deserve” all of its bowl perks and TV money. Whether Notre Dame deserves anything has little to do with whether it has performed on-the-field since the Lou Holtz era. The free market says that Notre Dame is valuable and it is rewarded accordingly. It’s as simple as that. NBC offered Notre Dame a TV contract as opposed to the other way around, so for Reilly to suggest that the school should “do the right thing and not renew” it is asinine. All of the Nielsen metrics suggest that the Pac-12 should not be receiving anywhere near the money that it will be taking in under its new TV deals that being this week, yet would Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott be hailed if he “did the right thing” and took less money for the conference? Of course not! He would have been proclaimed an idiot and fired on the spot. Even the critiques that Notre Dame’s TV ratings have been dropping (which is true) don’t account for the fact that NBC televises all Irish home games, whether they’re playing Michigan or Tulsa. If any national network had to average in Florida vs. a Sun Belt school or Ohio State vs. a MAC school, it’s doubtful that those power schools would draw the audiences that Irish are able to draw when playing cupcake games (with the caveat that Notre Dame has been losing a large number of those cupcake games lately).

At the same time, Notre Dame’s “special treatment” from the BCS has long been overblown. Reilly rails against the Irish receiving a “bonus” of $1.3 million when it doesn’t go to a BCS bowl game, yet ignores the fact that schools such as Indiana, Washington State and Vanderbilt receive the same type of “bonus” from their respective conferences whether they are 12-0 or 0-12. For practical purposes, Notre Dame is receiving about the same amount from the BCS each year as any random member of a power conference, which is hardly “special treatment”. As for access, all that the current BCS rules state is that Notre Dame receives an automatic bid to a BCS bowl if it ranks in the top 8 of the final BCS standings. This really doesn’t mean anything since a top 8 Notre Dame team would almost certainly be snapped up as an at-large bid immediately by a BCS bowl regardless of any auto-qualifier rule. Most importantly, the Irish aren’t getting forced upon anyone. The top bowls want Notre Dame because what matters to them are ticket sales and TV ratings, which the Irish provide in spades. (In contrast, the Big East and non-AQ schools were definitely forced upon the BCS bowls.) That’s why the Orange Bowl appears to rather have a tie-in with Notre Dame in the new postseason system that is replacing the BCS as opposed entire non-power conferences. Even the other power conferences, such as the supposed rival Big Ten, get a financial benefit from including Notre Dame in the power structure that they don’t get from, say, Boise State. As a result, Notre Dame is still with the “in” crowd. (I guarantee you that Jim Delany would rather have a Big Ten school facing Notre Dame in a playoff or top bowl as opposed to Boise State 1000 times out of 1000.) Once again, this is simply the free market at work.

As for Notre Dame’s preseason hype, it’s Reilly’s employers at ESPN along with other TV networks that know that they get an immediate influx of viewers every time that they mention the Irish that are to blame there. Heck, Reilly is guilty of it himself since he knows full well that he wouldn’t have received even close to the same reaction if he wrote a column called “Demoting Miami” or “Demoting Tennessee”. I’d be more than happy if SportsCenter would stop talking about Notre Dame (and for that matter, a sub-.500 Red Sox team and our Lord and Savior backup Jets QB Tim Tebow*), but it’s ridiculous to see a media member shill blaming the school for hype that is entirely generated by the media itself.

(* I’ll admit that I love NBA trade and free agent rumors, which is another prominent source of complaints from many fans about SportsCenter. If the Lakers hadn’t fleeced the rest of the league yet again, I’d still be eating up every Dwight Howard trade scenario. This is sports crack to me on par with conference realignment.)

Finally, Notre Dame is free to be independent. They shouldn’t be forced to do anything that they don’t want to do, including but not limited to joining a conference. As long as they have a TV contract and what they deem to be a suitable home for their non-football sports, then more power to them. There are plenty of other schools that would do the exact same thing if they had the ability to do so, but they simply don’t have that ability. One of these days, market forces might persuade Notre Dame to join a conference (although note that BYU was able to get its own TV contract with ESPN, so any thought that NBC is going to drop the Irish at any point is soon is misguided). However, it should simply be left to that free market to decide Notre Dame’s fate as opposed to some shakedown from the NCAA or other conferences.

Now, before all of you start thinking that I’m some sort of Notre Dame apologist, let’s get to what should truly be causing a crisis of confidence in South Bend: these historically awful uniforms where I had to look away for fear of turning into stone. This is what happens when Ed Hardy and a leprechaun have a love child. These uniforms might only be used for one night, but that one night can cause a lifetime of nightmares a la Bjork. There has been an Ebola-like spread of color-blind fashion in college football uniforms lately, but never in my life did I think that Notre Dame (of all schools) would stoop to such cheap gimmickry. It’s as if though Jack Swarbrick said, “Maryland’s uniforms are waaaay too understated.”

Let’s face it: shoe and apparel companies such as adidas, Under Armour and Nike (whose Oregon uniforms now look like Brooks Brothers suits by comparison) love to design ugly ass shit because young people are fashion idiots that will buy it all up. I’m not hating on just today’s generation: my junior high school years featured vintage Zubaz pants and a superintendent-ordered ban on kids wearing massively baggy jeans backwards because of so many Kriss Kross imitators. (We did have great taste with our Starter jackets and gear back then, though. This Blackhawks Starter jacket was the best piece of outerwear that I’ve ever owned.) Meanwhile, my parents’ clothing from the ’60s and ’70s can be used unironically as Halloween costumes. ’nuff said. It’s simply the circle of life* and the shoe titans know it.

(* My kids have watched The Lion King and listened to its soundtrack so much in the past year that I’ve caught myself inserting phrases from the movie into adult conversations without even knowing it. I’d be horrified to look at a scan of my brain activity right now.)

Therefore, it is the duty of schools such as Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama and USC that actually have great classic traditional uniforms to resist the unwavering urges from their shoe partners to mess them up. adidas will always argue that a football uniform designed by a drunk Lady Gaga is a “good idea”. It’s up to people with a working pair of eyes with actual standards to put a stop to it. Sadly, Notre Dame has fallen into the trap of believing that being “relevant” today means using horrible helmets when such a large reason of why they continue to be relevant despite some putrid years on the field is their history and tradition. I’m happy that Illinois appears to be working with Nike in going the other direction.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from ESPN.com)

From the first time that I wrote about the Big Ten’s plans for expansion way back in the winter of 2009, I emphasized the importance of the conference’s television contracts and revenue, particularly the setup of the Big Ten Network.  Up until that time, the standard thinking of conference realignment among college sports fans was that it should be focused upon geography.  Back then, Penn State in the Big Ten looked like a major geographic outlier among the power conferences.  Then, we entered a 2-year period where 1 out of 4 schools at the FBS level switched conferences (plus a trickle-down effect to non-football conferences such as the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association), including a marquee brand name to the Big Ten (Nebraska), two massive markets to the SEC (Texas A&M and Missouri), ownership of the Rocky Mountain region by the Pac-12 (Colorado and Utah), consolidation of the East Coast power base by the ACC (Syracuse and Pitt) and massive upheaval in the Big 12 and Big East.  With such a massive number of movements that were seemingly driven by television money, my previous minority view was turned on its head where all that many people are thinking about the is value of the latest TV deal.  This leads to continuing rumors of the ACC getting raided by the already raided Big 12 simply based on TV money*.

(* It’s August 15th, which was supposed to be the deadline for ACC schools such as Florida State and Clemson to bail for the Big 12.  Where are the “done deals” that were supposedly ironclad a few months ago?)

The general argument, which we have explored on this blog several times, is that sports programming is particularly valuable in this age of fragmented viewing audiences and high DVR usage.  There is no other type of programming that delivers younger male viewers (the most expensive demographic for advertisers to reach) that watch TV live* (meaning they actually see the commercials) than sports.  As a result, this has been pushing rights fees further and further into the stratosphere for all types of leagues (whether college or pro).  Currently, the Pac-12 has the largest TV contract out of any college conference even though it is only in 5th place for TV ratings among the power conferences for football and 6th place for basketball.

(* Of course, “live TV” is a loose term for NBC Sports.  I’ll spare you a lengthy treatise of how much I loathed the over-the-air NBC Olympics coverage since this issue has been rehashed extensively in many other places, but suffice to say, I’m never watching Animal Practice just on principle.  There was a brief moment when I thought that Bob Costas was trolling us by saying that “they would be back in an hour” for the end of the Closing Ceremonies, as if it were some type of perverse joke in light of all of the #NBCfail commentary over the past 2 weeks, but NBC proved that they can’t even be trusted to do tape delays correctly.)

The Big East is the next college conference that’s coming up to bat for a new TV deal and it will be a litmus test of how the overall sports TV rights market is faring prior the next large group of marquee properties that will be hitting the open market over the next few years (Major League Baseball, NBA and the Big Ten).  Regardless of any critiques of the Big East’s leadership over the years, the conference certainly understands how important the new TV contract will be for its long-term stability, which is why it has hired former CBS Sports Vice President Mike Aresco as its new commissioner.  (For what it’s worth, I believe that this is a fantastic hire for the league.)  Negotiating media deals has become possibly the #1 priority for all conference commissioners, so it makes sense for any league to place a huge premium on those who have worked at the highest levels of the TV sports industry.  At the same time, the Big East has hired Chris Bevilaqua as a consultant, who was the lead negotiator for the Pac-12 in that league’s record-breaking TV deal.  So, the conference seems to be setting forth the best TV negotiation team possible.  The question will be whether the Big East will be judged on its fundamental intrinsic value (which is much lower than the 5 power conferences) or get paid a hefty increase simply because of the overall TV sports bull market.

On the one hand, the Big East has been battered with the loss of West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt.  Even if replacements such as Boise State could match or exceed the quality on-the-field of those programs, those were tradition-rich schools with a large amount of national TV brand value.  (I know that Syracuse has blown chunks for the past decade and Pitt is only starting to recover from the Wannstache era, but they are still in the old school fraternity of college football, whether it’s fair or not.)  At this point, the only school left in the Big East that was a continuous member since the BCS system started in 1998 is Rutgers.  (Temple was in the conference at that time, but they were kicked out in 2004 and just invited back in to start in 2013.)  From a national perception standpoint, the Big East is at an all-time low since it is a league full of noveau riche schools in a college football world that values blue blood lineages the most.

On the other hand, the Big East has the potential benefit of market timing that, say, the ACC didn’t have (as the Carolina-centric league signed its current deal with ESPN right before the bull market for sports TV rights began and then negotiated a decent increase only after expanding with Pitt and Syracuse).  At the same time, there is a reinvigorated competitor of Comcast-basked NBC Sports Network that has been hungry for additional sports content yet hasn’t been able to procure much beyond the properties that NBC already had such as the Olympics and NHL.  As a result, there is this belief/hope that NBC is going to be willing to overpay for Big East content because it has few other choices with the other power conferences off of the table and all NFL packages locked up for several more years.

If the major college conferences were all negotiating new TV deals at the same time today, I would rank them as follows in terms of value: (1) SEC, (2) Big Ten, (3) ACC, (4) Big 12, (5) Pac-12 and (6) Big East.  Of course, the Big East is fortunate that none of those other conferences are going to have new TV deals soon, so it can possibly be the beneficiary of overall market timing.  As we saw with the tulip bulb craze of the 1600s, a dramatic rise in the overall market isn’t always necessarily rational (and on the flip side, just as we saw with stock market crash and bank runs in the 1920s, drops in the markets fueled by panic aren’t always rational, either).

My feeling is that the new Big East TV contract is going to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine of whether we’re in the sports TV rights equivalent of the US real estate market in 2006 (when it was at its peak before the global financial meltdown) or networks will start fighting back to have a cooling off period.  In the real estate boom, even houses in poor locations were being swept up in paper value, while the real estate bust has shown that the old “location, location, location” maxim is more important than ever.  So, is the Big East a penthouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (which intrinsically has a high market value no matter what is happening in the overall real estate market) or a spec house in an exurb that is completely beholden to overall market forces?  Loose lending practices artificially fueled the housing market and we may be seeing the same thing with cable subscriber fees driving up sports TV rights fees.  As carriage disputes between TV networks and cable/satellite companies continue to escalate and become more common, there’s a not-so-insignificant risk that the market could snap back harshly if the gusher of cable subscriber fees doesn’t continue.

We have seen a wide range of estimates for how much the Big East deal is going to be worth, with a low point of around $4 million per year per all-sports school to high estimates of the league ACC-type dollars that would be in the range of $17 million per year per school.  This reflects the corresponding wide range of interests involved, with those low numbers likely being provided by people on the TV network side (who have a heavy interest in seeing a slowdown in the rise of sports rights fees) and the high numbers being thrown out by those that make their livings negotiating against the TV networks.  Indeed, Chris Bevilaqua himself stated that the low predictions are being provided by those with “some kind of agenda”, but that cuts both ways.  For instance, Neil Pilson, who was the former president of CBS Sports, seems to have been quoted in virtually every single article that I’ve seen regarding the new Big East television deal for the past 6 months (in just the past 24 hours, he’s been quoted by the New York Times and ESPN) and has always given an extremely rosy prediction.  At a surface level, this sounds great to Big East fans, who see this as someone that has a lot of industry experience that is willing to give on-the-record predictions (as opposed the anonymous “TV industry sources” that are often quoted).  However, dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Pilson, as the owner of the largest TV sports consulting business in the country, has quite possibly more incentive than any single person out there to see all sports TV rights continue to skyrocket.  His incentive is that if the Big East can procure a large TV deal simply because it’s live sports programming for the sake of being live sports programming (ratings, popularity and national interest be damned), then his own clients that draw much larger audiences (e.g. the International Olympic Committee, NASCAR, the Rose Bowl, etc.) can effectively name their own prices and TV networks will have to pay up.  That’s why Pilson is so willing to go on the record with reporters regarding the Big East – he is attempting to use the conference’s new TV deal as a catalyst to pump up the overall sports rights market even further into the stratosphere.  If the Big East is getting $17 million per school per year essentially for existing, then how much is the Big Ten going to be worth with much larger fan bases and TV appeal?  What about Major League Baseball and the NBA?  These leagues and their respective TV consultants would love nothing more than to see the Big East to receive a payday on steroids.  To be sure, Pilson’s optimistic predictions for the Big East may end up being correct, but it just needs to be noted that he’s not a neutral observer in the least (just as the anonymous sources that are providing the opposing sandbagged figures have their own agendas).

Regardless, if there’s any semblance of reason out there, then the truth will likely be somewhere in the middle.  NBC Sports Network effectively needs any type of halfway decent live sports content, so it has a larger incentive to pay a premium to the Big East.  Comcast is NOT a charity, though, as evidenced by the aforementioned Animal Practice interlude to the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics.  This can’t be emphasized enough: Comcast is going to pay the least amount that they can possibly get away with in order to win the Big East rights.  As a result, that floor is going to be determined by how much interest ESPN and, to a lesser extent, Fox have in the Big East.  If the conference wants to obtain maximum value, then it particularly needs to have ESPN legitimately involved in the bidding process or else Comcast isn’t just going to hand over large rights fees for the hell of it and negotiate against themselves.  In my humble opinion, ESPN isn’t going to want to let NBC Sports Network get the Big East for free, but the guys in Bristol aren’t going to go balls out to retain the Big East, either (and Comcast, who has gone toe-to-toe with ESPN in tough negotiations on many fronts, definitely knows that).  That points to a potential Big East contract that’s in the middle of the high and low figures that have been reported out there – let’s say about $10 million per all-sports school per year and $4 million per non-football school per year.

Jim Delany, David Stern and the Crypt Master Bud Selig are all watching this closely.  The Big East’s new TV contract will have a large impact on how much of a payday their own leagues will be receiving over the next few years.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from SBNation)

As we watch coverage of events at the Olympics that occurred 8 hours ago, social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter happen to be among the largest beneficiaries of the London games. Whether it’s complaining about NBC callously deleting a tribute to victims of terrorism from the Opening Ceremony (and then continuously digging themselves into a deeper hole again and again and again trying to justify the decision) or lauding the record-breaking Michael Phelps, we’ve seen further proof that what was once considered to be a solitary activity of sitting on a computer or checking a smartphone has actually been powered by large events that many of us experience together. Indeed, Bill Simmons asked Mark Cuban a few months ago at the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference about whether social media is eroding TV viewership, to which Cuban responded with a strong negative and used a line that ought to be plastered all around Silicon Valley: “Television drives social media.”

The irony in a world that is increasingly geared toward on-demand viewing and the use of time-shifting devices such as DVRs is that the events that are shown live and can draw large aggregate audiences watching them all at the same time have skyrocketed in value despite overall TV ratings being down. As I noted last year, sports leagues have arguably gained the most from this phenomenon since they not only draw large live audiences, but get the hardest-to-reach (and therefore most valuable) demographic of age 18-34 males. Advertisers still pay a significantly greater premium to reaching a lot of people in the same place, which is something that on-demand services and online streaming websites haven’t been able to replicate.

On the flip side, there’s suddenly a whole lot of bearish attitude toward the revenue generating capabilities of social media sites, particularly Facebook. Yesterday, Facebook’s stock dipped below $20 per share for the first time and is hovering around 50% of its initial public offering price. A large part of Facebook’s problem is that its most valuable asset (the exhaustive treasure trove of wide-ranging personal information of its users) cannot be fully and effectively leveraged on the Facebook website itself. Targeted ads based on information that you plug into Facebook always sounded great in theory, but the issue is that clients such as General Motors haven’t found such ads to be very effective. At the core, we don’t log onto Facebook seeking to click on Internet ads, buy products or even glance at banner messages, so no matter how targeted a particular ad might be, it’s ultimately a shot in the dark as to whether we will even notice it. Contrast this with Google, where its ads that pop up in connection with search terms has shown to be fairly effective and profitable since people that are searching for products are often looking for ads. The much smaller social media player of Yelp! has been rewarded by investors on a similar basis, where its content of restaurant and business reviews by users naturally draws in people who are going to notice advertising.

The upshot is that Facebook’s asset of user information is actually more valuable for advertising platforms other than Facebook itself. Hmmmm. What’s the one advertising-delivery technology that we have found to be inextricably linked to the use of social media webstites? Television. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. of the Wall Street Journal made the argument even before Facebook’s IPO that Mark Zuckerberg’s baby ought to buy ABC, CBS and NBC based on a number of the arguments that I outlined above. I’d take that one step further and say that Facebook’s optimal purchase would be a sports network where live events are able to drive a disproportionate amount of (a) watching commercials as they are aired as opposed to avoiding them via a DVR and (b) social media engagement on Facebook itself, which in turn creates more valuable personal information for Facebook to leverage and creates a self-sustaining profit cycle. As the Internet increasingly becomes the mechanism to deliver programming to television sets as opposed to cable and satellite*, Facebook would receive a further advantage by being able to use its information to have targeted TV advertisements that will surely be coming down the pike and can’t easily be avoided during games (unlike ads on the Facebook site).

(* To be clear, this needs to be distinguished from on-demand viewing and streaming. What I’m talking about here is “form” as opposed to “substance”, where the pipes that actually deliver television channels to your home will increasingly be via the Internet. That doesn’t mean that the Internet will eliminate television channels themselves, but rather your cable and Internet bills will effectively merge together into one at a higher price if you want to receive premium content. This is already an explicit goal of the Google Fiber project in the Kansas City area that will create Internet connections that are 100 times faster than what are currently in most American households. As much as chord-cutting and a la carte options have gained in popularity, those episodes of Mad Men or Breaking Bad that you might be watching on NetFlix or Hulu would never have been produced in the first place if there wasn’t the basic cable subscriber fee model that exists today. Therefore, if we want to continue to receive the content that we see on TV today, it isn’t going to come for free. Those TV program producers will have to raise the same amount of revenue if they want to create that type of content, so I’d envision a shift to “channels” along the lines of ESPN3 that are websites that charge Internet providers a subscriber fee similar to today’s basic cable subscriber fees. At the end of the day, we’re going to have to end up paying the same amount whether it’s for cable or the Internet for the same amount and quality of content.)

Jenkins noted that AOL cashed in its chits to buy “old media” company Time Warner back in 2000. It’s really quite amazing that all of those AOL trial disks that I used for beverage coasters back in college ended up paying for properties such as Batman, Bugs Bunny, CNN, HBO, TNT, TBS, the Warner Bros. studio and the Atlanta Braves. As we well know, AOL went from the most dominant force on the Internet to the Ariana Huffington-run blogger sweatshop that it is today in fairly rapid fashion, so it certainly made the right choice to use its sky-high valuation to buy tangible media assets when it did. With the way that the price of Facebook stock has been plummeting lately, Mark Zuckerberg ought to pounce on Disney (ESPN), News Corp. (Fox Sports) or Comcast (NBC Sports) while he still has the chance.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from The Hollywood Reporter)