Xbox Game Pass Ultimate adds FIFA 21, completing the sports gamer’s dream

If you want to play a sports game on your Xbox, Game Pass is increasingly looking like the way to go.

FIFA 21 is hitting Game Pass Ultimate on Thursday.

FIFA 21, which is part of EA Play, which Microsoft bundled into its Game Pass Ultimate service last year, will follow the lead of titles like Madden 21 and MLB The Show 21 with versions available for the Xbox One as well as next-gen optimized editions for those with an Xbox Series X or Series S.

The inclusion of a next-gen version of FIFA 21 is a nice win for owners of Microsoft’s latest consoles, something not all publishers have done. 2K’s NBA 2K21, for example, has made the Xbox One version of its basketball game available as part of Game Pass but not the next-gen upgrade. Instead, those looking for that edition will still need to buy their own copy (currently $40 at a host of retailers after being $70 at launch).

And while the addition of more major titles is always welcome, to be truly perfect Microsoft still has work to do in adding games closer to their release dates. The company was surprisingly able to get Sony’s MLB The Show on its service in time for its launch in April, but FIFA’s arrival comes seven months after the title was first made available last October.

It makes sense that publishers will want to keep titles available for purchase at launch to get money from diehard fans, using services like Game Pass as a way to boost the tail end of a life cycle and hold interest until the next iteration. The good news for sports gamers who aren’t in a rush to play the latest season, however, is that Game Pass is increasingly becoming a better option for getting all the action.

NBA Opening Night: How to watch Nets vs. Bucks, Warriors vs. Lakers on TNT

Giannis, Durant, Harden, Curry and LeBron are all in action to tip off the 2021-22 NBA season. And you don’t need cable to watch.

Keep reading to see how you can watch both games without cable. And to plan out your pro basketball viewing for the entire regular season, check out our guide for watching the 2021-22 NBA basketball season without cable.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks begin their title defense on Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets on TNT.

Four of the five major live TV streaming services offer TNT (all but FuboTV). Sling TV has the cheapest plan with TNT, and DirecTV Stream is the priciest.

Sling TV’s Orange plan and Blue plan both cost $35 and include TNT.

Read our Sling TV review.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes TNT.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes TNT.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

Formerly AT&T TV, DirecTV Stream’s basic $70-a-month package includes TNT.

Read our DirecTV Stream review.

All of the live TV streaming services above offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live-TV streaming services guide.

European Super League: Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Man City all drop out

The controversial European Super League is crumbling.

Liverpool, among others, have left the proposed European Super League project.

The negativity was a direct response to a league that had the potential to wreak havoc on the traditional structures of European soccer, made up of domestic leagues like the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A. The European Super League was designed to protect up to 15 founding members — the most powerful teams across Europe’s most powerful domestic leagues — from the relegation/promotion pyramid structure that anchors all of European soccer. A structure that goes all the way from the lowest levels of domestic soccer, all the way through to the Champions League, the biggest prize in club soccer.

Real Madrid President Florentino Perez was named as the inaugural chairman of the European Super League. It was his intent, he stated, to secure the future of soccer, not undermine it.

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in a statement Sunday. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than 4 billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”

Read more: How to watch Premier League games live in the US without cable

But in the wake of the initial announcement, UEFA and FIFA — which runs the existing Champions League competition and the World Cup respectively — threatened clubs and players participating in the European Super League with removal from all other competitions, including the World Cup.

“I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against these disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said at a press conference Monday, as reported by the BBC. “Players who will play in the teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from the World Cup and Euros.”

“This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers. We will not allow them to take it away from us.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the European Super League.

Six teams from the English Premier League, three from La Liga and three clubs from Serie A all initially signed up, making for 12 clubs. In the wake of fan outrage, over half of these clubs have withdrawn.

The original list of the founding clubs was as follows…

Where are teams from the French and German leagues? Teams like Bayern Munich from Germany and Paris Saint-Germain from France are undoubtedly among the biggest and best teams in Europe. Bayern and its German rival Borussia Dortmund announced Monday they are committed to the existing Champions League, which unveiled reforms Monday for the 2024 season. PSG is owned by the royal family of Qatar, which is holding the next World Cup and therefore unlikely to go against the soccer establishment.

Following backlash in response to the announcement, all Premier League teams have announced plans to drop out. Manchester City has confirmed it has “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League,” with Chelsea to reportedly follow suit.

Manchester United’s controversial executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has also announced his resignation following the backlash. Manchester United has also officially dropped out of the European Super League.

Liverpool also stated that its “involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.”

Arsenal and Spurs have both officially announced they’re leaving.

“We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal,” said Daniel Levy, chairman of Tottenham Hotspur. “We felt it was important that our club participated in the development of a possible new structure that sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on the decision of English clubs to withdraw from the league.

“The decision by Chelsea and Manchester City is — if confirmed — absolutely the right one and I commend them for it,” he tweeted. “I hope the other clubs involved in the European Super League will follow their lead.”

Inter Milan has also become the first non-English team to officially remove itself from the European Super League.

In response, an official statement from the European Super League was sent out.

“The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change,” read the statement.

“We are proposing a new European competition because the existing system does not work.

“Our proposal is aimed at allowing the sport to evolve while generating resources and stability for the full football pyramid, including helping to overcome the financial difficulties experienced by the entire football community as a result of the pandemic.

“Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.”

According to original plans, the new competition was to feature 20 clubs made up of 15 founding clubs, with an option for five further clubs to qualify based on previous seasons’ achievements. (The details were currently murky on what those “achievements” actually mean.)

Each team was to continue to take part in domestic leagues, with European Super League matches taking place midweek. Two groups of 10 would take part in home and away matches, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for a knockout stage. Teams who placed fourth and fifth in each league would compete in a two-leg match to see who qualifies for knockout stages.

Then, those remaining eight teams were set to take part in two-leg knockout format to reach a single final, which would take place at a neutral stadium. A women’s version of this league was also apparently in the works.

At least, that’s how the founding teams hope things would work. Both UEFA and FIFA came out against the league. FIFA backed UEFA, which means participating players may potentially be banned from representing their countries at this summer’s European Championships and next year’s World Cup, competitions run by those international bodies.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations — will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said in a statement.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”

The teams involved were aiming for an August 2021 start.

Given the controversy and the reaction of FIFA, UEFA and the fact almost all of the teams have now removed themselves from the project, it would be surprising if the European Super League started at all.

Reaction to the announcement of the European Super League was almost universally negative. The hashtag #RIPfootball rapidly trended on Twitter as did the phrase #disgusting and #embarrassing. People were very angry about this.

Some wanted to organize protests. Ultimately, thousands went to protests at various stadiums across Europe.

Former players such as England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand were quick to condemn the clubs involved, including ones they played for.

High-profile current players spoke out, such as PSG’s Ander Herrera.

Liverpool’s James Milner also spoke out against the league after a recent match with Leeds United.

“I don’t like it and I hope it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Eventually that became the collective response of most Liverpool players as many posted the following message on social media platforms: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position.”

Jurgen Klopp, the current manager of Liverpool, had previously spoken out on opposition to a European Super League when it was first being talked about. “My opinion didn’t change,” he said in a post-match interview with Sky Sports.

The European Super League illustrates the money issues many believe continue to threaten soccer as a sport. Unlike sports leagues like the NBA, which operate with salary caps, clubs at the top of leagues like the EPL or La Liga have been allowed to spend with impunity. This means they can solidify a position at the top of the game and rule over smaller clubs with an iron fist. Clubs at the lower end of big leagues can’t compete.

Neither can top clubs in smaller European leagues in Holland, Scotland, Switzerland or Portugal. The evolution of football over the last 20 years has made it difficult for former giants of the sport like Ajax of Amsterdam or Celtic of Glasgow to compete for major prizes like the Champion’s League. Given the structure of the European Super League, even getting the chance to play would be next to impossible.

For perspective, each founding member of this club was expected to take home $400 million for taking part in this league. That’s roughly four times what a team would receive for winning the Champions League, currently the most prestigious tournament in world club soccer.

For many, including former player and current broadcaster Gary Neville, the whole thing felt anti-competitive. Unlike most other soccer leagues, the founding clubs of the European Super League would not face the threat of relegation if they sit at the bottom of the table.

There’s also the issue of team choice. Teams appear to have been chosen based on fan base and income, as opposed to performance. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, currently in seventh and ninth place respectively in the English Premier League, were two of the teams selected, despite the fact smaller clubs like Leicester City and West Ham have outperformed them this year.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden reportedly said the British government would do “whatever it takes” to stop the English teams from taking part in the European Super League Monday. Dowden also reportedly accused the six clubs of deciding to “put money before fans.”

Considering the longer game, many were worried about the potential impact on grassroots football. The current format of soccer, which favors teams in leagues with huge TV deals like the EPL and La Liga, have seen many teams decline. The European Super League would exacerbate that process. For fans of the sport, this feels like the culmination of soccer as a rich get richer, poor get poorer proposition.

“I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as [a] result of the coronavirus pandemic,” Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Monday, instead pushing solidarity from European football and the “reliable foundation” of the Champions League.

In the wake of the announcement, Jose Mourinho, the high-profile manager of Tottenham Hotspur, has been sacked alongside all of his coaching staff.

Mourinho has yet to release a statement on the reasons for his dismissal, and it’s possible the two decisions are unconnected, but he has spoken negatively on the idea of a “super league” in the past.

Fans take a swing at Cleveland Indians changing name to Cleveland Guardians

“Yup, we named our team after bridge statues,” said one Twitter user.

One of the Guardians of Traffic sculptures on the Hope Memorial Bridge near Progressive Field, where Cleveland’s baseball team plays.

There was some positive social media reaction to the new name, though some people had fun with it, and others didn’t like the choice.

“Yup, we named our team after bridge statues,” said one Twitter user.

The winged baseball logo earned some attention.

Other people also noted that “Guardians” and “Indians” end in the same five letters, and joked that the team’s owners, the Dolan family, could save some money as a result.

Stay tuned for more social media name-change commentary someday soon. The Washington Football Team, formerly the Redskins, has yet to announce its new name.

Tokyo Summer Olympics bars overseas spectators

COVID-19 is to blame, say the organizers. Ticket holders will get their money back.

Originally set for 2020, the games have been delayed by the pandemic.

Originally set to take place from July 24 through Aug. 9, 2020, the Olympics were pushed back a year because of the coronavirus and rescheduled for July 23 through Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympics were also delayed and are now set to run from Aug. 24 through Sept. 5, 2021.

The organizers noted Saturday that emerging coronavirus variants continue to raise concern and that the situation with COVID-19 in Japan and elsewhere remains challenging. They also pointed to severe international travel restrictions put in place by countries around the world and said overseas travelers may well be prohibited from entering Japan this summer.

Read more: Fear and COVID in hotel quarantine: What it’s like flying overseas right now

They said they made the decision about international spectators “to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans.” Information on how to get a refund will be made available soon, the organizers added.

“We will continue to do our utmost to deliver a safe and secure Games,” they said, “in the hopes that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a light of hope for people all over the world.”

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3: Is the fight still on?

Dustin Poirier has apologised for calling out McGregor and the fight is 100% back on.

Conor McGregor has become broiled in a new controversy.

Let’s try and explain this whole deal from the start.

In the wake of a dominant win against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in early 2020, Conor McGregor was itching to continue fighting throughout the remainder of the year. Unfortunately COVID-19 put a big dent in those plans.

The UFC continued putting on fight cards throughout 2020 and was one of the first sports in the US to come “back,” but it appeared as though the UFC was reluctant to put together another McGregor fight — most likely because fans couldn’t attend fights yet and the UFC makes a significant amount of money on live gates to see one of the sport’s biggest stars.

For comparison, the UFC might usually take in $1 million to $2 million in ticket sales for a regular event, while a McGregor fight with full attendance will bring in over $7 million from ticket sales alone.

So McGregor was left on the shelf.

Out of frustration McGregor took matters into his own hands, attempting to put together an exhibition bout with Poirier.

McGregor had faced Poirier before. In 2014, McGregor defeated Poirier via a devastating first round KO. But to remain active, McGregor offered to face off against Poirier in a second fight — albeit an exhibition — and donate $500,000 to The Good Fight Foundation, a nonprofit charity set up by Poirier to help those in need. Poirier agreed to the bout.

That got the UFC’s attention.

In the wake of those tweets the UFC set up a legitimate rematch between McGregor and Poirier under the UFC banner, but McGregor committed to the $500,000 donation he had promised regardless.

Given the outcome of their first fight, McGregor was heavily favored to beat Poirier in their rematch. In the leadup, the pair were extremely cordial — a stark contrast to the first fight, when McGregor was largely credited with beating Poirier mentally with an assault of cutting trash talk in the lead up to the contest.

But the second fight played out much differently. After compromising McGregor with punishing, debilitating calf kicks, Poirier knocked out McGregor, putting the pair at 1-1.

In interviews after the second fight, Poirier confirmed that McGregor’s people had reached out about the donation and thanked him face-to-face for the money McGregor intended to donate to The Good Fight Foundation.

A third fight between McGregor and Poirier was scheduled for July 10, with McGregor declaring there would be “no more Mr. Nice Guy” — in reference to the relaxed atmosphere between the two in the leadup to their second fight.

The cordial relationship between the pair quickly deteriorated. After a series of tweets back and forth, Poirier posted an explosive tweet accusing McGregor of not actually following through on the $500,000 donation he’d promised in the lead up to their second fight.

“That’s a fun prediction,” Poirier tweeted. “[Y]ou also predicted a donation to my foundation and you and your team stopped responding after the fight in January.”

That got McGregor’s attention. He claimed that communication stopped because he was waiting on specifics on plans for the money.

“We’ve been awaiting the plans for the money that never came,” he tweeted. “I do that with all my donations.”

After more back and forth, McGregor got more riled up, appearing to cancel the upcoming third fight, claiming he would “fight someone else” on July 10th.

Most likely the fight will go ahead and McGregor has made reference to making Poirier “pay” for “smearing” his name.

Plenty of others got involved, including McGregor’s manager Audie Attar.

McGregor has given heavily to charities in the past, donating 1 million euros to hospitals in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic and invested a “significant amount” to help keep his childhood soccer club alive.

Attar claimed the donation was still going ahead.

After the twitter battle over the donation, McGregor initially started hinting he might look for another opponent for his July 10th fight.

But after the dust had settled, it was confirmed by all parties that the fight was back on.

ESPN’s MMA reporter Ariel Helwani confirmed the news with McGregor himself.

In an interesting twist, Poirier tweeted out an official apology for bringing up the charity issue in the first place.

“I jumped the gun and took my private matters between Conor and my foundation public,” he wrote in a statement. “My mistake, we live, we learn. Spreading positivity and doing good is my goal.”

Wide-eyed kid from Popeye’s meme is now a state football champ

You might know Dieunerst Collin’s wide-eyed expression from a legendary meme, but he’s moved on to win a New Jersey high school football title.

Collin is a member of the East Orange High School team, which won the New Jersey state title in triple overtime on Sunday. Its meme-famous player didn’t go unnoticed.

“Dieunerst from the legendary meme is a state champion!” tweeted the official SportsCenter account.

Collin was just nine when the video of him was taken, and he didn’t ask for the viral fame.

“When it first happened, I kind of felt sad about it,” Collin told Sports Illustrated. “It was somebody randomly recording me, and I’ve never been viral before.”

The video shows someone mistaking Collin for another child who was then famous on Vine, TerRio. Collin’s confused and wary reaction struck a chord with many meme-makers, who snatched the image and captioned it with such phrases as, “When I see my teacher at a store.”

His viral fame led to bullying, Collin told Sports Illustrated, saying, “I did get to a place where it was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go out any more.'” But eventually things became easier.

“People in my class found it very funny, so then I just continued being myself,” he said. “I got over it once everybody who would randomly come up to me and call me Terio actually met me and learned my actual name and got to know me.”

And now he has a new claim to fame. On Sunday, Collin shared an Instagram photo of himself with the team’s new trophy, writing, “IMAGINE NOT BEING A STATE CHAMP:I CANT RELATE‼️”

Before the billionaires and oligarchs, the unlikely story of football’s first foreign owner

Way before international money flooded in, the first American owner in English soccer came to the rescue of a dying club.

Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

This international spending spree started when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003, but the largely forgotten first step toward today’s globalized era occurred way back in 1984. Football clubs were traditionally owned by local businessmen until California lawyer Bruce Osterman bought Tranmere Rovers, a proud but impoverished team in the unemployment-lashed north of England. It was the beginning of a new era — but you wouldn’t have known it at the time.

“The game as a whole was at its nadir,” remembers Mark Palios, a former footballer turned businessman who played for Tranmere in those dark days of the 1980s. “Gates were low, there was hooliganism, there was a complete lack of investment. It was a sick industry.”

What followed is more than a quirky footnote in sporting history — it’s a story of conflict between passion and business that any fan of any team in any country will recognize. Palios played an unexpected secret role in the ensuing drama, only to face a horribly familiar crisis threatening the club three decades later.

Mark Palios played for Tranmere in the 1970s and 1980s, taking an unexpected role in the drama behind the scenes — before returning to the club 30 years later.

Former Tranmere player Ken Bracewell was coaching a professional team in San Francisco in the early 1980s when he was approached by attorney and keen amateur goalkeeper Bruce Osterman. The glamour had faded from The National American Soccer League’s 1970s heyday, so Bracewell was surprised when Osterman wanted more than a chat about soccer teams — he wanted to buy one.

Why would a Californian lawyer want to invest in an impoverished sports team on the far side of the Atlantic?

“I was young and it seemed like a good idea,” says Osterman, now in his late 70s. “I had some extra money as I’d done well in my law practice,” he remembers in his unhurried California drawl over the phone from his home near San Francisco. “Tranmere was in real trouble so it was a number to purchase the team that I could afford.”

Tranmere chairman Bruce Osterman filmed at Prenton Park for a TV documentary.

Tranmere’s stadium Prenton Park is only a brief ferry ride away from footballing titans Liverpool and Everton, but in 1984 it might as well have been on a different planet. Barely clinging to professional status at the wrong end of the English leagues, with no money and plummeting attendances, Tranmere had special permission to hold matches on Friday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons so locals wouldn’t disappear to watch the team’s more glamorous neighbors.

“Tranmere will never compete with Liverpool and Everton,” one of the club’s managers later said. “They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere as a deadly submarine.”

In 1984 Tranmere was about to emulate a submarine in the worst possible way: by going under.

Osterman took advantage of the strife and a disastrously weak pound to buy the club, installing Ken Bracewell in charge. “I relied on Kenny for the day-to-day things,” Osterman recalls, “because frankly what the hell did I know?”

Bruce Osterman (crouching third from left, wearing glasses), lines up with a team of sports journalists playing a friendly at Prenton Park in August 1986. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the chap on the far left: popular TV and radio pundit Ray Stubbs, who played and worked at Tranmere.

Today’s game is full of players, managers and owners from other countries. In the 1980s it was more insular. English clubs were banned from European competition throughout the second half of the 1980s, foreign players like Tottenham’s Argentine duo Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were still a novelty, and there wouldn’t be a foreign manager until Jozef Vengloš arrived from Czechoslovakia to join Aston Villa in 1990.

Having staved off the club’s short-term woes, Bruce Osterman showed up at Tranmere for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. There was occasionally a language barrier with the distinctive Merseyside accent. “I used to go to sportsman’s dinners for people who had shares in the club, and I was usually the brunt of the after-dinner comedian,” Osterman remembers. “I know he was speaking English but I couldn’t understand a word!” Osterman’s family came too, although his wife found herself excluded from men-only areas such as the boardroom and team coach. “She tolerated my doing this, but it wasn’t a pleasant time for her,” Osterman admits.

Journalists were delighted by the sight of the bespectacled 43-year-old chairman diving around in the training field mud, while players mischievously blasted balls at him. This was all highly unusual, but still — Tranmere were saved.

In the days before television revenue, a lesser club’s main income was ticket sales. Larger-than-life characters attracted paying fans through the turnstiles, so Osterman made the unexpected choice to appoint Frank Worthington as the team’s player-manager.

Worthington, who died in March 2021, had two decades of experience on the field but had never managed a team. The mulleted Elvis fan was certainly an entertainer, a prodigious goalscorer and even more prodigious playboy. His autobiography, suggestively titled “One Hump Or Two,” lists more nightclubs than football clubs. Worthington joked that when he took charge at Tranmere the players thought they’d be in trouble if they got home before 2 a.m.

Larger-than-life character Frank Worthington playing for England.

In his first game before the Prenton Park faithful the dashing player-manager bagged three goals in a 6-2 victory, and he ended up scoring 20 that season. He also made shrewd use of Osterman’s limited budget — one of Worthington’s acquisitions, Ian Muir, remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer. But defence was poor and Tranmere couldn’t afford new blood.

“We didn’t have the players or the money,” Osterman admits. “I had no idea of the difficulty of handling a team even in the fourth division.”

One player understood the economics of Osterman’s situation more than most. Tenacious midfielder Mark Palios was a local lad in his second stint at Tranmere when Osterman arrived. Unlike most footballers, who typically spend their time between matches wasting money, Palios worked a unique parallel career managing money as he trained to be an accountant.

Mark Palios playing for Tranmere the night they beat Arsenal in 1973.

One day Tranmere’s directors walked into Palios’ office looking for advice. They wanted to push Osterman out. The surprised player found himself in the awkward situation of offering advice on the club’s financial future mere hours before pulling on his team shirt and running onto the pitch.

Tranmere’s cash flow crisis came to a head when the well-intentioned but overstretched Osterman tried to sell Prenton Park to make way for a supermarket. Fans, directors and local authorities turned against him.

The American dream had soured.

Thirty years later, in 2015, history repeated for Tranmere Rovers — and for Mark Palios. The club was again in dire straits on and off the field. And just like in the 1980s, a new owner stepped in. But this time, it was Palios who bought the club.

After combining his playing days with a successful accounting career, Palios had been CEO of the Football Association. A specialist in turning around failing businesses, he and his wife Nicola now tackled Tranmere’s turmoil.

Palios began a three-step process he’d applied to many dying companies: Find cash for breathing space. Use that breathing space to fix the business. And finally, bring in new investment.

Most important, the club had to break the cycle of lurching from savior to savior. Palios compares football clubs to gamblers gifted more chips who continue betting on the same old numbers. To really fix the ailing business, Mark and Nicola had to make new bets.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios and vice chair Nicola Palios took charge in 2014.

Back in 1985, Palios quit Tranmere and distanced himself from the boardroom shenanigans to avoid a conflict of interest. Ultimately the directors exploited changes to insolvency legislation to get rid of Osterman, Bracewell and Worthington, earning Tranmere another dubious distinction as the first football club to go into administration under the new laws.

In 1987, a new buyer offered less than Osterman paid for the club. Luckily for the American, a strengthened pound took the sting out of the loss.

A new owner and manager took over, but Tranmere’s troubles weren’t over. To ensure survival they had to beat Exeter City on the last day of the season or be disastrously dumped out of the professional league.

Kickoff was delayed as 7,000 fans crammed into one of Prenton Park’s signature Friday night matches on May 8, 1987. Mark Palios was there, although in another bizarre twist he could have been on the field — for either side. Exeter previously tried to sign him, while injury-plagued Tranmere desperately searched for Palios to see if he could help out in the crucial match. “We didn’t have mobile phones in those days,” Palios jokes. “[Tranmere] should have asked the administrators — they knew where I was…”

As the sky darkened above the floodlights neither side could break the deadlock — until six minutes from time, when Ian Muir’s pinpoint cross was headed home by defender Gary Williams. At the final whistle, the delirious crowd poured onto the pitch.

After this fairytale escape, new manager John King — another former Tranmere player, who coined the “deadly submarine” nickname — kicked off a resurgence in the 1990s. The team went to multiple finals at Wembley, rising through the divisions and almost surfacing alongside Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Ian Muir (right), signed by Frank Worthington and still Tranmere’s top scorer, celebrates the first of Tranmere’s many trips to the hallowed Wembley Stadium in the 1990s.

Sadly the golden era didn’t last, and in 2015 a run-down Tranmere sank out of the professional league entirely. Under different leadership that could have destroyed the club, but Mark and Nicola Palios had a plan to stay afloat. They developed new revenue streams which didn’t rely on a benefactor’s deep pockets, earned money from the stadium not just on matchdays, and built on the club’s standing in the community with training schemes for vulnerable youth. “The business model I’ve tried to produce is football-agnostic,” Palios explains. “So if I go, the business stays.”

The club is into phase three of the Palios plan: tempting investors. Palios contemplates leveraging the local area’s rich footballing heritage for projects such as a hotel, and perhaps even leaving Prenton Park (an idea that backfired for Osterman). Palios has his eye on building a new stadium at the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters dockland regeneration scheme, one of the largest development projects in Europe.

Tranmere returned to Wembley in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019, when Connor Jennings scored another last-gasp goal to secure Tranmere a second successive promotion.

Palios notes these long-term plans are “embryonic” and depend on factors like promotion to higher leagues, millions added to the bottom line, and major investors.

“It’s a way off,” Palios says of his potential vision for the future, “but if somebody comes in with serious money, you have to have a business plan. And the one thing I won’t do is limit ambition.”

To bring things full circle in terms of foreign backers, the Palios’ have shared photos of themselves courting international investment since this interview. This time Tranmere’s seeking funding from soccer-mad Indonesian businessman Simon Nainggolan, also known as Simon N.

The chaos at Bury and Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows how precarious the football business can be even with TV money and global investment. At Tranmere, smart commercial decisions and dedicated supporters kept the club alive. To fans’ delight, under manager Micky Mellon — yet another former player — the team won promotion in 2018 and again in 2019 (only to be summarily relegated again when the Covid pandemic ended the next season early).

Devoted Tranmere Rovers fans celebrate.

Bruce Osterman still practices law, although he stopped playing soccer at 60. “If I had to do it all again I would,” he says of his experience with Tranmere. “No foreigner had ever done this before, and I met a lot of great people. It was an adventure for me.”

For today’s US-based investment consortiums, owning a sports team is all about profit. For Bruce Osterman, it was an adventure. And for Mark Palios, sport offers a unique combination of both business and passion. When fans tell him they’re proud of the club, he says, “that’s the reward.”

Triller wants anyone who illegally streamed Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren to pay up

“It is no different than walking into a store and stealing a video game off the shelf,” said Triller’s head of piracy Matt St. Claire.

Jake Paul defeated Ben Askren in one of the biggest combat sports events of the year.

According to Triller, if those payments are not made, the company will pursue the full $150,000 fine for anyone they can prove streamed the content illegally.

“VPNs all have to comply and turn over the actual IP addresses of each person who stole the fight in discovery,” Triller’s head of piracy Matt St. Claire told Reuters.

“We will be able to identify each and every person, VPN or not, as each stream has a unique fingerprint embedded in the content.”

The request is connected to a lawsuit filed by Triller against the owners of the H3Podcast website among others, who it accused of streaming the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren event. Triller believe upwards of 2 million people watched the fight illegally. News regarding the suit was first broken by Kevin Iole. Triller believes it lost $100 million as a result of illegal streams.

“We are taking this position because it is outright theft,” St. Claire said. “It is no different than walking into a store and stealing a video game off the shelf.”

Regardless of the piracy, the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren was huge success by most metrics. Analysts believe the event sold somewhere between 1.2 and 1.6 million PPVs, which is a massive number compared to most recent boxing or MMA live events. The fight itself, however, ended somewhat anti-climatically, after Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the first round.

His brother, Logan Paul, is set to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in June this year.

Why Team USA’s Olympics face masks make them look like Batman villains

You can get your own version of the Bane-style mask, but it’ll cost you.

Team USA’s masks are made by Nike, and the specific style is called the Nike Venturer. While Team USA is wearing white masks, Nike is advertising black masks on its website. At $60, they’re not cheap, and they’re not yet available for purchase. A representative for Nike told CNET, “the mask will soon be available for consumers” but didn’t offer an exact date.

“The world is your stadium, but urban landscapes can bring grime to your game,” the online description reads. “Strap on Nike’s first performance mask of its kind made for optimal breathability. Designed for sport, built in nose cushion and chin insert helps it stay in place when you’re going hard.”

“The unique origami-inspired pleated design allows for optimal air flow and air volume within the lightweight, mesh mask,” Nike said in its statement. Origami, the art of paper folding, has a long history in Japan, which hosts this year’s Olympics.

Some social-media users felt the masks made wearers look like Bane, the creepy Batman villain, memorably played by Tom Hardy in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

“You too can look like Bane on the medal stand of life with the Nike Venturer facemask for the low, low price of $60,” wrote one Twitter user.

Said another, “Team USA masks for the podium look like the medalists are about to close off Gotham’s bridges and become allies with darkness.”

Olympics watchers found plenty of other things to which they could compare the Team USA face mask, from dog muzzles to space shuttles to creepy cannibal Hannibal Lecter.

One person thought they kind of looked like dog muzzles.

“Who ever designed USA face mask is a really big dog lover and it shows,” wrote one Twitter user.

Whatever the mask looked like, opinions were mixed.

“Whoever designed the mask for the US athletes really did them dirty,” wrote one Twitter user.

Yet some wanted to buy their own, with one person writing, “That mask looks like it could be really comfortable. Honestly, I want to know more.”

You’ll be seeing more of the outsized masks — the Tokyo Olympics run through Aug. 8.