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The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe
The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team,Puskás Akadémia FCmight seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football.(Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing). Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.
Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM
Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there. Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role. No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team. Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achievedpromotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season. Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy. He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born. Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.
Part 2: No stadium left behind
Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season). Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium. Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán). Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money). The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó”= corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division. Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.
Part 3: Small place, big game!
As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots. First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program. The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home. Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in. While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons. It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI. Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”. The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”. Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community. PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league. Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget,making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Construction of a new tea kitchen for youth players for 650,000 EUR
Employment of a 45 person “cleaning and maintenance staff” for the academy.
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs. Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán. Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss. Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.) PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%. On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!
Epilogue: What's in the future?
As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title. However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football. But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you. And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say. TL,DR Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
I Read It So You Don't Have To: Secrets of the Southern Belle (by Phaedra Parks)
I hope the past few days have been restful and rejuvenating for you all, but -- as I'm sure you must have learned by this point -- the journey to personal betterment is an eternal endeavor. We haven't got a moment to waste, so let's bid adieu to the sunny serenity of the California coast and settle in down South with Real Housewives of Atlanta's Phaedra Parks, as she descends from her ivory porch swing and illuminates the esoteric in Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment. True to the title's descriptive and straightforward sentiments, Phaedra begins the book with a concise synthesis of the worldview she hopes to present:
I believe every woman should be a Southern Belle or minimally aspire to being more ladylike, charming, and intelligent, because we should all be treated well.
As she continues, we get our first glimpse of the deep well of compassion that underlies Phaedra's mission to improve the lives of those around her.
Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for women of northern persuasion. There they are rushing around in their baggy, drab clothes, doing everything for themselves and looking like they just rolled out of bed. They don't seem to understand there's a better way.
Thankfully, I no longer have to count myself among that witless horde. I feel like, until this fateful moment, I have been living like one of those people from the black-and-white "before" footage of an infomercial -- haphazardly bumbling through the most menial of daily tasks with no way of knowing how much brighter my world could be. Phaedra has freed me from Plato's Cave, and I have no choice but to follow her instruction and strive to shape myself in her image. A true Southern Belle is known -- first and foremost -- for her fundamental kindness and compassion towards others, so it is only appropriate that the book's first section is succinctly titled, "Be Nice." However, even this simple directive has been trampled by the corrupting influence of the modern world. As Phaedra laments,
Unfortunately, as we see more migration from other parts of the world, we also see an increase of poor manners and rude behavior.
She elaborates, providing specific examples of the personal injuries incurred as a result of these unmannered interlopers.
I find it particularly odd in business, when the salespeople or tellers don't speak or thank you for your patronage. Don't they realize that without customers they would not have a job?
I, too, find it offensive when minimum-wage workers have the nerve to act like actual human beings rather than automatons at the mercy of my personal whims, and I appreciate that Phaedra is bold enough to ask the question that has undoubtedly been on the tip of our collective tongue. Yet somehow, she still remains humble enough to freely admit where she has room to learn; here, she lets the reader in on "something I've never quite understood about non-southerners:"
They're suspicious of basic southern warmth because they're worried it's insincere. But at the same time, they will tell you the most inappropriate things! They tell you stuff about their health that you don't want to know. They launch into crazy stories about their terrible childhoods and how misunderstood they are. They complain about what happened long ago, and they fret openly about the future. Then they tell you what they paid for things and you want to crawl under the table. Frankly, that's not very attractive.
What is attractive, then, you may ask? Effusive compliments, for one thing -- "I don't know why some people are so concerned with being sincere, when being nice is so much more effective." We also learn to "never contradict anyone, even if you know they are wrong." Phaedra illustrates this particular lesson with the following example:
If someone tells you that your taxes are due on April 30 instead of April 15, you look puzzled and say, "Goodness, I had no idea. Did they change the date?"
And what happens after that? Either the person says yes and you're forced to play along with whatever bizarre delusion and/or power-play your companion is currently indulging, or they say no and you say -- what? "Right, of course, I knew that the whole time!" Or, "Gotcha! It's April 15th, you incompetent fraud!" Or maybe, "I don't even know what taxes are -- money is for menfolk!" I just can't imagine any of those scenarios playing out with less discomfort than a simple correction, but after four years living in New England, I can only assume that's just northern negativity clouding my vision. We are next presented with a list of "compliments that come in handy," a few of which I've transcribed below for immediate incorporation into your own phrasal repertoire.
What an interesting way to think about it. (Good for a point on which you disagree with someone.)
You thought of every little detail; I love a meticulous lady!
Wow! That is so original. I would never have put it together like that. (In this South this might mean, "I hate it," but in a polite way.)
Boss Babe is out -- Meticulous Lady is in! Phaedra reminds us to keep health concerns -- "especially female issues" -- far from polite conversation, then shifts gears to a much-needed lesson in verbal comportment. It's not just their "attractive regional accents" that distinguish Southern Belles from their less-attractive northern counterparts; they also devote great attention to evoking grace through their cadence and tone.
Sometimes northern women can sound awfully abrupt. It's just a habit they have, poor things.
If you'd like to take your place amongst esteemed gentility, however, I urge you to change your ways! For one thing, when speaking, "slip in something affectionate so that a very harsh reality doesn't come across as rude or abrupt." For example, see how much unpleasant confrontation is avoided with the following turn of phrase:
Darling, don't you know you're too smart and pretty to be the town drunk?
Silly girl, haven't you heard? Addiction is for ugly people! You should also feel free to use these compliments liberally throughout conversation -- "You don't have to mean it, you know." As an example:
If you can tell that someone has put a lot of effort into a particular aspect of her outfit, just draw attention to it. Sparkly stars-and-stripes high heels could be terribly tacky, but you bet they're supposed to be noticed, so go ahead and do it. "Those are certainly patriotic shoes!"
Let me take a crack at it -- This book certainly has a lot of words in it! Writing a book is such an impressive achievement -- I'm sure it feels so rewarding to finally see it In print! And I love the way you occasionally use infinity signs as bullet points -- it's so evocative! I think I'm getting the hang of this! "Another southern difference?" As Phaedra informs us, "we try not to make direct requests. It just sounds so forward and frankly unpleasant if someone comes right out and says what they want from you." Phaedra's Starbucks barista must really despise her -- If it isn't too much trouble, could I bother you for something to drink? No, anything's fine -- I wouldn't want to impose. Almost like a modern-day Rosetta Stone, the next passage introduces us to the nuanced connotations that pervade a true Belle's vocabulary. For example, Phaedra tells the reader that "if I tell someone 'Goodness, you must have spent all day on your hair. I am so impressed!' it really means I hate it." Before I manage to convey how impressed I am by the book before me, I read on to learn that "when you're discussing a homely girl, you generally say, 'She's so smart!' The general thought is you can't be both ugly and dumb. God wouldn't be that cruel." Please excuse me while I take a few hours to re-analyze every compliment I've ever been given in my entire life. Now that that's done, here are a few more translations to help you decipher the Belles in your life.
Belle-Speak: She's a nurse-in-training. Unvarnished Truth: She dates only old men.
Belle-Speak: She's a butter face. Unvarnished Truth: Everything looks good but her face.
Belle-Speak: Hope he's got money. Unvarnished Truth: He's unattractive and pays for affection.
The second one is not even really a euphemism so much as Phaedra trying to demonstrate her knowledge of hip modern slang, but I digress. We transition into advice for conversation starters -- "don't throw them complicated or controversial subjects like politics, animal rights, or local zoning." Truly, I can't tell you how many times I've been approached at a party with an opener about municipal ordinances, and it just kills the mood like nothing else. Worried about how you'll ever find something to talk about under these restrictions?
Don't worry about sounding interesting. "Interesting" is an overrated notion. Just fill the empty air.
That…explains a lot, actually. Our next lesson is in reference to dinner parties -- "don't make a fuss, unless you're complimenting the cook." In case you're confused as to how this guidance should be interpreted, Phaedra clarifies with some examples -- "'Is there meat in here? I'm a vegetarian' is the wrong kind of fuss." Since I typically ask this question while flailing my arms wildly and making intermittent whooping noises, I completely understand how it could be disruptive amongst refined company. Although I'm starting to get a bit nervous that I won't be able to keep track of these seemingly countless rules, Phaedra's next assurance puts my mind at ease: "If all else fails, remember the secret weapon of the Southern Belle is delicate helplessness." In the next passage, we learn that, "if there's any characteristic that defines a Southern Belle, it's her habit of firing off little notes on any occasion." Just as with verbal compliments, these notes require little to no basis in factual reality -- "obviously it's perfectly all right to exaggerate." But while truthfulness is more or less dispensable, your choice of writing implement could have grave repercussions. As Phaedra exhorts, "Never, ever write a letter in pencil. You might as well not bother at all." Within the realm of pens, however, "blue and black are perfectly acceptable, even if they do lack panache." We return once again to the topic of appropriate subjects for conversation, and are cautioned against asking anyone their age. Of course, wild speculation is encouraged, "as long as you're out of earshot." In the next tip, Phaedra declares: "Don't discuss the cost of anything. Any discussion of cost is just in poor taste." I just can't help picture how much of a nightmare this woman must be at a fast-food drive-through. Our final instruction?
Don't discuss hair color. Men always pretend they don't dye their hair, so you just have to go with it.
At first glance, this seems reasonable enough, especially in the context of the social graces espoused by the book so far. However, Phaedra's attempt at further explanation quickly begins to careen off-course.
For women, it's a little bit more complicated because you have the question of whether the drapes match the carpet, so to speak. And I do know some who dye the carpet to match -- that was the big thing in high school. Now with all this weird waxing, you don't have to do as much dyeing, but that's another thing you don't talk about either!
Let's see if I've got this straight: I should always believe a man about his purported hair color no matter what, but if a woman tries to lie about hers, she'll get caught…because I will inevitably be forced to confront the realities of her pubic hair? An intimate partner, sure, but I just can't imagine this situation arises with enough frequency to merit even the few lines its given in this text. And honestly, at this point, I don't even think I want to know what Phaedra means by "weird waxing." This section of the book concludes with a final catalog of "the 'She did what?' mistakes." The list starts off strong with "wearing white to another woman's wedding." However, by the time we end on the most unimaginable of atrocities -- "drinking beer from a bottle" -- I'm beginning to wonder if this list was actually supposed to have been titled "things the sexy homewrecker does in a bro-country music video." The following section is titled, "Work Hard," and I am immediately inspired to do exactly so by the implicit challenge thrown down in Phaedra's opening lines, in which she coquettishly asks, "Who always delivers a presentation on time, with the printed materials perfectly written and proofread?" I'm usually quite good at taming my most pedantic impulses, but contrarian passions I never knew I had are foaming at the mouth to find an upcoming typo and self-righteously call her bluff. Although perhaps I should find a more feminine way to phrase that; as Phaedra cautions, "we don't like to think of ourselves as driven, because that sounds so neurotic and unpleasant." We next learn that "you cannot be a Southern Belle unless you understand what it is to be ladylike." But unfortunately, it is all too easy to be caught up in the ways of the world and lose sight of this primary calling.
A lot of women today enjoy being the feisty, brassy, foul-mouthed kind of gal who drinks with men and shows a lot of flesh. They think it's cool.
Phaedra continues and reflects that, "I've heard the argument that this is progress, from the feminist point of view, but I don't necessarily agree." I can never remember -- which wave of feminism was the one with all the feisty gals? But clearly, their agenda has gone too far! How, in contrast, does a delicate Southern Belle behave?
She looks as if she's heard of sex, probably has had sex, but has no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings.
I'm not sure exactly how to convey this highly specific sentiment in any other way than purchasing a t-shirt custom-printed with the phrase, "I have heard of sex, have probably had sex, but have no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings," so I hope that approach will suffice for now. Phaedra follows up by cautioning us that,
A lady never puts in the shop window what isn't for sale.
Personally, I like to think of myself as more of a museum than a gift shop, but to each their own! We next learn more about the delicate balance a Southern Belle must achieve in order to maintain her esteemed position. For example, while "she doesn't cuss and doesn't talk dirty," frigidity is similarly unbecoming -- "if somebody tells a good dirty joke in her vicinity, she'll laugh." I'm barely a third of the way through this book, and I'm already exhausted at the prospect of having to remember all of these hyper-specific edicts. It's no surprise that the Southern Belle has to remain consistently vigilant; as Phaedra intones, "coming from a Pentecostal family, I hate to see a woman down more than two drinks." It seems to me like the simplest way to avoid such emotional turmoil would be to simply refrain from compulsively tallying the beverage intake of strangers, but I soon learn there are far more perilous hazards lurking around every corner. Phaedra shares her personal strategy for avoiding the very implication of incivility in the following excerpt:
I don't ever go to the bar at a party; I think that just looks terrible. If I must have a glass of wine or crave a fruity adult libation, I'll ask a nearby man to procure it for me.
Sir! Procure me a fruity adult libation -- tout de suite! But I would hate to diminish the male gender by implying that they're only good for the acquisition of potables; no -- men can be leveraged in an increasingly broad array of day-to-day tasks. As Phaedra shares:
I have friends who have never in their lives pumped gas for their own cars. They will ask a complete stranger to do it for them. One of my besties from New Orleans will flag down a man, give him her credit card, and have him pump and pay for her gas.
Honestly, I can't help but wonder if this might actually be some kind of avantgarde performance art, in the tradition of Marina Abramović's Rhythm 0. Because the idea that this gambit has never gone horribly, horribly awry truly strains credulity. As I read on, however, I learn that my current train of thinking is sorely misguided.
Sometimes when I'm at a grocery store the fellow bagging the groceries will ask if he can take them out to my car. Why would you say no to this? But sometimes women do. And I look at them and sigh and think, "Poor thing. She has a lot to learn."
Thankfully for my personal development, the next chapter — titled "A Crash Course in Being (Selectively) Helpless" — promises exactly the sort of content that I so desperately need to understand. As Phaedra explains, a Southern Belle is "never intimidating, because some things she just can't do on her own." She goes on to offer concrete examples of how to incorporate this ethos into your life on beginner, intermediate, and expert levels.
Experts: assume help will arrive. Flat tire? Pull over to the curb, and don't sweat it. Can't figure out which wrench to buy at Home Depot? Or how to program your DVR? This is what former boyfriends and other gentlemen are for. Believe me, the age of chivalry is not dead.
Rent due? Don't sweat it -- a gallant gentleman likely already has a check in the mail. House burning to the ground around you? You should know a Belle doesn't walk down the hallway on her own two feet! Bear attack? I'm sure a male bear is just around the corner, ready to jump in and defend your honor! Without a hint of irony, we transition to Phaedra's advice for the workplace. We learn that the quintessential gentlewoman is savvy, competent, and always at the top of her game. For instance, at her workplace, "she figures out how to work the coffee machine and the copy machine." With that kind of go-getting attitude, the Southern Belle will be bound for the C-suite in no time! Provided, of course,
She never does that thing I hear of in the North sometimes of telling you how little she paid for something. Why would you brag about bargains?
I can't hear the phrase that thing I hear of in the North in anything other than the voice of Tinsley's mother, Dale. Except she would probably use it in reference to something like "giving compliments to your daughter" or "weight gain." Regardless, a more appropriate question at this juncture might be, "Are you sure this book was proofread quite as judiciously as you claimed?" As I scan the page, my eyes happen upon the line:
10 percent for tithing, if your religion encourages tithing, which mines [sic] does.
Of course, it would be entirely uncouth for me to brag about my typographical superiority in this context, so now seems as good a time as any to exercise some of my newly acquired techniques. Oh, Phaedra -- bless her heart! I suppose we can't all be detail-oriented, can we? It must be nice to be so casual and carefree when you express yourself! Without further ado, however, we move along to our next lesson -- "People don't know when you're hungry, because they can't hear your stomach growling, but they definitely know when you're homeless." To be honest, the more I think about this statement , the less sense it makes to me (people…can hear your stomach growling?). Luckily, with the jam-packed schedule of a Southern Belle, I simply don't have time to dwell on the issue for a moment longer! Our next tutorial? "If you have one fabulous pair of shoes, you will wear them to church. It is the very least you can do for Jesus." As we all know, Jesus appreciates sweet kicks, so he loves nothing more than to see you rock the newest styles when you drop by on Sunday. And besides -- the higher the heel, the closer to heaven! Phaedra summarizes the Southern Belle's can-do attitude with the line: "We all may not be sitting around big ugly Formica boardroom tables, but we get things done." As someone who has only ever attended meetings held around moderately sized tables, I find this to be a validating sentiment. When it comes to extracurricular pursuits, "beauty pageants are important." However, "as much as she loves performing, the Belle will not take to the stage: some of those theater people are just too peculiar, bless their hearts." Honestly, Phaedra and I come down on the same side on this one. But I will have to heartily disagree with her next passage -- with respect to traditions of stepping within Black Greek Life -- in which she states,
The traditionally white organizations don't have anything comparable.
Um, excuse me? Have you never seen this iconic video?! However, Phaedra does reassure us that she's far from ignorant in the ways of the world. As she states, "I have read about hookup culture and known a few easy women." Of course, easy men don't exist -- or at least, that's what I've read in all the most prominent textbooks regarding hookup culture. But don't mistake Phaedra's awareness for acceptance -- "that doesn't mean I like any of it." However, this sentiment is belied just a few paragraphs later, when our author recalls:
I offended the mother of one of my best friends once by booking some exotic entertainment at this friend's birthday party. My friend loved the anatomically exceptional dancer, but her mother was livid.
I'm sure that it was only your friend who loved the "anatomically exceptional" dancer, and I assume this must have been one of your aforementioned token "easy" friends, besides. A Southern Belle, in contrast, is interested in serious, long-term relationships. And for this purpose, "it would be much better to marry a young man that you can train. I have always said that I would rather be a babysitter than a geriatric nurse." Yet even these kinds of discrepancies seem trivial in comparison to the boundless passions of eternal love. As Phaedra shares,
I want Apollo and me to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, so I try to overlook momentary annoyances.
That aged well. Bless her heart. We're soon treated to a cheeky list of "what her husband doesn't know," which echoes several key themes from earlier in the book -- most notably in its bizarre fixation with pubic grooming.
He doesn't know what her true hair color is, because the curtains always match the carpet.
He doesn't know how often she waxes, or exactly what waxing entails.
He doesn't know that she has her own credit card, her own savings account, and a safe-deposit box.
I've got to say, that last one hits just a little bit different with hindsight. Always timely, however, are Phaedra's views on the importance of the homemaking arts. In this evocative passage, she describes the primal horror of an encounter with a woman tainted by an unimaginable curse:
A nice lady from another part of the country recently confessed to me that she doesn't know how to do any crafts. In fact, she said, she gets all nervous and antsy in crafts stores, because they're so full of things she doesn't understand. I laughed like I thought she was joking, but really, I felt bad for her. Imagine not knowing how to make all those cute objects that brighten up lives in the South! I shudder to think what the inside of her house looks like!
With that fable still ringing in my ears, we transition to the next section of the book: "Look Pretty." Phaedra reflects, "I am always shocked when I leave the South and encounter the enormous number of women who don't seem to understand how their clothes should fit." Now feels like an appropriate time to draw attention to the book's back cover, in which an open-mouthed Phaedra swivels her torso in such a way as to create a bulging protuberance across one half of her chest. In awe of her commitment to inclusivity, I now realize this could only have been an intentional choice to make herself seem more approachable to us northern oafs, and for that I am eternally grateful. Phaedra goes on to inform us that, "personally, I prefer skirts and dresses over pants." However, although "high-waisted pants and pants with visible hem cuffs are quite elegant and ladylike," one should take care never to forget that "minimalism and menswear looks are just puzzling and not appealing to a Belle." I, too, must admit that I find menswear looks puzzling -- a girl? in boy clothes? I just can't make heads or tails of it! And this is far from the only contemporary fad that baffles the true Southern Belle. As Phaedra continues:
I've never understood the appeal of the natural look. It's so easy to improve your appearance; why wouldn't you take advantage of the many beauty aids available to you?
In a frankly unexpected dig against the ceramic arts, Phaedra notes that "unless you are a professional potter (and I don't think Southern Belles generally are), your nails need to be clean and filed." More generally, your physical proportions should remain mild and inobtrusive:
Ever since voluminous behinds became fashionable, I often see these lumpy, huge derrieres on women with legs as thin as a chicken's, and I think God would never put a rump roast on toothpicks, so why did you do that?
That's why I always caution my friends to pair their butt implants with a battery of leg implants, in order to really round out the overall contour of the body and mimic that structurally stable, God-given look. After all, as Phaedra quips: "'Knowledge is power' -- that's my motto." But this knowledge doesn’t come without a price; being as world-wise as Phaedra often requires direct confrontation with the atrocities of today's world. As she recounts, for example: "I was astonished to find out that not every woman possesses a lint roller." It's truly a tragedy to learn how the other half lives! We are next informed that, "you have to have your ears pierced, but only one hole in each ear." The consequences for an infraction of this critical edict are left unvoiced, from which I can only assume that they are swift and merciless. Any self-respecting Southern Belle has a taste for the finer things in life, and Phaedra is no exception. As she remarks:
I love diamonds; I'd have a diamond duvet if I could afford it.
Because I am less fiscally endowed, I have had to settle for stuffing my duvet with assorted Swarovski crystals, at least for the time being. However, I'm eager to upgrade -- I can only imagine that the extra hardness of the diamonds will add a satisfying acupuncture affect to my nighttime regimen! Phaedra moves on to fashion advice, and cautions the well-heeled Belle to remain conservative in her fashion choices. But don't worry -- there is a time and a place to let loose and express your more artistic side. Or, as Phaedra says, "something a little funky or ethnic may even be appropriate from time to time." To further illustrate this principle, she explains: "If I were going out West, for example, I might wear some turquoise bracelets." But some things are a bridge too far! Any woman with a modicum of dignity would know never to be caught dead in "polar fleece," "a naughty-nurse costume," or "footed pajamas." We are also encouraged to carry around a hand fan -- "the elegant way to stay cool" -- as well as a "small leather-bound notebook for jotting down inspirations." I lose my train of thought for a moment, caught up in a daydream about the ingenious wonderings that must be contained within Phaedra's hallowed journal. But I'm brought back to reality by a declaration of "what's not in my purse," beginning with the stern pronouncement: "any kind of contraband substance." Our pilgrimage to polite society continues with a comprehensive exploration of the monogram's social gravitas. As Phaedra intones, "I've even seen cars with a very discreet monogram on the driver's door." But with light must come darkness, and the next chapter bravely confronts an issue many others would fear to face: "Looking Like a Tramp" ("There, I came right out and said it," Phaedra breathlessly gasps below the harsh text of the passage's title). She gathers herself together and courageously reports, "some women look downright sleazy." Alas -- even more tragically -- couture catastrophes are not restricted to those of legal majority. Phaedra heroically pulls back the curtain on a nationwide epidemic of wardrobe misconduct being perpetrated against society's most vulnerable:
I saw a picture not long ago of some hippies or hipsters or whatever you call them from some remote city. The parents looked the way you'd expect them to look, a little bit bedraggled, but the worst thing was they had this adorable little baby all done up in a black onesie. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't even Halloween!
How to combat this terrifying trend? Phaedra offers words of wisdom: "Little Southern Belles always look sweet and appropriately girlish." Specifically, we are encouraged to incorporate design elements like "tasteful, conservative rickrack." By way of further explanation, she clarifies that, "what they don't do is dress like Lady Gaga in dresses made of butchers' best cuts of beef." I'm disappointed to learn that my idea for an Etsy store selling bespoke meat-based children's clothing might be a nonstarter, but I suppose I appreciate our author giving it to me straight. Another childcare commandment?
No costumes outside the house. Of course every little girl loves to play dress-up. But I truly dislike seeing Snow White or a fairy princess trailing along behind her mother at the Piggly Wiggly.
As she sits in her living room, most likely waiting for a man to come to her aid for some reason or another, Phaedra is struck by a sharp, blazing pain. As the flash of blinding torment subsides, she catches her breath and shakes her head wearily -- another costumed child has gone into a grocery store. Forgive their guardians, for they know not the harm their actions have caused to our author's delicate and genteel sensibilities. But it does us no good to dwell on the darker side of life! Rather, we'll move right along into the book's final section, "Have Fun." However, this does not seem to be exactly the same kind of "fun" colloquially mentioned in mainstream circles. Rather, the Southern Belle defines fun with the principle, "everybody needs to know that you made an effort." For example, "if you're pouring punch into paper cups for a gaggle of seven-year-olds, put a spring of mint in it." My previous experiences in the general vicinity of children lead me to believe that at least 75% of the seven-year-olds in this group would respond to this elegant enhancement by dumping the punch out on the ground because it has a gross plant in it. Maybe that's part of the fun? No analysis of Southern culture would be complete without a discussion of that most hallowed of pastimes -- college football. And although "only a really unusual woman watches football alone," it is imperative that a Southern Belle attend the social events associated with the on-season. What's more, she should take care to do with impeccable style. As Phaedra laments:
Sometimes I see pictures of women in store-bought football jerseys and I feel sorry. A store-bought jersey does nothing to flatter the feminine body.
As for the game itself, minimal understanding is required -- "Naturally a Belle knows how much men enjoy telling her things, so she isn't shy about asking questions." True to her generous spirit, however, Phaedra nevertheless provides a basic primer in the rudiments of the sport:
Basically each team is trying to get the ball through the tall H-shaped goalposts at the end of the field. […] The problem is that the ball can look awfully little from pretty much anywhere in the stands. There's no shame in watching the video replay to see what really just happened.
As a final tip, Phaedra suggests that "belles whose husbands have season tickets might even invest in matching linens and china." Our next unit of instruction concerns the arrival of a newborn bundle of joy; as we learn, "the birth of a baby is a big deal in a southern family." It's so interesting to learn all of these unique cultural details! I don't know if I've ever heard of another culture that places such importance on birth -- I'd love to get an anthropologist's take! There are also strict guidelines to which one must adhere regarding the naming of a debutante-in-training:
A Southern Belle's name: -- is obviously feminine. -- is two syllables or more (names like Ann or Joan seem abrupt, like so many Yankees). -- is a real name, not a geographic feature like Sierra. -- means something. Preferably something nice.
Once born and appropriately christened, children should be painstakingly shielded from the contaminating influences of the world at large. Phaedra explains that "pop culture is full of children behaving disrespectfully." Without the slightest suggestion of self-reflection, she goes on to declare that "besides, we think TV characters are basically tacky." Phaedra reiterates a few of the courtship commandments mentioned previously, most concisely in the adage, "Belles don't date losers." And, as any suitor worth his salt should know, "a date with a Belle is no time for a boy to experiment with 'alternative' clothes or grooming either." Instead, a Southern Gentleman takes care to keep his language clean from distasteful or offensive language -- "For instance, why say 'liquor' when you can say 'adult refreshment'?" As we near the end of the book, it seems only fitting that we take a few pages to cover the traditions and rituals associated with life coming to a close. Buttressed by her extensive knowledge of mortuary science, Phaedra instructs us:
Postmortem is no time to experiment with cosmetics. No one wants their sweet aunt Gertrude looking like some ashy Jezebel when she meets Jesus.
The passage concludes with the brassy observation, "we don't usually cremate in the South; we figure if we wanted to burn we'd just live recklessly and go to hell." Before the book closes in earnest, Phaedra shares a few of her special, meticulously developed recipes. The most evocative of her culinary optimizations is a recipe for sweet tea, in which she thoughtfully informs us, "sweetness can be personalized by adding more water or ice to the tea." The book's final pages contain an instrument designed to measure the effect of the preceding 252 pages on one's essential courtesies, charmingly titled "The Belle-O-Meter Quiz." As Phaedra explains:
So, ladies, how are you doing? I'm sure you've all been very attentive to my suggestions and are amazed by the results. You're probably totally used to a steady diet of compliments and flirtation and invitations. But here's a little quiz in case you feel the need to measure how far you've come.
If you'd like to take the full quiz, you can do so here. But if your busy Belle schedule doesn't permit you to devote that much time to something so self-indulgent, a few example questions are provided below:
Your routine greeting when you meet a new person is: a. A surly glare. b. "Hi." c. "Well, hello! How are you today?"
If your gentleman friend brought you a corsage to wear on a date you would: a. Put it in the refrigerator. Nobody wears corsages nowadays! b. Pin it to your coat collar and check your coat. c. Pin it in an unusual spot like your waist or behind your ear, after extracting one little blossom to put in his lapel.
The answer key informs us that answering mostly C's means that "you are a genuine Southern Belle." As Phaedra goes on to suggest, "maybe it's time to share your new skills with a friend and pass along this book. I hope it's been helpful to you." As a book hoarder of the highest order, I will have to skip that suggestion, but I am nevertheless thankful to move one step closer to self-actualization with the help of another Real Housewife. Until next time! Upcoming plans in comment below!
Author’s Note: I just wrote 3500 words of gibberish. I’m washed boys. I’ll bold some of the highlights; but don’t punish yourself too much or expect a ton out of it. Reads more like a recap into decision making without a ton of time taken to walk through the individual pieces of that process. TLDR;
Small side note, I have stepped down as Moderator. When I get passionate about something—well, I tend to go overboard...take a brief look at my post history. Either way summer is fast approaching, and it is just a good time to reprioritize things in life. Big note. This is not a traditional ranking of players. If that is your expectation, this will not be your cup of tea. This is my cathartic debrief and recap from my rookie draft season; I’ll throw out a few trains of thoughts on a few players, hopefully some interesting nuggets that’ll help people, but I understand if most are displeased.
Another year in the books of discussing and allowing data & historical precedence to carry us through the months. Mentally I am already onto 2021 and will probably put out a “Notes on” soon. But for now, let us work through my final rankings of the 2020 class. Things obviously change, more data is pouring out of teams, the off-season will be unique due to COVID-19 and more information will come as our takes metastasize to our brain. This post is going to bring most people far less utility. Just the way I’ve written it, for that I am sorry. But I wanted to dig at my mindset while I was drafting less every potential hypothetical that we twist ourselves into knots over with these exercises. In order to deliver my usual posts it requires more nuance than I am willing to produce currently. Some may think, “why bother?” Well, my rookie drafts are done for the season and I thought it would be nice to have a conversation, and hopefully pull people into a broader conversation. Please bear with me, while I used data to assign tiers, much of the decisions making done within the tiers was done on feelings that emerged from digesting that data.
I have Burrow and Tua far closer than most people, they are tiered for me. Especially when there is a major discrepancy in draft value required to secure them, I will prioritize taking Tua. There is a good argument for Justin Herbert in the conversation, but I have never been high on his tools, and collegiate production. Love enters the conversation as the true definition of a “dynasty investment.” I would be willing to roster a few other guys; Hurts, Fromm, Eason, Gordon but I would not consider them any sooner than the third or fourth round of rookie drafts.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals [-]
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins [-]
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers [-]
Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers [-]
Running Back Rankings
Look at the last 20 years of bell-cow running backs with successful rushing QBs and almost all of them average 100+ scrimmage yards/game. Dobbins will be ranked higher than Taylor by the consensus sooner rather than later. Taylor is still a safe talent on a very good running team with limited competition (sorry Mack & Hines); but I’m not certain how anyone right now can ignore CEH or Dobbins. Below I’ll rank them in the order that’ll piss off the most people, but I would take the guy you can get for the best value in your draft. Today that might be Dobbins, tomorrow it might be Taylor. If you’re picking at 1, it’s a tough choice. Kansas City and Baltimore are well run programs. CEH collegiate profile was incomplete, only one year of stud production, but does that mean anything in Kansas City? Dobbins was special at Ohio State, but does that lack of preparation in year 2 seep back in now that he’s in the NFL? Is Taylor more concerned with owning Toppers’ Pizza locations in Madison WI than playing football? We all find our reasons to take our guys. Cam Akers and D’Andre Swift will share a tier, again take the guy you believe in or the guy you can get for the best value. Everyone else ranked is in a grab bag tier, grab them where-ever is most prudent, I’ve assigned rough values based on where I’ve seen them go and where I start considering taking them. Anyone not listed is considered a round 3/round 4 guy that I’m not concerning myself with. I may love the Anthony McFarland fit/pick but I am not going to waste more words on it. Rank change [-] speaks to the change of tiering in this case, not a change in position rank.
JK Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens [+1]
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts [-]
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs [+1]
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams [+1]
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions [-]
AJ Dillon. Green Bay Packers [mid to late Round 2 of your rookie draft]
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers [mid to late Round 2]
Antonio Gibson, Washington Redskins [Round 2/3 turn]
Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers [Round 3]
Wide Receiver Rankings
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys [-]
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings [-]
Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles [+2]
Laviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars [+6]
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders [-2]
Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts [+1]
Denzel Mims, New York Jets [-1]
Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens [UR]
Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams [UR]
Am I missing a few guys? Absolutely I am. These are the guys, for the most part that I am targeting. In theory, Jerry Jeudy is my 2nd ranked wide receiver; Henry Ruggs is my 5th ranked receiver. When it comes down to molding a draft board; where I’m seeing Jeudy go I NEED one of my top 3 RBs; hell I’ll move up 1 or 2 spots to make sure it happens. Beyond that I am in the strong lean Akers > Jeudy camp. To further highlight this, I do like Jeudy. But in this moment..I want, CEH-Dobbins-Taylor-Akers, Burrow-Tua, and CeeDee over him. That means the earliest I am drafting Jeudy is 8 and the board has to fall that way. I'd have to be the Dallas Cowboys to have a pick in that range and also have the board fall that way. I'm just not getting Jeudy. I want Akers-Swift-Tua-Reagor-Jefferson where Ruggs commonly comes off the board. You should absolutely be considering Aiyuk when he slips into the second, or Claypool anywhere from the mid second on. You’ll figure that out—you’ll have your preferences. I have mine.
So here is the crux of all of this, three, real, live drafts and the results for them.
Teams are color-coated (no color alignment between drafts, bright red in Draft A is not the guy that is bright red in Draft C); my selections, the player’s name is highlighted in orange. Two of the drafts went to 4 rounds, a third to 6; at the time of this screen capture Draft C had just gotten through the third round.
A freshly booted devy superflex league, TE premium, PP1D, draconian QB scoring (+6 touchdowns, -4 turnovers), QB/SF/1RB/1W1TE/5FLEX, 10 teams. Going into it the startup, I went stud-only early and then poured capital into Devy and Rookie picks. My baseline roster of note was Wentz-Wilson-Saquon-Nuk. Devy picks yielded Pickens, Garrett Wilson, Najee Harris. At 1.05, the pick was always CeeDee Lamb. My flair is Lamb Brigade, I’ve been on Lamb since before the season. The Cowboys’ having Lamb as their 6th rated player, and Jerry requesting that he wears Irvin and Dez’s #88 only solidifies it for me. This is dynasty. Cooper is on a team friendly deal after the 2021 season, Gallup is due for resigning after 2021, I trust Lamb to hit his markers (500+ yards year 1, better year 2). My expectation is a Marvin Harrison-Reggie Wayne or Andre Johnson-DeAndre Hopkins type come up. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t give JK Dobbins a thought—but it was CeeDee ForMe. Let’s be clear, Dobbins is the safer play here. I just have a favorite. Reading through this I want to further clarify this pick. It was a numbers game for me. I have Lamb >> Jeudy whereas I have Dobbins only > Akers. By counting the picks I liked my chances of getting Akers at 8. Didn't work out that way. At 1.08, I was originally hoping I might get my first share of Akers. That wasn’t to be and this particularly decision point wasn’t difficult either. I counted out the players I liked, Jefferson, Swift, Reagor, Tua; and asked myself who was going to be there at 2.01. Least likely to be there was Tua because of superflex and positional scarcity. There are absolutely some worlds I take one of the other 3; but not this one. At 2.01, best of the rest. Reagor was the easy choice for me. Let’s be clear here I am a huge fan of Reagor, had him as my WR2 coming into the 2019 season. Do not get caught expecting him to be a year 1 dynamo. Nothing would surprise me, in the same vein Ertz/Goedert will get there 200 targets and I suspect Alshon and DeSean will be in the gameplan to some degree (over under around 200 targets if healthy). Cap restraints make me reluctant to believe either player gets shipped before the season. There is room to consider Ruggs here instead of Reagor. At 2.03, this was my first Laviska share. It was perplexing to be honest. If you’ve read any of my work to this point—I think you’re surprised I have two shares of Laviska. Part of it was the post-draft interviews, Jacksonville talking about ‘Viska getting a good medical eval and that they believe his surgeries with good rehabilitation habits have corrected all of his nagging issues; probably a pipedream. There is an air of upside to this guy that I can’t shrug off, he has sink in his routes that are second to none in this class. When I looked around at Mims, Aiyuk, Love, Pittman, Hamler, Higgins, I simply do not feel the same about their profiles. Let’s highlight that, “I did not feel the same.” Toss in Fournette on his way out, myself being a bit of a Jay Gruden-stan, and Jacksonville and Viska hooking up that night to discuss their plans for him. I can’t shake the upside. This is a high-risk pick—but I LOVE this value in the early to mid-second. Even if he is a stud, I promise you I will joke until the end of the time that I expect him to be on my IR at any moment. At 2.10, my boy, Bryan Edwards. It’s been a long time. Two years of work and we finally made it. My first share of Bryan Edwards. I am led to believe that he was going to put up a great combine at 6-3, 215; he immediately slots in as their iso-X; and Mayock sang so many praises I had to catch my breath. This draft has been all heart for me and the statistical profiles of every one of these guys have my back. I was uneasy with letting Dillon go here. I frantically tried to trade up for him before and after the Edwards pick. Just such a good value for Dillon. I later found out that the 3.02 was insta-drafting either Edwards or Dillon so I was screwed either way and in my heart of hearts I’m glad I have Edwards. The one problem with this draft, no immediate starters to fill into those FLEX spots for this draft. I was so busy chasing my guys that I am criminally thin at RB on this roster (although I would have gone Akers at 8 to remedy this in the moment—probably not the best choice in hindsight); thankfully I had a good late draft, while people were scooping up third and fourth round rookie picks I was grab DeSean Jackson’s, Marvin Jones types that by week 4 or 5 of the coming season I should be more comfortable with my lineup.
A newly acquired league that might be a little softcore for my tastes. I constantly have to remind myself that it’s only 4PT passing TD, 1QB and fairly small starting lineups for 12 teams (QB/2RB/2W1TE/2FLEX). The roster is pretty shallow for my tastes, but I do like the starting lineup, the most notable assets include Wentz-Elliott-Adams-Odell-Andrews. At 2.06, the board was already light. There were guys there we can convince ourselves of, but I was pretty much down to Edwards-Dillon-Tua-Burrow. The ground swell in the league suggested that a QB was likely going to be there at 2.12, even if I was just stashing Love for the next half decade; who cares it’s 2.12. Knowing that most of the league was aware of my online presence, I decided to go Edwards. Looking back at the move, I probably should have gone with the upside presented in AJ Dillon’s profile—but you’re trying to make the best out of a crap sandwich at this point in the draft, regardless of what anyone is trying to pump you full of. At 2.08, I lucked out and Dillon was there, easy insta-draft. At 2.12, I probably played myself. It’s 1QB, I don’t expect to have to start Tua year one, I have a general affinity for him—and let’s be honest; do you really want to bet significant money on who will have a better career? As you can tell—at this point I went full “screw it.” Will I come to regret the pick? Probably. Will it undermine my team in this league—in 1QB, 4pt passing TD, nah. At 3.10, I traded for this pick. Honestly, I had 3 concurrent rookie drafts running and I was patently sick of them. Waay too many people were running most of their 8 hour clocks and I was tired of waiting. I traded 2, 2020 4ths (became Quez Watkins and James Proche) and a 2021 4th to get up to 3.10 and end my draft. What if I told you the Saints traded not 1, not 2, but 4 picks to move up to get Trautman, and then after that came out and said that he was a top 40 rated player on their board. What if then, after that I told you their only tight end of note is 33 years old. Hi, one Adam Trautman please.
This is the coup de grace. This is my Mona Lisa, so much went right, I don’t even know how to react. This league is superflex, ppr, 1QB/1SF/2RB/3W1TE/2FLEX/1DST, 12 teams, 6pt passing touchdowns. Tua went 1.01 because the 1.01-owner’s team (newly adopted orphan) is legitimately bad, full rebuild, he’s aiming Lawrence next year. He has Tua-Burrow evenly ranked, his hope is that Tua gets redshirted this year and does his team no good. The owner that selected both CEH and Jonathan Taylor considered Burrow over Taylor but is pretty solid at QB. The 2/3 owner tried literally everything to get 4/5 to acquire CeeDee. At one point he was offering Evans straight up. No dice. He had quite the run of attempts to trade, and they were clear overpays by most people’s standards, no one wanted to budge; he did it all throughout the first and second rounds. We all assumed Burrow at 4, it’s the only reason an overpay won’t work, right? BOOM, Jeudy. At this point I don’t know what to do with my hands. The #5 owner was planning Dobbins 100% of the way and never expected Burrow to be right there. He’s trying everything to get out of the #5 pick and turn it into gold. The 2/3 owner is throwing everything and the kitchen sink at him—not good enough. I’m sweating bullets for my Lamb share..and finally the #5 relents and takes Burrow. Examples like this, is why I tell people not to just draft a guy and assume they'll get a kings-ransom elsewhere. Sure 1-3 teams in that superflex league might be interested, but in the moment, at likely his cheapest price no one expressed interest in Burrow. Don't expect that to change suddenly over night. To further that example, If Ruggs some how falls to you at 2.06 and you don't like him, don't suddenly expect that'll you'll be able to turn him for a profit later--the league, or at least the people on the board and active on that day are telling you they really aren't that interested. At 1.06, I take Lamb. The Draft A and C were running pretty close to one another so when I was on the clock (many shared owners between A & C) in A, I was waiting for my pick in C so that I could ensure I didn’t get sniped for Lamb. Reasons above described why I’m all in on Lamb—past post history just furthers it. Why listen to me when you can listen to the mountains of pundits. At 1.07, this was the beauty. This was the death blow, I can’t believe I got Dobbins here. Just a stupid bit of luck that the 1.01 owner is getting cute (who knows it may work), the 1.04 owner was glued to Jeudy, and the 1.05 owner felt he couldn’t pass on Burrow. I attempt to make plays for Reagor and Akers as they fell, no dice anywhere. At 2.04, at this point I had my first share of Viska in Draft A, this being Draft C; I just followed through on my convictions. I did consider Aiyuk but felt no loyalty to that pick. Taking perceived upside. At 2.08, again I went heart. In this draft I was quite afraid there were 2 people that would snipe me on Edwards just to mess with me. We are a pretty good bunch and atleast 1 of them is fully aware of my interest in Edwards, the other 1 should have had an inkling after we facetimed through day 1 and day 2. Both picked between 2.04 and 3.04 so I wasn’t going to take the risk. Part of me wishes I would have taken Dillon and risked Edwards for 3.04, but it is what it is. I did put out offers to try to get Dillon, in hindsight I could have gotten something done at 2.10 if I was a little more forthcoming and persistent, so that kind of sucks. At 3.04, the original plan was Gibson with the way the board was falling. Didn’t happen that way. I had already taken Trautman in Draft A and was well aware of the boons assigned to his profile, 3.04 was my last pick of note in this draft so while closing my eyes to the availability of Moss-Kelley-Hamler; I see the upside and might regret it again—fatigue of the process and a need in that league for TE drove me back to Trautman.
How did I come to my decisions? A lot of it was based on profile and statistical modeling. Even the best prospects by any modeled outcome have a 50-50 chance of succeeding. Most of your top prospects in any given year it’s about 20%. Try to make good value decisions, try to value more complete profiles, consider all of the intel out there on prospects but at the end of the day; who am I? Who am I to say CeeDee is going to succeed and do it big? I’m not, and I won’t; I just believe based on every piece of data out there that I like my odds of the coin flipping what I call. Same goes with Dobbins, Taylor, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. They just scream “I have a role and I’m going to give you fantasy points.” We aren’t honest enough with ourselves when we draft these guys. I can speak glowingly of each and everyone one of my guys—hell I can speak negatively about the guys I drafted (Hi Laviska) but none of that matters, what matters is what the board looks like when it is your turn to draft, what it will look like after you draft, and whether any of it matters.
Tips to Help You with Your Upcoming Draft
Go watch post-draft coach/GM interviews. They are fluff, they’ll say things that you’ll wrongly assign value to; there is a good argument that I’ve done that above. But some of them are going to tease to you just how highly they valued a guy (Diontae Johnson, round 1, Bruce Arians miffed that the Steelers sniped him), like Trautman, like Lamb. Will it eventually make these guys more successful? Nah, but it may just tell us how much rope a prospect has..
Statistical models aren’t the end all be all—but dismissing them entirely is foolhardy at best, they are built to give you better odds. Problem is people like to make all their decisions on those odds. Does it matter if a model assigns a 22% probability to player A and a 19% probability of success to player B? Generally no, models based on football data do not have that level of viability. As a rule of thumb say a range of predicted success is 1% to 50%. I would consider the margins probably about 10 percentage points, so generally buckets guys between 40-50, 30-40, etc etc. But if one guy is 41% and another guy is 39% I'd say the decision point is muddled and unclear, but if one guys is 41% and the other guy is 29%, then I'd consider it; even then it's roughly 2:5 and 1:3 odds, are they really all that discernible in practice?
Understand a players role, watch for yourself, and listen to others. I’d say my evaluation process is about 30% defining for myself, 20% listening to others, 30% statistical models, and 10% bias developed from learning about the player as a person, 10% hype baby.
Nothing is the end all be all. I think I’ve highlighted that at every turn. We are going to pin ourselves to X means they’ll be successful. It could be a key/a tell at a player's potential, it likely is not.
Formulating Football Predictions and Best Betting Tips
Football is increasing its popularity all over the world. Fans had dominated the web and the football arena by storm. The football fever is contagious. The fever went on for months even days till the final matches, which is every 4 years and in different locations all over the world. Asia, North and South America, Europe, Middle East and Africa had all participated in the much awaited FIFA World Cup. Countries and teams prepare for the momentous event where they will defend their country and win the prize. Season after season, fans and enthusiasts are attentive, online and offline for the matches' games' misses and hits. They are so focused on each teams round-off, scores, statistics, and football predictions. Watch channel after channels for the best scores and soccer predictions in order to place their bets on the most favorable team or their most favorite team. Placing football bets can be confusing and requires a lot of research and background. You need to be at least familiar with the team's history and the players' current stats. Researching your team and your team's opponents are crucial. Any information is important before placing your bet. Here are some relevant football betting tips that you may think about before you place your bets on any of the teams:
Fitness. Players, key players or not, must be in their best shape. At any sports, there is a risk of injury. Oftentimes, players who were previously injured do not play as well as they used to before the injury. So you might want to think about the player and the team you are betting on.
Venue. Homegrown teams are more comfortable in their own field. Find out where the next game is and the teams participating. If the venue is neither of the teams' location, then odds are even. It could probably be difficult to take notes of any football predictions if the teams play on neither of their field.
Statistics. How many times did the team win within the past few years? What was their highest goal? Who are the key players? How many goals did each key player achieved?
Key players. If you have a favorite team, you definitely have a favorite player. Admit it or not, you want to find out the most valuable information on your player. You sometimes focus and monitor their improvements, scores, mishaps and successes.
Coaches. The success of a team often lay on the hands of their coach. Another statistic you might want to look into. The coaches approach to the game and its players are as important as the players themselves. You may have heard all the players' speeches, thanking their coach first and foremost. They inspire the players to do well. If the coach had led its team into its success, chances are, they will still succeed.
The competitors. You do not only need to know what your favorite teams' stats are. If that is crucial, the competitor's stats are also important. Who would not want to know anything about their opponents? Research the opponent's stat too. Know the players, the coach and other relevant components.
Brokers or booking agents. Like in financial planning, there is also a broker. They hold all the keys to your team and other team's information. These brokers have researched and have been able to accurately give football predictions and football tips before placing bets. You might want to keep an eye and open ears to them.
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Sunderland to the tune of “We didn’t start the fire”.
Adam Johnson, Alex Rae, Julio Arca, John O’Shea, Jacky Colback, Kevin Kyle, Ignacio Scocco. Mick McCarthy, Richardson, Steven Fletcher, Seb Larsson, full of sneer, nowt ‘round here, Prem so long ago. Ellis splurge, Kilbane, Mignolet, Pantilimon, Wembo, til I die and the Addicks made you cry. At Trafalgar, fountain, Maja got a new team. Sad piano, now the Saudis, Sayonara goodbye! We didn’t start the fire You were always fuming since the worlds been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it but you tried to fight it Chrissy Makin, Advocaat, flowers and he left the job. Club’s a shower, Don won’t sell ya, piss take stopped. Money gone, leads thrown and Vergini’s volley home. Ten men, two alls, will it ever stop? Niall Quinn, dare to dream, Sunderland’s a div 3 team, Prem please block it, Paedo fans, every press leak, Is it cans? Bardo, Burnley’s best, Samablama, jumped ship, big disgrace, lost his place, Trouble is the truth hurts. We didn’t start the fire You were always fuming since the worlds been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it but you tried to fight it Steed Malbranque, bring him back, Mickey Mouse cup, Moysey slap, Rubbish tip, Donny lied, Banners over river tyne. Promo gone, lost it all, Grayson kind of football. Fairweather, not our side, Mackem children want to hide. Sorry story, Bent spurned, Peter Reid, Magedia. Muddy boots, cats blown, Champo is a no-go. Boo hoo, symmetry, they go down, then we win, Checktrade, Bramble, Pickford’s arms are dino. We didn’t start the fire You were always fuming since the worlds been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it but you tried to fight it Summerbee, way aye man, never been in Europe then? Milan, all in , even beat your football friends. Lawrence over Leadbitter, skittish Mackemania, I miss Dong Wan, Brucey eats kebab again. Kevin Ball, Gibson’s wrecks, Adam’s wrong illegal sex Good old days, far away, what else do I have to say? We didn’t start the fire You were always fuming since the worlds been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it but you tried to fight it No control, Methven, fiddles with attendance Club’s shot, lock stock, close the gate, sunk cost. Ragin’ sage is on the Tyne, Victor please tweet something like, Lorik Cana tried to run, Geordies beating Barca man. Lost a fortune, canny ride, EPL it’s suicide, foreign bets, Ellis debts, is this as good as it gets? Mackematics drawn on walls, why won’t Martial sign for wuh. It’s a full on Sun’lan war, I can’t take it anymore! We didn’t start the fire You were always fuming since the worlds been turning We didn’t start the fire But when we are gone, we’ll still fume on and on and on and on.
I was transfixed, literally. It was impossible for me to move as I looked out of my bedroom window that summer afternoon, down into my neighbor’s yard and saw Bobby and Valerie DeJong fucking. Their son, Chet, had been my best friend through high school and I knew the family well, but this was the first time in my 18 years of existence on the planet that I’d witnessed a couple in the flesh, screwing each other for all they were worth. It was shocking, mesmerizing and exciting as I stood a couple of feet back from my window, watching them and stroking myself. They used a patio lounger and Valerie spent a lot of time on her knees, apparently urging her husband as he slammed into her from behind. Their black skin made them look like silhouettes against the sandy paving of their yard, Valerie’s breasts hanging down and swinging as Bobby fucked her. And his cock… it was huge. It looked to be almost a foot long (I know now that was unlikely, but that’s what it looked like) and straight as a rule. It was so long it looked like he couldn’t fit all of it inside her – at least three inches stayed outside Valerie’s pussy. I had just looked out of the window casually when I’d spotted them. Now over the initial surprise, I was on the verge of cumming as I watched them. Bobby turned Valerie over and kneeled on the lounger, directing his huge tool at her groin. Once inside he started his rhythm again, making Valerie’s eyes close in pleasure as he pumped faster and faster. I came before he did, spurting youthfully across my carpet, but my cock was still rock hard as I watched Bobby’s body stiffen and obviously cum inside Valerie. Unlike the porn movies I’d seen, he didn’t pull out and shoot cum over her, just stayed inside and finished his orgasm. When they were done the lay naked together on the lounger, his cock still looking enormous as it deflated slowly. I watched for a while before backing away from the window and stroking myself again. ** Next time I saw Valerie was a few days later, when I called round to see what Chet was up to. We’d both finished high school a couple of weeks before. Chet was headed for a football scholarship at Texas, me to University of Illinois. I hadn’t seen my friend since the weekend and knocked on the DeJong’s front door. Valerie answered, dressed in some tight jeans and a pink crewneck top. I stumbled over my first words, not able to get the image of her naked out of my mind, but managed to ask for Chet. “He’s over at his cousins, on his way back I believe. Should be here in a half-hour or so.” Valerie smiled at me and I started to feel a little more comfortable, assuming she knew nothing of my voyeurism. “Would you like to come in and wait for him? I’m just prepping some food for tonight. You’re welcome to wait.” It seemed natural for me to accept, after all, it’s what I would’ve done many times before that day. I knew that my perception of Valerie had changed, but she didn’t. We lived in an affluent suburb and back then fewer moms worked, so it was very normal for Valerie to take time to prepare the family dinner, just as my mother did, often baking as well. I followed her into the kitchen and took a seat at the table. She offered me lemonade but then remembered that I preferred soda, so poured me a Coke. My family socialized with the DeJong’s a little, mostly at neighborhood cookouts and the like. We got on well with them but this was twenty years ago and some didn’t… the color of their skin still somewhat unusual in the suburbs. If they ever felt any resentment, none of the family showed it. We chatted about the coming college days for a few minutes. Rightfully so, she was very proud of Chet’s scholarship but she also showed genuine interest in where I was going and what I expected life to be like in the college world. I’d heard many times that she’d studied Chemistry in Florida, but parents seemed to have a habit of forgetting what they’d told people and tell them again. I guess I’m like that now! I had ample opportunity to study Valerie, as I’d never seen her before. She had been Chet’s mom for all the years we’d lived next to them, but now she was the lady I’d seen fucking in her yard. She always had a ready smile and a kind disposition, but for the first time I noticed that she had beautifully smooth skin, very dark and providing a stark contrast for her white teeth that made them seem almost incandescent. She had a good figure, maybe a few extra ponds around her hips, but wonderfully round and distinct breasts that bobbled just enough with her movements to suggest they were heavy when released from her bra. In the yard Valerie’s hair had been combed back and in a ponytail but today it was hanging around her face, wavy from styling I thought, but very sensual. I’d never thought about her age much before, but she must have been at least forty-three, and looking good for it. My standard for beauty back then was young movie stars and other pin-ups, but it now came to me that my friend’s mother was very beautiful. “You’ll have fun.” Valerie concluded our college discussion just as the phone rang. “Excuse me.” Valerie spoke with a soft, accent-less voice. “It was Chet.” Valerie breezed back into the kitchen. “They got tickets for the baseball game tonight, he’s staying over at my sister’s. Sorry.” “No problem.” I took the last drink of my Coke. “It was nice to talk with you. Thanks for the Coke.” I stood to leave. “No, wait.” Valerie placed a light touch on my forearm, stopping me in my tracks. “Hold up. Stay a little while. I’d like to talk to you some more.” She seemed a little more awkward than normal but was smiling at me. I had nowhere to go and wasn’t in the habit of turning down requests from adults so I sat back down at the table. Valerie immediately poured me another drink. She shuffled around the sink, putting things away without saying anything and then she came and sat at the table with me. Our silence had become a little strained suddenly. It felt like Valerie wanted to say something to me and as I had no idea what that might’ve been, I had no clue how to start the conversation. I mostly thought she wanted to talk about Chet. She’d asked me about his girlfriends once or twice, just in a maternal sort of way, not prying or uncomfortable. Valerie sat across from me with her hands on the table, her fingers intertwining in a way that looked slightly nervous. I felt my own nerves start to build. What could she want? “I…” She made a false start and her eyes fell to her hands. “I think you saw us the other day. Bobby and I.” She finished her words looking into my eyes. I thought about pleading innocent, that I didn’t know what she thought I saw, but the look in her eyes suggested there was no room for denial - she knew. I nodded. “I’m sorry.” She seemed genuinely repentant. “Our yard is so private. The trees mean no one can see in, except from your bedroom, that’s the only angle. I guess we just got carried away.” There was a faint smile on Valerie’s lips as she spoke, but her tone was quiet. I didn’t feel there was anything I could say that would either make her feel better or excuse my watching them. “I saw you at the window. Afterwards.” She leaned forward, now a little conciliatory. “I guessed you’d been there for a while. I guessed you’d seen… everything?” Rather than just nod again, I managed, “I did.” “I’m so sorry. That wasn’t fair on you.” Valerie reached over and took my hand in hers. Her words sounded sincere. I tried to reassure her. “It’s okay. It’s no big deal.” “Are you sure? Do you want to talk about it? I don’t want you to feel bad about it.” Finally her somber tone broke a little, “Bobby and I are married after all.” I shook my head. “No, it’s okay really. I didn’t think anything of it. I’m sorry I watched for so long… I just couldn’t help it.” “You hadn’t seen anyone making love before?” I wanted to answer honestly, but, being the age I was, didn’t want to expose myself as inexperienced in the ways of the world. “Yes, I mean, well, I have, but not… live like that. It was so real, if you know what I mean. I’m sorry you saw me.” Valerie smiled softly as I spoke. I realized she was still holding my hand, like she was soothing me. I wanted to reassure her I was not psychologically harmed by the experience so blurted out, “It wasn’t a horrible experience, believe me.” Somewhere, in that moment, the dynamic between us changed. I didn’t realize until later, but the air in the room started to change from the cool of uncomfortable discovery to the heat of a sexual discussion. “Really? You enjoyed watching us?” I swear Valerie almost smirked. I didn’t want to admit straight up that I’d “enjoyed” the scene, but wanted to convey that I was far from shocked or hurt by it. “It was… interesting. You know, it was beautiful in some ways. Kind of nice to see people who love each other making love like that.” “Did it… did it excite you?” Valerie held my gaze and her grasp on my hand tightened a little. I nodded my admission, hoping the next logical question, in my mind at least, didn’t come. “That’s nice. I’m glad it wasn’t a bad experience for you.” I half-hoped at this point the discussion would be over, but also noticed that I was becoming excited by the topic, especially in the presence of the woman I’d watched having sex just a few days earlier. “Tell me, what did you find exciting?” I thought for a few seconds, still unsure how much I wanted to divulge. “I… you looked very beautiful. You looked so good and comfortable together. It was all exciting.” “Did anything surprise you?” Hesitatingly, I admitted that one image was clearer than all the others in my mind. “I was surprised… how big he is. I had no idea.” Now Valerie gave a short laugh. “Yes, he is big. You know all those stories about black men… Sometimes he’s too big, you know? You probably never think like that, but a man can be too big, when a woman can’t take all of him and the rest of his body never meets hers. It’s just a small thing…” we both giggled at the pun, “but occasionally it can be annoying.” I didn’t have anything to add to her statements, so stayed quiet and let het carry on. “Men don’t need to be big to pleasure a woman, that’s a myth. Well, they need to be big enough, but not huge. Bobby can get huge, but sometimes he doesn’t get as hard as a smaller man would. You understand that?” “Sure.” I tried to sound casual, but now I was having some size troubles of my own. My cock was straining in my pants. “You don’t mind if I ask…” Valerie paused, “but what size are you?” Now, that question caught me off guard. Without thinking too much I took my hand away from Valerie’s and used both hands to indicate a size of about six inches. “About that.” “You see,” Valerie smiled widely now, “that’s just about perfect.” Silence fell between us for a few moments there, both of us wondering what had just transpired and evaluating what our next words should be, where we went from here. Forget the whole thing or… “Is that what size it is right now?” The moment wasn’t lost on me. We’d stepped way over the line of friendship between neighbor and friend’s mother. I thought about resisting, but I was eighteen… my will was weak and after all, I should always tell the truth, right? “Yes.” I admitted. “It’s very exciting, talking about sex like this? You think?” Valerie easily held my eyes, making our discussion easier, like there was nothing wrong with it. “Show me? Would you?” She stood up and moved to the side of the table. The bulge in my pants was mostly hidden under the table, but if I moved there was no way I could hide anything from her. “Don’t be shy.” Valerie urged. I slowly slid my chair out from the table. Valerie said nothing as the lump in my pants became obvious. I started to undo the belt from my jeans and pull down my zipper. I was aware that she was fully focused on my groin as I fumbled with my underwear and tried to release my cock from the tangle it had created. Finally I managed to expose the red, bulging head. “Stand up.” Valerie commanded. “I can’t see very well down there. Pull the pants off.” I stood up on shaky legs and quickly pushed my jeans and underwear down to my knees. My cock bobbed up when I stood – hard and proud, almost vertical in front of my T-shirt. “You see,” Valerie didn’t take her eyes off me, “that’s a nice size. Looks wonderful.” I looked down and saw my cock twitch. I couldn’t remember ever feeling harder. Valerie stooped a little, looking closer. “Would you mind if I touched it?” She didn’t wait for an answer, like she knew what the answer of any eighteen year-old would be. She reached out a hand and let her fingers explore my length with the lightest of touches, fingertips only. I watched as her hand moved over every inch of me, up and down the shaft, over the head and around the rim. Her touch was divine and I twitched as she let her gossamer touch wander all over my erection. “You are so hard.” She didn’t look up. “I’ve not felt a cock this hard in years. Were you this hard when you were watching?” “Yes.” I had to say something, despite the paralysis she was causing, as she couldn’t hear me nod. “You look so good, feel so good. Your cock is beautiful.” Despite the redness of my bulging head I saw my cock as virtually white against the blackness of her skin. Valerie took a slightly tighter hold and stroked me slowly. I started to worry about cumming, already feeling the unmistakable feelings of orgasm start to bubble up. I wanted to warn Valerie what she was doing, but she was way ahead of me. “Feels like you need some release.” She looked up at me for the first time since she started looking at my cock. “Don’t worry. Do you want me to help you?” “Oh God, yes. Please.” I was feeling the rise quicker now, much more forceful that I’d felt from my hand or the couple of girlfriends I’d been with. It’s okay.” She reassured, stroking me again and turning to watch. “Just let it happen.” I had no other option by then, there was no way I could hold back. Valerie continued her slow strokes as my orgasm built with its increasingly unstoppable force. I felt my cock twitch several times as her light touch encouraged me. When I felt her other hand start to caress my balls the rush of orgasm took me completely. I closed my eyes as the red hot waves washed over and through my body. I felt my cock start to twitch wildly in her hand, my cum not far away. She continued to caress me as I spurted, a small one fist, then a long line of cum that splashed down on the table… then another, and another. The next didn’t make it as far and some of my white cum landed on Valerie’s black skin, stark and erotic. My cock stayed twitching for almost a minute, dry now but the power of the climax obvious. When I’d finished Valerie squeezed the last of my cum from my shaft and it seeped out of the end of my cock. Then she unexpectedly leaded down and licked it away from me. Though I couldn’t see her mouth, I was sure she’d swallowed it. Valerie stood up and turned to me, smiling. “Looks like you needed that.” She turned away and retrieved a cloth to wipe the table. “I hope you didn’t mind, I guess we’ve both seen something intimate of each other. It was very erotic to see you, and feel you cum like that.” I sat down in my chair, my cock still hard and proud. “It felt good.” I managed, trying to work out what had transpired in the last few minutes. “Better than doing it yourself while watching the neighbors I bet.” There was a laugh in her tone as she threw the cloth to the sink and sat on the edge of the table. I sat there wondering what to say next. I couldn’t conceive that this was going any further and wondered how I should wrap things up, literally and figuratively. Surely there was no way Valerie wanted something more? Could we go back to just being neighbors? How did that work? I had no experience in this area. “You’re still hard.” She observed, pointing at my erection. “You young boys. Insatiable. I’d forgotten how that goes.” I watched as she brought her hand up to her breast, a deliberate, sensual move. “You think you have something more for me?” As I nodded I felt my cock twitch again. It, at least, knew what was going on here. “Why don’t you come here and undress me?” It was an invitation I was never going to turn down. I stood, realized that my pants were still around my legs, and kicked them off. Not wanting anything to get in my way, I pulled off my T-shirt in a flash and stood naked in front of Valerie. She smiled, not in a mom way though. I fumbled a little with the sides of her shirt before I started to pull it over her head. Valerie raised her arms to help me and I reached up and pulled it away. Her pink bra was full to overflowing as I looked down and took in the wonderful sight. “Nothing to hide from you here I guess.” Valerie reached behind herself and unclipped her bra. “You’ve seen these.” I had, but not close-up, so when Valerie pulled away the bra I was stunned at the beauty of her full figure. “You like?” She used her hands to push her breasts up for me. I nodded, marveling at the hard nipples I saw, realizing Valerie was getting naked with me, still thinking about the sex I’d witnessed. “You can touch them.” I took the invitation as a small reprimand that I wasn’t moving fast enough as it was fairly obvious that I could touch them. I reached up and took both of Valerie’s breasts in my hands. They felt heavy and stayed round as I pushed them in and up. Valerie sighed as I found the buds of her nipples and squeezed them. They felt harder than I’d expected and much bigger. “Suck on them.” She commanded. I stooped my head to her breast and took her nipple in my mouth. I sucked gently at first, felt Valerie react with pleasure and sucked harder. I rolled my tongue around her and played with her, then repeated my actions on her other nipple while squeezing the one my mouth had just left with my fingers. I felt Valerie’s hand on the back of my head, caressing me and encouraging my pleasuring of her. While she let me continue to suck on her Valerie’s other hand reached down between us and searched for my cock. She found me still rock hard and made a small moan of approval as her fingers wrapped around me again. Immediately she started to stroke me with her palm and thumb while her fingers reached down as far as they could, touching my balls. I returned the action by bringing my hand to the front of her jeans, gently finding my way between her legs, feeling her heat and pressing hard against her pussy. “Let’s get these off.” Valerie declared, already unfastening her jeans. I backed off as she pulled down the zipper and pushed them down over her hips. It was impossible not to notice that she wasn’t wearing panties. I tried to get a good look at her pussy when she’d shaken the jeans off her feet but with her dark skin and black pubic hair it was impossible to see. “Come. Let’s go over here.” Valerie took my arm and led me into the lounge, straight to the sofa. “You want to get a closer look at what you saw from your window?” Valerie seemed to be reading my mind as she sat on the sofa and lay back, opening her legs so I could see her wide open pussy. I kneeled down on the floor and got close to Valerie’s reclined form. I couldn’t take my eyes from her pussy and now I was able to see the lines of her pussy lips and the tangle of pubes above her slit. As I watched she reached down and used one hand to ease her lips apart and reveal her pink interior. I could see the slick sheen of her excitement and marveled at the stark contrast of her pink against her dark skin. “You like?” She asked. “Very much. You’re beautiful.” I meant it, I had never seen a woman with such a beautiful body, and now so available to me. “Touch me.” Valerie commanded, again encouraging me to go further than just gaze at her. My fingertips explored all of her folds, tracing over her pussy lips and gently through the cleft of her opening that was slick with her juice. Using my thumb and forefinger I opened her slightly, delighting in the way her skin gave way to my touch. Valerie liked that too, taking her hand away from her groin and moaning at my touch. She moaned again when I let my finger slowly slip into her. As I worked my finger in and out of Valerie my face was no more than a foot away from her, getting the best view possible. I’d never tasted a pussy before and this seemed like the perfect time so I slowly eased my face down to her, extended my tongue and lapped at her pussy lips tentatively. “Oh, that’s nice.” Valerie encouraged as I licked up and down her slit. I used my fingers to open her as wide as I could and get the tip of my tongue inside. Valerie tasted good and I continued to experiment, licking slow and then flicking my tongue over her clit like I’d seen on porn movies. When she felt the rapid movements of my tongue on her clit Valerie brought her hand to my head and whispered, “Not too quick. Just lick me there. The harder the better.” I took her words to heart and made some long slow licking strokes across her clit. My fingers continued to hold her pussy open as I worked, now really enjoying that I was able to pleasure Valerie and make her moan. “Good.” She managed to breathe between moans. Her climax took me by surprise. First I knew what was happening was when both of her hands clamped onto my head and push me harder into her pussy, encouraging me to keep licking her and make it harder. Valerie’s moans increased in volume and intensity as I licked her, my nose now hard against her pubic area, smelling her sexy musk. Valerie continued to push my head into her and force her pussy up towards me, her body now all tense as the climax approached. She gave a final loud gasp that I assumed signaled her orgasm had arrived. I kept on licking hard and felt her pussy shudder and then her muscles contracted several times. Valerie’s hands eventually loosened off my head and let me up to look at her. She inclined her head so she could see me and opened her arms in a gesture that I should climb on the sofa and hug her. I came up, lay my head on her shoulder and felt her arms wrap around me. My cock pressed into her thigh and I felt her kiss me gently on the top of the head. “You did good Baby. Real good. You made me cum so hard.” Lying there, comfortably in her arms, I wondered if we were done. We had both cum and I wasn’t sure I was invited to experience the ultimate with her. Much as I wanted to sink my cock into Valerie’s lovely pussy, I wasn’t sure what our next move was. I felt Valerie’s breathing start to calm and brought my hand up to cup her breast. Her nipple was still hard and she squirmed to my touch. “You’re still hard.” Valerie reached down between our bodies and let her hand rest against my cock. “You feel good. I think you’d feel even better inside me.” She kissed me on the head again. “Would you do that for me?” I didn’t even nod, simply raised my body away from her and slid down a little. Valerie’s hand slipped away from my cock, but came back to it as I positioned myself closer to her. I had one foot on the floor as I angled towards her and the other leg kneeling on the sofa. I looked at her face for a final confirmation but saw nothing but raw desire. It was as though Valerie needed me inside her, which was an incredible turn on for me. My cock came to touch her pussy lips, guided by Valerie’s hand. She pulled slightly on my shaft, urging me to thrust inside. I pushed gently, parted her lips and slipped inside. Looking down between us, I watched as my stark white cock disappeared into her warm, dark folds. Valerie gasped a little as I slid in and I simply felt the warmth of her pussy walls as I reached the full length of my penetrating her. Valerie cooed, “Oh, you feel so good. You got it all in there.” I could feel that I was all the way in and it was a great feeling. Basking in the warmth of her pussy, I pulled out a little and slipped in again. Valerie shifted her position slightly to allow me to make easier and longer strokes. As much as I liked seeing the pleasure on Valerie’s face as I pushed in and out of her and the way her big boobs rocked with our motion, I was fascinated by the sight of my cock disappearing into her. I was now pulling out as far as I dared and then plunging fast into her, enjoying every slick stroke and the way her pussy gripped me. Valerie wasn’t just lying without moving either, she was arching her back and thrusting her pelvis to meet my strokes as our rhythm built. “Does that feel good Baby?” She asked in a breathy voice. “Is this what you wanted to feel when you watched me? Is this what you thought it would be like?” “Better.” I managed to answer between thrusts. Valerie’s hands were all over my back now, moving gently with me as I rocked into her. The first burnings of orgasm started when I caught her eyes and she looked at me with an intensity I’d never seen in anyone before. “You gonna cum Baby?” She asked. “You gonna cum for Valerie?” I nodded, but the gesture was probably lost in my movements as I started to pursue the strokes that would bring my climax closer. I started to get faster as I chased the feeling down, desperate to cum now, needing to and wanting to please Valerie. I felt a bead of sweat drip from my forehead, down between her breasts as I pounded away. Valerie’s hands pulled tighter on my hips, pulling me in as our bodies slammed together. The climax came relentlessly, almost teasing me as I thought I was there and then it felt like just a couple of strokes away, then right there again. Finally I knew I was cumming and with one final full thrust into Valerie my orgasm breached its confines and burst through me. I felt my chest and leg muscles twitch as my nervous system transmitted the euphoria all through me and then I wasn’t able to thrust - frozen for a moment. Just as I started to shoot cum into Valery I was able to thrust again and look up to see Valerie’s face, watching as I came inside her. When I was done I slumped on top of my best friend’s mom, exhausted from the sex we’d shared and still feeling little post-orgasmic shocks running through me. Valerie wrapped her arms around me, hugged tight and then brushed some hair away from my forehead. “Was that good for you Baby?” Her voice soothed as I caught my breath. “Did you like the way Valerie makes love? Was that better than watching?” “It was good.” I managed between breaths. “Very good. Did you…” “Hush Baby,” she caressed my cheek with her hand, “you made me feel so good. It was nice to feel a man that can get all the way into me. I’ve needed that for a long time.” She seemed to shift on the sofa and look towards the kitchen. “The bad news is that you have to go now. Bobby will be home in half an hour, and we wouldn’t want him to find us like this. Would we?” Of course we wouldn’t, so I quickly got up and started to pull on my clothes. Valerie found a towel and wrapped it around her boobs, explaining that she would have a quick shower. When I was dressed she walked me to the front door and kissed me before opening it. “Thank you for a lovely afternoon.” She smiled. “It was nice of you to show me your cock, and let me have it inside me.” I couldn’t have put it better. Valerie and Bobby lived next door to my parents for another ten years or so. Whenever I saw Valerie I had an instant reaction in my pants, but not once did she ever give me the slightest sign that our secret afternoon was something she even remembered. Valerie was inscrutable like that and I guess our lives were a bit safer for it. As much as I loved the event, and all of the wonderful memories I relived for years, I would never want my parents, or Bobby, or Chet to suspect anything. I looked out of my bedroom window many times over the years after that day but didn’t once see my next door neighbors having sex.
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World Cup 2018 Betting Predictions & Tips (June 18)
Alexi Lalas previews 2019 Women’s World Cup™, predicts early exit for Team USA SOCCER THE HERD - Duration: 7:43. The Herd with Colin Cowherd 59,723 views 7:43 DETUBE BETTING TIPS & Predictions SOCCER TODAY. Daily Betting Tips is a professional football/soccer Betting Tips, that was set one for one reason – to help people like you choose the right ... #Betting_tips_today #free_betting_tips #betting_tips #betting_expert #football_predictions #football_picks #Bundesliga #Hoffenheim_Leipzig #Goztepe_Trabzonspor #Fenerbahce_Kayserispor #Granada ... In this video you will find tips for the football/soccer matches that will be played on 5 March 2020. These tips are based on the results of our self-generated betting system. You will find tips ... Football Betting Tips Today - 23 July 2020 - Serie A, Allsvenskan, Vietnamese Cup Predictions - Duration: 3:02. SureBets - Free Betting Tips Daily 172 views New