Sunday, June 01, 2008

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #30 (June 2008)
Iron Man is Born! (Marvel)
Tales of Suspense #39 When: March 1963
Why: Stan Lee & Larry Lieber How: Don Heck

Quick Fix...
Iron Man: The Movie is now officially a part of history.
Having grossed more than five hundred million dollars worldwide, the picture has been a considerable triumph for Marvel Studios' first outing as a production company, garnering both financial and critical acclaim for this politically charged adult adventure!

The film details the still-relevant origins of a character born from the decadence of a weapons manufacturer who finds himself held captive by the enemies of the United States. While the film updates the concept's 1960s origins, turning the Vietcong into something more topical, the details remain much the same: Tony Stark builds a suit of armor to save his life (in more ways than one).

Last month we took a look at the comic book reference for the film [Iron Man #5] which was part of Warren Ellis' redefining storyarc, Extremis. The arc had the responsibility of not only redefining Iron Man for the modern age as a techno-organic hybrid being, but also flashed back to modernize the origin beyond even previous revisions.

In the original tale; Stark visits the Asian battlefields out of necessity.
With the communist guerrilla soldiers far outnumbering their freedom-loving counterparts, it's the introduction of Stark's patented "midget transistors" that enable the Americans to maximize the bang for their buck, converting artillery into easily transported handheld devices.

When Stark accidentally activates a trip wire in the Vietnam jungles, he seals his fate, suffering a near fatal wound that famously lodges shrapnel dangerously close to his heart. Differing is the much less motivated capture of the industrialist, who is taken by an opportunistic soldier seeking reward from the guerilla tyrant, Wong-Chu! Wong-Chu proves better informed than his lackey, forcing Stark to spend his final hours designing weapons for the tyrant.

Being imprisoned with the famous physicist, Professor Yinsen; Stark has the opportunity to use the scrap provided to fashion a suit of armor that both hold the life-threatening shrapnel away from his heart, and also grants him the fantastic powers of a one-man arsenal!

In the moment of truth, Professor Yinsen sacrifices himself to provide sufficient enough distraction to allow Tony Stark to disappear into the night. This allows the armored warrior to formulate his return to the guerilla's camp, where, upon his return, he finds Wong-Chu indulged in a little hand-to-hand dominance of his lackeys.

The eerie trenchcoated figure emerges from the gloom to boldly accuse the war monger as a coward, before revealing himself to be much more than the easily dominated underlings that fearfully obey him!

Wong-Chu reveals his true colours, terrified by the lumbering menace of this weird Iron Man, to whom he proves no match. Using the enhancements of his suit, Stark easily hoists the tyrant over his head, sending him into a spin before launching the villain into a humiliating landing amongst the scrub.

Wong-Chu orders the distruction of the Iron Man, but as with modern versions of the origin, the armored hero shrugs aside attack from his quaint captors, turning his advanced arsenal against them.

Wong-Chu attempts to flee deeper into the compound, but soon realises he has done little more than isolate himself, as the Iron Man commandeers announcement systems to send the guerilla army into the jungle in panic. Unwilling to let the enemy escape, Iron Man uses the armor's lubricant oil as an excelerant to put an end to Wong-Chu, who is caught in the blast of an ammunitions bunker.

ARTWORK: Adi GranovThe Fix: 4 The Story: 4
Winner: Iron Man

Looking to brush up a little on your Iron Man history? Why not check out the Iron Man Omnibus? By using purchase links provided on the Infinite Wars, you not only benefit from the convenience and pricing of Amazon's extensive range, but also help sponsor future entries in the site! Take that, communists!

#1 (+8) Divine Judgment
#2 (+9) The Black Death
#3 (+10) The Revolution
#4 (-1) The Legends
#5 (-4) The People's Team
#6 (-1) The Knights of Right
#7 (-1) Makin' it w/Cap'n
#8 (-) X-Party
#9 (-2) The X League
#10 (-) The Ghost Walkers
#11 (-7) The DC Illuminati
#12 (-10) The Corps
#13 (-1) The Elite Fleet

Join the list! Draft a team today!
2008 Fantasy League...
Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourself as we prepare to crown the second Infinite Wars Fantasy League monthly winner! Give Blade the team MVP, because it was on the back of his Super Stock jump that Divine Judgment smoked the opposition in a dramatic shift of fortunes!

Working against the majority of teams was a disappointing economy for the Infinite Wars Super Stock in May. Limited reviews mean limited points, and while that pushed losses to minimal double digit scores, it did very little for the victors of the month.

Iron Man's movie-month did favours for a lagging Revolution team who, despite making the top three for the month, continue to bottom-out below the 100pt ceiling. They'll be cursing the successes of franchise inductees from Mortal Kombat, who currently propose some of the most promising free agents. The Legends will be watching keenly through June to see if Hulk-sponsored fortunes can secure an overall rankings boost over the still leading People's Team.

Speaking of Fantasy League trading tips:
It's come to my attention that someone has been posing as Machine Man on Twitter to offer insider-trading tips.
This artificial lifeform is a malicious cheat claiming to have gained access to the SuperStock. While his point values are eerily accurate, he is not to be trusted! He is a drunk and wishes only to pervert the course of the Fantasy League through insightful recommendations!

Meanwhile; those of you reading wo haven't drafted a team should do so right now! Head over to the debrief where you'll find the information needed to begin drafting your team. Unfortunately a sliding schedule meant we haven't been able to recruit as actively as the previous month, but there's still plenty to be gained from consigning a team! Niche franchises like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter remain completely available, along with a variety of heroes and villains of different statures.

The Fantasy League isn't an exact science. Points are derived from the daily goings on in the Infinite Wars, and refined through the Super Stock [found further into this post]. While we try to represent key events in the community, weekly comics aren't the focus of our reviews, meaning our superhero fight club resembles something like a stock market, more than a precise sports league.

There are no prizes and no real losers here. The Fantasy League is designed to build a greater sense of community around the combative corners of the Infinite Wars. You should, of course, follow team sponsor links to familiarize yourself with some of the sites in this corner of the blogosphere, because as illustrated by the league -- we're all here for pretty similar reasons.

The Fantasy League can be as involving or stagnant as you like it to be, and every month you get the chance to spend your points on perfecting your team. The sign-up post will keep you informed when it comes to the availability of characters (those already drafted are struck out).

The category restrictions of the draft are now replaced by point values for those already playing. Everyone must have five characters on a team, but you can now sell a character (at half value) to use your points to draft new characters.
This is where it gets a little complicated, because it's just too time consuming to post full lists for the values of characters each month. You can request a character value in the comments section of this post, before trading through e-mail in the same fashion as your original drafting.

Values are based upon the total number of characters in the Super Stock rankings, with character dropping a point in price from top to bottom. Currently we have 539 characters ranked, making that the value of top-ranked character; Spider-man. If Daredevil is ranked #10 that values him at 530, Wonder Woman (#40) is 500, Darkseid (#176) is 364, She-Hulk (#231) is 309, and so on.
Unranked characters are a flat 100 points, making them mixed investments, given no movement return on their first month of entry.

To keep proceedings fluid; all trades should be completed within three days of the Punch-Up. If you're happy with your team, or not keen on over complicating things, just sit on your stocks and let them mature! I think the Fantasy League has been a very fun addition to the site, and hope to see more teams emerging in the coming months. If you're already reading/playing, suggest it to a friend!

Spider-Boycott 2008: Week 23
Bitten by a radioactive spider; Peter Parker gains the proportionate strength, speed, and agility of a spider. After the death of his Uncle Ben, Peter learns that with great power must come great repsonsibility. Thus, this tortured hero launches himself into a selfless career as Spider-man!

The Amazing Spider-man earns the attentions of many enemies, but when the Kingpin launched an attack on his foe, Peter's Aunt May was caught in the crossfire! With the elderly May in critical condition, Peter proves unable to find sufficient aid from his superpowered fellows, leading him to accept an unlikely deal from devil, Mephisto: Erase the romance and marriage to Mary-Jane Watson, and save the elderly woman's life.

It was the premise for a story that had been brewing off-the-page since the promotion of of Joe Quesada to Editor-In-Chief. Ultimately the task befell J. Michael Straczynski in a story that will go down in Spider-man infamy.
Five decades into the history of this character, a poor excuse for a story saw this deeply responsible man make a deal with a devil to save a frail old woman. In reality, the move was little more than a nostalgia driven cop-out for the development of a character that had matured and grown with earlier audiences.

The result was Brand New Day, the follow-up that relaunched Spider-man with a revised history more garbled than the revisionist standard of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The erasure of Spidey's big screen romance was allegedly to refresh and simplify the character, but instead resulted in a vague deconstructed history, and the return of standards and motiffs thirty-years old.

The site has been without Spider-man for five months, and at this point the Boycott is more incidental than ever. I have very little interest to discuss or read what has been an uninspiring relaunch of the Spider-man title(s). This running section of the Punch-Up is now mostly academic, an exercise in tracking the monetary response measured by camps of fans each with strong opinions.

This modern gestation of a post-internet industry seems to be in the second stages of it's development. Vocal minorities now represent the basless claims of the blindly positive, as much as unmotivated shit-stirrers and provacateurs.
While the sales figures are not indicative of quality or relevance, they provide some assemblance of a mean average of opinion. I'm not terribly interested in Amazing, but I am interested in the reactions to this continued fiasco.

(Sep 07) Amazing Spider-man #544 OMD [146,215]
(Oct 07) Friendly N'hood Spider-man #22 OMD [110,405] -24.49%
(Nov 07) Sensational Spider-man #41 OMD [100,300] -9.15%
(Dec 07) Amazing Spider-man #545 OMD [124,481] +24.11%
(Jan 08) Amazing Spider-man #546 BND [136,109] +9.34%
(Jan 08) Amazing Spider-man #547 BND [108,485] -20.29%
(Jan 08) Amazing Spider-man #548 BND [105,122] -3.1%
(Feb 08) Amazing Spider-man #549 BND [101,112] -3.81%
(Feb 08) Amazing Spider-man #550 BND [90,874] -10.12%
(Feb 08) Amazing Spider-man #551 BND [88,084] -3.07%
(Mar 08) Amazing Spider-man #552 BND [89,835] +1.99%
(Mar 08) Amazing Spider-man #553 BND [82,648] -8.00%
(Mar 08) Amazing Spider-man #554 BND [81,072] -1.91%
(Apr 08) Amazing Spider-man #555 BND [86,902] +7.19%
(Apr 08) Amazing Spider-man #556 BND [78,458] -9.72%
(Apr 08) Amazing Spider-man #557 BND [77,057] -1.79%

As easy as it would be to claim validation through the continued decline in sales on the title, this is generally accepted as an industry standard. The fickle nature of the medium now portends inevitable numerical slips to be made up in cyclical revamps of major titles. Brand New Day represents exactly this phenomena.

A fifty-seven percent drop from launch figures isn't terribly attractive to see on paper, but it's worth remembering Marvel priorities are currently shifted toward the mainstream cash cow Iron Man has presented, and the upcoming movie-sponsored feature of the Hulk. Comic-driven priorities are also similarly directed away from the web-slinger, despite his Avengers connection to the Invasion.

A shameful bump in sales comes from the guest-appearance of Wolverine and the increasing popularity of fan-turned-writer, Zeb Wells, and artist, Chris Bachalo. Not bad, considering these details have contributed very little to Amazing's continued status as a trio of top twenty entrants. Industry-wide dips in monthly sales have contributed to that ranking, but the real acid test will probably come from the fully fledged release of both Secret Invasion and Final Crisis -- the summer events from the major two companies.

It continues to be an interesting subject to follow, but I'm not sure we're really seeing any conclusive result, either way. My relative disinterest has kept me mostly removed from opinion, but if you'd like to scroll down to drop a comment, I'd love to hear any opinions now that BND is into it's second quarter!

The 2008 Top Five...
The comics fanbase may border on utter bemusement, but it's safe to say Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe has well and truly arrived on the Infinite Wars! Responsible for a substantial amount of traffic this month, I've thoroughly enjoyed inducting the American response to the previously featured Street Fighter franchise, but never during our one-way discussions did I anticipate an arrival to the Season 2008 top five!

External influences continue to be a major effect on the Infinite Wars, but the critical acclaim of the Iron Man feature film was not as accurately reflected as I had hoped. Interrupted scheduling meant only two of the intended four Iron Man features made it to the site, and with this month seeing the release of Incredible Hulk, one now wonders if the balance can be restored.

Summer blockbusters at the boxoffice are accompanied by world-spanning events in the comics. Secret Invasion and Final Crisis have now officially launched, and will be a major component entering the June drift.

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#1 Batman (-) (27) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Hush]
Win Percentage: [66.67%] Features: [30]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] Cumulative: [#2]

Old faithful weighs in as expected, despite feeling the pressures of a month off! The heat of his World's Finest chum may be daunting, but the Dark Knight proves staying power with looming influences like July's Batman Begins sequel, a major comics event in "RIP," and small screen projects including the movie tie-in anime, Gotham Knight, and a new adventure series for the kids, Brave and the Bold!

The hot rumor is that Batman narrowly avoided the fate of one of our other top five contenders, but it's difficult to know for sure whether or not rebel Scot, Grant Morrison, ever actually intended to follow through on the title of his current Batman arc. Popular belief suggests Warner Brothers intervened on the behalf of the international golden goose, but one finds it hard to imagine even Morrison daring to off one of comics' most enduring and creatively blessed icons.

It's the status of the character that no doubt leaves few comic fans surprised by Oscar-buzz surrounding the post humous performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker. An honor rarely bestowed upon superhero adaptations, the award would not be out of place, at home with critical response for some of the greatest Batman works, including those that have influenced the film(s).

ARTWORK: Jim Lee#2 Superman (+2) (5) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Massacre]
Win Percentage: [56.52%] Features: [23]
2006: [#7] 2007: [#13] Cumulative: [#4]

Superman rides a wave of DC dominance in Season 2008, to join Batman at the top of MK versus DCU sponsored stakes! The two account for the the only DC characters confirmed, thus far.

On the comics front, Superman's enjoying the revisionist touch of Geoff Johns, whose simplicity of context has recently touched upon strong outings for Zod, Bizarro, and now Toyman! DC's third year-long weekly series, Trinity, also promises to pair Superman together with his JLA colleagues, Batman and Wonder Woman, for a spotlight series that may or may not connect to Final Crisis.

Superman's role in the universe-spanning crossover seems uncertain to me, but perhaps that's more due to ignorance than irrelevance. FC: Superman Beyond promises to put a personal spin on the event for DC's iconic first hero, but early impressions suggest the trinity may be the first heroes to be pacified in Libra and the New Gods' march on the superhero community. Fortunately with James Robinson waiting in the wings, the character's future seems secured!

ARTWORK: John Cassaday#3 Goro (new) (Midway)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Raiden]
Win Percentage: [60%] Features: [5]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#27]

Capitalizing on the open field of Season 2008; a Mortal Kombatant achieves what the Street Fighters couldn't in the latter parts of Season 2007, when they were sponsored for a top five ranking!

Hype surrounding the November release of the unlikely crossover video game has been a real boost to proceedings on the Infinite Wars. Amidst the crop of multi-coloured ninjas and Shaolin warriors, it can almost be easy to forget the iconic vision of the four-armed silhouette of original sub-boss, Goro!

It seems fitting that the former MK-champion lead the pack, even if I can't help but feel some ambivalence toward the achievement. From the video game world all the major franchises are looming, and recent updates to Street Fighter IV have balanced out issues to make the franchise once again a strong contender for the top spot. Whether or not MK can match that remains to be seen, but the comics connection of the DCU ensures there'll be plenty more MK to come!

Stay tuned: Goro will appear in the final round of MK/DC Fantasy Fights at the end of the month!

ARTWORK: Kevin Maguire#4 Martian Manhunter (-2) (4) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Ultramarine Corps]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: [6]
2006: [NR] 2007: [#222] Cumulative: [#36]

Friends, I regret to inform you that the Martian Manhunter passed during the week. The much discussed death occurred at the hands of Libra, as per the solicitation of forgotten rival, the Human Flame.

The death seems likely to quash the sustained presence of the Martian Manhunter in the top ranks of Season 2008, but we might yet see more from the hero in the coming months. One tends to assume the death will be elaborated upon in the pages of a tie-in book, given how brief the one-page death sequence was in Final Crisis. As much as I dread the notion of a checkpoint mini-series, it seems fitting that the Manhunter's final tale be told, be that in the pages of Justice League of America, or even the upcoming tribute to the character, Final Crisis: Requiem.

The Manhunter from Mars has seemingly had his head on the chopping block for quite some time. Rumors of the Martian's death circulated heavily throughout the course of Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, much to the chagrin of longterm fans.
Despite being an unceremonious end to a much beloved character, I can't help but feel a sense of calm about the death. Maybe it's the lingering back door of New-New Gods or Black Lanterns that has me anticipating a return; or maybe I simply feel the character was given opportunity to prove his worth, but failed to do so under the [mis]direction of recent events like the ill fated solo-title.

I certainly feel there's a lot of missed opportunity, but at this point, don't feel terribly final about the limitations now put on that. If anything, the death of the character might finally free him up for something with a bit more effort and vision behind it. Maybe even something that isn't about fire...

ARTWORK: Alex Ross#5 Iron Man (RE) (9) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [War Machine]
Win Percentage: [60.87%] Features: [23]
2006: [#3] 2007: [#3] Cumulative: [#3]

If you could have only one character waving the flag for the Marvel Universe right now, I dare say Iron Man would have to be first call!

The success of last month's feature film has rocketted Iron Man into the mainstream stratosphere! Licensed toys and merchandise has helped Iron Man become a household name to degrees I'm not sure he ever has. Sure, there've been cartoons, and a member of the Avengers certainly has his place, but the quality of the movie is a license to be part of a cultural phenomenon!

I might have expected Iron Man to rank higher this month, but that's not to say the armored hero's year is over. For comics fans, the film is merely the culmination of events which have seen the character gain perpetual momentum as a leading figure in the Marvel Universe. Arguably beginning around Avengers Disassembled, the explosion of movie tie-ins are merely the canonizing point of Iron Man's ascension to perhaps the most senior role within the fiction. In a strange way, one might even say he's replaced Captain America, in that respect.

Still very much his own character, the Director of SHIELD is dead centre in the Secret Invasion, not only as a responsive unit, but as a catalyst for the event [New Avengers: Illuminati #1]. One wonders if the year might not end with the downfall of this monumentous figure whose many roles have gradually begun to accumulate dirty secrets, and sinister associations.

Cumulative Super Stock...

Darkseid may be
biding his time with the
machinations of the Dark
Side club, but he's made
his move in the rankings!
[Super Powers #5]
1. Spider-man (-) (M)
2. Batman (-) (DC)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Superman (+1) (DC)
5. Wolverine (-1) (M)
6. Hulk (-) (M)
7. Mr. Fantastic (-) (M)
8. Captain America (M)
9. Invisible Woman (M)
10. Daredevil (M)
13. Black Adam (-) (DC)
16. Ryu (-) (C)
17. Catwoman (+4) (DC)
21. Green Lantern (-1) (DC)
27. Goro (new) (Mid)
28. Flash (-1) (DC)
29. Noob Saibot (+79) (Mid)
34. Dhalsim (-2) (C)
36. Ken Masters (-2) (C)
37. Martian Manhunter (-2) (DC)
38. Aquaman (-2) (DC)
40. Wonder Woman (-2) (DC)
48. Johnny Cage (new) (Mid)
50. Hawkgirl (-3) (DC)
65. Green Lantern (-3) (DC)
68. Blade (+104) (M)
78. War Machine (-8) (M)
83. Raiden (+10) (Mid)
88. Fei Long (-5) (C)
90. Sonya Blade (new) (Mid)

Hydro: Will there ever be
a rainbow? Probably not...
Sleeved flush cycle engage!
[Blood & Thunder #2]
100. She-Thing (-5) (M)
118. Orion (new) (DC)
150. T. Hawk (-5) (C)
175. Chun-Li (-5) (C)
176. Darkseid (+55) (DC)
200. Bulldozer (-5) (M)
229. Cheetah (-24) (DC)
230. Kano (new) (Mid)
232. Scorpion (-14) (Mid)
237. Liu Kang (new) (Mid)
250. Flash (-5) (DC)
300. Dr. Mid-Nite (-5) (DC)
310. Ghost Rider (-74) (M)
350. Plasmus (-6) (DC)
400. Hammerhead (-6) (M)
450. Sodom (-5) (C)
500. Gorilla Grodd (-5) (DC)
509. Massacre (new) (DC)
510. Lt. Lance (new) (Mal)
511. Grum (new) (Mal)
512. Sing (new) (Mal)
513. Sang (new) (Mal)
516. Hydro (-123) (Mal)
535. Lizard (-11) (M)
536. Taskmaster (-11) (M)
537. Zangief (-11) (C)
538. Magneto (-11) (M)
539. Dan Hibiki (-11) (C)

The Hammer...
Well, I'm not going to lie to you, folks.
Scheduling conflicts have dramatically taken their toll on the uber-hobby that is Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but with a little patience, you can still look forward to more of the same play-by-play reviews and fisticuffery (even if the insightful commentary is a little on the shabby side).

Incredible Hulk officially hits cinemas June 13, and like last month, we'll be bringing you weekly materials including all-new Hulk C2C and some great new reviews featuring the jolly green goliath!

All that plus more from the Fantasy Fights and Smash Hits, and we count down to more exciting themes coming to the site with The Dark Knight and the 2008 Summer Olympics looming in the coming months. The latter in particular should be the perfect excuse for feats of strength, speed, and skill, all interpreted in superhuman ways!

It's been another record breaking month in the hits, so I definitely have to thank you all for your patience and continued support. If you're just joining us, keep coming back, take a look around the Secret Archives, and tell a friend! The site not only offers a lot of pseudo-archival fun and discussion topics, but also provides a public service for those of you engaged in heated debate; like the guys who wondered if Blade could beat Ghost Rider!
As we head into the second-half of the year, I hope I can continue to enjoy your company, and maybe count on your support in other areas.
[*cough*Buy the damned comic!*cough*]


Ciao for now!

- Mike Haseloff; Commanding Officer
Mike Haseloff is a little known writer who considers himself a student of the comics medium. Bombarded by comic books as a child, Mike now turns into a hulking powerhouse any time justice may be wronged, seqeuential events may fail to line-up, or television programs resort to stale and lazy writing.

May Hit Count: [11656/104803] (+11%)


buzzlefett said...

Woo-hoo! Movin' on up! How exactly are we determining scores anyway? Is it the number of spaces that people move up on the list or is it strictly based on wins/losses/assists? Also is it only considering the fights listed on your website?

Mike Haseloff said...

@buzzlefett: You're talking about the... 2008 Top 5?

Rankings are determined by win/loss records from site reviews. While that doesn't directly translate the happenings of 2008, the Infinite Wars generally loiters around topical discussion, so there's a vague reflection there. (Ie; the recent MK hype has pushed Goro into the top three for 2008).

The "SuperStock" is the cumulative ranking, representing the entirety of the 2005-2008 run of Infinite Wars (referred to by the win percentage and features count); while the Top 5 counts only features from this year: meaning Superman's SuperStock ranking is based on 23 features, while his 2008 ranking accounts only for the last 5 of those.

In a perfect world I'd be one of those reviewers touching upon the weekly pull list, and the Infinite Wars would have a wider scope of reference. Unfortunately, there is no truth to the rumor that I can chew nails and shit quarters.

captainskill said...

Whew, good job it wa Invincible Iron Month, I was getting worried after my Revolution team bombed last month!

Stephen said...

how did i move down? green arrow won a fight

Mike Haseloff said...

@captainskill: First blood for June, too!

@stephen: A slow month of 'trading' (with new inclusions) means extra pressure on lower ranked 'stocks', and losses across the board.
Would've been much worse without the Green Arrow fantasy win!

buzzlefett said...

Actually I was referring to the fantasy teams. How exactly are points awarded? Is it based on each character's movement on your board or strictly on a win/loss/assist basis?

Mike Haseloff said...

@buzzlefett: Ah! Both!

"Points are derived from the daily goings on in the Infinite Wars, and refined through the Super Stock [found further into this post]. While we try to represent key events in the community, weekly comics aren't the focus of our reviews, meaning our superhero fight club resembles something like a stock market, more than a precise sports league."