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HAIL! GFOP

I write with adrenaline-filled fingers. The last message of the year. And what an incredible year 2019 has been. On the football field at least. Frank Lampard’s return to Chelsea. Pep’s robot-quest turning distinctly mortal. Mourinho’s late-in-life discovery of edibles mellowing him out as he rolled up at Spurs. Big Dunc fleetingly “Begbie-ing” his way to points at Everton. Brodge building the legend of Brodge to deity levels at Leicester. And, above all, Jurgen Klopp leading Liverpool to the brink of the Promised Land with a season that dreams and lifetime memories are made of. All that and the U.S. Women’s National Team swaggering their way towards Glory and Equality.  

I cannot tell you how many times I have said to myself this year: “Thank the Old Gods and the New for Football.” Thank you also to you, dear GFOPs. It is your ideas, creativity, Ravens and wonder that sustains us. I wish each of you a break filled with meaning, pies, love and football.  

This newsletter contains all you need to know about Men In Blazers content over the holidays, as well as our Top 10 (random numbers tbh) lists for Music, Books, Restaurants and Television.

I also wrote a list of 10 things that made me love America when I was a kid, and came to define all that is great about this place in my imagination. Would love to hear your memories of any of these.

And God Love you, Leighton Baines. At age 35, still scoring Bangers and delivering False Hope to Everton fans. Could not love you more. BTW. If I was Baines, I would have walked right off and retired like John Kruk grabbing first base, and strolling off the diamond after hitting a single that raised his lifetime average to .300.


2. A Holiday filled with Men in Blazers

We have worked maniacally over the past month to finish a ton of content that will debut over the holidays.  
 
  1. John Oliver made his eighth trip to our Panic Room to film our Men in Blazers Boxing Day Special [Dec. 26 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN]. I never take his visits for granted. We work on football day in, day out. John just strolls in and effortlessly drops insights that are brilliant. This year was especially remarkable. Year on year, his Liverpool have moved from their Roy Hodgson nadir to their current white-toothed, hug-filled, Mane-Salah-Bobby-Chompers reality, and John’s reflections on this transformation and the lessons it teaches you about life make this show a Boxing Day Tradition like no other.
 
  1. Edwin Van Der Sar was a hero of mine as a Manchester United player. Even more so now after I spent the morning with the current Ajax CEO taping our Edwin Van Der Sar Special [Jan. 1 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN], which relives his late-blooming seasons of wonder at Manchester United and explores the secrets of youth development that have made Ajax the world’s greatest talent pipeline, producing the likes of Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, and Donny van de Beek. To listen to him is to learn about youth development by osmosis. This episode will interest anyone invested in the future of the American game, as he talked about Ajax's methodology in general and Sergiño Dest in particular.
 
3. Visit Britain 2: Electric Boogaloo

Few things we did in 2019 trumped our trip North of the Wall to revel in Manchester and Liverpool, two cities that both believe they are the center of the known universe. Only one of them can be right. We visited Anfield, Goodison Park and the Etihad, hung out with Juan Mata at his tapas bar, fell in love with polyester at the world's largest vintage football shirt store, met a 98-year-old City fan who has been a season ticket holder through more than 80 years of darkness and light, took a Ferry Across the Mersey with my Dad, and visited the boys club that inspired The Smiths to craft music that has scored so many of my Sad Naps. HERE is a link to the first episode. We’ll roll out the rest in the New Year. If you go to Britain to watch football, send us your photographs. We would love to hear about your experience. There is nothing finer.
 


4. Our 2019 Favorites: 

Best Food of the Year
One of the true wonders of being part of Men In Blazers is the opportunity it affords us to wander across the United States of America and pretty much sample the constitution's culinary equivalents by eating this entire great nation of ours. 2019 has been a banner year for us as we have consumed vast quantities of ribs, wings, and burnt ends from sea to shining sea. HERE IS A VIDEO of the seven best eats we have experienced in the past twelve months. Barbecue fiends, prepared to be angry.  

Books of the Year
Sometimes it felt like it was only the reading that kept me sane. HERE are the books which moved me most this year.

Music of the Year
As we careen across America, I listen to a lot of music. Each of the tracks ON THIS PLAYLIST reminds me of a different city, a different shoot, a different live show. Many come from your suggestions. Keep them coming because they keep us going. Here’s the list, and remember: Real G’s move in silence like Lasagne.

Television of the Year
  1. Chernobyl (HBO) 
  2. Succession (HBO) 
  3. Cherynobyl, Chernobyl, Chernobyl!
  4. End of the Fu**ing World (Netlfix)
I hate that Gomorrah Season Three is not out in the United States. I also hate- watched Four Series of “Line of Duty” on Hulu. It is so bad, it is amazing. A bit like the Men In Blazers Show.

That’s it for the year. I want to thank all of our partners, especially Budweiser, for all they have done for MiB and for the game in America; Jagermeister who reinforce every great emotion I experience; To mighty Davo for being Davo, the entire MiB crew who have poured their heart and soul into everything we do, especially Producer JW, my producing partner who is the most passionate, empathetic, intelligent bloke I know.  

To 2020. To you Great Friends of the Pod. To life. To love. To football. To making memories together and making sure we take not a moment for granted.

Courage.
Rog: @rogbennett 

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
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“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”

Philip Larkin
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