Rog's Premier League Preview. Plus, our Umbro Tracksuit Jock Tag design winner.
I type with fingers a-tingle after a week of wonder. As I write, we are repressing all memory of that U.S. Men’s debacle and Pulisic’s Tears (more on that below in item 8) by flying to mighty Portland, Ore. to tape Episode 2 of our new podcast, Women in Blazers. This trip is the culmination of an International Break we have killed off by filming with Ajax and Manchester United legend Edwin van der Sar (a superb MiB TV Show special on youth development forthcoming on NBCSN), Goal Machine Sam Kerr, the inspirational Steve Kerr (ALL THE KERRS!) and Portland Thorns energizer, Emily Sonnett.
2. Thank the Old Gods and the New, Premier League football is back in our loving arms. The schedule’s peach is undoubtedly New York Knicks-esque Manchester United vs. Omnipotent Liverpool[Sunday 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN]. Brave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Last Stand. We produced THIS DIGITAL SHORT reliving the epic moments this clash once conjured. Watching them is to be reminded of the status this game once had as the de facto Battle to be Kings of the North -- and perhaps even sadder, just how far this Manchester United team have fallen. A jersey once worn by legends, champions and swaggering teams who took the field believing victory was theirs by divine right, will now be yanked on by Fred.
With Paul Pogba and now David De Gea added to the lengthy injury list, Ole will struggle. I truly believe that the problems at Manchester United are not ones that can be fixed merely at the managerial level. Ole was a magnificent caretaker. Even though he might have shortcomings as a long-term manager of transformational change, he is a genuinely lovely bloke and it is painful to watch him suffer and age before our eyes.
3. In other games of spectacle and human delight, flailing Tottenham will test their fragile psyches against tanking for first-pick’s Watford [Saturday 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN], and Hershey’s-finest Christian Pulisic will hope to get his bum off the bench for Chelsea so he can face the Pride O’ Seattle DeAndre Yedlin's Newcastle and wage American soccer’s version of the West Coast-East Coast Rap Beef [Saturday 10:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold].
4. Huge shout out to the Premier League schedulers for inking in Relegation-Zone-Everton’s game versus West Ham at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN. Nothing like having your entire weekend ruined before breakfast. The whole Premier League schedule can be found HERE.
5. In truly dreadful news, The Men in Blazers Show returns to sully your television screens THIS MONDAY at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, right after Arsenal find some way to avoid soiling themselves at Flea Bottom’s Sheffield United. Actor Anupam Kher guests. You will know him as one of the greatest soccer parents of all-time from that masterpiece “Bend it like Beckham.” He now stars in NBC’s New Amsterdam. He is genuinely one of the most positive human beings I have ever encountered. He tried to give me therapy. It did not end well. WATCH HERE.
6. NWSL Playoffs are upon us! It’s Business Time. This Sunday, Oct. 20.
No. 1 North Carolina Courage vs. No. 4 Reign FC - 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
No. 2 Chicago Red Stars vs. No. 3 Portland Thorns FC - 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
To celebrate the Thunderdome that is the culmination of this delirious season of football, we launched Women in Blazers, a new podcast, presented by our friends at Budweiser, looking at women’s soccer (AKA the one America are good at). In Episode One, I was delighted to break down the playoffs with two-time World Cup Winner and GFOP Kelley O’Hara, then travel to Chicago to talk with the greatest goalscorer on the face of the planet, Sam Kerr. You can listen to that podcast and watch video clips of our conversation HERE.
b. We are delighted to announce that Producer JW and I will travel to Cary, N.C. for the NWSL Final [Sunday, Oct. 27 4:30 p.m. ET ESPN]. The night before, we will celebrate the Championship game by taping a Live Podcast with a glut of special guests and raising a beer with GFOPs in the Tarheel State. Come meet us on Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Backyard Bistro, 1235 Hurricane Alley Way, Raleigh, N.C., at 7:00 p.m. ET. We can’t wait to see you. And please send great eating suggestions!!!
7. In other terrible Men In Blazers Live Drinking Heavily (but responsibly) News, Austin, Texas, we are headed your way on Oct. 25 🍻🍻🍻. We are so excited to be in the best Austin since Charlie to shoot a live show on Oct. 25 from NBC’s Premier League Fan Fest. #Invited. However, NBC are clearly still ashamed of being seen with us in public, as we are broadcasting LIVE at 5:00 p.m. ET from a studio that will not yet be set up to host an audience. Fear not Austin football lovers. We will host a post-show drink at The Rustic Tap, 613 West 6th Street at 6:00 p.m. local time! We cannot wait to be with you for some Friday Night Pints.
8. OK. Let’s dive into The Darkness: Canada 2 - 0 USMNT . Or as GFOP @BrewSwillaz suggested, “we Canadians will now call this one ‘Deux à zéro’ from here on out.” First of all. Congratulations to all Canadian GFOPs. Your team had a tactical game plan and executed it perfectly. You did not even have to draw on the support of Tobago to crush us. May this night be the first of many that give you the joy and hope we Americans felt until recently -- that your program is building in confidence and on any given night, something magical could happen.
From an American perspective, the performance was best summed up by Sir Ian Darke, who called it, “calamitous, disjointed, error-strewn, awful… Incredible, really, but you have to say: Tonight the USA have hit a new low." The most heartbreaking aspect of the result was the vast silence with which it was met. There should have been a national outcry. The saddest truth is, how few now care. Even many American soccer fans have become apathetic about their Men's National Team. The program seems stuck in reverse. All the progress we made in terms of profile raising since 2002 is in danger of being frittered away as it slides back into the shadows of the American sporting consciousness. It feels like our Men’s National Team have been relegated and people have lost interest. We are essentially Sunderland…
I also ache for the young American players dedicating themselves to the grind in the European leagues - Josh Sargent, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen and yes, the heartbreakingly tearful, Christian Pulisic. The last generation of internationals like Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey used to love coming home to play in a U.S. shirt for the respite and camaraderie it offered. The opportunity to reunite, compare notes, and fight together felt like both a joy and a shelter from the storm. I fear the transitional chaos of the program since October 2017 is going to make our best young talents start dreading the call-up.
Look at me. I love Everton and the USA. One team in the relegation zone. The other has lost four times to CONCACAF opponents in 2019. Remind me why football is my greatest joy again?
9. Some recommendations. Some Television: The new "Peaky Blinders" Season is Everton levels of disappointing. I have started re-watching that magical Season Two of "Succession" again though. Cousin Greg > Gregg Berhalter.
A Brand. I just received my first ever article of clothing from ReynSpooner, the Hawaiian-based designers. This is the shirt I have. Honestly one of the most mesmerizing articles of clothing I own. I love their National Parks collection and their MLB partnership and wish we could do a football shirt one day.
A Song. I have long loved Sydney, Australia’s Gang of Youths. And revere them even more after they revealed themselves as Everton fans while doing a live set at the club. This is my favorite track: Fear and Trembling. Perfect antidote to Everton’s season.
10. Thanks to all of you who sent in your #MiBJockTag submissions for our upcoming tracksuit collaboration with Umbro, a brand we love dearly.We received hundreds of submissions and your creativity never ceases to amaze us (looking your way GFOP Artist in Residence English Bob). We are proud to announce the winner is (pauses for buglers) Henry Pfeiffer, who submitted THIS BEAUTY, complete with Rog-levels of head on that beer. This design will adorn the limited-edition Umbro tracksuit tops, which are set to be released Friday, Nov. 22. Stay tuned to our social for more. And thank all of you who submitted.
11. GFOPs, if you have made it this far down the newsletter, you enjoy either the newsletter itself or torture. Either way, we would love you to forward this missive to your football-loving (and football-curious) friends and encourage them to subscribe. We are the paper of broken record.