I type with fingers that are humbled by VE Day. Seventy five years ago today, Nazi commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces in a French schoolhouse, bringing to an end the 2,319 days of devastation and agony that was the Second World War in Europe and the Holocaust. Above all, today is about Courage. Perseverance. Tenacity. And the Heroism of everyday humanity. It is that spirit I want to raise a glass to today.
In stark contrast to VE Day itself, which triggered delirious scenes of jubilation and relief, this year’s anniversary will be marked by much of Europe behind closed doors in lockdown. There is a haunting poignancy to all of this. As a kid, I spent hundreds of hours with my Grandfather Sam, reliving his memories as a Desert Rat in Africa, fighting Rommel at the Siege of Tobruk. To me as a kid, I would look at his medals that he wore proudly on this day, and feel so safe. His stories, and the experiences of millions of Allied soldiers around the globe, represented an unimaginable world under dire threat. A reality we talked about in terms of the fading past, of lessons learned that had forever consigned such threats to history.
The modern Europe into which I was born felt so united, optimistic and free. The United States, an indomitable super power. The era of technology that spiralled around us, focussed only on making our lives better, easier and more meaningful. As we celebrate this VE Day indoors it is a stark reminder of a human truth: much of what appears in the rearview mirror is just an optical illusion. Rather than leaving it behind, we are actually driving towards it. At speed. So today, let us channel the spirit of strength, sacrifice and collective compassion of our grandparents and great grandparents, honor their memories, and act accordingly in the here and now.
2. This weekend features another day of enormous significance. Mother’s Day. Another tradition that will be so different in lockdown. Yes, families will be unable to unite and raise a glass together. But there have been few times in my life that I have admired the Maternal spirit in the world more than in the chaos of the past seven weeks. The ability to defend and protect. To nurture and grow. Provide patience and support, and think so selflessly, so totally about others. Those are the values which will empower us to endure this. I raise my glass to each and every one of you Mother Heroes, thinking of the Maya Angelou line from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow."
In that spirit, it delights us to no end that we will end this week with a GFOP MOMS ZOOM HAPPY HOUR. Come raise a Budweiser and a Jagermeister with Rog (a bloke who writes about himself in the 3rd Person). Today at 4:30 p.m. ET. TO RSVP, just SEND AN EMAIL HERE, telling us your name, your hometown and your favorite club. Everyone who emailed yesterday and today will receive an email around 1 p.m. ET with information.
3. Men In Blazers Crap is Falling, Crap on Crap.
a. John Oliver Box Set Throwback Pod Special. Every single one of John's MiB appearances (except the one from 2011 that we lost), tracing the transformational journey of modern Liverpool from Brodge to Klopp. Let John’s effortless humor sustain you through the weekend. LISTEN HERE
b. We are delighted at the response to the GFOP-authored and illustrated Men in Blazers Children’s Book, “Courage,” that was released yesterday. The book’s creators - Marshall and May Chasten - have agreed to donate all proceeds to “Fight the Front Line,” a charity feeding those on the frontlines of this fight against COVID. Courage, indeed.
c. GFOPs, your entries to our #PLLookALike contest, presented by Jagermeister… Holy. Crap. They have been immense. One of our favorites this week, American Shaqiri. If you, or one of your friends, look like one of our favorite Premier League characters, EMAIL US, or send to us via social. Our favorites will receive one of Rog's limited-edition "Livin' The Nightmare" mugs.
4. To the Football:I type as I watch real live football. Yes. The South Korean K-League has gotten me through so many bad times in the past. And there it is again for us when we need it at six a.m. Tears as Jeonbuk and Suwon Bluewings made their grand entrances to Queen’s Greatest Hits. It was magnificent to watch. The football was okay. I was laughing at a terrible pass until my youngest son Oz correctly told me I have been watching Theo Walcott all season and am not in a position to judge the quality of football. There was one late goal, headed home by 41-year-old attacking colossus Lee Dong-Gook, who then celebrated by hand signaling his thanks to South Korean medical workers for their heroism during the pandemic. My big takeaway: The players shout so much, I did not miss the crowd noise as much as I thought I would. Though I really, really, really missed the spitting, horse-blowing, and general gratuitous flobbing.
b. The Premier League girds its loins for a decisive seven days in its decision-making about a return. The general tenor of the English media has turned quite apprehensive, mostly because it appears the Bottom Six have been most aggressively briefing journalists with their concerns about neutral venues, safety and sporting integrity. Miguel Delaney writes that the split between these rebels and the rest of the teams has become so pronounced that they are now known as “Project Sabotage.” While Germany is returning in the spirit of what Bundesliga President Christian Seifert calls the “best imperfect option,” the Bottom Six appear to be holding out an unrealistic aspiration of what is possible, to protect their own Premier League status, even if it threatens the financial future of the entire league itself.
The players remain a second enormous hurdle to be clambered over. Many appear to harbor serious misgivings about the safety of contact sport during pandemic. Next week, top-flight players will be given the chance to air any concerns over Project Restart in a video conference call likely to include representatives of all 20 clubs. Sheffield United’s manager, Chris Wilder, said on Thursday that he would allow players to opt out if the season restarts. “If any individual player took that decision and came to me and said, ‘It’s not for me,’ I’d respect that.”
This story will escalate rapidly from Sunday onwards, so let’s buckle up and hope for the best in terms of football’s return and the safety of all who sail in her.
c. English football’s League One and Two, the third and fourth tier, is set to be abandoned next week, according to reports. A weighted points-per-game system that takes into account each club's remaining home and away fixtures is said to be the preferred model to decide the final outcomes.
5. More Football? Because Too Much is Never Enough.
ii. Fear not for Sonny in the military. No need to send a salami for our South Korean boy in the army. Son Heung-min has completed his three-week military service in South Korea and, surprise, surprise, received the top prize for trainees before preparing to jet back for the Premier League restart. I look forward to a generation of South Koreans writing Sonny Military poetry which captures the heroism and sacrifice of his service.
v. A New Twist on Why Top Athletes Nap So Much. “It’s interesting to think about the parallels between a cluttered, racing mind that keeps you awake, and a cluttered, racing mind that prevents you from hitting a free throw or running the perfect race. Elite athletes have to be able to turn off the latter; maybe that also helps them with the former.”
vi. I wrote yesterday about the passing of Kraftwerk’s co-founder Florian Schneider. I love this piece in which he answered journalists rapid-fire questions. Does he like The Ramones, the Velvet Underground and The Doors: “They have some tradition behind them… they can go further now." What was his favourite sandwich? “We prefer cake.” Will he go bald? “Maybe.” Do you think that can be prevented? “I don’t care.”
That’s it for another week. I can’t believe it is Friday again. Forty one straight weekdays of JW, Miranda and I banging out this Crap in a spirit of fever dream. Just remember these wise words as we hit the weekend:
“Win the Day.” “Dunk Everything.” “This is the Rainy Day we have been waiting for.” “I’m Couraging.”