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HAIL! GFOP

Allow me to begin with a prayer for the 2017-18 Season on “The Morning before Everything Goes Pear-Shaped”...

The first morning of any Premier League season is among the finest days of the year. Up there in my book with Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Day, Churchill Day and Yom Kippur. Squads have been refreshed. New players have arrived (Not you, Spurs). Everyone has a fresh new haircut. The ink on those recently acquired neck tattoos has barely dried.

Few occasions in football carry such a sense of collective anticipation and hope. 380 games lie ahead of us over 276 days. Each an unknown voyage of discovery within which everything feels pure and possible. Rationally, the Premier League may be a set of mini leagues within a league (six teams battling for Top Four, four for mid-table obscurity, the rest to avoid relegation), but on the first day of the season, every fan suspends disbelief and listens to their fast-beating heart, which assures them that their team’s newly acquired striker will hit the ground running and score 25 league goals, that an injury-prone playmaker will have the season of his life, and the young loanee from Seville whose name is unpronounceable will reveal himself a diamond in the rough. The moment before the referee’s whistle blows is one thick with prayer. A ball has not been kicked. Dreams not yet dashed. Everything is possible. Amen.

2. Davo and I broke down and analyzed the season ahead on our Season Preview Pod [LISTEN HERE]. Spoiler Alert…  it includes predictions for the Top Four crush. Channeling my inner Three-Eyed Raven, I foresee Manchester City’s rejuvenated full-backs tearing up the flanks; David Silva, now an out and proud Bald, dominating in the middle with a consistently assertive KDB; and young Gabriel Jesus mayhem’ing with Old Man Kun Aguero all the way to the title for Pep’s greatest triumph. We also grappled with predictions for the Moon Door of Relegation. I had a phenomenal time reuniting with my partner in Life and Pod, Davo. The pod is worth downloading, if only for the latest news on Rooney Mara’s pie eating adventures. To see the rest of my predictions for the Top Eight, all while taking a tour of the Crap Part of SoHo, watch THIS DIGITAL VIDEO.

3. In honor of the season opener, we also released a Pod Special with new Premier League friend, Huddersfield Town’s German-American manager David Wagner [LISTEN HERE]. The Terriers rise has been a fascinating spectacle, overcoming the barrier of a tiny payroll through tactical excellence, a rigorous training program, and hardcore team bonding. I was blown away listening to Wagner's approach, not just to football, but to life. Listen to him speak and you'll both become a better, more motivated person, and cheer for Huddersfield all season. #UpTheTerriers

B. Liverpool fans: look out Monday afternoon for a Pod Special with club CEO Peter Moore, who will talk about his journey from Liverpool born fan, to 1970’s semi-pro soccer player with the Cleveland Cobras, to gaming console pioneer and EA Sports FIFA impresario, back to a changed city of Liverpool and a very different Liverpool Football Club. It is a remarkable story and promises to be a great listen. Watch our social, SoundCloud and iTunes.

4. GFOPs in Washington D.C. and Orlando, FL, BEWARE! We head to your fine cities in the week ahead to raise a Guinness with you. First, our entire team travels via rail to our Nation’s Capital Wednesday, Aug. 16, for a truly special Live Show at a Top Secret Classified Location in the heart of D.C., soon to be revealed. The show sold out quite quickly but we are having a post-show drink at Teddy and The Bully Bar. We expect to get there around 8:45 p.m. We hope to raise a glass with each and every last one of you. Repeal and Replace!

B. The next day, Rog and JW head to Orlando for an Aug. 17 Live Show with Dom Dwyer English-American, Diego Costa himself. The event is at Lion’s Pride, 123 West Church Street. Entrance is FREEEEEEEE!!! Come down, listen to the taping, then have a beer with us afterwards. We may be the worst thing to happen to your city since Brek Shea left town. But after admiring the football culture you have built in Jamlando from afar, we cannot wait to sample it first hand. Please spread the word.

5. Two final pieces of business: Join our Men In Blazers Togga Fantasy League. Choosing a Perfect Eleven is a phenomenal addition to your weekend pleasure. Support this young American fantasy start-up in the process. Join HERE. NO CODE REQUIRED. Much more on all things fantasy below.

B. Second: WARNING: MEN IN BLAZERS SEASON 4 PREMIERES MONDAY, AUG. 21 after Everton beat Manchester City. Special guests are Spurs stars Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, who might even teach Rog how to pronounce his name properly.

To Seersucker,
Rog @rogbennett

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
“Positive” Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @lexitan
Producer Evan: @Not_MattEvans

P.S. - On this week’s podcast, I mentioned that one of the things I am most disappointed with myself in life is that I have never made time to master the Banjo. Despite Davo telling me that would make me even more unbearable, your encouragement has been well received. Thanks to University North Carolina's Music Dept. for the offer of lessons, the mighty GFOP @Seaux_Yves for this portrait, and the remarkable @jmpwesley for combining all of my loves -- banjo, Everton and Tracy Chapman -- into THIS VIDEO. To More Banjo.

P.P.S. - Thanks to all those who have written in to ask why we are completely out of stock of MiB Crap. There is honestly no good reason. We are working with some GFOPs in Minnesota to hand craft some new MiB memorabilia. Stay tuned for more on crap drinking vessels, sweatshirts and, if Davo gets his way, a teapot and toast rack. 
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I. Men in Blazers Roundtable: Premier League Season Preview

We asked some of the regulars at the Men in Blazers small council to give us their team's Premier League season preview.

Arlo White (NBC Sports, Leicester City)
I'm strangely optimistic. I had a dream the other night that Mahrez stayed, the Foxes signed Sigurdsson to play behind Vardy and Iheanacho, and the league was won by Easter! In reality, Mahrez will likely leave, and Gylfi is off to Everton, isn't he? Ah well. It feels like the dust has settled after the title win, the Champions League adventure and the hugely polarising sacking of Claudio Ranieri. The summer business has been excellent so far. Harry Maguire was signed early in the window and Kelechi Iheanacho is the potential signing of the summer (Yes, we now live in a world where £25M for a 20-year-old with 12 Premier League starts to his name, is considered a steal!) Life is rarely dull for Leicester fans. Since 1997, they've seen their club win League One, The Championship, The Premier League and two League Cups. They've also been relegated three times, lost in the playoffs twice, and lost a League Cup Final. So, if you offered a 12th-14th place finish BUT win the FA Cup for the first time in their history to complete The domestic trophy set, most Leicester fans would snap your hand off! Prediction: 9th (and out in the FA Cup 4th Round).

Robert Carlock (Writer/Producer for “30 Rock”/”Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Arsenal)
One morning this August, Stan Kroenke shaves off his mustache. Only then does science learn that Kroenke's "mustache" was actually a brain parasite. That's why Kroenke was always gobbling up buckets of fish feces! The parasite loves fish feces! And that's why Kroenke believed that winning isn't the point of sports! Because the mustache parasite had no soul! Finally human again, Kroenke starts spending his wife's money. Sanchez signs a new contract and he and Lacazette become best friends. Giroud stays on as a handsome super sub. Rambo decides to stop getting hurt for no reason. Ozil starts looking as happy in matches as he does in training ground photographs. The Arsenal defense all go out to dinner and learn each others names so they can talk on the pitch. And Jean-Michael Seri's happening, right?! Arsenal win the league and a "Space Jam"-like competition against the mustache parasites (with the help of everyone's favorite mascot, Gunnersaurus!). The parasites are Chelsea supporters.

Rebecca Lowe (NBC Sports, Crystal Palace)
Bit worried about Frank. Bit worried about the lack of signings. Bit worried about our keeper situation. Just generally a bit worried. But BLOODY excited that we will do a Leicester and win the whole thing!! We'll finish 15th.

Big Cat (Barstool, Swansea)
‪"One Way To Keep Momentum Going Is To Have Constantly Greater Goals."‬ Swansea is the hottest club in the EPL, going 4-0-1 in their last 5 matches dating back to last season. Did someone say top of the table? Yes, I just did, and as an owner of Swansea City that means the goal has officially been set. Build off last year's momentum and win the whole damn thing. It is top of the table or bust for the Swans. See all the haters and losers, of which there are many, on the other side. ‬

Ian Perkins (Gaslight Anthem Guitarist/Asbury Park F.C. Co-Chairman, Watford)
It was hard not to be a little disappointed with how Watford finished up last season. We had a struggling manager with little or no connection with the fans, long term injuries to key players and a squad stretched to the limit. Still though, we secured another season in the Premier League and if we've learnt anything about the Pozzo family since their arrival in Hertfordshire, it's that they always have a backup plan. With just a few hours left until the start of the new season, I couldn't be more excited. Mazzarri is gone and replaced with an in demand, young manager in Marco Silva. New signings Chalobah and Hughes are both highly rated, home grown talents bought in for next to nothing and Brazilian starlet Richarlyson just signed from Fluminense, right under the noses of Chelsea and Ajax. A proven top flight goal scorer would be nice, maybe smashing our transfer record again for Andre Gray could just be the last piece of the puzzle. With Zarate, Pereyra and Deeney all close to returning from injury and Gomes signing a new two-year contract, could this be our best Premier League season yet? I'd like to think so.

Producer Lexi (Producer Lexi, Liverpool)
Still on the Klopp hype train! But Liverpool will finish 5th. It will be lame. I will punch a wall. It will hurt. Thanks a lot Dejan Lovren. PS. Coutinho don’t leave :(

Davo (Kitchen Appliance Enthusiast/Wakeboarder, Chelsea)
Title to Manchester. One of them has to win it. Jose will lose his job if Pep wins. Pep will lose his job if Jose wins. Antonio and Jurgen will run up and down the sideline screaming a lot. Jurgen will have more goals to celebrate and finish 3rd. Poch and Arsene in a battle for 4th. Everton to flirt with glory. Rog will be unbearable. And Chelsea will stay up.

Adam Platt (New York Magazine Chief Restaurant Critic, Manchester City)
After blowing several hundred billion pounds (or whatever the hell it was) over the summer, I suppose Man City supporters have cause for optimism, but not me. The team seems to be too young, too untested, and to have too many shiny new moving parts to be considered a solid favorite. I see a second or third place finish, and the inevitable early boot from the Champs League. Off the pitch, the tiresome Pep psycho drama (is he a Savior or False Prophet?!) will play on and on (put me in the False Prophet Camp). On the pitch, defense is obviously going to be the key, specifically whether Kompany can stay healthy (you’d have say hell no), and whether the young Brazilian goaltender can restore some sense of sanity at the back (let’s effing hope so).  

Becky Sauerbrunn (USWNT/FC Kanas City, Arsenal)
Arsenal will not finish fourth, I'm going with a top 3 place. This is not because we have players like Lacazette, Ozil, and Sanchez, it's because we have players like Koscielny, Cech, and Kolasinac. I'm excited to see what Kolasinac can do during the season!

Austin Brown (Parquet Courts, Manchester United)
This season is shaping up to be the most epic yet. We've already got key players returning to former mentors, previously unknown fellas returning to wreck entire fleets, and rumors of dragons returning to the mainland. Not only that, the Premier League is back! Unlike GOT, it looks like Gareth Bale is staying put, again. For UTD, I'm sure Mou is looking forward to bagging at least another 3 fully legitimate trophies, but with even more style than previously expected. I'm predicting not only will Pogba dominate the middle third all season via future-classic hairstyling, but also bring the most exciting, unpredictable celebration to be seen, with a clutch Jesse Lingard assist. Lukaku will lead the league in the most goals scored that won't be on any highlight reels. I imagine ending the year with a shocking but well deserved decision to award Marouane Fellaini a lifetime achievement award, cementing his status as indisputable GOAT, in my own mind. And look to Mourinho to take any credit for any of these achievements, he will humbly point towards his team and fans for the accolades they deserve, naming Luke Shaw as most improved player of year.

Rog (Bald, Everton)
With Rooney using his vast hair-loss experience to guide young nearly-balds, Klaassen and Sandro, through the trauma of their receding hairlines, Everton's Babies will blow away the rest of the field and be 9 points clear at the top of the table by Christmas with Lookman and Calvert-Lewin picking up the scoring slack created by Lukaku's absence. Ahead of the team's final game of the season, away against West Ham, the Blues are 15 points clear of the pack.  Ronald Koeman, who had consistently insisted the title race was not over, finally concedes his Blues will be champions. However, moments before kick off, global warming propels the earth's mean surface temperature to 373 Kelvin, a temperature so hot, the Earth's oceans boil, instantly making life on the planet's surface impossible. Liverpool fans die happy.

Chris Tomson (Vampire Weekend/Dams of the West, Spurs)
We're destined for glory or a depressingly Spursy falling apart of squad and season (Dele don't go!) I'm very wary of Wembley. We go 1 or 5 😬

Dave Fishwick (Purveyor of Optimal Minibuses, Burnley)  
Here we are all looking forward to the new season ahead, It’s going to be incredibly exciting and it’s great news that we are once again in the Premier League. The buzz in Burnley is amazing! With players around the world now being sold for as much as 198 million [Pounds]! It's incredibly difficult for a town like Burnley to compete in that arena. However our spirit is strong and we will try our best against all the odds. Remember we have the brilliant Sean Dyche and a great team of lads, hopefully once again we can try and fight to stay in the greatest league in the world. I myself are swapping sponsorship for ownership as I start to buy shares in Burnley Football club [More HERE]. I am also in the early stages of talking to a massive TV network in America about possibilities of filming a big show out there.


II. Tog-ga. Tog-ga. Tog-ga.

As Rog mentions above, another reason to revel in the Premier League’s return: the MiB Togga Fantasy League. You can sign up HERE. Did we mention, no code required. The league's format is what the Austin, Texas-based Togga calls its “Perfect XI” game.

Here’s how it works: Pick your top 11 fantasy Premier League players each week in a 4-4-2 formation. No salary cap. No restrictions. Just build your best team. You earn a weekly points total based on the Togga scoring system, which reflects a player’s complete performance in a more nuanced fashion than traditional fantasy soccer formats. Every week, the league’s high score wins a special MiB Fantasy Patch. Those weekly totals accumulate throughout the season, and after 38 rounds, the GFOP with the most points wins an appearance on the Pod, which is more punishment than reward. Just ask Simon Wardle, last year’s winner who joined Rog on this week’s Pod [LISTEN HERE].

And for a fantasy cram session ahead of the season, you can peep our Fantasy Island Pod Special with Togga’s head of content, John Wallin [LISTEN HERE].


III. The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame, Wish List Edition

The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame grows week by week in the CPOS. But a little something different this issue. Rather than featuring a submission, we are featuring the No. 1 item from our wish list, which comes from an undisclosed location in Boone, N.C. via GFOP Jason Tatonetti. It is this official 1994 World Cup pinball machine, featuring none other than Striker the World Cup Pup. GFOPs, if you know where this is, EMAIL US
 

Please keep sending the American soccer flotsam and jetsam that is gathering dust in your finished basements and attics with a note telling us about its meaning to you to. We are sending patches to everyone who contributes. Please post everything to:

Embassy Row Studios
Care of Men in Blazers
325 Hudson Street 7th Floor
New York, NY 10013


IV. #PatchAtThePark

This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark features submissions from MLS’s All-Star Game, the crap live show that preceded said game in Chicago, and a strong finish for USWNT at the Tournament of Nations.

But our favorite comes from GFOP Dan Karns, who snapped this shot of a tranquil (for now) Old Trafford on the cusp of a new Premier League season.
 
Good Reads

The Price of Progress: Is London Football Losing Its Soul as Clubs Move Home? John Brewin for ESPNFC. READ HERE

Mauricio Pochettino’s Difficult Summer. Jack Gaughan for the Daily Mail. READ HERE

Five Reasons Why Liverpool Can Win the Premier League Title. Rob Lancaster for Bleacher Report. READ HERE

Neymar to PSG: How Money and Lionel Messi Led to the Sale of the Century. Sid Lowe for the Guardian. READ HERE

People are Psychologically Biased to See Bald Men as Dominant Leaders. Drake Baer for the Guardian. READ HERE
Podcast

Rog and Davo return for a Premier League Preview Pod in which they explore all of the storylines heading into this new season, register their Top Four picks, relegation guesses and each tap a team that could surprise the masses. LISTEN HERE

“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”

Philip Larkin
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