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MIB is driven by a belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.

Hail! GFOP

 
There has been football during the International Break, but to be honest, it tasted like Dietetic Chocolate. Especially after the Premier League left us with the Wenger vs. Mourinho rumble, the most neurosis-inducing cliffhanger since Batman went un-Batman-ny at the end of The Dark Knight.
 
US National Team Coach Jurgen vs. MLS commissioner Don Garber was most certainly an eye-widener that felt like Mummy and Daddy fighting, or Roy Hodgson vs. Brendan Rodgers (with less white teeth). Garber’s verbal uppercuts were called “Insane” by USA Today. We understand why the Commissioner felt compelled to react. We also understand that he and Jurgen have different, obsessive quests -- one is a league builder, the other cares only about developing the most competitive American squad of 23 for 2018. Yet, we can’t help but think Garber would have been better served by shrugging off the attacks with an eye-roll and laughing at them as “Jurgen being Jurgen.”
 
Worst case, this argument will fester, battle lines will be drawn, and both sides will only succeed in making American soccer appear small. Did nobody learn anything from the Cold War between Tiffany (Amber) Thiessen and Jennie Garth?  
 
Thank the Old Gods and The New for Women’s Football! While the U.S. men sleep off Brazil, the USWNT, including GFOPs Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, gears up for Canada 2015. They began qualifying last night with a 1-0 win over an impressively obstinate Trinidad and Tobago, who departed with glory, even in defeat.
 
Roll on Saturday. Early morning drinking can resume as Manchester City welcome Spurs to the Etihad. We can feast our eyes on Yaya Toure’s sluggish half-effort, David Silva’s attempts to paper cut all comers to death, and a slew of Tottenham haircuts that DeAndre Yedlin will soon emulate. Our heart swells like one of Kyle Martino's bulbous tie knots at the very thought.  The Pies predict a shock: Manchester City 1 Spurs 2.
 
The International Break’s biggest positive: it spared America from having to endure our incredibly suboptimal TV show. But we’ll return to sully your screens this Monday, Oct. 20 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. Warn your neighbors.
 
In this newsletter:
  • The gent atop the MiB Sub-Optimal Fantasy Football League shares his secrets
  • In our Three Question interview, “The Dan Patrick Show’s” Paul Pabst talks which would be more successful: a Premier League team in the U.S. or an NFL team in England
  • EXCLUSIVE! The very first pictures of the GDOP
 
To Tweed and Democracy,  
Rog @rogbennett
 
On behalf of
“Positve” Davo: @embassydavies
MiB: @meninblazers
 
 
P.S. If you did not catch the surreal drone-induced violence that forced the cancellation of Serbia vs. Albania, this is a must see.
 

 
I. Requiem for Landon
 
Landon Donovan kicked his last ball for the US Team last Friday night. Rog has resumed his fly-on-the-wall documentary exploits, as he did before Brazil 2014, and is following St. Landon around to capture the emotion of his final weeks as a professional.  Episode 1 of the documentary, which he made with partner John Hockcan be found on Grantland. In addition, Rog wrote this tribute to Landon, wondering if he is just a complex man playing a simple game.

 
II. Football Takes Over the NFL
 
The lone positive of the International Break: watching loads of American football and, in Davo’s case, pre-season NBA. Last weekend, we noticed several unmistakable signs the two footballs are coalescing. Defensive backs wearing soccer shoes. Small/tall tandems. A Tifo at the Philadelphia Eagles game. What’s next: A TIE!  As the NFL colonizes London, and the EPL plans games in America, will the two footballs become ever more identical, like a bridge built across an ocean from two sides? Only when a Pie is glimpsed at an NFL game will the answer become evident.


III. Fantasy Football Update
 
A new team sits atop the Men in Blazers Sub-Optimal Fantasy Football League. GFOP Jaye Williams’ Naughty by Nature-inspired FC Yayunomi (“Yeah, you know me”) has displaced Evan Sadler’s Eric Dierwolves in first place. Not only is Jaye top of our league, he’s 50th out of the 3.3 million people who participate in the Premier League’s fantasy football globally. We asked him to explain his early fantasy success.
 
Jaye Writes: My selection approach this season comes solely from John Madden-esque observation, the purely obvious – just pick good players. Don’t over-think it (which I was guilty of in the past).

This season’s primary formation is 3-4-3 because the EPL has crap defense, lots of scoring midfielders, and strikers who play in a league with crap defense. Buying and selling is simple as long as you play the matchups defensively, rotating the crap defenders against better opposition, never spend too much money on a keeper unless you like wasting money on the lottery, and finally never assume that Newcastle is going to “turn it around”, never put them in your squad.

 
IV. GDOP (Great Dog of the Pod) Update
 
The very first images of the GDOP are here (see below). While we aren’t sure exactly which dog is Davo’s, he’s in there somewhere. Positive plans to pick up the black lab in Columbia, Tennessee next month and make the 14-hour drive back to the Crap Part of Soho, “Thelma and Louise”-style. Davo hasn’t yet decided on a name, but Guinness, Ross Barkley and Arlo Black are leaders in the clubhouse. Thanks to everyone who’s sent in a suggestion. The winner's prize is, predictably, still TBD. 
 


 
V.  Why Do Baseball Managers Dress Up Like Players?
 
We asked, you answered.  GFOP Stan Kovar sent us this Mental Floss piece which links it back to the era in which “managers” were actually players who called themselves “Team Captains.” How we long for a modern day Connie Mack.

 
VI. Three Questions with Paul Pabst
 
He’s a man whose love of sport straddles the Atlantic. A devotee of both footballs, not to mention baseball, basketball, hockey and even the occasional keg toss. “The Dan Patrick Show’s” Paul Pabst is as well rounded a sports fan as you’ll meet. In this issue’s Three Questions we talk with a man who augments his appreciation for the I-AA Montana State Bobcats with a love of Liverpool and Landon Donovan.
 
MiB: You have been to a bunch of Premier League games. With the orgy of American sports you have to cover, what keeps drawing you back there? What Pabst Itch is not being scratched?
 
Paul Pabst: I went to my first Premier League match the day after Christmas, 2004. Birmingham at Fulham. Not exactly star studded. But Craven Cottage really hooked me. I’m a Cubs fan and the old school brick and stone stadium that is in a West London neighborhood was perfect. We sat on wooden benches, one row behind the BBC radio announcer. It was 37 degrees and I loved it. I’ve been to four other matches over there. Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. It reminds me of an American college football game. We have tailgating, they have pubs. It’s an all day experience.
 
MiB: Which is more likely to succeed and why: a U.S.-based Premier League team or a London-based NFL team?
 
Paul Pabst: Hands down a US-based Premier League team. If the Premier League team was based in NYC, it would sell out every game. The growth of soccer in America over the past 10-15 years cannot be denied. On the train in NYC, you can see people wearing Arsenal kits, United kits…I even glimpsed a Hull City kit the other day. The NFL is just not popular in London. There is a curiosity for a few NFL games at Wembley a year, but a London-based NFL team would struggle to capture attention. I find it funny when I hear people still say ‘no one in America cares about soccer’. If you want to see “not caring”…check out the NFL in the UK.
 
MiB: What is your favorite bar/pub in Britain and what is your drink of choice when visiting?
 
Paul Pabst: I like ‘The Eight Bells’. It’s a cozy spot under the Putney Bridge train stop, a block off the River Thames. Fun bartenders, good food and a fireplace that is always roaring.  Quick walk to Fulham and Chelsea. My drinks are Guinness of course, Smithwicks and Talisker whiskey. Another good one for live music is The Half Moon in Putney….U2, Stones and The Who have all played there.
 




MiB: What is more likely to happen: The US win the World Cup or Dan Patrick develops the soccer bug?
 
Paul Pabst: Dan has developed the soccer bug. He tries to fight it off, but we’ve gotten our claws into him. He watches Premier on the weekend mornings. We’ve had Beckham, Donovan, Lampard, Thierry Henry… amongst others. That being said, if it helps the USA win the World Cup…I would be fine with him never watching another match. More for me!


VII. A Claret and Blue Question
 
GFOP Ryan Jackson Writes: What’s the history of the sky blue and ‘claret’ colors in the Premier League?  I always thought it was very random that both Aston Villa and West Ham sported the same colors, but with Burnley added to the mix, we can no longer turn a blind eye to this epidemic. This must be explained!  It’s too specific and strange of a combination to be a coincidence.  Is there a secret significance we don’t know about?  A special English rainbow color spectrum?  What’s the deal?
 
Rog Writes: Aston Villa claim to be the first, with their jersey moving from chocolate and blue in 1887.  The Guardian suggests Crystal Palace borrowed Villa’s old jerseys when they began life in the early 1900s.  West Ham took on the colors after winning a bet.  For more on early jerseys, we love Strange Hues, on gorgeous kits from the late 1800s. Blackpool 1915 was very, very tasty.

 
VIII. Our FIFA 15 Contest Winners
 
FIFA 15 has only just come out. But you GFOPs clearly have prophetic powers. We asked you to look into the future and conjure the cover of FIFA 16. You answered by the thousands. Stevie Naismith and Wet Herrera were key themes in your creative work. The covers are available to view individually HERE.
 


 
IX. The Feel Good Comedy of the Year
 
With FIFA mired in controversy, it’s good to know they  can still make time for their fans. We recently learned the organization poured $27 million into “United Passions,” a coming of age film about football’s governing body and the ever benevolent Sepp Blatter. Watch the trailer HERE. Despite tepid reviews and only 120 people attending the premiere, we cannot contain our excitement. We plan to host a Rocky Horror-style screening when the film makes its way to America.  This has all the makings of the next Tommy Wiseau classic.

 
X. A Poem To Gird Your Loins
 
Two weeks ago, we asked you to submit your suggestions for this issue’s “Poem To Gird Your Loins.” Our only rule: it must be football-related. After considering numerous very worthy entries, we chose GFOP Phillip Polefrone’s suggestion: Seamus Heaney’s “Markings.” Phillip, a Raven is on the way with information about your prize, James Booth’s “Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love.”
 
Markings
By Seamus Heaney
 
I
 
We marked the pitch: four jackets for four goalposts,
That was all. The corners and the squares
Were there like longitude and latitude
Under the bumpy ground, to be
Agreed about or disagreed about
When the tie came. And then we picked the teams
And crossed the line our called names drew between us.
 
Youngsters shouting their heads off in a field
As the light died and they kept on playing
Because by then they were playing in their heads
And the actual kicked ball came to them
Like a dream heaviness, and their own har
Breathing in the dark and skids on grass
Sounded like effort in another world…
It was quick and constant, a game that never need
Be played out. Some limit had been passed,
There was fleetness, furtherance, untiredness
In time that was extra, unforeseen and free.
 
II
 
You also loved lines pegged out in the garden,
The spade nicking the first straight edge along
The tight white string. Or string stretched perfectly
To mark the outline of a house foundation,
Pale timber batten set at right angles
For every corner, each freshly sawn new board
Spick and span in the oddly passive grass.
Or the imaginary line straight down
A field of grazing, to be ploughed open
From the rod stuck in one headrig to the rod
Stuck in the other.
 
III
 
All these things entered you
As if they were both the door and what came through it.
They marked the spot, marked time and held it open.
A mower parted the bronze sea of corn.
A windlass hauled the centre out of water.
Two men with a cross-cut kept it swimming
Into a felled beech backwards and forwards
So that they seemed to row the steady earth.
 

XI. "Plumb our Annals”
 
With MLS’s regular season drawing to a close, this issue’s Pod From the Past features a man whose team has already clinched a play-off spot. He’s an engine room staple for both Real Salt Lake and the USMNT. His tireless work rate may occasionally fly under the radar, even if his hair never does. He also happens to be one of our absolute favorite gents in football. The one and only Kyle Beckerman joined us in February 2013 to talk all things MLS and Maryland (or Mar-ee-land). You can listen to the Pod HERE.
 
Our entire pod archive is available here. If you prefer the Cliffs Notes version, check out "Men in Blazers. Unbuttoned: Now That's What I Call Sub-Optimal on iTunes and Amazon. It's the least objectionable of our football "analysis," Ravens and interviews from the first four years.
 
You can access all MiB-related content (videos, pods and articles) by visiting www.nbcsports.com/mib.
 
Please forward this to your football curious friends. Let's see if we can bring them over to the dark side. The Ian Darke Side.
 

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

Philip Larkin


Podcast

In this week’s Pod, Rog and Davo offer a requiem for Landon Donovan’s International Career, feign excitement for the Euro qualifying and welcome Senator Bob Casey to the pod to talk Sepp Blatter and House of Cards.

Good Reads

Burnley: a small town with a massive footballing history. Joe Posnanski explores the past, present and the future of a club that was once a crown jewel of English football in this NBCSports.com story.
 
Chris Locke breaks down the price of London clubs’ season tickets, programmes and, most importantly, PIES for Londonist. Via GFOP @gariphic.
 
The New Yorker’s Amy Connors explores a series of 1970s photographs that show the “Real Britain.”

This Philip Larkin interview by The Paris Review’s Robert Phillips blows Rog’s mind, Paul Carr-style. Via GFOP @nausikaa3.
About

Michael Davies and Roger Bennett believe that soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972. Visit MeninBlazers.com, “Like” us on Facebook, follow the show on Twitter and Instagram, or email us at MeninBlazers@gmail.com.
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