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HAIL! GFOP

I write with fingers that are oddly filled with optimism. I should make it clear that optimism is grounded in nothing substantial whatsoever. I swing so wildly between darkness on the edge of town and a surging sense of hope which can be triggered by an article about the Irish people and the Navajo (see below), Korean Football, or the flickering sight of a dashing Eastern Bluebird. What astonishes me is that I barely remember the old normal right now. The world of our shared office, kids physically at school, revelling in New York’s swaggering street life, and reading books on Subways feels like it was at least a year ago. I may have been hitting my Japanese value of Gaman a little too hard, but I am genuinely fascinated if any psychologists are reading this: Am I unlocking a natural transitional defence mechanism to repress memories of what has been lost, so I have the ability to persevere in the chaos of this new reality?


2. My chipper mood this morning undoubtedly has everything to do with yesterday’s MiB output, which was soaked in joy, wonder and optimism. 

First up. Larry Nance Jr. is a joy machine. What a human being. What a football fan. What an insight into the elite athlete’s experience of pause and uncertainty. Who else can get you from Mason Mount to Theodore Roosevelt in the course of one conversation? This Kobe Story he told is beautiful. DUNK EVERYTHING IN LIFE. Words to live by. LISTEN TO THE WHOLE POD HERE.

b. That Sleeveless Slayer, Becky Sauerbrunn, The People’s Captain, joined me for yesterday’s Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour in Insta Live. She is such a remarkable human being -- almost like a cultural critic who is really, really good at football. I could have talked to her about books, movies and bar fights forever. Becky’s insight into the fight for equality was also fascinating. The hope is for resolution, but the players aren't backing down. "We're doing it not for us, but for the women who come after, and just women in general, in any marketplace who are trying to get paid what they deserve." The whole conversation lives on today in our Insta stories. You can click on it HERE.

c. Today is John Oliver Day thanks to our Throwback Pod Special. To listen to his hopes and fears fluctuate year-to-year as Liverpool moved from Brodge to Klopp is to touch heaven. Almost.

d. Every day is Mother’s Day to me. I mean that seriously. I hate the idea we just reduce thanking Mums to one day a year. In pandemic life, even more so. Their spirit and power is more self-evident than ever. To celebrate the Mums/Moms, we are going to do an MiB Friday Happy Hour Zoom call for ALL THE MOMS. It is open to any and all Moms. All you have to do is EMAIL US HERE to book your spot. We’ll send out a confirmation email at 1 p.m. ET tomorrow ahead of the 4:30 p.m. ET Happy Hour. We cannot wait to raise a glass to you. 


3. A Book! A MiB Children’s Book that will do a lot of good work for Charity. For Chah-ri-teeeeeeeee! A few months ago, we received an amazing Men in Blazers Children’s Book sent to us by two GFOPs, Marshall and May Chasten. It’s an illustrated story of childhood Rog and Davo’s friendship titled, “Courage.” When self-isolation started, we did a reading of the book that we’ve turned into THIS SOMEWHAT SURREAL DIGITAL VIDEO thanks to our editor Nick Koss. The best part is Marshall and May have made it for sale on Amazon HERE and have said they will donate all of the money that comes in to Feed the Front Line, a charity providing meals to healthcare workers fighting COVID. Just amazing and selfless from these two very talented GFOPs. Marshall and May did this out of love. If you are interested in learning more about their work or a potential collab, EMAIL THEM HERE. Davo. Way less bald in children’s books. 


4. To the Football: German Football has Lift Off! The Bundesliga will be the first of Europe’s major leagues to restart with closed door “ghost-games” Saturday, May 16, with the federal government sign-off on Wednesday.

"Today's decision is good news for the Bundesliga, and Bundesliga 2," Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said. "[The decision] is connected with a great responsibility for both clubs and their employees, who are in charge of the medical and organizational aspects. Games without attendance aren't ideal for anyone. But for some clubs and our league as a whole, it is the only way to survive in a crisis that has become an existential threat."

The Bundesliga’s return is a reflection of the success of the nation’s strategic approach to battling COVID. Whether that success is sufficient to sustain consistent football is yet to be seen. Twice weekly testing is the key. The league expects that it needs 20,000 tests to finish the nine games left in the season. A number which represents a small fraction of Germany's testing capacity. 1,724 tests have been conducted across all 36 clubs in the upper two tiers late last week. Ten cases of COVID-19 were identified in the process. 

The league picks up where it left off with matchday 26, creating a potential issue: Borussia Dortmund immediately face Ruhr-valley rivals, my beloved Schalke 04 AKA German Everton. Good luck preventing fans from congregating for that one.  

Facts you need to know to make it seem like you have been avidly watching Bundesliga all season: Bayern Munich lead Borussia Dortmund by four points. Bayer Leverkusen are also just two points behind Borussia Monchengladbach in fourth. At the bottom, just four points separate Mainz and Fortuna Dusseldorf in 15th and 16th respectively. If you don’t have a team to root for. Congratulations. You are now a Schalke fan. Wir leben dich.

b. The Premier League Five Steps Forward, Five-and-a-Half Back: The highly-aspirational goal for Premier League football’s return remains June 12. The teams will Zoom it Up again Monday, in the wake of Sunday’s British Government announcement on the nation’s latest lockdown protocols. Monday’s meeting will attempt to firm up plans based on the government’s roadmap.

Here is the state of play: 14 Premier League teams must agree on the path forward for it to become real. A rebel alliance of the bottom six are said to oppose a return for a number of reasons, including a lack of sporting integrity due to neutral venues eradicating home advantage. This fascinating piece (subscription only, sadly) has a university professor explaining why anyone who says there’s a difference between playing a home match behind closed doors or at a neutral venue behind closed doors is talking bollocks. You can gain a sense of the Rebel Six mindset in this interview with Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow here. Reportedly, the Premier League's bottom three - Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth - have been warned that relegation could be imposed on them if they object to restart plans. Big Stick! Don’t you do The Cherries like dat.

This Guardian piece lays out the barriers the Premier League teams must fling their heads around: Government sign off, defining health and safety protocols, medical sign off, testing neutral grounds, players’ buy-in. Line that jumped out at me in this piece: “One of the phrases being used in Premier League circles is that a return to training will be ‘safer than a trip to a supermarket.’ But that may not be setting the bar sufficiently high.”  
 
c. Let’s All Move to Sporting Superpower Nation South Korea. The South Korean League returns tomorrow! All it took was for Sonny to return to the nation for military service and it was healed (see him in full camo gear here). The opening game will be broadcast live on YouTube. Very thorough Reddit Guide to the league will tell you all you need to know. If anyone wants to tell me what team I support and why, I would be very grateful. 재킷을 입은 남자

 
5. More Football? Too Much is Never Enough.

i. History should not forget the genius minds who created Goal nets, shin pads and dugouts. In their day, each were radical innovations.

ii. Is Women’s Club Football really at risk in Europe? “In England a twin track may emerge. Nine of the 12 Women’s Super League clubs are attached to men’s Premier League sides and one senior club source says: ‘We’ve never had that much to start with and we’ve created an environment now where there’s high reputational risk on big men’s clubs over reducing the budget lines of women’s teams. Whatever happens, there will be players that want to play. Women’s football is resilient, women in football are resilient.’”

iii. Miguel Delaney is one of my favorite football writers. This oral history of Euro 1996, a tournament which changed English Football forever, is a genuine treat.

iv. Could not love The Oakland Roots more. Their history of Women’s Soccer in the Bay Area continues with a great look at the USWNT’s Northern California ties. 


6. Non-Football? OK. We will indulge a little. But not too much.

i. So Important: How to find your most creative part of the day. I believe mine is 4:30 in the morning, if this pandemic reality is anything to go by.

ii. I couldn't love this more. Another unanticipated side effect of pandemic life  - the return of the Drive-In movie theater. A slice of America that stirs my soul.

iii. Beautiful this: An isolation recipe book from ten food-loving creatives. (and don’t forget our #MiBQuarantineCookbook HERE).  
 
iv. Great Read: The Forgotten Tiger King of Harlem

v. Magic in the time of COVID. Illusionist in India takes his show online for free. Wasn’t this an episode of Arrested Development?  
 
vi. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Body Double going to raise a ton of cash by live reading the Hobbit tomorrow.
 
vii. Irish returning Navajo favor more than 170 years later to help them battle the virus. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. The world needs more like this.

viii. When my energy is flagging in the second half of the day, The Avalanches never fail to pick me up. Even when they have Rivers Bloody Cuomo doing guest vocals. Running Red Lights (Ft. Rivers Cuomo, Pink Siifu).


7. Non-Football. Non-Life. Just the Important Crap: BIRDS!
There is a Cardinal with an amazing crested head out of my window as I type that is making me tingle. Judging from our mailbag full of bird photos from you new birders across America, it is pretty clear I am not alone in falling in my new avian dalliances. A couple of pieces cover this new phenom: Bird-Watching Soars Amid COVID-19 as Americans Head Outdoors. "The birds don’t know that there’s a pandemic. They’re migrating, building nests and laying eggs, just like they always have." Amazing quote. Oh to be a bird. NPR look at whether the birds are louder right now. Turns out, we are just quieter. Worth listening to just for the chiffchaff song. 


8. RIP Florian Schneider. 
Very sad to experience the passing of Florian Schneider, the co-founder of German electronic trailblazers Kraftwerk, aged 73. The influence of the Dusseldorf band, often hailed as “The Electronic Beatles,” stretches from dance music to hip hop. If you did not experience them at the time, it is hard to describe how groundbreaking their sound and being was. Their ethos rooted firmly in Europe’s industrial past whilst forcing us to shimmer with excitement as we looked towards a bold technological future. David Bowie called their sound “the folk music of factories.” It changed our primal sense of what was possible. A lot has been written about them overnight that captures their impact. I loved this quote from New Order’s Peter Hook who says, “We ripped Kraftwerk off as soon as we were able.” The Model was their biggest hit, but 12-year-old Rog used to lie on his bed and listen to Tour De France and contemplate a future in which humans and machines would meld into one and nothing could halt them in their tracks. An incredible memory to have now in this lockdown life. Yet the track, like all of Kraftwerk’s releases, sounds just as fresh and modern today as they did when they were released 40-plus years ago, which is the greatest tribute to Florian as it means his memory, like his impact, will go on forever. 


Let’s end with a lovely image from GFOP Andrew Koper, who went on a 21-mile run he had crafted on GPS to create an enormous heart, giving us the love we need. 
 

“I want to live
I want to give
I've been a miner for a heart of gold
It's these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold’
Heart of Gold - King Neil Young

I'm Couraging,
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.”

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