I type with fingers bewildered that today is not a national holiday (outside of Croatia). Our Lord and Saviour Christian Pulisic turns 22 today. Don’t know about you, but when I was 22, a big win was crushing nine beers, 20 XXXX Hot Wings and then having my song come up on the jukebox. Christian has used his life far more productively, ringing up 220 games, crafting 58 goals, and conjuring 59 assists, all whilst carrying the hopes and dreams of a nation - plus one oligarch - on his shoulders. We wish him a year of strength, health, sage decision-making, and the tenacity to keep blazing his own path.
Warning: Frank Lampard has been cagey about Christian’s hamstring and ability to play in the epic Liverpool-Chelsea Battle of the Bastards on Sunday, just acknowledging it would have been a “big ask” for him to play last Monday against Brighton. We break down the game and the rest of the weekend’s magical offerings below. Full Schedule HERE.
2. Men In Blazers. We Doing This.
i. Brace yourself. Monday 5:30 PM ET. We back! In an incredibly special show, I was honored to spend time with two remarkable footballers who have crossed the Atlantic, in different directions, to pursue their dreams. Leeds United’s Jack Harrison tells me his unique pathway to the Premier League, with stops at a Massachusetts Prep School and Wake Forest along the way. We released a version of the interview as a pod yesterday, but this TV piece is can’t miss as Producer JW and his team have sourced rare footage of Jack blasting goals at every bonkers stop along his trailblazing journey. This interview will encourage all young footballers in this nation who dream big dreams to believe in them.
Sam Mewis of Manchester City also joins me to talk about her first impressions of the North of England, her battles with English Washing Machines, and the tactical culture of WSL football that she hopes will take her game next level to propel her to Olympic Glory in 2021. The show is on Peacock.
ii. Today, we release our Weekend Footballing Preview in our WGFOP the Bald Podcast, in which we take your questions via the MiB Emergency Hotline (646-450-9472) and give you suboptimal answers.
iii. Heads Up: The Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin joined us on our final “Men In Blazers on Ice” episode of the season, presented in partnership with our friends, Jagermeister, producers of that shot of human emotion in a glass. What a story of redemption and glory he is. You can catch our entire season of NHL interviews here, including some Victor Hedman and Jon Cooper magic for you Bolts fans.
iv. NWSL Save the Date: Our great friend Meghan Klingenberg joins us THIS WEDNESDAY for an Instagram Live Budweiser Happy Hour. Send us your question for the World Cup Winner and Portland Thorn, AKA Yinzer Messi. Bud Fam Blud Fam!
3. To the Football
Biggest game of the week (not involving Everton) is Sunday’s richter-scale-buster between Liverpool and Chelsea. Klopp’s mob are defending champions, yes. But, they are also a team who have suffered five losses in their past 14 games, leaking 19 goals in the process, looking distinctly mortal.
Chelsea have spunked ducats to win now, yet looked like a team in transition against Brighton. So many new pieces, many not yet fit to play, plus their two new gems Kai Havertz and Timo Werner still acclimating to life in the Star Wars Cantina that is the English Premier League. Watching Liverpool toil against Leeds United suggests Timo Werner’s intelligent movement and startling pace can thrive if his teammates can find his runs. I believe this game will come down to which back four is more vulnerable. And I fear the obvious one-word answer to that is “Kepa.”
Liverpool fans. Fear not. Thiago. Klopp calmly acknowledges, “It’s happening.” An arrival that could change the balance of power and instantly makes a ton of pre-season predictions cold takes.
Chelsea fans, here’s Miguel Delaney’s fascinating profile examining Roman Abramovich’s renewed commitment to the club and what that means for Frank Lampard in terms of pressure and expectation.
ii. Manchester City make their season debut against the silk-be-muscled Wolves and attempt to prove they have healed the open wound that was last season’s soft, vulnerable gut with the addition of Nathan Ake. The player no one is talking about though: Ferran Torres. In this profile he admits, ”David Silva has always been a role model. I'll try to follow his steps at City.” Tall task filling that little man's big shoes.
This is some opening test against Wolves. A stealth clash of wonder. Particularly as Nuno’s mob will roll out their Portugal tribute third kit, a savvy reflection of the fact that nine of their squad hail from the Iberian peninsula. Obrigado, Rock on! [Monday at 3:15 p.m. ET]
v. Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek-era begins on Saturday against effervescent Crystal Palace. The young Dutch star remains United's only incoming body thus far, as their transfer strategy appears to be hitting the “Nobody Panic!!!” stage.
b. Our profile of OL Reign’s Madison Hammond, who has become the first Native American to play in NWSL. Genuine Hero. May many follow in her footsteps.
4. A Brand I Love: Rowing Blazers
There are so many reasons I have fallen in love with Rowing Blazers. We share initials - so the RB they place on their clothing looks like a monogram. Their wicked sense of humor. Their eccentric taste filter, which playfully blends together so many things I revere: Bjorn Borg headbands, velour sweatsuits, seersucker, Japanese Prep-obssession, early, early Tom Hanks (when he was still genuinely great) meets peak Allen Iverson. I love love love their FILA Collab, their neighborhood snapbacks (the Chicago one of which is on my MiB set) and partnership with 1970s brand DAUNT. Quick story: I was wearing their Daunt sweatshirt when I interviewed Virgil Van Dijk, and it took him five minutes to stop laughing when he first saw it, as he mistook the label’s Japanese ash leaf for something else. Here is the ROWING BLAZERS WEBSITE. I will admit, when I feel down, just perusing it lifts my spirits. The joy at the heart of their brand is life-affirming.
5. Not Football, and Prob All the Better For it
i. Just when you think 2020 can't get darker: according to scientists, the orcas are, and I quote, "pissed off."
That’s it for today. It is Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, this weekend. A time for reflection on the past 12 months, and the struggles and wrongdoings that have been inflicted. As with every holiday, this will be a weird one, as we will be atomized from our communities and forced by COVID to mark it alone. I will be thinking of all of you as I think about this moment in time and the strength and support we continue to give each other in this era of chaos and darkness. I apologize to each and every one of you if I have wronged you in any way. Especially you, West Ham fans. And I wish you, your families, your communities, and your teams, a year ahead filled with strength, good health, empathy, love and action. We can do this!