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HAIL! GFOP

I type with fingers humbled and honored to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend. As a freshly-minted American, these holidays hit differently for me. Both their core meaning, and the accompanying resonance of how lucky I am as a Liverpool-born boy to have walked a journey where days like this, and July 4, are part of my being.  

For all of us, Memorial Day carries a complex juxtaposition of meanings. A day in which those who lost their lives in active military service are remembered. A day which marks the giddy start to summer, replete with barbecues, ice cold beers, and trips to the beach. In terms of what is happening to our nation right now, that contrast feels more sobering than ever. I will say this: Let this be a weekend in which we all appreciate just being alive. An overwhelming feeling of gratitude for what we do have. Life. Family. Being. Producer JW keeps telling me “This whole experience has recalibrated moral compasses to True North.” Or at least it should have. This weekend, we should think about that.

We would be remiss if we did not note that today marks our 70th day in quarantine. It does feel like some kind of first mountain we’ve climbed. We made it. Over two months of isolation. It’s a milestone of sorts. But it’s like getting to the top of the peak and realizing there are more ahead. We should enjoy this weekend of Bundesliga, Buds, Burgers, Birding, Banjo and Chess. We have to. We need to. We deserve to. But we also have to steel ourselves for what is ahead. Because if anything, we’re just at the end of the beginning. We thought about that last night as we communed with GFOP Essential Workers from across the Nation for a Zoom Happy Hour in which we drank Buds and several shots of Jagermeister. To have the chance to lift the spirits of doctors, nurses, hospital staff, delivery drivers, and supermarket frontline employees was so humbling. Their fearlessness and sacrifice. To have the chance to do that is something for which we’re forever grateful. 

As President Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “They here gave the last full measure of devotion.”


2. Men In Blazers continues to Crap Out Bloviating Uselessness 

i. Today, we sully the end of the week with the 21st episode of WGFOP The Bald, in which we debut a new feature: Rog calls up one GFOP and discusses the answer to their magical question with them. It could be you next week. Call in your Biggest Question on any topic at (646) 450-9472. The worst American phone number since 1-877 Kars-4-Kids.

ii. Breaking Enormous News! MEN IN BLAZERS ON ICE will air Monday, May 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. This project, undertaken in partnership with our friends at Jagermeister, was one of the most fascinating parts of our 2020 so far. Episode 1 features Stanley Cup MVP Ryan O’Reilly, Tampa Bay Hodor Victor Hedman, and my hero, TJ Oshie Babe. It is soaked in empathy, tenacity, and collective wonder. Please spread the word so we can do more, more, more. Tell your friends it is a Last Dance replacement.

iii. I will sully “Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico” on NBCSN today at around 12:50 p.m. ET. I’m assuming - based on the name of the show - pie is involved. Add in the high priest of the world’s fastest growing religion, Tirico-ism, and I am here for it. 

iv. Those of you looking for a quick football fix, we encourage you to check out the first half of our Men in Blazers NWSL season and team-by-team previews, all presented by Budwesier. They are available to binge HERE. Still up: Orlando Pride, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit, Utah Royals and Houston Dash. Stay tuned to our social as those drop in the coming weeks. We miss you, NWSL.  


3. To the Football: I write this with genuine giddiness -- there is growing confidence Premier League football will return in some form. As the German Bundesliga speeds towards its second week of fanless wonder, the Premier League powers that be want English clubs to be able to start full-contact training by the end of next week.  

The players still need assurance that the medical protocols will protect them as the intensity and physical levels of interaction are heightened. Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner declared  "(with) the protocols that the Premier League are working on… its probably safer to play behind closed doors than to go to a supermarket.”

There is a surging positivity creeping into the English narrative. In part because Germany has proved Ghost Games are viable, and partly because of the optics of seeing our English heroes with their feral haircuts trot back onto training grounds. The clips teams are releasing actually took my breath away. We forgot Ox is even better at the football than he is at dancing up tiny sets of stairs. Maybe I'm just soccer starved, but this legit looks like the silkiest sheeeeet I've ever seen.

In the background, negotiations are going on to thrash out details major and minor. Protocols, broadcast deals, refunds, player contract extensions. When I read news that Liverpool have thrashed out a deal to lift the trophy in a behind-closed-doors-ceremony whilst continuing to wear their old New Balance kits (as opposed to their new $85 million-a-year Nike designs that were intended to be worn from June 1st onwards) I was struck by just how complex the minutiae of football’s return will be. Everything but the pies needs to be re-negotiated.

b. Coronavirus broadcast refunds will hit Manchester United hard, and a look at their third-quarter earnings are an indicator of just how severely the pandemic is impacting English football’s bottom line. The latest accounting period covers only 18 days of football’s lockdown, but broadcast refunds and lost matchday revenues over the final three weeks of March already amount to losses of $34 million, and United warn the final figure will be far higher. The announcement was accompanied by a warning that the Premier League will feel the economic impact of this stoppage for years to come. A remarkable reality for a club that Ed Woodward once boasted can make money regardless of the results the team served up on the pitch.

In lovelier Manchester United news, Brandon Williams continues to churn out top quality, moving content. Here, the young United starlet buys his pops a new Mercedes.

c. The Premier League have reportedly greenlit Saudi Arabian investors’ controversial $365 million take over of Newcastle United. This, despite the Human Rights Foundation campaigning against the group, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Newcastle will make the announcement, bringing an end to 13 years of Mike Ashley’s self-destructive ownership. New Lambos for DeAndre Yedlin. 

d. Let’s end this section on a happy note: A Jurgen Klopp Interview which almost felt like a reversion to the joyous, pre-pandemic old days, as German Jim Harbaugh muses on team talks, the keys to coaching, and his approach to clothes (“I think the best-dressed manager is Pep Guardiola. Everything he wears looks exactly right for him”).


4. More Football? Pull My Finger

i. Today in Bundesliga: The Berlin Derby. East v West. Union v Hertha. The John Le Carre Derby!

ii. Fans of Everton or lovers of Italian men with arched eyebrows will love this interview with Carlo Magnifico, Mr. Ancelotti.

iii. Cincinnati appoint great-player-turned-slightly-dodgy-coach Jaap Stam, and announce it by using a photo of another Dutchman, Ajax coach Tinus van Teunenbroek. Proof all Balds look alike to The Haired. 

iv. Manchester City have a new paisley third kit leaked. Let’s just say… Liam Gallagher is not impressed.

v. 30-year anniversary of New Order releasing the greatest World Cup song of all-time in which they persuaded the English National Team to bury a slew of nudge-nudge hint-hint cocaine references into their Italia 1990 Song.


5. Non-Football? He who smelt it dealt it…

i. America's Most Illegal Record Has Been Obliterated Seven Times in Five Weeks - Previously thought impossible to do in under 28 hours, the Manhattan to LA cross country drive now sits at around a 26 hour record. I have dueling thoughts about this: 1. America! 2. Poss the greatest sign that no one has anything to do…. 
 
ii. The story of Snowpiercer, Oscar Winner Bong Joon-Ho’s forgotten masterpiece. Thought when I saw the headline that it would be a KDB biopic. 
 
iii. How At-Home Workouts Are Changing Fitness Culture for the Long-Term. An increase in cheap, virtual options and a desire for convenience. Also, for me anyway, an increase in self-delusion.
 
iv. The single best twitter feed for Japanese Mascot obsessives and John Oliver fans. “Shirakabeno, a romantic Italian playboy warehouse, is an unofficial mascot from Kurashiki City, Japan.”

v. Not only has Germany claimed our complete attention with the return of live sports. They are trying to steal our complete attention with their domination of Polka cover versions of 1980s smash hits. Like Sweet Child O’Mine. Thanks to GFOP @DanteFlorence for the tip.

vi. A beautiful piece about the singular American duo The Indigo Girls. When you read that, you will either feel an instant pang of love or loathing. Irrespective, this masterful NPR longread by Karen Tongson gives the performers their rightful place in American musical history

vii. A great American song for a great American Holiday. Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen. The song of resilience and tenacity we all need for Memorial Day. “Hard times come and hard times go and Hard times come and hard times go Yeah, just to come again.”


We will close today by recognizing that May 22nd is the third  anniversary of the Manchester Bombing. In which 22 people went to an Ariane Grande concert and never returned. The sting of their murders is still excruciatingly painful. The anniversary will be marked virtually. Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives, and to the entire city of Manchester. Look at your family and those you love with immense love and gratitude this weekend, even if it is just by Zoom, and Remember: 
 
“And so Sally can wait
She knows it's too late
As she's walking on by
My soul slides away
But don't look back in anger
I heard you say”
Don’t Look Back in Anger 

We will be back Tuesday.

God Bless You Schalketon.
 
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.”

Philip Larkin
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