I once asked a lifelong Manchester City-supporting friend of mine to articulate the essence of his fandom. “To follow City is to be constantly asked what it is like to be a City fan,” was his enigmatic reply.
How does it feel then this weekend as we approach the 168th Manchester Derby? A game in which the hapless City routinely received a bare-arsed smacking until their Renée Zellweger-esque makeover, which empowered them to win five of the last six. Yet the defending champions wobble in to this humdinger with a record of Draw-Loss-Loss over the course of their last three games, Vincent Kompany appearing mortal, Yaya Toure disinterested, and David Silva fighting injury.
United arrive emboldened after their 1-1 draw against Chelsea, which felt like a win. Louis Van Gaal has had his apron on, vacuum out, and is making headway, cleaning up the mess left behind by David Moyes after his house party spiralled out of control. Yet this game feels all about which City turns up. The Pie Don’t Lie: Manchester City 3 Manchester United 1.
The other game of note features two teams who had confidence bolstering wins in this week’s Capital One Cup, Liverpool and Newcastle. Alan Pardew’s team stunned Manchester City 2-0. Liverpool came from behind to surprise Swansea. In that game, Mario Balotelli unleashed one of his craziest, most unexpected antics yet -- he scored a goal! Liverpool 2 Newcastle 1.
This afternoon, we're taping a preview of what to expect in the Premier League this weekend. It will be posted on NBC Sports' website and all of our social media channels tomorrow morning.
Thanks for your continued feedback on our show, which is an ongoing mediocre experience for so many. We particularly appreciated the kind words from GFOP Hector Acevedo who told us we looked like “White Milli Vanilli” during this week’s Halloween Special with Alessandro Nivola. If you were fortunate enough to miss the show, you can watch a majority of it HERE. Please keep spreading the word. That Monday Night Football thing is quite popular as it turns out.
In this newsletter:
- Help Davo plan his trip to Tennessee to pick up the GDOP (Great Dog of the Pod).
- One of our Top Two Robbies, Mr. Robbie Earle, reveals which NBC football pundit he’d most like to drive cross-country with in Three Questions.
- Which First World War poet looks most like Lionel Messi?
Kung Fu Fighting,
On behalf of
“Positve” Davo: @embassydavies
PS. Thanks to the magical Megan Rapinoe for guesting on this week’s pod [LISTEN HERE]. She is a remarkable human being and we wish her and the rest of the USWNT a remarkable World Cup year ahead.
PPS. We join #GFOP @George_Astridge in congratulating the USA on its great World Series form.
I. The Lakers vs. Barcelona, Coming to an Arena Near You?
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver raised eyebrows in July when he mentioned the possibility of the NBA introducing a midseason FA Cup-style tournament. He reiterated his interest in a such a tournament during a one-on-one interview with Howard Beck [WATCH HERE] posted on Bleacher Report yesterday. Silver said, “there’s been talk about the NBA sponsoring a world championship.” He cited the Champions League as a model he’s studied for such a tournament. Further proof soccer has sunk its claws into the American sporting establishment.
II. Help Davo Do Nashville
In less than two weeks, Davo will head to Columbia, Tennessee to pick up the GDOP (Great Dog of the Pod). He’ll spend the night in Nashville before bringing the Black Lab back to the Crap Part of SoHo. We want you to help plan Davo’s trip by recommending Nashville restaurants, bars and sites. Send us recommendations via email and social media using the hashtag #DavoDoesNashville. Patches for the best three.
An announcement on the GDOP’s name is coming on next week's Pod.
III. Veterans Day Auction
In honor of Veterans Day, and all the men and women who have served this great country, we’re auctioning off the chance to attend a taping of “The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW.” All proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project. ***The winner will become the first ever live studio audience for our mediocre fare. They and a friend will come to the Crap Part of SoHo, watch us film the least technically ambitious show in the history of television, then sink a post-show pint or two with us. This live ONLINE auction on Givingworks eBay begins tomorrow Friday, Oct. 31 and ends Sunday, Nov. 9. We will post the auction link on our website and all social media channels once we receive it.
IV. Three Questions With Robbie Earle
America has come to know Robbie Earle as a pundit, bringing his personal brand of suave, sophisticated insight to our screens whilst anchoring NBC’s football coverage. That knowledge was honed over the course of nearly 20 years patrolling the midfield of football grounds across England, first for Port Vale and then for Wimbledon (now MK Dons). Though born in Newcastle, Robbie’s football legacy extends into the Americas. He repped CONCACAF before CONCACAF was cool, earning 33 caps and scoring eight goals for Jamaica, including the country’s first ever in a World Cup.
He and Robbie Mustoe have also just debuted “The 2 Robbies Football Show,” a call in radio show every Saturday from 5 - 6 p.m. You can listen via the NBC Sports Radio App, or NBCSportsRadio.com. We could not be more excited.
In this issue’s Three Questions we talk with the man who taught Kyle Martino how to tie a Windsor knot.
MiB: Chelsea aside, why do so many of the big Premier League teams seem like wounded animals this season?
Earle: There is no doubt that Chelsea have looked very much like the kings of the jungle and the majority of the competition appearing scared of their bite. That said, we must always be mindful that a wounded animal is a very unpredictable, dangerous beast laying low and coiled, ready to pounce at any time and fight back with devastating effect. The RVP goal, subsequent shirt toss and beastly roar after Sunday’s equalizer seems to make my point.
MiB: Even though you were born in Newcastle, England, you proudly represented Jamaica and CONCACAF Thunder. How far has CONCACAF progressed since your day, and what is the biggest cause of that change?
Earle: This is an easy one. Every year there seems to be a debate in the UK about the benefits of a winter break in English football, with the authorities adamant that it will never happen in the BPL as this is the league for the hardy (even though players are seen wearing their gloves and snoods from October to March). Well, when you play for one of the teams in CONCACAF it means probably 3 or 4 trips a year to the warmth for International matches meaning training in 85+ degrees and getting a bit of sun on the back. And we all have felt the benefits of a bit of winter sun. The migration of many players from the region playing their football in some of the world’s best leagues, developing their technical and tactical understanding does no harm either.
MiB: What is your favorite American city and why? What is your favorite restaurant in that town?
Earle: I love cities that have great diversity and encourage individuality, so for that reason my favorite city has to be Portland, Oregon. Which just so happens to be the place first I worked in the media here in the States some 4 years ago. It’s a beer and foodie heaven and they love their soccer. Additionally, the number of bearded and tattooed people in this city is quite remarkable. Every week I was there I witnessed a demonstration for something or the other in the town square and the naked bike ride through the streets of downtown Portland is a clincher.
My favorite restaurant is Beast a 6-course small plate experience of some of the finest food in the Pacific Northwest. Can't work out if its eclectic or electric because I mix the two words up but it’s a unique dining event.
MiB: If you had to drive across the U.S. with one of your NBC colleagues, who would it be and why?
Earle: I think the answer to who I would choose to be my travel companion on my trip across the U.S. is in fact a process of elimination:
Kyle would be great but do you really want to be sitting next to one the coolest dudes in the country, when first thing in the morning, you look like crap and he's in the passenger seat looking a million dollars.
Mustoe would be most responsible but my worry about him is that due to his chronic color blindness, the challenge of the traffic lights may prove far too dangerous.
Therefore the last man (sic lady) standing is the Queen Bee, Rebecca Lowe, ultra prepared and ultra organized. As you've probably noticed Becks loves to talk and so there should be no shortage of interesting conversations and I know that if I nod off at any time she could continue the conversation with the GPS system!
V. Pod Update
It’s been a year in which the Pod has had more homes than Wilfried Zaha. Last week, the number of weekly downloads forced us to leave the GFOPs at Buzzsprout, who have been brilliant, for SoundCloud. Here’s what you need to know:
If you listen on iTunes, NBCSports.com or Stitcher, you’re all set.
New episodes are available on SoundCloud HERE.
You can listen to our entire archive HERE.
If you have any trouble accessing the Pod, please send a Raven to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do everything in our power to make sure you can listen via your preferred method.
VI. To Tweed
Rog Writes: As fall descends in earnest across New York City, my heart leaps as I know it is time to “Release the Tweed.” I have long lived for the romance of the fabric in the same way as others value velour, pleather or lucite. As I type, I’m sporting an Etro jacket I would wear almost daily if I could. I am planning on buying a fresh cut for the Panic Room and “Move To Tweed” on Monday nights. As a result, I enjoyed this GQ spread many of you eagle-eyed GFOP’s sent us. Not because it features blatherer-hero Matthew McConaughey, but because it’s opening line is “We Are in the Midst of a Tweedaissance”...
VII. WARPIG, MiB’s New Rodeo Mascot
Davo has recently developed an affinity for Professional Bull Riding. He attended a proper rodeo while in Vegas, and plans to take Rog to when PBR comes to Madison Square Garden in January. After hearing us discuss this on the latest Pod, GFOP and rodeo enthusiast Brent Haden sent a Raven.
Brent Writes: Along with my love of the EPL, one of my other great sporting loves is professional rodeo. Given Davo’s revelation this week of his love for the PBR, I thought I’d send along a picture of what should be the official rodeo mascot of Men in Blazers.
He’s a grey bronc named Warpig from the Burch Rodeo Company of Gilette, WY. I’d love to see how hard he could hit the 50 yard wunderstrike.
(Pic from Montana’s Billings Gazette)
Davo Writes: Dear Brent, Professional Bull Riding is like NASCAR if NASCAR only consisted of a 30-lap extravaganza of high speed crashes. These bull riders make Martin Skrtel look soft. It had me at howdy. WarPig the bucking bronco? You just blew my mind. God Bless America.
VIII. Book for your Library, If You Still Read
Rog Writes: As Davo revealed on this week’s pod, one of his great life loves is “making money.” I came to understand that value too late. Like pretty well everything in life, avoid being like me. Read John Lanchester’s wonderful, accessibly intelligent “How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say -- And What it Really Means (Norton)” in which the New Yorker business writer demystifies the jargon of Wall Street and economics, equipping the reader with the language and analysis to read more than the sports pages.
IX. A GFOP’s Dickensian Question
GFOP @BradIdeas Asks: Inspired by Raiders being crap for 10 years, which UK soccer power has fallen on the most Dickensian times in the past 10 yrs?
MiB Writes: The entire league is Dickensian in the sense that it casts a wide net over myriad characters and provides insight into the great divide between the rich and the Burnley. If Dickens were alive today, we’re pretty sure football fodder would litter his Twitter timeline so just one club will not suffice.
Newcastle (this season) is “A Tale of Two Cities” -- A humorless tale of revolt involving a litany of French characters.
Cardiff City is “Great Expectations” -- The protagonist comes into unexpected wealth yet forgets who they are. In the end, they cannot escape their lot in life and return to that from which they came.
Manchester City is “Oliver Twist” -- A bedraggled orphan destined for a hand-to-mouth life is rescued by a great uncle with means. David Silva as the undersized, prodigious Oliver. Sergio Aguero, by his side, must be the stylish smash-and-grab Artful Dodger.
Manchester United is “David Copperfield” -- After main the character’s long time caretaker moves on, his fate falls into the hands of a series of eccentrics. Happiness is no longer as certain as it once was.
If you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them. Send Ravens.
X. First World War Poet-Footballer Look-A-Likes
GFOP @HumanAnimalPack asks: Is it me or does Lionel Messi look like Siegfried Sassoon?
Rog Writes: When Sassoon wrote “In me the tiger sniffs the rose,” he could have been thinking of Leo. Send us more First World War Poet-Footballer Look-A-Likes as you have them.
XI. A Poem To Gird Your Loins
In honor of the previous item. As if we ever need an excuse to read First World War poetry.
By Siegfried Sassoon
Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.
I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
XII. "Plumb our Annals”
With the NBA starting its season this week, our Pod from the Past features a Barcelona supporting Spanish big man. Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is a proper soccer fan who grew up alongside some of football’s finest at La Masia. We wish Marc great success this year. Listen to our Pod with him from last February 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.
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.”