I type with fingers filled with joy at the prospect of being back to share another week with you. Let’s Win this Day. Let’s Win this Week. Or at least, in Jurgen Klopp’s words, let’s fail beautifully. By that I mean my new goal in life, which is to do the best I can under the circumstances. For me, as someone that plies a trade in sub-optimality, that is actually an uptick. For many of you, who are perfectionists, it is a plea to give yourselves some slack sometimes. Be a Hendo. Stop aspiring to KDB-levels again until this is over.
2. Biggest news for me over the weekend was that I finished that book I have been bullshitting about for as long as you can remember. Yes. The Rog memoir of a life lived in Liverpool as a Chicagoan trapped in an Englishman’s body is actually finished. If any of you have dug your way out of prison using just a teaspoon, you will know the levels of relief I am experiencing right now. As much as anything, the book is a love letter to all things American that influenced me: Miami Vice, Molly Ringwald, William “Refrigerator” Perry, Chuck Taylor All Stars, Licensed to Ill, and Tracy Chapman’s debut album. It is also an investigation into whether it is possible to be what you are not. To be shaped by a country you have never set foot in. For now, I will say one thing: This has been a remarkable moment to dig deep into my memory of a time when the United States played the role of Global Leader gloriously, with courage, tenacity, and wonder. Qualities which changed everything I thought was possible and gave me the confidence to chase those possibilities with all the passion Tracy Chapman sang about Fast Cars.
3. This Week in Men In Blazers:We have a “Copa das Copas” of weeks, with special guests, and secret special guests, and Holy Crap, I am quite excited certain people are coming on our show.
First up, it is a slice of magic that BECKY SAUERBRUNN - the People’s Captain - will join us on Insta Live for Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour at 6:30 p.m. ET. Please spread the word and encourage your friends to follow and join HERE. You can send us your questions HERE. This week, we continue our weekly NWSL team-by-team previews with Becky’s Portland Thorns. Look for that on our social later today.
Seattle Sounders keeper/artist Stefan Frei painted a portrait of me. I sketched out a portrait of Stefan. Together, through a RAVE Foundation auction, we raised more than $5,000 for small businesses and food banks in the Seattle area hit hard by COVID. Stefan, being the remarkable bloke he is, is keeping the initiative going by selling prints of his painting of me HERE, with all proceeds going to charity. I’ve considered buying one myself, in an act of solidarity with Brodge.
4. To the Football:A bellyful of fallout After Friday’s Project Restart pow wow, which culminated with the hope of Premier League football returning on June 12 in neutral venues. The more I read, the less I am sure whether the project of “Project Restart” is a noun (project as in “collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim”) or a verb (project as in “to create the image that…”) because the reality seems to flicker between the two.
The one thing that is clear is that beneath the mask of solidarity in Friday’s statement is this: 20 clubs are going to have 20 self-interests. There are a slew of finely-balanced allegiances and pacts, wheels-within-wheels style, starting with the primary alliance between the clubs at the top, who are desperate to preserve financial stability and lock down the global broadcasting money so they can stay competitive in the global powerhouse arms race that they compete in with the Barcas, Reals, and Bayerns. For them, the season must be finished. The six teams at the bottom, however, think more about the money they will lose by tumbling through the Moon Door of relegation and would conveniently like the season to end now without relegation. They have become a unified voting block, and would like relegation to be scrapped if the season does go ahead.
A second linked friction-filled battle line is that of neutral venues, which will penalize teams in peril, like Brighton, who have a majority of home games remaining and would be put at a huge disadvantage. A bloc of teams find the neutral site concept a non-starter. A handful more are said to be extremely cautious about the practical mechanics of player welfare upon returning to play. What, for instance, happens to a team if their top three strikers all test positive for COVID? A scenario which the Bundesliga is already beginning to grapple with. All of this must be pre-thought, because it is precedent setting for the new normal if biosphere football has to carry on through next season. Any decision needs the backing of 14 clubs. The next installment of Project Restart Zoom Chaos will go down this Friday.
5. U.S. Women lose their biggest Game of All: A team who win everything are forced to grapple with a devastating shock loss. On Friday, a U.S. district court judge rejected the USWNT’s allegations of gender discrimination, ruling in favor of the U.S. Soccer Federation who have maintained that their women’s team has not been underpaid. Judge R. Gary Klausner wrote in his decision that members of the USWNT agreed to the CBA under which the current pay structure exists and that they did not prove wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act because the women's team played more games and made more money than the men's team.
From THIS SI ARTICLE: “He notes that during the class period (2015 to 2019), WNT played 111 total games and earned $24.5 million overall in salaries. This means WNT players made, on average, $221K per game. During this same period, MNT played 87 games and earned $18.5 million overall in salaries. MNT players therefore made, on average, $213K per game—or $7K less per game than WNT players.”
Part of the reason the judge deemed the numbers to be in U.S. Soccer’s favor is that the women have won non-stop. Our U.S. Men, not so much. If the USMNT had done their jobs and qualified for the 2018 World Cup, they would have made cash trucks of money (at least $23 million), which would have undermined a key argument the judge used to rule against the USWNT and in U.S. Soccer’s favor.
The eye-popping decision gobsmacked everyone who has been following the trainwreck of a saga over the last year. The issue was expected to be settled before the court case began. The only details of the team’s wide-ranging complaints which will proceed are that they are subject to inferior travel and accommodation compared to the USMNT. These alone will go to trial in June.
I predict the following: Rumors of an appeal abound, which will drag the case out for at least another year and give the U.S. Women another chance to bolster their standing in the court of public opinion, which is their greatest leverage right now. U.S. Soccer cannot make the kind of money they need to from their U.S. Women’s success unless the players participate willingly in sponsorship deals with as much passion as they do on the field. Right now, that is not the case. It is in both side’s interests to negotiate an amicable step forward together. I expect the Federation to sit down with leading players and work out a plan that everyone can embrace.
6. More Football. Always and Forever.
i. Fascinating piece looking at how footballers, particularly those in the Premier League, are grappling psychologically with the unprecedented question of how to return to work – work that requires forceful, physical contact – in the middle of a pandemic. Players will need time to rebound mentally from this pandemic.
iii. Some crazy wicker basket company made an Ohio family business a squillion dollars, which they celebrated by building a $30 million HQ in the shape of a giant basket. Obvs they got nuked by the recession and now it is being turned into a luxury hotel.
That’s it for today. Come on. Attack that week. Let the week be Dejan Lovren. You be Jamie Vardy. Let the week be David Luiz. You be Bobby Firmino. Let the week be John Stones. You be The Gyasi. (Scratch that last one.)
Leaving you with this wisdom, which is actually the epigraph that opens my book:
“I used to think that this was my town What a stupid thing to think I hear you're fighting off a breakdown I myself am on the brink I used to want to be a real man I don't know what that even means Now I just want you in my arms again And we can search each other's dreams” - Jason Isbell - Hope the High Road