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HAIL! GFOP

I write with fingers that are simply flying. Yesterday was an inspirational one at Men In Blazers. We attacked Wednesday -- the sagging abyss in the middle of the blurred slop that passes as a week in lockdown life -- with an enthusiasm unknown to humankind. First, the legendary Bob Ley, the man who pioneered the Kenny Loggins-quarantine-beard before the rest of us even knew what quarantine was, charged onto our pod, talked about the searing inspiration of Churchill and the Army Rangers of Pointe du Hoc, and left us with the inspirational wisdom to try and “Win the Day.” A mantra to live by. Win the Day People! FULL POD AVAILABLE HERE.

Then, Kelley O’Hara, that two-time World Cup winner, came and had a Bud with me on our Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour. I will be honest. I was exhausted yesterday. Truly shattered in energy and spirit when we began. Yet the thirty minutes I spent in Kelley’s company, and that of thousands of GFOPs, shooting the shit, drinking Buds (and occasionally shotgunning one, badly) restored my being. It is so gratifying to see Kelley’s life wisdom have instant impact. “Make it a Good Day or Not. The Choice is Yours.” You can watch Kelley’s whole life-affirming appearance here. Tune in next week for another Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour Insta Live, which is the joy of our life.


2. It is amazing to have the Seattle COVID fundraiser art auction we launched with the great Stefan Frei out in the world. Bidding is now OPEN. That portrait of me is genuinely incredible. Every dollar goes to food banks and small business loans in the magical kingdom of Seattle. Bidding only goes through Saturday evening, so bid early, bid often. 

b. Our latest episode of “Men in Blazers on Ice, presented by Jagermeister” features the cerebral wonder that is Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. Victor’s story is an inspirational one. A Swedish giant who has lived out Rudyard Kipling's life wisdom, "If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you..." He also delivers some hot takes on Swedish candy, including Swedish Fish. FULL INTERVIEW HERE. And you can binge our entire “MiB on Ice” series HERE

c. GFOP Happy Hour returns Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET when 10 Raven newsletter subscribers will have the misfortune of raising a Bud and a Jagermeister - a beer and a deer - with Rog. The first 10 people to respond to a special link in Friday’s newsletter will get an invitation. If you know someone who might be interested, forward this to them and encourage them to SUBSCRIBE


3. To the Football: Great progress. The plans to bring football back into our lives has a nickname. Project Restart. That’s not Nothing. Catchy enough name. Granted, it’s not “Nigel.” But since we have not seen a ball kicked since March 13, I will bite your arm off for any progress right now, however minimal. And the Premier League honchos are poised to Zoom it up tomorrow to discuss the notion of games returning around June 13. And perhaps… perhaps… even vague plans of how to make it happen.

That plan is said to revolve around all 92 remaining matches being played over a six-week period at neutral “approved stadiums” (to avoid having to move vast numbers of people constantly around the nation) in what could be called a “festival of football” (whomever has been pulling in that sweet consulting branding money from the Premier League seems to be kind of phoning it in). As I type, Arsenal, Brighton, West Ham and Tottenham players have already returned to a new social distancing training/sex parties regimen. 

“I LOVE ALL OF THIS. DRINK IT IN. FIST PUMP. INJECT IT IN MY BIG BALD HEAD ETC…” but hold on. Now the dark news. Which is called Reality. Medical experts have placed the number of tests this would require at more than two million which is, optics-wise, an eye-popping number for a nation in which front-line medical staff are not able to be tested. Couple that with the memory of Champions League football being a super-spreading vortex and there is the genuine fear that if the sport resumes too early, and plays a role in a second wave, it could be one of the gravest own goals in football history.  

Do not expect hard dates, times, and plans to emerge tomorrow. This is likely to be an incremental, “slowly, slowly catchy monkey” process. Word has it we are at least a week away from the government announcing its wider plans to ease Britain’s lockdown status, which is expected May 7.  i.e. if that lockdown is extended, football’s return would be pushed back.

b. The Championship, English football’s second tier, looks unlikely to resume. The number of COVID tests that it would require make it a non-starter. It remains to be seen what system will be used to determine the final table, with the ‘sporting merit’ system, which used points won per game played to project the ultimate outcome, being chief amongst those considered.

c. Liverpool fans will rejoice reading reports that PSG are set to be crowned French Champions as Ligue 1’s season was suspended. The French petro-powerhouse were 12 points ahead with a game in hand and 11 matches still to play. Precedent! Glory! Asterisk!
  

4.  You want More Football like Big Sam wants Pie

i. Pochettino Back? With the tabloids linking that gorgeous man Mauricio to the morally-tinged lucre of Newcastle, the gregarious ex-Tottenham alchemist has gone on record that he harbors dreams of an ultimate return to Spurs. “Of course I am looking forward to moving on and I am so motivated for the next project. But deep inside I want to go back because the fans are so special. Maybe in five years, maybe in 10 years, but before I die I want to manage Tottenham.” Deep down, all of miss Serge Aurier in ways that are profound and unshakeable. 

ii. Talking about Spurs managers that were once great, today is the 15th anniversary of Jose Mourinho’s first Premier League title at Chelsea. It is hard to overstate just how much his tenure there changed the course of English football. This piece relives the energy of Peak Jose.  

iii. Sports will return. The games will have no fans. It will not be the same. Yet, all hail Borussia Mönchengladbach. They offered their fans the chance to purchase a cardboard cutout of their likeness for $20. Over 10,000 have, establishing a COVID Fund in the process. And it looks MAGNIFICENT. Heartening proof, that even in flux, the creativity of football fans will lift our spirits in the next 12 months.


5. Non-Football. Non-Football. Get your Non-Football, ‘ere

i. Nick Hornby examines the big questions: “When you’ve seen Downton Abbey in its entirety three times, what will we be watching in lockdown month 38?” Pure genius from a great GFOP. (Via GFOP Lisa Poulson)

ii. Amazing: “Keeping in shape with my favorite workout video, the critically-acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense.” I could not love this more.

iii. Another small pandemic silver lining. The Cocktail Hour has had a renaissance as a great American institution.

iv. A Swedish City is spreading a ton of chicken manure all over town in an effort to prevent crowds from gathering to celebrate Walpurgis Night. “The Cure is worse than the Walpurgis Night.” (Via GFOP Daniel Kanter)


6. Books! Books! Books!
Men in Blazers Goodreads page has been updated! See what we're reading, tell us what you're reading, talk all things tomes, and make memories with fellow GFOPs.


7. The Greatest Bands ever to come out of Liverpool are… 
I will end with a question sent by Raven from GFOP Gregory Michaelidis who writes: “Rog, longtime listener, first time e-mailer, originally from Buffalo (home of the FC Buffalo Blitzers!), now in DC. My question is what are your thoughts on Echo and the Bunnymen? Are they The Best band ever from Liverpool or Second best?”

Greg. You are baiting me to enter controversial terrain. A Minefield onto which I will joyously charge with my definitive list of Liverpool band greatness. And remember… this is all personal, and about my memories and experience growing up in a city during hard economic times in which football and music often felt like all we had to express ourselves. I would love to hear your lists… but this is subjective people!
  1. The La’s. A band too genius-soaked to last. But my Lord. This. This. This.
  2. Echo and the Bunnymen. The apogee of cool. The Cutter and Killing Moon have not aged at all. 
  3. A Flock of Seagulls. The haircuts make them a joke band to many, but listen to the longing of Space Age Love Song and tell me they were not a great band.
  4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. My first concert. Such a cerebral band. Enola Gay. Electricity was my favorite. But at that live show, when they played this tune. Young Rog almost touched heaven, the brass section was that kinetic.
  5. The Beatles.
  6. China Crisis. OMG. I love this band so very much. Lying in bed as a 10-year-old with a radio under the covers and hearing African and White for the first time on John Peel’s show. And this. Is just magic. 
  7.  Teardrop Explodes. Mad twisted genius. This song will give you all the energy you need to Win The Day. 
  8. The Mighty Wah! Any Liverpudlian who came of age in the 80s will sing this if on the lash and given the choice at Karaoke nights. Magnificent.
  9. Pale Fountains. Soaringly beautiful.
  10. Lotus Eaters. I often used to find it hard to believe music this ethereal could come from my city.

In other music news. Oasis released a lost track yesterday. Massive Oasis fan, Producer JW tells me, “Noel finding songs like a pair of old socks round his house is peak Noel.”

In honor of the track, we close with a line to help you approach the day with swagger, penned by a gent who has a surplus of it. 

"In my mind my dreams are real
Now we're concerned about the way I feel
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star"
 
Courage,
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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