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Hail! GFOP


And the Pies Say… THE PREMIER LEAGUE IS BACK. And not a moment too soon. This International Break has been long and full of terrors. Let the thrilling narrative resumeth. Can Miracle’s Leicester City continue to walk on water as they host Southampton, an overachieving team in their own right, whom everyone would be talking about if it was not for Claudio Ranieri’s superlative heroics? The pies say yes they can, courtesy of a Robert Huth shinner [Sunday, 8:30 a.m. EST on NBCSN]. Can the Pride of London Town, Oliver Twist’s Harry Kane and Artful Dodger’s Dele Alli, repel the erratic threat of a Liverpool team Hurtle-Skrtelling between moments of attacking poetry and defensive physical comedy? The pies say Liverpool grab at least a point [Saturday, 12:30 p.m. EST on network NBC]. And which of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Manchester City will self-sabotage most spectacularly in the stumbling lollop towards third and fourth places? The pies have given up on this question. They find it too depressing.

We have the USMNT to thank for making the International Break feel as if it lasted 58 days. Their 2-0 humbling in Guatemala last Friday night made us sweat through four days, staring down the barrel of a gun named “no World Cup qualification.” Ahead of Tuesday’s return game, the entire nation felt like Arsenal fans do on a weekly basis. Hope and fear collided. A shaky hand on the Guinness. Nipple Clamps on tight. Wanting to believe, but knowing this would be football with no safety net. We dodged a bullet. Yet a lingering feeling remains this was the “Comb-over” of 4-0 victories. The problems remain underneath. We have just bought ourselves more time to sort them out. The lawsuit slapped against US Soccer by five of their leading USWNT stars was the capper to a turbulent week for American football’s central body.

Much to look forward to in the week to come. The Third Annual Golden Blazer, Presented by MINI takes place Wednesday night in New York City. A spectacular event in which we honor an individual who has grown the game we love in the nation we love. Bob Ley and Julie Foudy won the first two. Who will join them in earning sport’s greatest blazer not given in a golf cabin? All I can tell you is: It is someone genuinely remarkable. A true hero of mine. We have a night of wonder planned, and I cannot wait to meet all GFOPs traveling in from around the country. For those who could not grab tickets… we will have a post-show Guinness that is open to all. Details below.  

And finally, thanks to all in Washington DC who came out to raise a glass with us at the Laughing Man Tavern Wednesday. It was a total delight to meet so many GFOPs in our nation’s capital. I still cannot believe GFOP Mark Allen got a SUBOPTIMAL license plate. And I remain fascinated as to the explanation of why there was such an overrepresentation of Arsenal fans there -- what is it with that city and masochist tendencies?
LTN (Livin’ The Nightmare),
Rog @rogbennett

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
“Positive” Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @lexitan
Producer Zip: @notorious_Z_I_P

In this newsletter, our Final Four to EPL converter (we want your suggestions), Three Questions with Vampire Weekend and Baio’s Chris Baio, and we reflect on a magical season and look ahead with Spurs Fansite, SpursWeb.
 

I. Final Four to EPL Converter

Shortly after this year’s brackets were announced, we created a March Madness-inspired Premier League table.
 

With the Final Four upon us, we’ve taken the liberty of amending some of our NCAA to EPL conversions. Mostly because our beloved Stony Brook University lost (Come On You Seawolves!). After re-calibrating, we give you our Final Four to EPL converter. We know some of you will take umbrage with our choices. If you have better suggestions (How could you not? We are two bald Englishmen.), Email UsGood news for all fans with teams in the Final Four. You’ve qualified for the Champions League!

Oklahoma - Leicester City
While Oklahoma isn’t quite the fairytale Leicester is, the Sooners have never won a National Title. Despite miracles last April - The Foxes pulled The Great Escape. The Sooners saw Junior guard and Big 12 “Player of the Year” Buddy Hield forgo the 2015 NBA draft - expectations remained modest for both teams at the start of the year. If Jamie Vardy is having a party, Hield has had a certified rager, averaging 29 points per game in the tournament. Now, If only Oklahoma had a fox horn to blow before tip-off...

Villanova - Tottenham
“Big teams” with a reputation for underperforming the last few years, with neither tasting title glory in decades. The last time the Wildcats cut down the nets: 1985. The great Rollie Massimino (we love American Names) lead the Wildcats past Patrick Ewing's Georgetown team in what some consider the greatest tournament upset of all-time. It’s been even longer for Spurs. 1961. Both teams have the opportunity to placate long-suffering fan bases this year. And it doesn’t hurt that senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono’s name is as hard to pronounce as Toby Alderweireldrweireldrweireld.

Syracuse – Arsenal
Two of the first teams you think of when discussing their respective sports, lead by oft-criticized, legendary coaches. Both champions in 2003. The same year Arsene Wenger lead “The Invincibles” to Premier League glory, Jim Boeheim and ‘Cuse (lead by future-GFOP Carmelo Anthony in the Thierry Henry role) cut down the nets. Neither has done it since, leaving fans to rely on the FA Cup and the artist formerly known as the Big East Tournament. We see you, Gerry Mac.

UNC - Manchester City
Preseason favorites whose potent offenses are offset by dodgy defenses. Brice Johnson is the ACC’s answer to Sergio Aguero. But like City, there's a Vincent Kompany-sized hole in UNC's defense. Also, Sky Blue.


II. Football Fansite Profile - SpursWeb

Answers courtesy of Neil Vaughan, Editor of SpursWeb.

MiB: Give us some background on SpursWeb. The who, what, when, where and why it began. And how it's grown since its inception.

SW: SpursWeb began back in 1995. Jurgen Klinsmann's departure to Bayern Munich was still fresh in our minds and our then chairman Alan Sugar was telling everyone who would listen that he wouldn't wash his car with Klinsmann's shirt. Since then we've grown to become one of the most popular independent Spurs sites on the net - we don't take ourselves too seriously and always love to feature the views of Spurs fans from around the world - that's what it's about, the fans.

Our biggest claim to fame was when we got wind that the Judas, Sol Campbell was going to join Arsenal. This was in the pre-social media days and nobody believed us until he did the unthinkable - and we still haven't forgiven him!

MiB: How do you feel about the surge of young talent coming through at Spurs (Kane, Alli, Dier)?

SW: I'm extremely proud of the young players we have at Tottenham, it's refreshing to see us nurturing young talent after many years of trying to go out and spend big money on 'proven' players who turned out to be anything but. The fact that nine of the last 16 newly-capped England players - more than half - have been nurtured by Pochettino, it really does say it all about his philosophy.

MiB: This season's most surprising storyline at Tottenham is ..

SW: Everything seems to be gelling perfectly at Spurs. We've got the perfect manager who has instilled a team spirit which is the envy of the rest of the Premier League. We're finally seeing youth talent coming through the ranks and being given a chance to impress, our goal difference and defensive record is the best it has been in years - need I go on? It feels like it's all surreal after the years of woe we have been used to. Things are certainly looking promising.

MiB: The one thing I would change at Tottenham is ...

SW: Our set-pieces, for the life of us we still cannot seem to consistently deliver a good corner kick into the box. It typically fails to beat the first man, we've got plenty of aerial threats including Alderweireld and Kane - definitely room for improvement here.

MiB: Look into your crystal ball. How does the rest of the season play out for Tottenham?

SW: One part of the crystal ball tells me not to get carried away with how good things have been for Tottenham this season. We're so used to disappointment whether it be the lasagne-gate, which ended up costing us Champions League football in 2007, finishing fourth only for Chelsea to win the Champions League which condemned us to the Europa League, so many "what if's". However, I really think the tide is turning in favour of Tottenham - the crystal ball is full of hope and promise. This won't be another "Spursy" season - we're going to finish third which would mean we'd escape the Champions League prelims, keep the likes of Hugo and Harry happy and sign some Galacticos in the summer transfer window - we can dream. COYS!!


III. Three Questions With Chris Baio

We are in the process of producing a Pod special with several of our favorite musical acts (look for its release in the coming weeks). One of the acts, who has already swung by the Crap Part of Soho to tape with us, Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend and Baio. Chris, who lives in London and supports Arsenal, was in town promoting his solo album, “The Names," which happens to have been Rog’s unofficial soundtrack in Pamplona last summer. And Chris's song, “Sister of Pearl” is on the EA SPORTS FIFA 16 soundtrack, not to mention the slightly less prestigious MIB MixTape Vol. 6. In this issue’s Three Questions, we ask Chris where to grab a pint in London, his favorite book, and what song he wants played at his funeral.
 

MiB: Where is your favorite place to get a pint in London?

CB: I really love the Myddleton Arms in Islington -- it's deeply chill in a way that speaks to my soul. Also has dope burgers! When I was recording my album I had a meal there & had been working really hard so I was super hungry so I ate two burgers. That's the only time I've ever done that in my life. Now that I live in Peckham I'm partial to the Montpelier -- great great pub.

MiB: Where is your favorite place to hear music in London?

CB: I like Village Underground in Shoreditch for shows and Dance Tunnel in Dalston for DJ stuff. I had a great time at Bowie tribute night at Brilliant Corners a few months back... great soundsystem!

MiB: What is your favorite book? What are you reading now?

CB: My favorite book is “Lolita” -- It blew my 18-year-old mind the first time I read it. Just incredibly written.  [Currently I’m reading] “Zero Zero Zero” by Roberto Saviano. Just started it. The last thing I finished was The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, which was really dope.

MiB: What song did you love from the first moment you heard it?

CB: "Bull on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine -- last night I did karaoke to it and it brought me back to being 12 years old and hearing it for the first time. WOW WOW CHIKA WOW WOW CHIKA CHIKA CHIKA.

MiB: What three songs do you always have on your phone? If you're trapped on the subway or flying a long distance... what do you need?

CB: "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel, "Love Cry" by Four Tet & "Heroes" by David Bowie. In their own way they all transport me to a special place, usually one more fun than a subway or a plane!

MiB: What track do you want to play at your funeral, as your coffin is being lowered into ground?

CB: I've been really into "Dollar Days" off Bowie's Blackstar -- it's the last song that he wrote in the studio, in a way it's his last completed song, and it's stunningly beautiful. I'd like for it to be played at my funeral.


IV. This Week in Blazers

Eddie Howe Pod Special - Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on the club's first Premier League season, historic wins against Chelsea and Manchester United, and staying "strong in the face of any doubters." LISTEN HERE
 

MLS Pod Special with Tim Howard - Everton/Colorado Rapids/USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard on returning home to MLS, his 10 years with Everton, and his future with the USMNT. LISTEN HERE


V. The Golden Blazer, Blazer Donations and After Party, Presented by MINI

A couple of important Golden Blazer notes for GFOPs, even if you are not attending the actual show:

1. This year’s Golden Blazer marks our first ever Blazer Drive, with all donations going to Hope for the Warriors’ Transition Services Program. Even if you live nowhere near the CPOS, you can still donate by sending blazers, suits or sports coats to:

Hope for the Warriors
Attention: Jennifer Friedel
Hope for the Warriors
55 Water Street, Concourse Level
New York, NY 10041

B. Post-show, we’d love to see all of you at the Golden Blazer After Party, Presented by MINI. Any and all are welcome at Brass Monkey (55 Little West 12th Street) around 9.15 p.m. (ish). There will be drink specials: One-dollar off Guinness Draught pints and five-dollar Guinness Blonde bottles.
 


VI. Another Playmaking Poet from America SCORES

In less than two weeks, on April 11, America SCORES holds its 10th annual National Poetry SLAM! to recognize a select few future Dantes (or perhaps a future Dante) at NYC’s SVA Theatre. The non-profit organization promotes football and poetry with students at more than 175 public and charter schools across America. We wish each of the 14 budding playmaker poets who will perform their original work at the event the best of luck. 

In this edition of The Raven, we are honored to feature the work of Pashia B., a fourth grader at LaFollette School in Milwaukee.

Pashia
By: Pashia B.

I am pink glitter,
because it sparkles just like me!
I am a giraffe,
because my mom says I’m so tall! As tall as the Statue of Liberty!
I am Friday,
because the weekend starts and I can finally sleep and play games with my brother
I am an All Star shoe,
because they come in a high top or a low top, depending on my mood
I am proud that I have friends and family who take care of me
I am the sound of birds chirping outside my window,
because they help me calm down when I’m hurt
In 20 years, I will be in college getting my education
Because that’s how I can make the world a better place
Patient, Protected, Passionate – I am Pashia!

To read more America SCORES poems, check out the organization’s annual magazine, Kicker!.

This summer, the organization will host the 10th Annual America Scores New York Corporate Cup. For more information on entering a team and helping a terrific cause, check out America SCORES CUP’s website.


VII. A CPOS Film Festival, of Sorts

A series of films and videos with which we’re currently taken.

- “Fastball,” by Rog’s mate John Hock, is now available on iTunes.
- “When Wrestling Was Golden: Grapples, Grunts and Grannies,” a BBC doc on British Wrestling. WATCH HERE
- “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” which Deadspin calls “The Citizen Kane of Wasted Teenage Metalness”. WATCH HERE
- “Hitler Goes to Art School,” from GFOP and creator of History Channel's “The Crossroads of History," Elizabeth Shapiro. WATCH HERE


VIII. #PatchAtThePark

Some brilliant #PatchAtThePark submissions from you in this issue. From Spurs' 3-0 defeat of Bournemouth at White Hart Lane all the way to the Argentinian third division (Primera B Metropolitana) clash, Atlanta vs. Acassuso in Buenos Aires #LosBohemio. Plus, two amazing concert patches from LCD Soundsystem’s Webster Hall show in NYC and Molly Ringwald’s performance at Long Beach Arena, Calif.

But our favorite comes from GFOP Jason Adams, who snapped this picture of a very Optimal George Washington at USA vs. Guatemala #NoSleepTillMoscow
 


IX. "Plumb our Annals”

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,” Vol. I (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play) and Vol. II - The Best of 2014 (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play). The albums are the least objectionable of our football "analysis," Ravens and interviews.

You can access all MiB-related content (videos, pods and articles) by visiting www.nbcsports.com/mib.

Please forward 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.”
-Philip Larkin
 

    

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PODCAST
In this week's podcast, Rog speaks with Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe about the club's first Premier League season, historic wins against Chelsea and Manchester United, and staying "strong in the face of any doubters." LISTEN HERE
 
GOOD READS

> Johan Cruyff: The American Years. Friso van der Oord and Pieter van Os for The Washington Post. READ HERE

The Mormon Businessman Who Helped Save A Costa Rican Soccer Giant. Bryan Kay for The Guardian. READ HERE

David Beckham on Retirement, Family Life and Protecting His Kids. Michael Paterniti for GQ. READ HERE

Guangzhou Evergrande: Inside China's $185M football factory (via GFOP John Sinnott). Jonathan Stayton for CNN. READ HERE 

A Great Life. Princess Joan of Sealand. Sean Fitzsimmons for The Telegraph. READ HERE

 
ABOUT

Michael Davies and Roger Bennett believe that soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972. Visit MeninBlazers.com, “Like” us on Facebook, follow the show on Twitter and Instagram, or email us at MeninBlazers@gmail.com.
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