I write with fingers braced for their Darkest Hour. Tonight after playing Chelsea, Liverpool Football Club will lift the Premier League trophy. A prospect I have dreaded for 30 long years with the fear Jon Snow would have experienced witnessing the act of Viserion the Undead Ice Dragon swooping in to burn down The Wall.
In all honesty. In the spirit of the chaos of our age, in which any light in the darkness should be savored, and any song (not you, Coldplay) should be danced to with abandon, I wish all Liverpool GFOPs, even my brother Nige, congratulations. May you experience joy this afternoon that you can remember for the rest of your lives. And I will quietly raise a glass to the prospect of the next 30-year drought, which, I hope… starts tomorrow.
2. Men In Blazers Crap is falling Crap on Crap
i. Episode 2 of our HBO Succession Podcast is Live: Jeremy Strong (Kendall Roy). It is one of more remarkable interviews I've had the honor to do this year. Jeremy Strong is a method actor who truly immerses himself in his characters. To do that for Kendall Roy -- a broken, flailing, aspirational addict -- requires unreal dedication bordering on self-destruction. Lots of L to the OG-talk too. Episode 3 drops Monday with Sarah Snook, Shiv Roy. PLEASE: Subscribe, Rate and Review.
ii. SAVE THE DATE! Tomorrow Night!!!! Budweiser NWSL Challenge Cup Final Extravaganza INSTA LIVE!!! I have the honor of raising a Bud with the stars and coaches of the two Challenge Cup finalists (more on today’s Semis below!). It will be a total joy and a blast. Join me at 7 p.m. ET, via our Instagram.
iii. Davo and I pod tomorrow to frame the final weekend of Premier League action. Part of me cannot believe this season is ending. I am so grateful we were able to savor every game. There were weeks when I never thought this could safely happen. Thank you, football Gods old and new. Thank you.
3. To the Football
A. New Shiny Arsenal.Wha’ Happened? All of the promise and wonder contained in Saturday’s clenched-fist of that FA Cup smiting of Manchester City fell away to reveal Premier League Arsenal cold and shamed, lying naked on the floor. Sixty-nine percent possession. Zero shots on goal. Ten losses on the season. Tenth place. Dictionary definition mediocre. Very, very good at the plane-pulling-protest-banner-thing. But everything else, not so much. And most crucially of all in the petty detail stakes, they finished below Tottenham for the 4th straight season. Or as @AsteadWesley tweeted. “arsenal haven't finished above spurs since this.”
iii. The Relegation Battle is deliciously poised with one more game to play and three teams -- Villa, self-destructive Watford, and flailing, cuddly Bournemouth -- poised over the Moon Door. Here are the scenarios. Pray for Cherries.
B. The fight for third and fourth goes down to the wire. Chelsea face Liverpool today before wrapping up against Wolves. Manchester United’s clash with Leicester City on Sunday seems like it will be definitive and Sliding Doors life-changing for both clubs. As we enter the squeakiest of bum times, Ole Gunnar Solskjær refuses to talk about David de Gea’s erratic form AKA The Chuck Knoblauch-ification of David de Gea.
ii. I adored this loveletter of a farewell to David Silva by Simon Hattenstone, who is such a great writer. Here is our farewell video to “El Mago” that aired in Monday’s season finale of the Men in Blazers Show. I will admit, I cried when I watched the first cut down.
D. Los Angeles will have a new NWSL franchise taking the field in 2022. The provisionally named Angel City was unveiled with an ownership group that includes Natalie Portman, former U.S. women’s national team stars Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and tennis star Serena Williams who is listed as an owner alongside her two-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia. (When I read this slightly surreal detail, I imagined Stan Kroenke thinking of ceding control of Arsenal to some two-year-old grandchild and challenging Gooners to protest against a cute baby.) It was incredible to see the NWSL trending nationally with the announcement of this magnificently launched new team. Exactly what the Women's Game needs right now to make it go next level: National Coverage week to week at club level. The future we all dream of feels more possible than ever.
iii. Gardening made me happier. It will do the same for you. I am starting work on a vegetable garden. Which is a hilarious sentence I just typed as I am the consummate city boy reeling amidst the realities of the countryside I have moved into. But I related so much to an email Producer Jonah sent me this morning. “Yesterday I took a neighborhood walk and saw a lush, expansive, perfect garden and approached it. Upon closer inspection, among the signs indicating cucumbers and tomatoes among the vines, I saw a sign that read ‘GARDENING. IT'S CHEAPER THAN THERAPY.’ A chill ran down my spine. They did have a great garden, though.” Courage.
vi. It’s Bad Boy Chiller Crew’s World and we just live in it. Watch Bradford’s greatest bassline MCs. It will make your day. Some background here. Fall down their YouTube wormhole and you will somehow understand Jamie Vardy a lot better in the process.
That’s it for today. I leave you with a Library of Congress resource which has made my week. A treasury of over 11,000 high-resolution shots of U.S. roadside attractions for you to peruse. All deliciously captured by architectural critic and photographer John Margolies, who spent 40 years documenting his travels along U.S. highways, photographing billboards, drive-ins, diners, car washes, mini-golf, novelty buildings, and other roadside constructions. One of the things I miss most during lockdown is my inability to travel this country we all share. To revel in exploring the wonders contained in every city and region. The people. The culture. The cuisine. And the burgeoning football cultures. A pain which has been reinforced by watching cities that I love, like Portland, Minneapolis, and Houston, suffer such trauma and being unable to help at all.
I encourage you to flick through these photographs and revel in them as I have. They empowered me to connect to the DNA of my love for this nation. The unique character, warmth, surreal humor and swagger. After clicking through 100 or so, I can almost make believe that Producer JW and I are disembarking from a plane and descending into a city we have never been to before. We hit the first sight of airport carpet and charge towards ground transportation, knowing that anything can happen and everything is possible in the hours that lie ahead...
To that sense of possibility. To that joy. To that love.