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HAIL! GFOP

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.

The ceremony itself will be a unique spectacle. A trophy awarded without fans, with players on separate platforms for social distancing purposes, and to the song the players have voted for: Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” which in itself is worthy of a 25 point deduction, surely. For the record, I would have voted for “Slip Slidin’ Away.” I love a self-own. Jurgen Klopp has promised “Lifting the Premier League trophy will be like Christmas.” Sigh. Rarely have I felt more Jewish.  

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.”

ii. Aston Villa roar their way from 19th to 17th place thanks to this impressively instinctive, clinical finish from Trezeguet. If you want to see the weight a relegation battle can place on a player’s shoulders, watch Jack Grealish sink to his knees at full time. Childhood Villa fan turned club talisman and captain. When the passion and the professional collide, it can take a toll. Especially as Grealish is almost certainly set to move on at season end. The young playmaker admitted he is “not sure” about his  Aston Villa future but says it would “mean everything” to keep the club in the Premier League.

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.

C. The Championship also enters its final strait. Expect more twists in the tale as it enters the final chapter. Here are all the storylines in terms of promotion and relegation. Best Final Countdown since Europe (GOB Bluth's theme tune in “Arrested Development”). 

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.

ii. The NWSL Challenge Cup Semi-Finals go down Today! Everything you need to know about teams, times, epic clashes here in our semifinal preview. 

iii. SECOND PLUG for Tomorrow’s night’s Budweiser Happy Hour NWSL Challenge Cup Instagram Live, in which I will interview the stars from both teams ahead of Saturday’s Final Rumble! Follow us here.

iv. Simply fantastic deep dive into NWSL’s distinctive, magical, avid, welcoming fan culture which has grown up around the league.

E. Take a minute to watch this masterpiece. Arsenal Goalkeeping Legend Bob Wilson talks about how his position is the Loneliest Role in Soccer. I love everything about this, from the surrealist-noir animation to Wilson's poetic grumble. Just Phenomenal.


4. That Pesky Real World
 
i. In Defense of Our Teachers by Dave Grohl. Yep, that Dave Grohl. 
 
ii. This detailed map of who is wearing masks in the U.S. from the New York Times is a fascinating study. The broad regional patterns are staggering. I am begging you, if you are reading this, please, please, please, please, please. Out of respect for your community around you. Wear a Mask. 

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.

iv. Five Japanese Authors share their Favorite Murakami Short Stories.

v. I found this story very moving. Pittsburgh Steeler Zach Banner Tackles Anti-Semitism and Racism. How a half-Black, half-Chamorro football player discovered the Jewish community—and what it can learn from him. Zach Banner’s open mindset is one I aspire to. When this lockdown is over, I want to go to Pittsburgh and film with this gent. So much we can all learn from him. 

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. 

Keep Couraging.
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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