I write with fingers filled with excitement. It's Wednesday. The day our JASON ISBELL POD is released to the world. I cannot tell you how eager I am for you to hear it. I do believe, even if you have never listened to his music before (though I have learned that the venn diagram between American Premier League fans and Isbell admirers overlaps massively), you will find our conversation on the pod will make your life feel better.  I promise.  

Jason has long been a real hero of mine. A Poet-Warrior who writes about human brokenness. Hope. Hopelessness, loneliness and love. His songs are like novels rife with lyrics that are literary wonders, composed by a man of enormous empathy and sensitivity. Songs that tell stories that often seem so small and precise yet broad and universally relatable at the same time. As you know, I grew up in Liverpool, England, but the epigraph of my memoir contains Isbell’s lyrics… 

“I used to want to be a real man
I don't know what that even means”

Words written by a bloke who grew up near Muscle Shoals, Ala. His new album “Reunions” comes out this week. Other than Primo Levi, Tracy Chapman, Philip Larkin, and LeBron James, Jason was long top of my list to pod with. Now that I have, I can’t wait to do it again. 

PS. Please watch this interview with a  100-year old Welshman. It is life affirming.

b. One massive historic football note: This day in  2012. “Aguero-o-o-o-o-o-o-h-h-h-h-h-h-h” Where were you when it happened? 

2. Men In Blazers Keep on Crappin’ Out The Hits.

i. Carli Lloyd. Today. 630 PM ET. Join us for our Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour on Insta Live. Spread the word. You ask the questions, the Two-Time World Cup winner answers them LIVE RIGHT HERE.

ii. Raphael Honigstein joined us to tell you all you need to know about this weekend’s Bundesliga return, as Davo and I grappled with the hurdles between the Premier League and season resumption, as well as wondering what kind of avant-garde mask Pep will unfurl when it does. LISTEN HERE

iii. WGFOP: The Bald Podcast is filled with your questions. As football’s return continues in Germany, and maybe, maybe, England, phone your questions in now at (646) 450-9472. Rog is going to call back one of you GFOPs every week and talk about your question IN PERSON. So call in now, and brace yourself to speak to a man who talks about himself in the Third Person.

3. To the Football: Meetings. Process. Consensus. I know this is not why we watch football. But this is what we have been reduced to. Cheering on a macabre procession of Zoom conference calls as the Premier League powers that be work top-down to gain middle-management buy-in. Please note, Germany’s pandemic reality (7,000 deaths, widespread testing, contact tracing) is a radically different backdrop to Britain’s (40,000+ deaths, testing a work in progress).

a. The Premier League begins its Player-Charm-Offensive. The Premier League will attempt to show its players they will be safer at club training grounds than they would be at home when they host a conference call on Wednesday afternoon in which they break down their training protocols that will “create a securely-sealed bubble at training grounds around the country.”

This piece offers a glimpse of the deep cleanings, twice-a-week tests, and tactical meetings on Zoom that represent the new normal of club no-contact training, in which tackling will be banned, players restricted to groups of five, and corner-flags, balls, cones, goalposts and even playing surfaces will be disinfected after each session.

As Kun Aguero and Danny Rose have hinted, the players have concerns to allay. Reports float around that a number may refuse to report for training, so the league has sent its protocols for a return to training to each club captain or PFA representative, enabling them to be digested and discussed among squads and for concerns to be aired. This is a crucial step for any putative mid-June return.

b. Neutral Grounds Neutralized. The prospect of Premier League clubs getting the go-ahead to finish the season in their own stadiums has increased after a meeting involving the League, police and government officials. The Premier League expressed a preference for every club to play behind closed doors at their home stadium, and the police are reportedly open to finding a pathway to make this happen from a public safety perspective without straining the emergency services or compromising public health.

c. “No Taxation without Representation.” No Relegation without Championship Completion? Norwich’s Director of Football gives a glimpse into a battle line to come: If the Premier League finds a way to play and finishes its season, but the Championship does not, relegation and promotion should not occur… AKA man holding onto edge of cliff with one hand negotiates/threatens potential lawsuit.

4. Today in the Bundesliga: Men In Lederhosen.

i. Brian Phillips muses on the experience of Bundesliga’s return. “The striking feature of the Bundesliga’s plan is how aware of its imperfections its own creators seem.” 

ii. Should returning players fear injuries more than the virus? "Players will be exhausted after 60 minutes. Five subs won't help. We can then expect serious fatigue and injuries." A look at the sports science of Bundesliga’s return.

iii. Strict hygiene rules mean Cologne's pitchside goat mascot will be banned for the Bundesliga's return. Sigh. “Hennes” will miss a match for the first time in 12 years.

iv. How Der Relegation works in Germany. 

5. More Football? You want it like Jordan Pickford wants bigger hands.

i. Brazil’s World Cup winners of 1994 stand up to the authoritarian Bolsonaro. 

ii. A happy one for you Arsenal fans. A Celebration of Arsene Wenger’s brilliance at scouting, signing, and developing Right Backs. A Tribute.

iii. Fascinating story of England’s 1982 World Cup jersey -- one which 11-year-old Rog owned -- an early step towards the commercialism of today’s footballing styles.

iv. Women’s Role in Sports must be addressed in post-pandemic recovery.

6. Non-Football, Non-Lederhosen.

i. The 20 greatest Teen Dramas of All-TIme. Shocking Omission: Billy Gilmour.

ii. How Art Movements Tried to Make Sense of the World in the Wake of the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
iii. The World's Last Blockbuster Remains Open, Pandemic and Netflix Be Damned. "I had a customer come in and she said, 'I am so grateful that you reopened, because I couldn't flip through Netflix one more time.'"  Magnificent piece by GFOP Jelisa Castrodale

Iv. The New York Public Library has released an Album of NYC Sounds. They describe it as "a love letter to NYC, connecting New Yorkers around the familiar sounds of urban life that they love and miss." Beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure.

v. Two Hundred Goats Escape and roam the streets of San Jose. Wondo, that you?

vi. Lastly, a poem, posted in the New Yorker, written by the late Irish poet Eavan Bolan, who sadly passed on April 27. Its themes could not be more relevant. “The Fire Gilder” by Eavan Boland

Let’s close with a Raven from GFOP Scott Fritsch-Hammes of Santa Barbara, Calif. “Hey Rog, So thrilled to hear of your new love for birding! Several years ago, in an effort to get ‘back to nature,’ I discovered an unexpected passion for birds of prey.

In addition to watching and photographing them in the wild, I volunteer with a local Audubon program, Eyes In the Sky. We have six unreleasable raptors and owls that serve as ‘education ambassadors,’ which means the public are able to see them up close (in non-pandemic times) and learn what wonderful creatures they are. I’ve been blessed in these recent non-work weeks to be able to spend even more time caring for the birds and having some peaceful outdoor hours with them.

One of our birds is Kanati, a 10-year-old American Kestrel. He was hit by a car a couple months after fledging, damaging a wing and losing his ability to fly. He’s a little ball of energy, though, and loves to launch himself off the handler’s glove (bungee style). Upon recovering to the glove, he always looks very proud of himself!

So if MIB needs an avian mascot, Kanati fits the bill. He’s a suboptimal bird in certain physical ways, but more than makes up for it with spirit, inspiration and tenacity. Thanks for all you’ve been doing to keep us all hopeful and less alone in these trying times. COYS!!!

Rog writes: Scott. I revere Kanati, and your bravery in wearing that facemask in public. To you. To the Audubon Society. To identifying passions and pursuing them,

I’m 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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