I type with fingers fueled by a Pfizer-Moderna surge of optimism. Two hundred and seventy two days after fans were last able to watch English football in person, they are back! The Emirates was allowed to permit 2,000 of the most masochistic Arsenal faithful to sit like perps in Guess Who. Yes, it’s slightly dystopian. Yes, the arrangement depends on medical science that suggests COVID only travels horizontally, not vertically. Yes, Arsenal fans carried their “Bring Back Mesut” signs. But, in this newsletter, I like to be optimistic when I can: it is a step towards normality and wonder. And one that makes me ache in my heart just a little bit as I recognize just how much I have missed the sound, the spectacle, and the creativity of fans at the game. Especially when they immediately started chanting, "There's only one Gunnersaurus" 🦖.
GFOPs, we are thrilled to announce our GFOP Holiday Happy Hour, Presented by Jagermeister. Thursday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. ET. Normally we would do a LIVE holiday show, celebrating the season with GFOPs from across the nation. Since we cannot do that in person, we will unleash the suboptimal festive spirit via Zoom. Davo and I will commune with you, take your biggest and best questions and toast you with a shot of Jagermeister - that shot of emotion in a glass - all while reviewing the year that was. We only have room for 100 GFOPs. The first 100 people to RSVP to THIS LINK with their name, their hometown and their favorite team will receive an invitation. The invitations will go out today with initial instructions ahead of next Thursday. We cannot wait to be with you.
2. Men In Blazers. Football’s Quibi
i. The Men in Blazers TV Show returns Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with special guest, John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks. John is one of a growing number of NBA stars who is football mad, and he happens to be proper, proper Chelsea. His human story - a military brat who fell in love with the game while his mum was stationed in Turkey - is also remarkable. Love that bloke.
ii. Our Draft Kings Premier League Preview of the Weekend Video has so many Spoiler Alerts! We are so grateful for our partnership with those bookmaking monarchs at DraftKings, which has allowed us to grow our coverage. They are the Best King since King Sunny Adé. Access its Sportsbook here. For a limited time, all new users can get a sign-up bonus up to $1,000. Just enter code MIB when you sign up.
iii. Pod with Davo HERE. I have not seen him in 11 months in person now. But I feel closer to him, and you, than ever.
iv. One of the joys of our podcast is the Jagermeister Toast at the end. Partially because, for you, our crap is nearly over. For me. I just love that human shot of emotion in a glass. We toasted the USWNT Glory and Equal Pay this week. And we big boy taped it! Video HERE.
v. Carlo Magnifico Pod Special HERE. WHAT A HUMAN ANCELOTTI IS. Also, in case you were still on the Yams, Big Boi Pod special from last week HERE.
3. To The Football
i. Tottenham vs. Arsenal. (Sunday 11.30 AM ET P’Cock) A North London Derby after a Europa League matchday in which Arsenal played like potential champions… of the Österreichische Fußball-Bundesliga, and True Life Top of the Table (sic) Spurs looked sloppy and sluggish in their 3-3 tie at Austrian outfit LASK. The bad news for Arsenal, though, is Joe Hart will not be in goal on Sunday after a performance in which he appeared to retire mid-save.
This modern version though will be a battle of the mind, between the football philosophies of Frank Lampard and that giant brain on a bucket Marcelo Bielsa -- Spygate part III! Most intriguing about this one -- for two teams who are viewed as being imbalanced in favor of their attacks, both Chelsea and Leeds United have been clean sheet merchants of late. A classic in the making.
Here’s a heartwarming tale going into this one: Oliver Giroud netted four goals in Champions League action and will give Frank Lampard a handsome selection headache. Daniel Storey charts the career of a man who has always been doubted, late developing, and second-choice. But keeps scoring. Arise Giroud, King of the outsiders.
iii. Liverpool vs. Wolves (Sunday 2.15 PM ET P’Cock) The Diogo Jota Memorial Derby will be marked more by who won’t be playing. Wolves lack CONCACAF’s finest Raúl Jiménez who is recovering well from a horrific skull fracture last weekend. Standby for the creative beauty that is Fábio Silva to make its mark.
iv. West Ham vs. Manchester United (Saturday 12.30 PM ET NBC Proper) Hell hath no fury like a Moyse-y scorned. Will 5th place West Ham gain revenge for their fearless leader?
v. Burnley vs. Everton (Saturday 7.30 AM ET NBCSN) Bite your arm off for the chance to have my weekend ruined super early. Bottom-dwelling Burnley have injuries too, do you say? Exactly the kind of gimmee Everton historically cock up. I am genuinely crapping myself.
Do you want an incredible Everton achievement no team can match? Thank you, @Oilysailor.
Bayern vs. RB Leipzig (Saturday 12.30 PM, ESPN+) So many Americans it is hard to know who to cheer for.
Sevilla vs. Real Madrid (Saturday 10.15 AM, beIN) Come for Ray Hudson, stick around for a top of the table clash.
4. A Brand I Love: Reyn Spooner
Making Hawaiian heritage style with an East Coast aesthetic since 1949? Count me in. Reyn Spooner is an American Classic. Don’t let the Proud Boys prevent you from savoring the tradition of these designs. I own a couple of these beauties and the fabrics they use are so beautiful I could frame them. Their Dodgers collab is gorgeous. I can’t live with that smoke.
5. DIEGO RIP
I find myself still mourning the loss of Diego Maradona. Hit me hard. Here are the best pieces I have read this week:
ii. Big Women’s Football Games this Weekend: Chelsea v. West Ham (Sunday 7.30 AM ET NBCSN) Everton v. Manchester City (Sunday 9.30 AM ET NBCSN) Paris Saint-Germain v. Paris FC (Sunday 8.45 AM ET ESPN+)
iii. Huge respect to one of favorite footballing pilgrimages in England: The National Football Museum in Manchester. They pledged to increase women’s representation to 50% by 2022 by emphasizing the “Hidden Stories” of the women’s game. Incredible this.
vii. In normal years, Best Movies of the Year lists are just three movies you enjoyed, two you hated, and ten you didn't get around to seeing but probably wouldn't have liked that much anyway. This year, a lot of great movies slipped under the radar without theatrical releases. Richard Brody on the best films of the year.
xv. Looking for a stunning book to close the year? Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan. A group of working class Scottish friends charge down to big city Manchester for the music festival of their dreams. Thirty years later they reconnect in shattering and stunning fashion. This book is so well written it will lift your senses and make you so very jealous you don’t have the ability to write that well yourself. Magic. More here.
We send our love to Brenton’s family and all members of South Carolina Spurs. We cannot imagine what you are going through right now. May Brenton’s memory be a pillar for you in good times and bad. And may all of us savor what we have, while we have it, and never, ever take a second for granted. Only Love to you all.