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Hail! GFOP

 
I type with sad fingers ahead of this season’s final weekend. Experiencing a Premier League campaign is like being lost in a riveting book you never want to end. Yet, Summer is Coming.

This weekend marks an end to a season of wonder: the most narrative-rich, quality-poor Premier League in recent memory. Miracle’s Leicester City will take the field one last time. In an inspired moment of scheduling symmetry, last year’s Champions, Chelsea, will provide the Guard of Honor and Jedi Master, Claudio Ranieri, will have the satisfaction of leading his glorious team onto the field against the club that once discarded him. Though the score in that game is irrelevant, the poetry and human triumph it promises make it a must watch.

The relegation battle is over. Zen Guru Sam Allardyce worked his last minute magic with Sunderland, staving off relegation after a season of brinkmanship in which his team never rose higher than fourth from bottom for the entire campaign. Newcastle and Norwich join Hot Mess’ Aston Villa in tumbling through the relegation Moon Door. While there is a modicum of intrigue as to which Manchester team will lock up the fourth Champions League place, with City in the driver’s seat, the other main joy of the final weekend will be to experience an Arsenal game on its true home, the Syfy Channel.  FULL SCHEDULE HERE.

Another reason my heart is heavy: the precarious end to the season for Everton Football Club. An insipid second half of the campaign brought an end to the Roberto Martinez-era. Part of me is praying for Eddie Howe to return to the club he supported as a boy. Part of me would love to see Bob Bradley have a chance to coach at a top flight club. But the football world is one of fads and trends, and I fully expect the club to follow Leicester’s approach in recruiting Claudio Ranieri by bringing in someone who is universally derided upon appointment, and am braced for a Tim Sherwood, Steve McClaren or Brendan Rodgers.

New York City-area GFOPs, Davo and I will watch this Sunday’s games at Samsung 837 in the Meatpacking District. We would love to see each and every last one of you there. Doors open at 8 a.m. It is free. But you must RSVP in advance. Space is limited. RSVP HERE.

Monday marks the hour long season finale of The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW, midnight on NBCSN. We welcome both Robbies and Kyle to the Panic Room to relive this season of wonder. And next week, on the Pod, we will answer GFOP questions about the season. Send yours HERE.

Livin' the Dream,
Rog @rogbennett

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

P.S. Thanks to the F2 Freestylers for joining us on The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW this week. Make sure to follow them on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. #Tekkers

In this newsletter, we relive the emotional highs of the season with some of our Premier League loving friends; Chelsea and Brazil midfielder Oscar talks playing in America in Three Questions; and the GFOP who invested in a professional English football club after listening to some of our crap.
 


I. MiB Roundtable: Emotional Highs of the Season with…

We asked some of the regulars at the Men in Blazers Star Wars cantina to give us their emotional apogees of the season. We present it to you in the order their favorite teams finished in the table... 

Arlo White (NBC Sports, Leicester City) - I think the day that I’ll take away was at Selhurst Park [March 19th]. Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal of the game and the 3,000 Leicester fans stayed behind and sang, “We’re gonna win the league” for 25 minutes after the game. That was the moment that Leicester fans truly thought and believed that this was going to happen. And to be there, covering that game, watching those fans sing their hearts out with belief, the dreams they could see coming true in front of their eyes, was a moment that I will never forget.

Chris Tomson (Vampire Weekend, Spurs) - My emotional high point this season was, easily, Kane's goal against Arsenal at White Hart Lane. To complete the comeback, to lead the derby, to go top of the league all on an inspired and next level joink was breathtaking. My heart beat a little faster and I thought, "Is this really happening? Can we really do this?" As it turned out, no, it wasn't, and, no, we couldn't, but that goal and the following 13 minutes were still my favorite 13 minutes of the year. And while I might not buy those moments as a DVD, I would probably rent them on iTunes in standard definition. On to the Champions League and praying that this remains a St. Totteringham's Day leap year!
 

Becky Sauerbrunn (USWNT, Arsenal) - Well, we started the season off strong with a Community Shield victory against Chelsea. Little did we know that wasn't as spectacular a victory as we would have thought considering the defending champions took the season off. But in a season where you don't win a lot of hardware, there's a slightly-satisfying, slightly-pitiful consolation in knowing you beat teams that did win hardware. The two wins against Leicester City, especially the 5-2 victory against the until-then undefeated Foxes, showed the precision and attitude we dream our team will bring to every game.

Charlie is a Red (Our Future Boss, Manchester United) - As a United fan, the emotional high point of the season has been the last minute winner by Martial at Wembley to put us through to the final of the FA Cup [Watch Charlie react to that game HERE]. Let's hope there's an even higher point to come and we win the trophy on the 21st of May.*
*As told to Charlie’s dad on his way to school

Irvine Welsh (Author, West Ham) - The emotional highs were provided by Dimitri Payet. From a bewildering range of devastating free kicks, inch perfect passes, and just providing the footballing class that is the “West Ham Way,” he dominated the season. His presence in the Claret and Blue also set the bar high for the level of signing West Ham fans expect for the first new season at the Olympic Stadium. Anything less than a sustained assault on the top four and a Champions League slot will be regarded as a failure for the UK's most upwardly mobile club.

Davo (Chelsea) - If you had told me last July that the emotional high point of this season would be that on May 2nd, against TITLE CONTENDING SPURS, the reigning PFA player of the year, Eden Hazard, would score just HIS THIRD GOAL of an incredibly disappointing season for NINTH place, TROPHYLESS Chelsea, MANAGED BY GUUS HIDDINK, a goal which would SECURE THE TITLE FOR LEICESTER CITY, I would have told you you had eaten way too much past its sell by date pie and WERE CLEARLY HALLUCINATING.

Rog (Everton) - Saturday August 8th, the moment before a ball was kicked. A virgin season lay ahead. With Lukaku, Stones, and Barkley, all felt possible. It was not to be. This has been a dark, numbing campaign, which has left Everton leaderless and a fan base bereft. The club’s new owner, Farhad Moshiri, must now reveal the scale of his ambition and imagination.  Leicester City’s campaign has made every fan of every team believe a title is possible.  Their true legacy may be as the world’s greatest purveyors of False Hope.

Rebecca Lowe (NBC Sports, Crystal Palace) - Without doubt, the FA Cup semi final. And, actually, not so much the end when we won it - although I did shed a tear - but actually just seeing the sea of red and blue when the teams came out. Palace at Wembley is something special, as are semi finals, I always think. And I've waited about 20 years for that moment to see them come out. Makes me have chills to think about it now. It's just so special, because, as a Palace fan, you just don't know if you'll ever feel that again in your lifetime. You can take nothing for granted. Goodness knows how I will be emotionally when I watch the actual Final on May 21 as a sleep deprived new mum! Desperately disappointed not to be there, but T-Bucks must come first.


II. Rog’s Jurgen Klopp Film #Hugs

This season, one of the sights I have enjoyed more than any other, is neither a goal nor a save, but the cameras cutting to Jurgen Klopp after Liverpool score, catching the German manager as he leaps into the air like an Air Guitar Hero in the technical area. I see a man who loves football. Emotional Football. Yet below the Teutonic Care Bear Hugs and press conference humor we see on Vine after Vine, lies the mind of a sophisticated leader and change agent. A serial monogamist who has transformed his last two clubs, Mainz and Dortmund, over the course of seven-year stints, and has already dragged a squad he inherited with no pre-season to make it his own, into next week's Europa League final. I travelled to Merseyside to spend some time with Klopp and take a trip Inside The Mind of Liverpool's manager. WATCH THE ENTIRE FILM HERE
 


III. The GFOP Who Bought a Football Club

This week’s Pod featured an interview with Simon Hallett [LISTEN HERE], a GFOP who invested in Plymouth Argyle Football Club after listening to our interviews with Barry Hearn, Jeff Mostyn, Steve Parish and Christian Seifert. This week, The Pilgrims drew the first leg of their League Two playoff semi-final against south coast rivals Portsmouth 2 - 2. Highlights HERE. Simon is now one game away from watching his childhood club from the director’s box at Wembley. As they say in Portsmouth, Mazel Tov.  
 


IV. Leicester Conspiracy Theories

We’re still trying to understand exactly how Leicester City did it. Was it Jamie Vardy’s 11 game consecutive scoring record spanning 99 days? Claudio Ranieri’s unbreakable spirit and love of pizza? Or Shinji Okazaki’s cuteness level eclipsing that of little Ewok Juan Mata? There’s only one answer: Conspiracy Theories. Grab your tinfoil hat, fill your bathtub with water, stock up on canned goods and enjoy some Leicester conspiracy theories:
  • Leicester Crop-Field Circles VIDEO PROOF HERE.
  • Our Sacred Arlo White Voodoo Idol  
  • Danny Drinkwater is not not the Zodiac Killer  
  • Alexander Hamilton and Jamie Vardy have the same birthday
  • Limited-Edition Vardy Salted Walkers… White Walkers
A few favorites from GFOPs:
  • Clearly Arlo White is an illuminati grand master @MikeDBigworm
  • Vardy's brace is actually Nintendo Powerglove. Season just his hacked FIFA16 program in Matrix @rocknstring
  • Maybe Billy Zane has chosen his BPL team....  @6brgh_92 


V. Men in Blazers Goal of the Season Competition
 
On Monday’s The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW season finale [midnight ET on NBCSN], we unveil the winner of our Goal of the Season competition. You can watch all the goals and vote for your favorite HERE. As of this writing, Jamie Vardy’s wonderstrike against Liverpool is beating out Dele Alli’s slice of magic at Palace. Time is running out. #MiBGOTS
 


VI. Three Questions with Oscar

In this week’s Three Questions, a man who needs no introduction. Chelsea and Brazil midfielder, Oscar.

MiB: Despite a disappointing season by Stamford Bridge standards, Chelsea ended the campaign with a series of games that helped determine both the title and relegation. Did you approach these last games differently because you knew they’d have a significant impact on the way the season played out?

Oscar: I think we consider all games to be the biggest game of the season. You cannot look at the past of the team you are playing, otherwise you are setting yourself up for weakness. You need to focus on what you can control.

MiB: This summer, Brazil play in the Copa America Centenario here in the United States. You've been to the U.S. with the national team and Chelsea before. Talk about how you've observed soccer's growth in America from afar? What is the perception of American soccer and, specifically, MLS in the Chelsea and Brazil locker rooms?

Oscar: The growth of soccer in the USA has been incredible. Especially in a part of the world that is overtaken by other sports, such as American football and baseball.

I think technology and our exposure to the sport around the world has definitely helped change the American view of soccer. It is really cool to see a large part of the world start to show the same degree of passion for the same sport you dedicate your life to. This game is all that matters to us. To see our passion spread around the world and bring that same joy to others, and also being part of something so special.

As regards playing in the USA, I think it could be a possibility for me. And this goes for many other European players. But I don’t like to look too far ahead into the future, otherwise I lose track of the present. I believe I should only think of this when the time comes.

MiB: You recently signed with one of our BlazerCon partners, Storelli, which makes protective soccer gear. Tell us about that decision.

Oscar: If we could get away with not protecting ourselves, we would do that. But the fact is that it’s necessary. You need to protect yourself on the field. The game gets rough. We all need protection, but at the same time this protection cannot limit us on the field. This is what Storelli provides that other brands don’t.


VII. Davo Has The Memory Of A…  

Meet Danny Drinkwater, one of our two new Panic Room goldfish. Help us name Drinky’s best friend. Tweet us using #MIBNameThatFish. Aquatic Premier League puns encouraged. Some of our early favorites include: Fishy Carts, Dave Agualicueta and Zlatan Ibrahimofish
 


VIII. #PatchAtThePark

Some brilliant #PatchAtThePark submissions from you in this issue. From Man City vs. Arsenal at the Etihad, all the way to Jacksonville, Fla. for the NASL clash between Jacksonville Armada and FC Edmonton. Plus, the NBA Playoffs, a #PatchAtCommencement from Cedarville University and the Pirates 2-7 loss to the Cubs at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

But our favorite comes from GFOP Trevin Flick, who snapped this picture of Leicester City Living The Dream vs. Everton before their Premier League Championship trophy presentation. #LTD
 


IX. This Week in Blazers

The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW with The F2 Freestylers - WATCH HERE
After the Pies with The F2 Freestylers - WATCH HERE
This Week’s Podcast with Billy Beane - LISTEN HERE
Jurgen Klopp Pod Special - LISTEN HERE
Inside the Mind of Jurgen Klopp hosted by Roger Bennett - WATCH HERE
Arlo White recaps the Leicester City celebration LISTEN HERE


X. "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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MeninBlazers.com
PODCAST
 
In this week's podcast, Rog and Davo crank up the Bocelli, crack open a Guinness and relive the Leicester City trophy presentation. Plus, Oakland A's exec Billy Beane breaks down the Foxes season from a "Moneyball" perspective. LISTEN HERE
 
GOOD READS
 
Building an American Soccer Team from Scratch. Dennis Crowley for The Cauldron. READ HERE

The Economic Goldrush Surrounding Leicester City. Nick Harris for The Mail Online. READ HERE

Leicester’s Data Analysts Reveal Their Secrets. Ryan Bahia for OptaPro. READ HERE

The Late-Bloomer Advantage in Sports. Michael Schulder for Huffington Post. 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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