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HAIL! GFOP

I type with fingers filled with Big Love. I have spent so much time this week reading Ravens from so many of you who are suffering after having life milestones you have dreamed of, and worked so hard towards, snatched away from you. Our mailbag has overflowed with GFOPs who have had weddings canceled, first year of college experiences disrupted, funerals they could not attend. My heart yearns in particular for High School Seniors missing a Graduation rite of passage you will never get back. (Watch our tribute video to high school soccer players who’ve had their senior season canceled HERE.) 
 
It is heart-breaking. I will say this: The pain is real. It is worsened by confusion, chaos, and uncertainty. First: Make sure you articulate it. Do not keep it in. Commit to voicing your sadness. Express it, and in letting it out, let the memory change your behaviour going forward. When we are out of this -- and we will get out of this -- become a human who savors life, makes active memories, and in the words of Mohsin Hamid, the great writer who came on our pod, become bold enough “to imagine an optimistic future, then work actively to bring it into being.”
 
I was chatting to Producer JW and he captured this beautifully, telling me that the present may feel bleak, but the future is going to be like one avant-garde KDB through-ball: “High school seniors will enter what’s next - college, adulthood, careers, parenthood - with increased and preternatural perspective. Your graduation is shot. But holy crap if you won't have the most amazing 20s because you're going to make the most of them. You understand, at an exceedingly young age, life’s landmarks are precarious and fragile. The milestones we lose now are, in some cases, gone. You can’t sugarcoat that. But… it will make what’s to come so much sweeter.” In that spirit. To life. To love. To strength. To Courage.
 
2. Men In Blazers Sewer of Crap keeps on pumping out quality stool. We could not be prouder to release the first of a series of weekly NWSL Team Previews, presented by Budweiser. The first looks at the  North Carolina Courage’s Sam Mewis, Crystal Dunn, Lynn Williams-fueled attempt to go back-to-back-to-back and become the greatest dynasty in American Football history. Please share it as widely as you can and keep the Women’s Game front of mind at this time of pause.
 
ii. We are Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour Instagram Live'ing again this Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET with a true GFOP and great American, Kelley O’Hara. Two-time World Cup champion, Utah Royal, and all-round inspiration. Send your big or little questions for Kelley HERE. Join us tomorrow afternoon via MiB Insta right here.
 
iii. Bob Ley, The General and original Golden Blazer winner, will join us for a feel-good pod on Wednesday. An American leader we can all believe in. I can’t wait. Send us your questions for our friend and mentor HERE.
 
iv. We pod with East Coast Davo today. Yeterday’s WGFOP: The Bald is a treat. Call in your questions at 646 450-9472 or send them in via email. And, if you like this newsletter, and the lift it brings to your day, please, please encourage your friends, family, and pets to subscribe here. Really important to spread the love.
 
v. Keep sending your entries for our #PLLookALike Contest, presented by Jagermeister. We have a Phil Jones entry. I repeat, we have a Phil Jones. Winners received one of the very limited-edition “Livin’ the Nightmare” mugs Rog uses on the show. Contest info HERE


3. To the Football: The drum beating to bring Premier League football back into our lives has quickened its pace, as the government declared its desire to see football back “as soon as possible,” and the date of June 9 has been floated. With Premier League clubs scheduled to meet Five Family style this Friday, and Arsenal, West Ham and Brighton leading the way back into training, government officials have begun to talk of a “quickening of the pace.” One slight problem: The exact details of how elite sport could safely return remain largely unresolved within the context of the British pandemic which is still stretching resources thin on the ground.

UEFA have asked for plans by May, but the biggest challenge for the clubs to work out is testing. The teams believe they can get around that by paying for private tests, but from an optics perspective, that could very well end up being a public relations disaster: Premier League players burning through tests whilst front line medical workers are going without. 

Questions even remain on how the players will train to reach match fitness under conditions of social distancing. One doctor noted, “With social distancing you can’t do the things that tick lots of boxes. Game-defining moments are sprinting, turning, stopping, tackling and doing those while considering opponents and the ball. These are the most strenuous activities in football and increase the likelihood of success and failure. They are currently totally stripped back, and even in small groups they would be problematic. Getting over social distancing, that is the big thing.”

b. Closed Door Sports is going to be a way of life for 2020 and into 2021. Crushing 40,000 people into a stadium is “one of the most dangerous things in the world to do,” according to this panel of experts who are asked, when will sports return to normal?

Crowds are not the only bedrock tradition under threat: Spitting could also be banned when the football returns. Scientists warn that coronavirus could be spread by saliva on the pitch. Will the game be the same without the Snot Rockets? They’re why we watch.

c. On a final note of sadness and beauty. I was distraught to learn of the passing of former Liverpool striker Michael Robinson. As a player, he was part of a Liverpool squad who won a league, League Cup and European Cup treble in 1984. A physical striker, he ended his career with a cameo at Osasuna in Spain, and fell in love with the country. Mastering Spanish, he started to broadcast, and the combination of his British wit, heavily English-accented Spanish, and his adoration of his adopted country made him a massive hit with Iberian viewers, becoming for many, the voice of Spanish football. What set him apart was his open-eyed passion for the unique variety of Spanish football cultures, lifting up the distinct regional differences in supporter traditions, rituals, foods, chants and reveling in them. Spanish newspaper Diario AS noted, “There was not a part of Spain he did not love.” His show, El Dia Después (The Day After), was groundbreaking in that respect and has informed so much of my approach to the football culture in my adopted home country, the United States. May Michael Robinson’s memory never be forgotten.


4. More Football? Yummy, Yummy 

i. “Son Heung Min has a military buzz-cut haircut and now I’m crying.” Great headline or Greatest Headline Ever?

ii. A financial analysis of the books of Championship clubs show a bloated wage structure devoted to the gamble of promotion. This is why the second tier of football could be the most in danger.

iii. On last week’s podcast, we discussed the legendary 1970 FA Cup Final between Leeds and Chelsea, a game so violent, Michael Oliver recently re-watched it and announced he would have handed out 11 Red Cards by today’s standards. GFOP @redveale sent us this retelling of the game, which included the quote from renowned Observer journalist Hugh McIlvanney: “At times, it appeared that the referee would give a free-kick only on production of a death certificate.”


5. Fruit Salad. Yummy, Yummy

i. I love this. The creativity and collective wonder: A Facebook group started in Russia for lo-fi parodies of famous paintings now has more than 500,000 members. 

ii. A not inconsequential silver-lining of this pandemic darkness: Now we know how quickly our planet will heal. Even just glancing at the photographs in this piece makes your heart pump with joy.

iii. This will empower your senses to soar: The Met Opera plays the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana over Zoom. My lord, this is magisterial. 

iv. Serendipitous timing: XTC discuss how they made the still-massive-on-MiB song “Making Plans for Nigel.” Thanks to GFOP Stephen Sinanian for sending this in.


I am going to close with this magical story from GFOP Skip Brooks in Tuscaloosa, Ala., who ravened in this magnificent memory that made me laugh like Sam Allardyce when presented a particularly humorous pie: “I flew Aer Lingus from Dublin to Boston a year ago and wound up sitting amongst a family of Dubliners heading to the States for a visit with their son in Massachusetts. They were working the Gin & Tonics like Trent Alexander-Arnold works Corner Kicks, Fastly & Furiously. We were all getting along like my Great Grandfather Cunningham and a bottle of Bushmills, and they kept plying me with the G&T’s. It was fantastic. Until I made the mistake of asking them which team they supported, expecting an enlightening discussion about the beauty of Gaelic Football. Then they told me they were Everton Fans.

They obviously asked which team I pulled for, obviously not expecting much, me being from Amerikay. I proudly told them 'LIVERPOOL' of course, and went into a moderate discourse about Firmino's inside work, and Robertson's pinpoint passing, and of course, Klopp's sideline antics.  They stopped buying me G&T's after that. And while they were still friendly. The love was gone.”

Skip. I loved this story. It reminded me of so many flights back to the UK as a kid, where my fellow travelers truly tested the airlines’ stocks of free liquor. It also made me long for the days of parochialism, pettiness, and tribalism about something as wondrously inconsequential and non-life threatening as the football.

“Well, the good old days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
I'm learning to fly (Learning to fly)
But I ain't got wings (Learning to fly)”

Until tomorrow, 
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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