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HAIL! GFOP

I write with fractious, fraying fingers. Feeling a little worn down today by the circular, unspooling, uncertain grind of arguments and debate around all the things I care about in life: Community. Schooling. Football. GFOP Valerie Metzler sent us a Raven which gave us the German word for it all: 

“Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien”

Or the word Angela Merkel used to describe public debates about opening up in pandemic life. Literally “debate orgies about the easing of lockdown restrictions.” Kyle Walker reportedly loves a good Öffnungsdiskussionsorgie.  

It has been a tough 24 hours for Rog. But in my time of need two heroes emerged:  

This interview with Ashley Tedone, who is both a Nurse Practitioner and Producer JW’s wife, is beyond inspiring. Ashley has been battling on the frontlines of New York City’s pandemic whilst 23 weeks pregnant with their first child. This quote is both human and inspiring. “I watched women go into labor alone and my heart broke for them. As a first-time mom, I couldn’t imagine doing this without the support of a partner. That empathy ran in the face of the understanding that this protocol was necessary. The rational, ground-in-science nurse practitioner on one shoulder was constantly in one ear, and the stressed, anxious, and emotional mother-to-be was in the other.” Courage. Self-sacrifice. Compassion. Empathy. A level of heroism I can barely compute. 

The other moment of lift came at the other end of the emotional spectrum. Arsenal released a short video of Gunnersaurus doing Keepie-Uppies. My first impulse was to think of Xhaka watching this and wishing he had this kind of first touch. The second was to reflect upon the depths of just how much I miss football. I have now watched it exactly 12,067 times.

In their different ways, Ashley and Gunnersarus combine to embody a quote of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s I have been thinking about a lot recently: “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
 

2. Men In Blazers 24/7/365 with that Crap.

i. Tomorrow, our podcast with that great American, Jason Isbell, the philosopher-king singer-songwriter who, judging by your response, is beloved with Premier League football fans. Genuinely cannot wait to share this with you. 

ii. It gets better. Carli Lloyd, the embodiment of tenacity and perseverance personified, joins us for our Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour on Insta Live. Join us at 6:30 p.m. ET RIGHT HERE.

iii. In other NWSL jewels of wonder, our season previews rumble on like Steve Bruce’s stomach with our preview on OL Reign. “Megan Rapinoe, do you say?”

iv. 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.

v. Today, Davo jumps astride the pod, and German Football Brain in Bottle Raphael Honigstein joins us to break down all you need to know about the Bundesliga’s return. Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien.

vi. I had the honor of joining Chicago White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti (whom I am convinced is an Italian Bennett) to re-enact the climax of Ferris Bueller. There is a little Cameron that lives inside all of us.


3. To the Football: The Premier League’s return on June 12 remains a dream. Something we all yearn for and long to move towards. But all that collective fantastical thinking does not make it so. Significant hurdles remain. Make no mistake: this is high-risk, high-stakes, high-wire stuff with the world watching. 

The progress is agonizingly glacial. Yesterday’s prolonged “Zoom of Premier League Return Agony” -- the fifth since play paused in March -- took place against a backdrop of two seismic external stimuli:
  1. The government greenlighting the June 1 return of “cultural and sporting events” which could “take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.” IE Ghost Games!
  2. The economic sting caused by clubs already losing between $370 million and $432 million in broadcast revenues to global television companies, caused by non-fulfillment of broadcast contracts even if they find a way to limp towards the season’s end. None of this -- the delays, the fanless games, the swirling uncertainty -- is what broadcasters signed up for.
b. So the arguments ran thick and fast. In the first big outcome, the Rebel 6 (AKA the self-interested self-sabotagers whose fear of personal relegation outstripped the collective dread at the potential collapse of the entire F*%!ing league as we know it) were essentially defanged by the removal of the option of voiding the season. The clubs now have two options: either play the season in whatever conditions are determined to be safest, or else the outcome will be decided by a formula such as weighted Points Per Game. The latter obviously makes those clubs at bottom most likely to go down anyway, so better in their minds to play them and have a fighting chance.  

c. The “Neutral Grounds” stumbling block of whether playing out games in a handful of hygienic and policeable stadia shattered the sporting integrity of competition was punted. Premier League CEO Richard Masters announced the league would negotiate with public authorities to see if a way could be found for every home game to be played at its rightful venue. 

“I think everybody would prefer to play home and away if at all possible,” Masters said. “And I think it’s clear to see that some clubs feel more strongly about that than others. We’ve been talking to the authorities about the conditions in which we could get the Premier League back up and running and taking all that advice on board. But it is an ongoing dialogue.”
 
d. The focus now turns to engaging the players, listening to their fears, and winning them over to the unglamorous future of hazmat-cloaked plans rife with swabs and testing. AKA The Bling Life is over.  

“Clubs are determined as part of the consultation process that [players’] concerns and questions are heard. They will be later this week,” Masters said. “Players have to be consulted properly.” I look forward to Masters convo with Danny Rose, who yesterday declared, "Football shouldn't even be spoken about until the (mortality) numbers have dropped massively. People's lives are at risk." Word of advice: Do not do it by Insta Live.

e. There was also an underlying hint of Darkness as, for the first time, Masters admitted that they also discussed the worst case scenario of the season not being completed, a reflection of just how hard the pathway to resumption in England might be. 

If that is the case, brace yourself for the most savage political fight of all: What algorithm to use to project the final table. Either a simple points-per-game formula or a weighted formula which takes games played home-and-away into account would be utilized. Norwich and Aston Villa plunge through the Moon Door irrespective. But if the former is used, The Killer Cherries O’Bournemouth tumble after them. If away games are taken into account, it will be West Ham and Bye Bye Bubbles, an occurrence which will enable David Moyes to do what it says on the tin and succeed in relegating yet another team.


4. Why can’t Newcastle fans have nice things? Or things that are highly morally questionable?  
 
The Guardian reported that new legal documents have been passed to the Premier League during the past 24 hours that raise fresh questions about whether the controversial $340 million Saudi Arabia-funded takeover of Newcastle United should get the go ahead.

Premier League lawyers are understood to be reviewing information which is said to establish a firm link between the Saudi government and a homegrown regional pirate streaming service which offers illegal access to sporting events – including Premier League football. A litany of grotesque human rights abuses can stand. But we have to draw the line somewhere. That line is illegal streaming.

 
5. Kyle Walker apologizes to fans after breaking lockdown again. In fairness to him, he thought it was just the Sex Party crap that got him into hot water last time. Lessons learned. In other news, Kyle Walker to begin social distancing starting... NOW.  


6. More Football blasted at you with all the good intentions of a Fred Free-Kick.

i. Andrea Rinaldi, Atalanta midfielder dies aged 19 after suffering aneurysm. Our love to his family and all Atalanta fans. Let’s remember what is important about football, and what is not.

ii. To Appeal or Not To Appeal? What decision should the U.S. Women make in their fight for equality? 

iii. David Squires relives American Men’s finest footballing moment: Sylvester Stallone’s star turn in the movie Victory.

iv. How a Band of Australians Made Belarus Soccer an Internet Smash


7. Non-Football? Why not? What else you gonna do?

I love this story for so many reasons: The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months. William Golding’s book defines the true nature of youth in our minds, yet it is fiction written by a fairly awful human being. This true story tells an entirely different, more wonderful tale of the human spirit.

Who Discovered Soap? The Origins of the Life-Saving Substance that is so hot right now.

The Day the Live Concert Returns. Dave Grohl for The Atlantic. Yep, that Dave Grohl.

The Polemical Doodles of Léon Krier, the Intellectual Godfather of New Urbanism.

First thing you're doing when quarantine ends? If Bangkok is anything to go by, it is head to the Pet salon.


That’s it for today. Ahead of tomorrow’s Jason Isbell podcast, I will leave you with my three favorite Isbell lyrics, all of which move me deeply. A reality I find to be truly amazing. Me. A gent who came of age in Liverpool being so deeply affected by the storytelling of Isbell, a bloke who grew up, and writes about, his own coming of age in Muscle Shoals, Ala. 

“These 5A bastards run a shallow cross
It's a boy's last dream and a man's first loss”
Speed Trap Town. (A lyric which always makes me think of Alexis Sanchez’s mindset at Manchester United)

“I used to want to be a real man
I don't know what that even means”
Hope the High Road (the epigraph of my book)

“I made it through, 'cause somebody knew
I was meant for someone”
Cover Me Up

Courage,
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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