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HAIL! GFOP

I type with fingers filled with nostalgic memories of joy besmirched by pangs of sadness. May 20 is 25 years to the day since Everton last won silverware. The 1995 FA Cup over Manchester United 1-0. An anniversary which takes me back to a phenomenally boozy day spent day-drinking across the near north side of Chicago. There was a pub which showed the game. I do not remember its name, but this was back in the old days when football was so hard to watch in the United States they could charge you $20 just to step through the door. The place was heaving, mostly with United fans who expected to win by right. I had such little confidence Everton would savor glory that when Paul Rideout nodded home the only goal in the 30th minute, my dominant emotion was confusion rather than elation.  

By the final whistle, I remember being overcome by an incapacitating numbness. An emotion that has come to serve me well over the course of  the quarter-century filled with achingly barren seasons that has followed. So, this 25th anniversary also marks a somber moment. One in which I must confront a searing truth: I have now spent over half my life cheering with all my heart and soul for an Everton team who have given me no trophies back in return. Just eternal dreams, and their conjoined twin, Shattered Hope.  

I turned to my wife and admitted that sheepishly this morning, and she said, “think what you have gotten out of it.” 

I asked her what.

She said, “An anger and disappointment that make you feel alive.”

It is so true. I genuinely believe it is better to feel remorse than to experience nothing. To be honest, it is lovely to be able to control and compartmentalize failure. However the powerful collective memories I have made over the last 25 years with my wife, kids, Mum and Dad -- cheering for Tim Cahill, Thomas Gravesen and Leighton Baines, as well as Tony Hibbert, Cenk Tosun, and watching Theo Walcott dribble the ball straight out of bounds -- are some of the most reliably heartfelt, and I would not change them for anything. 


2. In fitting and connected news. Here is the Saddest Songs of All-Time playlist, as chosen by you GFOPs. We had an enormous response and Producer Miranda has whittled down your 1000s of suggestions to this bumper playlist “Songs for Our Age: The Tracy Chapman Fast Car Memorial Trophy.”  It is a magnificent, oddly uplifting listen. Four hours and eight minutes of heartbreak and pain. Nylon Magazine wrote this fascinating investigation into why Sad Songs Can Make Humans Happy. Their conclusion: Musical wallowing, like supporting Everton, is to have the senses overloaded. A great work out. Leg day for your emotions.


3. Men in Blazers Active Geyser O’Crap Form Continues

i. SAM MEWIS TODAY. I can’t wait. I have long revered this World Cup Tower O’Power and her ability to enforce her will on opponents. We will rock it for Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour at 5 p.m. ET Today on Instagram LIVE, breaking down all your questions about her approach to life, football, dog ownership and bar fights. 

ii. Today, GFOP Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets GM and Arsenal fan, jumps on the pod to talk Football, NBA and showtunes. 

iii. Essential Workers. We plan to honor you with another GFOP Zoom Happy Hour, kicking off Memorial Day Weekend. THIS THURSDAY. 4:30 p.m. ET. Any and all Essential Workers who are interested, EMAIL US HERE.


4. To the Football: The Premier League-Must-Return-Lobby was given a positive boost yesterday when just six individuals out of 748 involved in the first round of top-flight testing revealed themselves to be COVID-19 positive. Those six came from only three Premier League clubs. Watford, who have been one of the most outspoken clubs in terms of urging caution, have revealed one of their players and two staff members were amongst them. Burnley assistant manager, Ian Woan, was the only other person identified.

As teams around the nation, including league leaders Liverpool, return to small group training, the immediate focus returns to the next phase: crafting a plan and medical protocols for the safe introduction of contact training, then gaining player buy-in for them. This is likely to prove the most controversial part of Project Restart, with players such as Danny Rose already protesting that “the players are being treated like lab rats… risking health for entertainment.”

The ultimate goal: To jam 92 games into as small a window as 36 days.

b. In an important, haunting read, The Professional Footballers’ Association surveyed 262 members between mid-April and mid-May to assess the impact of the crisis and discovered almost a quarter of current and former professional footballers surveyed during the coronavirus pandemic said they were depressed or had considered self-harm. Nine percent were experiencing difficulties with damaging addictive habits. Structureless life for competitive athletes can be a darkness. A stark reminder of a life truth: Footballers are human too.

c. Newcastle’s prospective Saudi owners are sounding out potential hires for key roles as the Premier League continues to vet their takeover. A move which projects confidence despite swirling protests against their investment. 

d. Great article on the details of LA LIGA’S RETURN!!! 197 people in stadium. No celebration restrictions! Spitting not banned! Bold! Spanish!

e. Interview with UEFA chief honcho Aleksander Ceferin, who comes across like the single most optimistic human being in the world. Includes this pearl: “I’m absolutely sure, personally, that good old football with fans will come back very soon.”


5. More Football. Get In

i. My beautiful Schalke’s response to The Times suggestion that Hitler was an avid Schalke fan is a worthy read.

ii. Some Premier League teams sense opportunity amongst League One and League Two teams’ struggles: they can develop partnerships and set up minor league affiliates within the lower levels of English football.

iii. One to warm the cockles of Tottenham fans’ hearts. After the senseless savagery of the armed robbery he suffered last week, particularly lovely to see Dele all smiles and back in training. 

iv. When you scroll through the comments on Bill Gates’ Instagram and find Dejan Lovren auditioning for a post-playing career role on “Fox & Friends.”


6. Non-Football: Why Not?  What Else We Got?

i. One of the things I miss most about pandemic life is the ability to travel the nation with JW, eating all the Burnt Ends, Jucy Lucys, and Hot Wings. This list sets out some of America’s finest foods. All of which ship.  Support these historic restaurants and delis!

ii. The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time. Spoiler Alert: None of the songs are as good as the one Michael Jordan is listening to HERE.
 
iii. An Oral history of the Single Greatest Line of Trash Talk in NBA History. Finally, Scottie Pippen is seen in his true GOAT status.
 
iv. Where to Stream Some of the late great, Fred Willard's Greatest Funniest Performances.
 
v. “The Gospel of Grime”: A really fantastic podcast on the history of gospel music, church, hip hop, and grime in Black communities in the UK. Well-paced, enlightening listen.

 
I am going to end with this emotion-laden piece “I was in Charge of the Deck Chairs on the Titanic, and They Absolutely did Need rearranging,” by Emily Flake. I adored this life-affirming bit: "Your efforts matter as much as they always did, which is to say not one little tiny bit, except that they are the most precious of things — they are your heart. Take care of your heart, my friends." A sentence which perfectly captures the essence of my last 25 years as an Everton fan. Here’s the song the 1995 Everton squad released before that joyous Cup Final. Listening to it as I type -- especially the commentary on the goals -- brings on the tears. Life is happening all around us. Seize it. Use it. Treasure it. I love football. I love Everton Football Club. I love you all. 
 
“The spirit’s stronger in the blues today
gonna play the Everton way
The Golden Vision, Dixie Dean
The school of science, by far the greatest team”
 
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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