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HAIL! GFOP

I type with fingers that feel like, at this point, they are only tenuously still connected to my body. We are living in times of “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” And I am not referring to the pile-up of injuries caused by the idiocy of the International Break. There is so much chaos afoot. Chaos that surpasses even football’s ability to provide a diversion and safe harbor amidst a storm. I urge you if you are reading this: Find kindness, summon empathy, spread all the Love you can right now. Our world needs more of all three.

Against that backdrop, it has been an incredible wonder to work on Mo Salah and Big Boi pieces for Monday night’s Men in Blazers Show (5.30 PM ET on NBCSN). Two distinctive, living legends who have excelled by being their authentic, singular selves. The fact that they are one MiB show together is just bonkers. Listen to Mo talk about what his career goal is: to have people say, “he was a good man. Unbelievable player, but a good man." As for Big Boi - a gent who helped score so many American lives, a bonafide hip-hop icon who crafted classic songs that have remained faintly audible in cars, bars and stadia over the last 25 years - his interview is one of the more wondrously surreal to have ever appeared on our show (and that is saying something). We go deep on his favorite artist Kate Bush; his pet Owls; and how Atlanta football culture has imbued itself with qualities that are distinctly ATL. I loved the conversation so much, we are also releasing it as a Pod special next week. Kate Bush. Owls. Football. In that order.  

I am genuinely gobsmacked by the Salah-Stankonia pairing. To be able to spend time with two such remarkable creatives at this time of darkness is an incredible honor. I don’t think there is another place where you can find that mash-up. Sub-optimality at its finest. Spread the word. Watch. Raise a glass and savor. Between the two of them, we have the kind of humanity which is going to save us.  
 
 
2. Men In Blazers. The tinny drum machine that you can’t turn off
 
i.  Monday’s Men In Blazers Television Show will also break down the epic Klopp-Brodge Teeth-Off, and Jose-Pep Insta Bantz Showdown from this weekend. 5.30 PM ET. Did we mention Mo Salah and Big Boi are guesting?
  
ii. Our DraftKings Weekend Preview in which we examine Managerial Mortal Kombat Weekend. We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with those bookmaking monarchs at DraftKings which has allowed us to grow our coverage. They are the Best King since John. 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. I podded with Davo and it is a good one. Or at least, I found it very cathartic. We discussed the new look USMNT, previewed this weekend's biggest Premier League matches, and destroyed the integrity of the Villa Frat House bit.
 
iv. WGFOP: The Bald previews your Big Weekend Questions. Holler at us. 646-450-9472. We love your messages, which genuinely crack us up.
 
v. This was also a week when we supported Rob McElhenney’s footballing passions; created a mashup of GFOP DeAndre Hopkins’ catch and Martin Tyler's Aguerooooo call; and marked a classic moment of Bob Ley magic


3. To The Football… 

i. Liverpool vs. Leicester City (Sunday 2.15 PM ET NBCSN)
Brodge shapes up to the Klopp they told him not to worry about at the perfect time. Liverpool are less a football team. More a marketing campaign for the insanity of international football during the pandemic. More on that and the true cost of national team football here.

On the bright side, Liverpool could set a new club record by going 64 home league games unbeaten, but they will have to fend off Jamie Vardy, that can of Red Bull and Brandy in human form, without Virg, Joe Gomez, Trent, Hendo, Thiago, and Covid-inflicted Mo. 

Klopp is preaching calm. I did savor his quote from this morning’s press conference, where he was asked for the greatest skill of leadership. “Listening. I don't know anyone who makes decisions without listening. People across the world are making decisions without listening, especially politicians."

ii. Tottenham vs. Manchester City (Saturday, 12.30 PM ET NBC Proper) 
A game that is almost impossible to predict. Second Place Spurs have only played one Premier League game against a team in the top-eight. 10th place Manchester City will not change that. Their gruel-like 12 points won seven games in is the fewest ever collected by a team led by Pep Guardiola at this stage of a season. Yet, the avant-garde knitwear aficionado has just re-upped his contract and will seek to define his second coming with an exclamation point victory against his old foe. Mourinho knows victory will empower him to Insta post about being top of the table, no doubt by unfurling a photograph of himself, shirt off, tie wrapped round his head, unshelling a small bowl of peanuts and philosophizing about the arbitrariness of life.   

b. Pep Guardiola gets a chance to build his second great Manchester City team. When one just won't do... 

c. After a full year at Tottenham, has Jose Mourinho changed the club, or has the club changed him? Daniel Storey asks the big question. “A year into Mourinho’s Tottenham and we still don’t really understand where they’re at. Mourinho has suffered the longest winless run of his managerial career, been outclassed by RB Leipzig in Europe and eliminated from the FA Cup by Norwich City. Spurs have beaten both Manchester clubs by a combined scoreline of 8-1 but failed to muster more than three shots on target against Burnley (twice), Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Norwich and Bournemouth.”

Spurs social game is 🔥. The club’s deep dive on Jose’s 7 secrets of great Instagramming is must watch.

iii. Leeds vs. Arsenal (Sunday 11.30 AM ET NBCSN)
A fascinating clash between two managers who have transformed their teams with distinctive systems. Bielsa by instilling a risk-taking, buccaneering “be-the-protagonist” fearlessness. Arteta by attempting to conjure structure, cohesion and organization. Both clubs are reeling off three-goal losses. If Arsenal attack Leeds with the passion David Luiz used to slap Dani Ceballos, Arsenal could take this.

iv. Newcastle vs. Chelsea (Saturday 7.30 AM ET P’cock)
Don’t get out of bed. Pulisic not fit. Frank Lampard has described his current hamstring strain as “quite a problematic injury.” Damn straight.

v. Fulham v Everton (Sunday 7 AM ET P’cock)
The battle between two clubs that historically believe they are “America’s Team.” Everton hope to avoid a fourth straight loss. Richarlison is back! But their best chance might be to let old-boy Ademola Lookman just take penalties for 90 minutes and hold on for a draw.


4. A Brand I Love: Canadian Sweater Company

I love a chunky knit. I am a bloke who always believes there are two kinds of people - shorts adorers (who cling onto those five inches even when the temp drops below 40 degrees), and cardigan lovers. In that framework, I am most def 100 percent #TeamCardi. As a result, I have fallen in love with Canadian Sweater Company. A brand who pump out the type of hefty cardigans that would pass muster for fellow cardi-kings Steve McQueen or The Dude from Big Lebowski. These beauties are handmade by the native communities outside of Vancouver using a tradition which began in the 1800s when a settler from the Shetland Islands named Jerimina Colvin taught Cowichan knitters how to craft chunky sweaters using Fair Isle traditions. The Cowichans proceeded to embellish them with Native designs, creating these rugged beauties. They are expensive. But if you invest in one, they are so well made, you will have it for life. I have my eye on this one and have oddly fallen in love with this beauty.


5. “MORE FOOTBALL, DID YA SAY?”

i. The world’s best football murals. Come for a towering Maradona, stick around for the beautiful Gabriel Jesus.

ii. Lionel Messi admits he is 'tired of always being the problem' at Barcelona. This is getting to the stage where no one is looking good. DON'T DO LEO LIKE THIS! I BEG YOU. 

iii. Ada Hegerberg on injury and return. The five-time Champions League winner, and first woman to land the Ballon d’Or in 2018, on the battle to return to her peak post ACL injury. “I’m not coming back just to come back, I’m coming back to reconquer my position in world football.”

iv. FIFA’s attempts to fine clubs who discriminate against players during pregnancy has been met with mixed reactions.

v. Wayne Rooney keen on Derby County manager role. Holy Crap. Make it so.

vi. The Leeds United story is a beautiful one of passion maintained in the face of disaster. I loved making The Promoted about it this season (the full hour of which you can watch HERE). Daily Telegraph journalist and lifelong Leeds fan, Rob Baggchi, has written a beautiful, rich history of the club, The Biography of Leeds United: The Story of the Whites. If you have been charmed by Bielsa, Jack Harrison and Hattrick Bamford, I highly, highly recommend the book. You can read about Rob’s story here.

vii. Has Ted Lasso doomed American managers to yet more mockery? A rumination on Bob Bradley’s legacy and the global mockery of American coaching.

viii. The inside story of Wrexham’s takeover by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney -- The Aviation Gin of World Football. Which is fantastic, still does not make a lot of sense, but we are sure there is more, much more to come. Talking of kindness. Rob McElhenney pays £6,000 to adapt fan with cerebral palsy’s home.


6. Non-Football and All The Better For It

i. Traditional bespoke English tailors on Savile Row have glimpsed the abyss and are using robots to save their businesses. Interestingly, a third of their business comes from the United States. “Our company lived through the Boer War, World War I, the Depression, World War II, recessions,” said Simon Cundey, the managing director of Henry Poole & Co., which traces its roots to 1819. “But through all of these crises, we could visit our customers and they could visit us. This is a tragedy on a different scale.” 

ii. I adore Italian television shows. Am jonesing for HBO Max to release Gomorrah Season 3 at last. Zero, Zero, Zero on Amazon is incredible. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about it. The same goes for Suburra: Blood under Rome. The third and final season was just released on Netflix. If you have not seen it, get to it. It is a surprise and delight. A show that will make you blow your mind when you think of Americans trying to own AS Roma football club. They must not know what they walked into… 

iii. Great news for all you GFOPs out there thinking to yourselves, "these MIB Roman ads are great, but they'd be even better set to music": Spike Lee to direct Musical About Viagra.
 
iv. Just remembered that I am going to… oh wait… nowhere over the holidays. Zillow Surfing Is the Escape We All Need Right Now.
 
v. How coffee houses helped spur democracy and spread the enlightenment forever changing Britain. (No, Howard Schultz did not invent them.)  
 
vi. In anticipation of the return of Fresh Prince (and the OG Aunt Viv[!]), The Ringer in praise of Carlton Banks. One of the great mysteries of 21st century football is that no Premier League footballer has ever done the Carlton as a cele. Tom Jones was Welsh. Get it going Cardiff. 
 
vii. An oral history of Dazed and Confused, a movie that combines two of MIB's favorite things: Austin and McConaughey. 
 
viii. Weekly reality check from the Atlantic. Not a particularly fun read, but an important one. "A devastating surge is here. Unless Americans act aggressively, it will get much larger, very quickly."
 
ix. The Murky Internet Origin Story of LOL. OMG. GTFO. 
 
x. What Did Europe Smell Like Centuries Ago? Historians Set Out to Recreate Lost Scents. Bayyycon, did ya say? 
 
xi. Can't swear to the efficacy of this one since I have not one but two thriving cacti and am barely hanging on, but it's worth a shot. Grow some plants, save your sanity
 
xii. Fascinating piece about artists whose work tends to go unnoticed. Backing Musicians on Their Most Memorable Sessions.
 
xiii. “It proves the absurdity of a city that has so many weird people in it." In celebration of friendly Craigslist trolling, the ultimate 2020 sport. 

xiv. 3 Songs that have helped me scrape myself through the week:

Token by Perve Endings
Protection by Allday
Ring for Sappho by Pezzittino 

That’s it for today. GFOPs. Let’s lift each other. I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I also know we are only going to reach it by supporting each other and those around us with love and kindness. Thinking about the greater good, the collective, or as the Brodge would call it, “The Unit,” and we will be ok. 

To Life. To Love. To Meaning.
 

God Bless America.
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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