I type with fingers filled with an immense gratitude. The response to our Jason Isbell podcast has been truly magical and humbling. The conversation about creativity, meaning, and grappling with the darkness of our pasts is my favorite thing we have done in lockdown. To talk about “The Wire,” Andre 3000, Men at Work and John Prine within the course of 30 minutes is what life is all about at its best. It was such a blast to tape. One of those genuinely sizzling interviews that just feel like JW and I are privy to a glimpse of human wisdom and truth. Please share it as far and wide as possible. The more it is heard, the more we can do.
Lockdown Life has forced us to learn so much professionally, on the fly, at Men In Blazers. Filming daily, and remotely, via Zoom has been a crash course in summoning intimacy in conversation. We have never met Jason before. We also lacked the luxury of quickly developing a physical connection in-studio. Yet there is something about our new reality which encourages humans to drop pretences and deliver more of their true selves. Anyone who listens to Jason’s music will know he has always been a gent who favors that approach, but when you watch our forthcoming Dominic Calvert-Lewin television show, you will see we are discovering it is a widespread human condition. All of it is life-affirming.
One of my favorite responses to the Pod came from GFOP The Old Goat in Auxier, Ken. who wrote: “We need to do a Sweet 16 bracket of the saddest songs ever. Having Jason Isbell on your show got me thinking about all the great sad songs out there in the last 60 or so years. Can you imagine? Twitter poll GFOPs to see what sad song can make it all the way to the final dance and raise the cup.”
I adore this idea. A Song for our Age: The Fast Car Memorial Trophy. Rules should take Tracy Chapman out of it. She is The GOAT. The writer of the Ur-Text of human despair. (We see you, Luke Combs.) Isbell’s Goddam Lonely Love is def up there. The Cranberries rendition of Close to You almost has too many layers of sadness. Fourth of July by my hero Sufjan Steven is wonderfully shattering. Johnny Cash is sculpting with suffering in Hurt. Neil Young’s Needle and the Damage Done is like an infinite kick in the gut. Nina Simone’s Ne Me Quitte Pas. Are we really doing this? Send your nominations here. Just listening to all your recommendations will make me feel so much better about the world.
2. Our Crap keeps gettin’ Crapper
Today: Weston McKennie, Schalke/U.S. Star and GFOP, leaps on Men in Lederhosen to give a first-hand account of what it feels like as a player to journey into the unknown of pandemic football. To listen to him was to hear dual urges: of an elite competitor eager to return to the field of play so he can “crack someone.” And a sense of the confusion created by the challenge of non-contact training for a player whose game is incredibly physical, concerns about match fitness, and the eerie lack of atmosphere. More than anything, Weston deepened my weeklong “lifelong” adoration of Schalke - Bundesliga Everton - ahead of their our epic clash against dread rivals Dortmund. I will soon be getting Wir Leben Dich tattooed on my stomach in ornate font. I also wonder who you are supporting and why?
ii. Magic to catch up with Carli Lloyd last night for our Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour. We talked about her tenacity, an approach to life we all need to emulate now, how she thinks she might have already had the virus, and about whether she prefers Gritty or The Phanatic. You can watch the entire conversation here.
3. To the Football: Reality Bites. Yesterday, the Premier League finally invited club captains and managers to share their thoughts on a return to action during conference calls and it did not go as well as they might have hoped, with both sets of key stakeholders raising rational questions that threaten to pump the brakes on the June 12 Express Train back to action.
Team captains were reported to be seriously underwhelmed by the lack of detail in the return to training protocols, demanding more clarity on their specifics, especially the burden of insurance risk. They will now brief their squads and revert, awaiting a ton more reassurance. In the managers group there was debate about how long the players will need to return to fitness, with some demanding at least a month. The league is also still uncertain about what to do in the eventuality of a player testing positive for COVID-19 and whether the entire squad should isolate as a result.
Crystal Palace manager, Roy Hodgson, admitted some of his players might refuse to take part if the League resumes. “It is a matter for the individual,” he said, also confirming that he will drag his 93-year-old bag of bones onto the sideline. “I have had to deal with Benteke refusing to participate for the last few seasons so am well prepared to handle this. And remember. I managed through the Boer War of 1902 so am not going to let the Corona-thing stop me,” he said (in my imagination).
Leave it to Jose Mourinhoto take a more hardline response. The Spurs manager is reported to have channeled the spirit of a footballing State of Florida as he swiped at the Fauci-esque Pep and Frank, “If you don't want to play, stay home and watch Bundesliga!” You must be very proud, Tottenham fans.
The net effect is this: a planned resumption of play on 12 June is now looking less likely. Expect the date to shift by at least a week.
b. In a macabre piece of news. Dele Alliwas held at knifepoint and punched in the face during a horrifying robbery at his home in North London. He has not sustained serious injuries. We wish him a speedy recovery from what must have been a true trauma.
c. Hatice Cengiz, the grieving fiance of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has written an open letter to Newcastle fans, imploring them to rise up and oppose the takeover of their club by Saudi Arabian ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “I know that many of you are tempted by his offer to get out of the dire situation that has crippled your club for so many years. But the Crown Prince is accused of ordering Jamal’s murder. My plea to you is to think whether accepting [the] offer is really the right way out of the despair for your club.”
Let’s finish today with this intriguing article from Harvard Business Review, sent to us by GFOP Guyan Randall called “How to Find and Practice Courage,” which looks at the confidence we have in our own capacity to confront the challenges ahead of us, and breaks down the steps we can all take to force ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to take action the world needs. I love the article’s concluding quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
May we all summon the courage to do what is right.