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HAIL! GFOP

I write with fingers that feel as free as a Barn Swallow in flight. I have written how one of the oddly constructive side-effects of lockdown life has been empowering all with super-hero levels of perception. A combination of surplus time coupled with the incredible adrenaline hit the simple act of stepping outside now provides. Whenever I step beyond the walls of my apartment, one thing I have begun to do is take a moment of pause, look up and drink in my surroundings, soaking in not only the details of the buildings on my block, whose architecture I have always taken for granted, but also the flowers, trees, and birds that are thriving in our absence.  

The birdlife has thrilled me in particular. I wake up at six a.m. to a cacophony of sparrows, starlings and cardinals. When I take my morning walk with my wife, my heart skips a beat every time we encounter a woodpecker hammering away with its “In the Air Tonight” drum fills. So it was a genuine thrill last night when this happened: First, I got hold of a magnificent new field guide, “What It’s Like to be a Bird” by David Allen Sibley, which I highly recommend as a stunning read for entry-level bird boys and girls like myself. I Tweeted my joy, only to be engaged by the American Bird Association, who, it turns out, are as passionate about Premier League football as they are about birding. Our interchange made my heart soar. A lot of you have been sending me photos of the orioles and loons that have been reclaiming nature in your neighborhood, so I know you feel my joy. Now we just have to work out a Premier-League-to-Sibley’s-Field-Guide-Convertor and my life will be complete. PS. GFOP @gordonshumway recommends the Merlin Bird ID App, which I have just downloaded. It allows you to identify even the grainiest low-res bird pic, as well as being able to listen to their songs and calls. (I can feel a new podcast coming on “Today in American Kestrels with Roger Bennett.”)


2. Men In Blazers Crap Overfloweth:
 
The response to our Portland Thorns Season Preview has been magnificent. Any time we are able to work with footage of the Thorns is a delight. They are trailblazers for women’s sports globally. To watch these crowds is a sense of what is possible for the NWSL. Cannot wait for it to come back.

ii. Speaking of that magical footballing city, TOMORROW: Wednesday Budweiser Happy Hour Insta Live with Becky Sauerbrunn, Two-Time World Cup Winner, Portland Thorns, American Hero 6:30 p.m. ET on our Instagram. Come and raise a Bud with us both.

iii. Our old friend Larry Nance Jr. is jumping on the pod tomorrow to lift our spirits with some Chelsea talk, and to give an insight into the mentality of an elite athlete at rest. Send us your questions for that giant wonder.    

iv. So pleased to announce that only two of Seattle Goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s portraits of me remain. All proceeds go to charity. Charitaaaaay. The one I purchased will look great above my fireplace, Brodge-style. 


3. To the Football: As English football girds its loins for Friday’s epic Premier League Zoomageddon meeting, today is one of micro stories: Of English Football League chief talking of lawsuits if three Championship teams are not promoted, and Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor bloviating about how the games might be less than 90 minutes when football resumes. 

Perhaps most interestingly of all, the bottom six, who have formed a voting bloc, have been told that removing relegation from any conclusion to the season, no matter how imperfect, is not going to happen. Even if neutral venues are utilized, which could undermine sporting integrity, three teams will be flung through the moon door. Broadcasters already concerned about the quality of “soulless football” will not stand for the removal of one of the last truly intriguing talking points left in the season. Cue Norwich City’s Daniel Farke, “If we can save one life by not having the Premier League return, we should do this.”

b. Genuinely brutal news for Tottenham Hotspur. The announcement that the NFL will not play games outside of the United States in the 2020 season, means that Spurs will not be able to host their two clashes, which will put a serious dent in their business model. The new stadium was purpose-built to host NFL games as well as EPL, with a state of the art exchangeable field, and NFL-friendly locker rooms and tunnels. Spurs were not entitled to the gate receipts, which go to the American home team, but would have been able to keep food and drink net income plus the merchandising profit. Harry Kane’s kicking career may also not be put on hold.

c. The return of Football is within touching distance! Bundelsiga has been given the green light to return behind closed doors on May 15, with the German government poised to agree on measures to further ease restrictions because of the nation’s success containing coronavirus. Rog is talking about himself in the Third Person and is all in on Schalke.

Italian football is also nudging forwards. Serie A clubs have been given permission to restart individual training sessions from Monday at training grounds. But team training will not be allowed until 18 May at the earliest. Experts believe that will be the beginning of a month-long return to competitive action. “It's too early to even talk about the Italian football season restarting,” said sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora. How do you say, “slowly, slowly catchee monkey” in Italiano?


4. More Football? What else do we have to do today. Go Birding?

i. Caitlin Murray continues to sift through the fallout of Friday’s shock decision in the USWNT fight for equality. In this piece, she asks whether the USWNT’s legal counsel was ill-advised and handicaps the odds of successful appeal.

ii. A deep-dive into the dark economic future of League One and League Two clubs, English Football’s AA and A minor league equivalents.

iii. Players are training on a machine that tracks power output, distance, speed, etc. through a GPS and allows them to compare results, some of which are eye popping. Granit Xhaka is a beast. You, too, Leighton Baines.

iv. Slightly odd Mo Salah Exxon Musical Commercial. Just nice to see him back in action tbh.


5. Non-Football/Non-Bird? Why not?

i. Really important piece: Struggling to read, or write? How to be creative in lockdown. You can Do It!

ii. No football. Am now a Barley Brook Sellar Sheep Show Ultra. Come on you Barley Brook Sellars! 

iii. The Pandemic May Mean the End of the Open-Floor Office. Will I miss my mates OR was I sick of hearing the guy next to me chew so loudly? 

iv. 15 Best British Television shows Americans might be missing out on. Top Boy! End of the F**king World! (Men in Blazers Not Mentioned)

v. As Coronavirus is poised to hit the Yukon, authorities have told residents to keep “One Caribou or four Ravens” distance from each other. (Via GFOP Daniel Barnett who used to play in goal for my five-a-side Football Team.)


Let’s end with a message from GFOP Kristaps Paddocks who writes: “Dear Rog, Yesterday evening, out for a walk in the rain, I came across this, soaking wet, stepped on, bedraggled, and forgotten on a sidewalk in Baltimore. Possibly The Most Everton Thing Ever.”
 

Kristaps. I adore this. A new melancholy subgenre of American Premier League fandom photography. I bet you this was Future Island front man, Samuel T. Herring’s hat. He is an enormous, enormous Blue. Samuel can have the final word, with lyrics from a song Spirit which perfectly captures my feelings when I read my bird books every afternoon:

"Find the sun, force the moon
Loose the earth
For dreams come to those who let them in their guarded room
Open wide your winged-eye
Spirit drives to catch the truth
For spirit thrives where darkness comes to challenge you"

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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