Premier League Previews, a brand Rog loves, other stuff
I type with fingers barely hanging on. The more the world turns to chaos. The more I need football. Thank you, Carabao Cup. I know I have laughed and derided you for seasons, but I am not too big to admit: it is only thanks to you that I made it through the week. And you, Super Cup.
Yesterday, I had a fantastic conversation about the crucial role football plays in our world right now with David France, an Everton legend who now lives in Arizona. David and I revelled in Carlo Ancelotti’s delirious, dizzying two-game unbeaten run, and after about 50 minutes of conversation, his tone changed, and with voice lowered, he asked me if I knew the true reason for the club’s magical start to the season. He proceeded to tell me the story of how his wife has begun to perform a rain dance around the arid cacti in his backyard before kick-off. And Everton have buccaneered to glory.
I loved this mental image but then told David that as much as I revere his role as the heart and soul of Everton Football Club, he was mistaken. Everton’s transcendent transition has occurred for one reason, and one reason only: My family adopted a lost dog three weeks ago and called it Hibbo. Since Hibbo has come into our life, Everton have won three games, blasting 10 goals in their last two. Coincidence? I think not. That is the joy of football. Two grown men. Both long-suffering Blues. Having an hour-long, dream-fuelled conversation of pure fantasy, poppycock, and wonder. And it felt magnificent.
2. Men In Blazers. Yes. Yes. Yes. No. No. No!
i. Stanley Cup overfloweth with wonder. Our interview with Dallas Stars leader Tyler Seguin on his evolution on and off the ice and his decision to take a knee ahead of a bubble game was an honor to tape. Watch a taste here and view the full-length version here. It has been an incredible honor to create this series this season with our partners at Jagermeister. I will say, as a kid who grew up in Liverpool marveling at Gretsky and Lemieux, it was an honor to be part of NBC’s Stanley Cup broadcast. Bolts fans, you can savor our interviews with Manchester United fan Victor Hedman and the remarkable Jon CooperHERE.
ii. Savor our inspirational full-length interviews with Leeds United wing sensation Jack Harrison, who chartered his course to the Premier League via the American Road Less Taken, and USWNT Tower of Power Sam Mewis on life outside her comfort zone at Manchester City. Extended Mewis Pod Here. Two incredible humans who have remained humble and focussed amidst their glory. Our entire episode with these two, along with our season premiere with Jurgen Klopp and Steve Kerr are available on demand via Peacock. Just search “Men in Blazers.”
iv. We are teaming up with our friends at Umbro -- the OG football brand -- to create some sweatshirts and some of those tasty 90s Umbro shorts that were as ubiquitous as orange slices and juice boxes on American soccer fields in the 90s. The latest limited edition Men in Blazers National Team gear won’t go on sale until early next year. However, right now, we are calling for a slice of GFOP-design flair for these beauties. A club crest of sorts to adorn them. We want to see all of your designs, GFOPs. The only rule is we are looking for something that is 3.5-inches by 3.5-inches and circular, so break out the clip art, the Etch A Sketch, and get to designing. Send them to us HERE or via social using the hashtag #MiBUmbro. Winner gets a complete set of the new limited edition emblazoned with their design. This Etch A Sketch submission via GFOP is the early leader in the clubhouse. If we can figure out how to lock down the knobs.
v. Today, our WGFOP: The Bald Weekend Preview will drop late-morning. Call in your questions: (646) 450-9472.
3. To the Football!
Bring on the weekend in which Liverpool host Arsenal. A game which will be a true litmus test of Mikel Arteta’s transformation [Monday at 3 p.m. ET on Peacock]. It is one thing beating up on Fulham and West Ham. Another thing facing up to the defending champions who, with the addition of Thiago, seem closer to invulnerability week on week.
This interview with Thomas Gronnemark, Liverpool’s Throw-In Coach, is one every football fan should read. Their attention to detail and willingness to think differently is what leads to glory.
ii. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Ziyech have been dropping social media hints that they are fit and ready to give Frank Lampard’s side the lift they need against West Brom. If Ziyech’s on-field form is half as good as his “Loading” Insta Game, The Baggies will have to watch out [Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC Proper]. Talking about Proper, Chelsea also finally have a Proper Goalkeeper. Edouard Mendy. The 6’6’ Senegalese giant may prove to be Frank Lampard’s most important signing of the summer.
iii. The English media wasted no time before selling “Manchester United season at Crossroads” narrative ahead of OGS’s second game of the season. United face Brighton [Saturday at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN] after announcing their Covid losses of $130M outstrip all other clubs. But if I were Jadon Sancho’s agent I would be praying Graham Potter’s acute tactical awareness undoes Ole’s best intentions and then waiting by the phone Monday morning. No one does Panic Buys like Manchester United do Panic Buys.
vi. Another Heavyweight clash, Manchester City against Leicester City [Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN]. Pep’s team in transition faces Brodge, whose season so far, like his self-image, is perfect. (Congratulations to Zack Steffen. The 25-year-old Pennsylvanian made his City debut in the Carabao Cup. First American Keeper with hair to play for a top flight English team since Kasey Keller.)
Stealth Best game of the week? Sheffield United against Leeds United [Sunday at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN]. Last season’s darling team against this season’s in a blood and thunder Yorkshire Derby.
4. WSL news. AKA Most Americans in England since 1944
iii. I have long revered the Philadelphia football community, but they have outdone themselves here. The Philadelphia Union’s Ray Gaddis produced a Black Lives Matter football scarf to raise funds for The Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, a 501(C) 3 nonprofit organization building awareness of the historical events of April 4, 1968 to inspire action to eliminate division and injustice. We featured one on-set for the last MiB Show. You can grab yours and support this important effort here.
6. A Brand I Love: 47
I love 47 hats. Adore them. One of the joys of my life over the past few years has been to charge all over America, savoring every hot wing, bratwurst, and Jucy Lucy our nation has to offer. Covid has prevented us from savoring the regional wonders of America. Yet, there is something about pulling on one of my 47 hats that makes me feel connected to every place we have been -- the taste, memory, and singular experience of Nashville, Charlottesville, Bentonville. All the Villes. As I type, I have a new Texas A&M hat on my head which I purchased as an Alex Caruso tribute. I will be honest. Covid has been hard for so many of us. It has also been devastating for so many brands we love. And 47, which crafts so many of its products up near Boston, has been hit hard, which breaks my heart, because their Clean-Up hats, of which I have more than I can count, connects me to so many joyful shared memories of life. Their website is here. Flick through. Savor the design and attention to detail. Amongst my current favorites: This White Sox beauty, a Seattle Kraken design o’ wonder, Always: Hartford Whalers. All Hail 47!
That’s it. Huge love to you. It is Yom Kippur on Monday, when I will read the Grey Zone by Primo Levi and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Can’t wait to Pod the games on Tuesday. As the football rolls back into our lives, I am thinking about all the football bars all over this great nation of ours. Places that were pathfinders in the early days when football was hard to find on television and became oases for the vanguard of American football fans.
My place in DC was the Lucky Bar. I would go down every Saturday morning in the early days of the Premier League to watch the sole game broadcast on US TV. It was the 7:30 a.m. Kick Off and was always the crap game -- but a dozen of us hardy fans would feast on the likes of Luton against Sheffield Wednesday as if it was River-Boca. I remember watching United’s miracle 1999 Champions League final comeback against Bayern Munich in a bar packed to the gills with United fans -- one of the first times I realized how big the game was becoming in the United States. When Bayern opened the scoring I was the only bloke in the bar to jump up and punch the air. The bar man, a Welsh bloke called Paul, shouted out, “Roger, how can you, you are Jewish.” I love that place. And it is struggling. There is a fund set up to help it survive. All of you have your version of the Lucky Bar. Support them. They are a crucial part of our nation’s footballing DNA.