I. Seventy Thousand Large in ATL with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson
Doug Writes: I grew up in metro Atlanta in the small town of Mableton. My parents’ first date was at an Atlanta Chiefs game. My love of soccer seems to be in my blood.
As I grew up and started playing soccer, my parents would take me to a few of the Chiefs games where there were usually just a few thousand people in the stands. So, as I walked to Mercedes-Benz Stadium last Saturday, I stopped outside the $1.5 billion palace to appreciate the fact that an MLS-record crowd of more than 70,000 were going to be there to watch Atlanta United play Orlando City.
When the news started to percolate a few years ago that Atlanta might become the home of an MLS team, I never thought I’d cover a game between two club teams that would sell more than 70,000 tickets. The atmosphere was the loudest I’ve ever experienced in 25 years of journalism, topping the skull-cracking noise generated by fans for a game between Mexico and Nigeria at the Georgia Dome. The chant of “Atlanta” from half the crowd, most wearing the red-and-black team jersey, answered by “United” from the other half could be felt in your bones. Even league commissioner Don Garber said he recorded video of the “A-T-L” Viking clap.
At some point, the new-stadium glow may wane. At some point, the team may not wow as often as it does now. But the fun now is real. And I’m having as much fun covering the team as I did watching the Chiefs as a little boy.
In addition to being a GFOP of the highest-order, Doug Roberson is a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You can follow him on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC, on Facebook at Atlanta United News Now, and subscribe to his Southern Fried Soccer podcast on iTunes.
II. JW Goes Behind the Bubbles at West Ham United with “Mickey Bubbles”
Before the last episode of The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW, as we watched West Ham and Huddersfield emerge from London Stadium’s tunnel, Producer Evan noted his disappointment.
“The bubbles are machine-generated?”
He always thought they came from industrious fans, or some sort of natural bubble spring beneath the earth. Evan’s remarks sparked a CPOS deep investigative dive. We had to know: Who’s in charge of all those bubble machines? How did they get that job? And how do they make the bubbles look so damn good?
An email to the London Stadium and West Ham United later (“Searching for Sugarman” this was not), we had our answer. The man they call “Mickey Bubbles,” Mick Bowen.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with the 44-year-old lifelong Hammers supporter via Skype. We talked about what he calls his “dream job;” the mechanics of bubble making (it involves 60 machines and something called “bubble juice”); and his place in football history.
As it turns out, Mick isn’t some temporary guardian of the post at West Ham. He basically created the job. A Bubble Crusader, of sorts.
Thanks to an affinity for pyrotechnics/special effects and a West Ham season ticket, Mick was able to talk his way into a gig doing pre-match entertainment at the Boleyn Ground 15 years ago. At the time, West Ham only used the bubbles for about five or six matches a season. His artistry flew relatively under the radar. That changed in 2010 when co-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold took over at the club.
“They wanted some razzmatazz at the game, and they certainly wanted the bubbles,” Mick said. “I invested in 25 machines at the time, dotted them around the Boleyn Ground and suddenly we had a huge effect when the players came out.”
There have been Bubbles at every West Ham home game since, with the tradition growing as the team moved from Upton Park to London Stadium. In addition to more than doubling the amount of bubbles, Mick’s crew has also upped the bubble technology thanks to “bespoke” new machines. They now generate bubbles filled with smoke, bigger bubbles that fly higher, and one day soon, they’re looking at claret and blue-colored bubbles (gasp).
The show goes on this weekend as West Ham host Spurs. Mick promised us something special. The biggest show of bubbles in East London yet. And while we’ll laugh as Joe Hart angrily wipes bubble juice off his face while telling Aaron Cresswell (formerly of Ipswich Town) to “start defending,” we’ll also marvel at the work of football’s first, best and only bubble maker.
“If I couldn’t be a footballer then what could I do? Life has taken me on this road that’s ended up with me doing special effects at the love of my life, which is West Ham United. So it makes me immensely proud.”
If you want more Mickey Bubbles, be sure to tune into the MiB Show Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. We’re working on a short video that will inevitably fail to do him justice. But it will have lots of bubbles.
III. MiB EA SPORTS FIFA 19 Cover Contest
With EA SPORTS FIFA 18 poised to drop (as the kids say) in less than a week, we’ve reignited a Men in Blazers tradition unlike any other. Unlike any other because most of our traditions are crap. This one… not so much. It’s our annual EA SPORTS FIFA Cover Contest. Here’s the haps on the craps: CR7 got this year’s cover after winning basically every trophy in football. We want you to take a bite of pie, predict what’s going to happen in the year ahead, and design FIFA 19’s cover. Do it on Photoshop, Microsoft paint, an easel… however you want. Send us any and all submissions on social using the Hashtag #MiBFIFACover or via EMAIL. We will choose a few of our favorites. They will win a copy of the brand new EA SPORTS FIFA 18 game, for their game system of choice. Hundreds of amazing entries have already arrived in the CPOS, including this gem from @pizzascholar. We’re accepting entries through Friday, Sept. 29. Winners will be announced on the Pod recorded Tuesday, Oct. 3.
IV. El Tri Stars Help Earthquake Victims
After this week’s earthquake in Mexico, El Tri stars are helping those in need. More information is HERE. Our thoughts are also with all those affected by Hurricane Maria. Courage.
V. The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame
Your amazing artifacts continue to pour into the CPOS for The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame. This week, we’re featuring the tumescent ‘90s facial hair stylings of one Alexi Lalas, courtesy of GFOP Kevin Clark.
Please keep sending the American soccer flotsam and jetsam that is gathering dust in your finished basements and attics with a note telling us about its meaning to you to. We are sending patches to everyone who contributes. Please post everything to:
Embassy Row Studios
Care of Men in Blazers
325 Hudson Street 7th Floor
New York, NY 10013
This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark features submissions from a huge win for Orcas Island High School, a young Gooner’s first match, and a well-drawn submission from Naples. Plus, a bonus Patch at the Wall (Shana Tova to all GFOPs celebrating).
But our favorite comes from GFOP Bryan Stutzman, who snapped this beauty at a truly magical, league attendance record-setting night in Atlanta.
Meet Cristiano Ronaldo's Secret Weapon - The Man Behind Why the World's Biggest Stars Sleep So Soundly. Tim Rich
for The Independent. READ HERE
The Anti-Beckhams: the UK Footballers Choosing to Start Their Careers in the US. Jeff Rueter
for The Guardian. READ HERE
How Rafa Benitez Built a Band of Brothers: Checks, Balance and Detoxifying the Dressing Room. Mark Douglas
for Chronicle Live. READ HERE
Borussia Dortmund: A Club Whose Plan is Working Almost Too Well. Marcus Christensen
for The Guardian. READ HERE
Rog and Davo break down Arsenal's draw at Chelsea, Wazza's return to Old Trafford, and a robotic performance from Pep's City side. Plus, a musical number at the end. LISTEN HERE