The FA Cup, a.k.a. the Budweiser Cup featuring the Football Association, made headlines again over the weekend; there hasn't been such a resounding return to relevancy since Betty White bit into a Snickers. In this week's pod, the Men in Blazers review Chelsea's game of two halves against Manchester United, touch on Everton's alarming slide, and discuss what Tim Howard's injury means for the U.S. men's national team's World Cup qualification chances. Plus, Michael and Roger answer telegrams on home/away tactics, MLS's intrusion into the South, and "Car Talk." And after announcing the winner of the Great Becker, Man Hair Swap, they double down with a new competition to find "America's Next Top Soccer Fan."
The song remains the same. Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Chelsea all managed wins. But while there wasn't a change in the Top Four, the weekend wasn't without its drama. Gareth Bale was like clockwork in Spurs' all-important triumph over Arsenal, leaving their North London rivals with more lingering questions about the club's direction. In this week's pod, Michael and Roger analyze all the ramifications from the derby, turn their attention to the relegation battle, and reflect on the opening weekend of MLS.
If that wasn't enough, the Blazers also speak with iconic ESPN broadcaster and jolliest man alive Bob Ley about his days as the public-address announcer of the Cosmos, how the culture has changed in Bristol over the years, and what truthfully is the secret to eternal youth. Horse placentas are about to have their moment in the sun.
In this week's Men in Blazers podcast, Michael Davies and Roger Bennett overcome the lingering effects of their holiday hangovers to reconcile with a much-changed English Premier League. In their absence, Chelsea have swapped strikers, Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli have fallen out of love, Spurs have found their form, and Manchester United remain atop the table. Maybe some things aren't that different after all.
Then, after taking stock of all these narratives, the Blazers welcome some ravens from the cold to answer your burning telegrams. Among them is a plea to rid the Premiership of the constant bickering of players over referee decisions. Only one man is up for the challenge.
After eight weeks, Premier League patterns are starting to emerge. The Manchester clubs continue to eek out victories in their own distinct fashion (United, attack-heavy; City during Dzeko Time), but it is nimble-footed Chelsea that have proved most impressive, week in and out. Thanks to a defensive line that appears to score when it wants, not to mention the divine work of midfield maestro Juan Mata, Chelsea came back to beat Tottenham 4-2 on Saturday — Andre Villas-Boas conceding defeat to Roberto Di Matteo in the first ever Battle of the Alphabet. All these developments and more are covered by Michael and Roger in this week's Men in Blazers pod.
The pod is also blessed by the appearance of author Nick Hornby, who is marking the 20th anniversary of the publication of Fever Pitch. Hornby discusses how the game has evolved since he wrote the ode to Arsenal fandom, how last season was the most memorable of his life, and why Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has become a cult figure in the Hornby household.
Normal service has resumed in the English Premier League. The sleeping giants — Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City — have all reclaimed the top three spots in the table. And why shouldn't they, with the season being 2/11ths over, after all. But as much as the on-field drama is subject for discussion in this week's pod, Michael and Roger also consider the continued off-field troubles of a certain Russian-owned superclub.
Next, productivity on the pod takes a nosedive after welcoming the creative and strategic genius behind the EA Sports FIFA video game franchise, executive producer (and fellow Brit) David Rutter, for a quick chat. The Blazered Men discuss the newest features of FIFA 13, its impact on America's sporting interests, the future of video games, and, of course, Duran Duran.
It started innocently enough last season with the simple yapping of a finely manicured Italian hand. And now, following Manchester United's 3-2 loss at home to Tottenham, it does appear that the divine aura surrounding Sir Alex Ferguson is on the wane. Could Fergie Time really be a thing of the past? The Blazered Men are inclined to think so.
Manchester isn't the only place where the script is undergoing a revision. The visions of new managers at both Liverpool and the aforementioned Tottenham look to finally be taking hold. In this week's pod, Michael and Roger cover these and other story lines that emerged over the weekend, including the continued rise of a certain club that will be left unnamed for fear of jinxing its unnamed flying start. All we can say is: In Fellaini's 'Fro We Trust.
Even after being shut out of the Emmys, the Men in Blazers were still riding high from what was arguably the best weekend yet of Premier League football. Since the week before, anyway. Sure, midfield-less Manchester United triumphed in typically suspect fashion against 10-man Liverpool, and Chelsea and Manchester City continued their uninspired play in a win and a draw, respectively. But somehow, some way, Everton and West Brom find themselves in the Top 4 in the Season of Weird. In this week's pod, Michael and Roger recap all the story lines both real (John Terry retiring from international play) and surreal (Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez share a cuddle), and answer more hard-hitting telegrams.
In the end, though, it all comes back to #QuarterbackStyle as the Blazered Ones announce the winner of the anonymously signed Stoke City jersey. This is football podcasting at its most suboptimal.
This weekend's Champions League final featuring Chelsea and Bayern Munich started slowly, but at the end of a penalty shootout, Chelsea, battered and bruised, stood the victors. And in this week's podcast, the Men in Blazers analyze the game with a fine-tooth comb, considering everything from David Luiz's IQ to the invisible hand of Lady Physio.
For Michael, it was among his great achievements. Even Roger momentarily admired the accomplishment before returning to spew his expected bile. Either way, it was a great end to an even better season. To document the end, the Blazered Men present their first annual Men in Blazers Awards.
The United States is unequivocally the best place in the world to watch football. With all 10 of the final Premier League matches available on television or online, even England couldn't hold a candle to the coverage of The Sport of the Future here in America. Look out, competitive camel jumping — soccer is on the move.
And what a day it was. By beating 10-man Queens Park Rangers in a frantic finale, Manchester City won its first league title since 1968, shed their long tradition of self-harm, and validated the business savvy of sheikhs with money to burn getting involved in football. In this week's pod, Michael Davies and Roger Bennett attempt to make sense of it all, while taking stock of the rest of the league — everything from Arsenal maintaining third position to Bolton vanishing through the trapdoor. But the football doesn't stop here. It never does. Just days before the Champions League final, the Blazered Men preview Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea — a day of delight for Davo but a Sophie's Choice for Rog.
Entering the final weekend, Manchester City's Roberto Mancini is poised to win both the battle of the minds with Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and the Premier League title, even though he's loath to admit it. A storybook ending for "The Little Train That (received a multibillion-dollar overhaul and) Could." The crosstown rivals both eked out wins Sunday, but one of the victories wasn't like the other. In this week's pod, the Men in Blazers recap both the wins in the penultimate weekend, take stock of the battle for third and fourth place, and then bid Blackburn and their fowl farewell as the second team to cement relegation to the Championship next season.
Lastly, if these weekly musings have provided even the slightest inclination of entertainment, we at Men in Blazers would be honored if GFOPs would take a few moments to vote for MiB as soccer podcast of the year. We're up against all the big boys in England, and finishing last is something we simply can't stomach. Please don't make us Wolverhampton.
Story lines abound as the English Premier League enters the sharp end of the season. On Monday, Americans everywhere feigned illness to slip out of work and into the nearest Irish pub to watch the seismic Manchester Derby. City's victory nudges them ahead in the tightest title race finish in 23 years, and the Men in Blazers couldn't be happier. In this week's pod, Michael and Roger review the crap game of football that yielded managerial handbags, Vincent Kompany's winner, and the appearance of soccer's most famous father-in-law, Diego Maradona.
Plus, they take a look at the moral victories that weren't for Liverpool and Chelsea, welcome Reading and Southampton, the first two sides slated for a return to the Premier League next year, and analyze the appointment of Roger's DadRoy Hodgson as England manager.
In a smashing weekend of topflight football drama, both Questionable Penalty and Clear Offside Goal took their turns in the spotlight. Elsewhere, Manchester United delivered more of the same: the ruthless pragmatism that has seen them win 11 out of their last 12 matches, effectively locking up the Premier League title in the process. While neighboring Manchester City continued to implode against Arsenal, as Mario Balotelli made fans wonder what would come first — a red card or institutionalization. In this week's podcast, the Men in Blazers tackle both houses of Manchester and then turn their attention to the breathless race for third and fourth place.
Plus, Michael and Roger look ahead to an FA Cup semifinal weekend that could produce a Clash of the Blazers Chelsea v. Everton final. This may very well be the beginning of the end.
Mind games? What mind games? With the Premier League's finish line now vaguely visible on the horizon, Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United emerge, as predictably as a footballing groundhog, to separate themselves from the rest of the table. In this week's podcast, Michael Davies and Roger Bennett examine United's pragmatic path to glory and what that means for their aspirational cross-town rivals, City.
Plus, Roger chats with refereeing legend Abraham Klein, the Holocaust survivor who became one of the world's best during the World Cup's heyday in the 1970s. The 5-foot-tall disciplinarian sheds light on how he'd handle today's Premier League prima donnas.
What an uneventful weekend of football it was. Nothing to see here. Particularly not Tottenham’s latest lapse against Everton, and definitely not Manchester City handing pole position to crosstown rivals Manchester United following their 1-0 loss to Welsh Barcelona, Swansea City. In fact, it was so uneventful that Michael Davies took the weekend off to sample the tasteful debauchery available on the golf courses of South Carolina.
That leaves Man in Blazer Roger Bennett to address the nation all by his lonesome, like a poor man’s Spalding Gray. And in honor of the humdrum weekend over in England, Rog is left to celebrate the return of Major League Soccer by welcoming His Excellency, Commissioner Don Garber, to discuss his formative years at the NFL, the state of MLS finances, and what goes through his mind when he straddles his big ol’ Harley. Rog then transitions to more serious matters with the help of another mover and shaker from an MLS, Portland’s iconic mascot, Timber Joey. The classically trained logger lays bare his thoughts on love, life, and chainsaw circumcision.
Fears of a double-dip recession in Britain may be over, thanks to the sudden wealth of job openings in England’s managerial ranks. Joining the post that nobody wants — manager of England’s national team — is the toxic task that only the clinically insane would consider with a straight face — manager of Chelsea Football Club. And it’s all fodder for analysis in this week’s pod from the Men in Blazers.
After offering a tearful goodbye to Andre Villas-Boas as he sets out for other prepubescent adventures, Michael and Roger work their way down the Premier League table and dissect the biggest storylines from the weekend. The blazered men consider matrimony for Mario Balotelli, Liverpool’s penalty woes, and the magisterial form of part-time American bassmaster/full-time Fulham’s leading goal scorer Clint Dempsey. What will it take for America to care? Someone please get him on Dancing With the Stars.