I type still standing, but barely, after one of the single worst sporting weekends of the century. My Bulls had their backs broken not once but twice by Grayson Allen. Everton. Let’s just say, I learned what does not kill me does not make me stronger.
I want to open with a positive though: This Saturday, if you channel surfed network television at 1 PM ET, you would have encountered 87-times-straight Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich beating Borussia Dortmund on ABC, Brentford tying Tottenham Hotspur on mighty NBC, and over on CBS, North Carolina Courage and Washington Spirit playing out probably the best game of all. All three major American channels all showing football, sweet football. An incredible moment: Soccer… America’s Sport of the Future no longer.
1. Pour one out for Everton
Their 2-0 defeat at Anfield was at least hard-fought. Atletico Madreverton. Liverpool fans who have taken busy time out of their day to tweet me that they are glad Everton will be relegated after that anti-football performance have clearly been blessed with not having to watch Everton much this season. We are not very good at the football-football. 32 passes in the first half, the lowest recorded since 2006, was partially because Frank Lampard executed negative tactics, but also partially because this team can barely pass the ball even when they try. Our owner, Farhad Moshiri, has spent a reported $715M on players in his tenure. If he had put the money in a garbage can and then set it on fire, that garbage can might arguably play more attractive football than this Everton squad.
Yes, what we are witnessing is a season of abject darkness. Leicester City’s Cinderella season played out in reverse. But it is the product of a thousand terrible decisions made over the past six years, cumulatively creating a rotten, broken club. Right now, I fear for all the people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on Everton. The stewards, service staff, and part-timers who depend on the institution. And the thousands of beneficiaries in need who benefit from the club’s foundation work. I think of them as I watch this thing I love slip ever deeper under the water line and am helpless to do anything to stop it. I am embracing Proust’s words that “We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”
2. Liverpool fans. Not just the glory, but all of the memes too
Who says you can’t have it all? Hunting a quadruple while your city rival (used to be arch-rival, but let’s be honest, this Derby has lost any sense of competitive suspense) falls apart before your eyes. Liverpool fans had the joy of goals, of victory, of Hendo winding up Richarlison, Luis Diaz doing circus tricks, and Alisson doing Lil Picky impersonations.
But by far the most remarkable aspect was watching Divock Origi come on the field. As he did so, I tweeted “i Cannot describe the terror as an Everton fan when Origi comes on. Like seeing an Ice Dragon flying towards you.” The trauma of it all. A gent who had played all of 71 minutes of Premier League football this season. But Klopp knew. He just knew he would do us. Origi is a Death Bringer.
Within minutes, Origi was part of a move that punctured Everton’s resistance. Everton suddenly looked shattered. Then, in the 85th minute, off one of Liverpool’s 13 corners, Hendo hit Luis Dias, who went Kung Fu Fighting, and Origi was fast as lightning to head it home. This striker who could be a starter on a mid-level team but has stuck around and chosen to savor being a Liverpool cult hero for the way he has tortured Everton. 6 goals in 9 Premier League games. Statue worthy for Bants-statue-carvers.
I texted my friend John Green, “This might be the last time Liverpool beat Everton in the league in our lifetime. He texted me back, “That fatalism is extreme even for you.”
3. Burnley Fans. Your Team’s Turnaround is a Miracle. And Remarkable to Witness
This goal by Vydra was a stunning moment in this relegation race. 7 points in 3 games. Momentum. Belief. An easier pathway. And true hope. Admirable if it did not feel like such an anvil falling from a great height onto my barely beating heart.
4. Negotiate like Jesus
God bless Gabriel Jesus. With Erling Haaland expected to arrive at City over the summer, romping over Watford’s deceased carcass and blasting four goals was the perfect “come and buy me, Arsenal” leverage. He was able to smile at the cameras and refuse to commit his future to Manchester City beyond this season. Goals are the ultimate contract negotiation.
5. Arsenal are like the USMNT as a club team
I spoke to my friend Michael Cohen (not that one) – the diehard Gooner I always check in with in times good and bad. His take on the back-to-back Chelsea and United victories was that Arsenal faced two teams who “Out-Crapped” them. It has certainly been some flip-flop of a last two months. The premature composition of a “Super Mikel Arteta” Champions League chant leading to freefall, with flickers of “Arteta Out.” Now though, Arsenal’s fate is in their hands once again. They have a fantastic first team when all are fit, but no squad depth. The progress Arteta has made is visible. So much dead wood has been exorcised (Mkhitaryan, Özil, Willian, DLuiz and Auba). Like the USMNT, what remains is built out of youth, so progress is never going to be a straight line. Yet, when it kicks in, as it did against Manchester United in the chaos is a ladder way, it is magnificent to witness. To emerge with victory, they will be all the better for it.
6. My Moment of the Week: Christian Eriksen’s embrace by Spurs fans
A sight that makes you love football: Tottenham traveling fans give a standing ovation to Christian Eriksen the first time he walks toward them to take a corner. Seven years at Tottenham. Never truly replaced, as the game itself showed. Spurs still cry out for midfield guile. But this moment is magnificent to witness.
7. Chelsea and Christian Pulisic. He takes so much crap when they lose, he should receive all the love in this victory
Chelsea have been reeling down the stretch, losing three straight at home. Against a West Ham second string, they held out for a hero like Bonnie Tyler. Enter the 90th minute and Cristiano Pulisic, who had subbed in, summoned a winner with a fine sweeping finish. His celebration was one of confident vindication. Tuchel tried to explain why Pulisic has seen such little action down the stretch: “lost his place at Chelsea because of USMNT duty in March. A lot of games and a lot of journeys in a lot of time zones.” Slightly Anti-CONCACAFFY. But a reflection of the fact that when you are perceived to be off a step at Chelsea, you can be buried on the bench. I do wonder how Pulisic has experienced all of this, in a World Cup year, where you want consistent minutes and the ability to play confident football. He is a player who has talked a lot recently about the mental side of his game. Would love to finish this season with a run in the side and an FA Cup Final start for the “LeBron James of Soccer.”
8. Barcelona’s Women’s Team are Winning on and off the field
Please watch this incredible video. A World Record 91,648 women’s football fans packed into sold out Camp Nou watching Barcelona play Champions League Football. Taste of what the future can look like for the Women’s Game.
9. Real Betis give me Life
Betis have long been my favorite club team in Spain. A club who have lived by a saying which I adore, “Viva el Betis manque pierda” (long live Betis even when they lose). An approach to fandom that transcends sport and has become almost a philosophical approach to life. On Saturday, they won, raising the Spanish Cup into the sky in Seville. Lifted by Joaquín, the 40 year old club icon who became the only player in Real Betis’s history to win the competition for a second time. This final, he had said, “was a reward for 20 years of love for the game.” I am thrilled for Manuel Pellegrini, the dignified ex-City and West Ham manager who rocked up in a full Kappa tracksuit look which I just want so badly, and Heccy Bellerin, who was a childhood Betis fan. Above all, I am delighted for the fans who have built a culture of passion, revelry, and silliness fused with a deep pride. In an all too dark world, this victory is a ray of sunlight.
10. Two Men in Blazers Champions League Notes
We have live coverage for both of this week’s Champions League semifinals. It starts Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET as soon as the final whistle blows on Manchester City vs. Real Madrid on Spotify Greenroom, along with GFOPs, to break down what has just happened. And then, Wednesday, the big one: Men in Blazers Live and Dangerous returns to Twitch at 2:45 p.m. ET… where we’ll serve as a second screen experience for Liverpool vs. Villarreal…with a slew of truly magical guests.
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