Week Carabao Cup of Nations
Hello, my friends.
Welcome to wherever you are. Buckle up. This is a long one.
I hope this finds you well. It finds me on the other side of my life’s first colonoscopy, and boy are my arms tired.
But before we go, and while we’re on the subject (of everything going to shit), I offer this piece of journalism that I read three times and just can’t get over.
Rolling Stone interviewed the TikToker and former 90 Day Fiancé villain who made $200,000 selling her farts in jars and later ended up in the hospital with severe gas pain. Predictably, she’s pivoting to NFTs1.
While that word salad is a lot to take in, I hope it really makes you scream Network style. There are at least 5 paragraphs in the piece that I just had to read from beginning to end to beginning. It’s how I read French now, after minoring in it in college. IE, it seems to be things I kind of recall, but just can’t make sense of it … but this piece was in English.
What a fucked up version of the timeline we’re in. I just had to shart that. Share that. I had to share that.
Oldest unread tab from my browser this week
Clearly I don’t need this. Which is why I can’t even tell you in which month I clicked on the link that opened that story.
On a very similar note …
Newest article I just clicked on and hope by pointing it out here, I'll actually read it and it won’t be featured as an oldest unread tab from my browser in a future week
Maybe one of you will read this and comment on it and the peer pressure will make me actually read what looks to be a great article. Let’s fucking Buddy System the shit out of this shit.
I set out to do a dumb thing years ago and damnit I actually did it
Somewhere, years ago, someone wrote a piece I clicked on and actually read. It listed out the most worthless internet achievements. One, and only one, stuck with me:
Fill up a gmail inbox.
So I decided to do it. There’s just one problem:
My personal, vanity email address is backed up as a professional Gmail account. Which is to say it’s got 30 gigs of storage behind it, instead of the usual storage size you plebes have to deal with.
OK, there’s actually a second problem: it’s a dumb thing to do.
Well, last week, I finally got to 99.99 percent full and decided that I really ought to do something before that big break I have been waiting for bounces from my inbox. (Any day now.)
Deleting ~120,000 emails turned into actual work. In the middle of it, I decided to kill my drafts, too. In my drafts, there was a joke from September 2013 from The New Yorker, which I had pasted into an email and addressed to my friend, Kevin2. I have no idea why I didn’t hit send. I don’t even really remember the joke. I am kind of sure this was the only time I ever visited The New Yorker’s website. But in an effort to make up for my sin of omission, I will be pasting it here, for you. now.
A joke from 2013 from The New Yorker
So a guy walks into a bar one day and he can’t believe his eyes. There, in the corner, there’s this one-foot-tall man, in a little tuxedo, playing a tiny grand piano.
So the guy asks the bartender, “Where’d he come from?”
And the bartender’s, like, “There’s a genie in the men’s room who grants wishes.”
So the guy runs into the men’s room and, sure enough, there’s this genie. And the genie’s, like, “Your wish is my command.” So the guy’s, like, “O.K., I wish for world peace.” And there’s this big cloud of smoke—and then the room fills up with geese.
So the guy walks out of the men’s room and he’s, like, “Hey, bartender, I think your genie might be hard of hearing.”
And the bartender’s, like, “No kidding. You think I wished for a twelve-inch pianist?”
So the guy processes this. And he’s, like, “Does that mean you wished for a twelve-inch penis?”
And the bartender’s, like, “Yeah. Why, what did you wish for?”
And the guy’s, like, “World peace.”
So the bartender is understandably ashamed.
And the guy orders a beer, like everything is normal, but it’s obvious that something has changed between him and the bartender.
And the bartender’s, like, “I feel like I should explain myself further.”
And the guy’s, like, “You don’t have to.”
But the bartender continues, in a hushed tone. And he’s, like, “I have what’s known as penile dysmorphic disorder. Basically, what that means is I fixate on my size. It’s not that I’m small down there. I’m actually within the normal range. Whenever I see it, though, I feel inadequate.”
And the guy feels sorry for him. So he’s, like, “Where do you think that comes from?”
And the bartender’s, like, “I don’t know. My dad and I had a tense relationship. He used to cheat on my mom, and I knew it was going on, but I didn’t tell her. I think it’s wrapped up in that somehow.”
And the guy’s, like, “Have you ever seen anyone about this?”
And the bartender’s, like, “Oh, yeah, I started seeing a therapist four years ago. But she says we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
So, at around this point, the twelve-inch pianist finishes up his sonata. And he walks over to the bar and climbs onto one of the stools. And he’s, like, “Listen, I couldn’t help but overhear the end of your conversation. I never told anyone this before, but my dad and I didn’t speak the last ten years of his life.”
And the bartender’s, like, “Tell me more about that.” And he pours the pianist a tiny glass of whiskey.
And the twelve-inch pianist is, like, “He was a total monster. Beat us all. Told me once I was an accident.”
And the bartender’s, like, “That’s horrible.”
And the twelve-inch pianist shrugs. And he’s, like, “You know what? I’m over it. He always said I wouldn’t amount to anything, because of my height? Well, now look at me. I’m a professional musician!”
And the pianist starts to laugh, but it’s a forced kind of laughter, and you can see the pain behind it. And then he’s, like, “When he was in the hospital, he had one of the nurses call me. I was going to go see him. Bought a plane ticket and everything. But before I could make it back to Tampa . . .”
And then he starts to cry. And he’s, like, “I just wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye to my old man.”
And all of a sudden there’s this big cloud of smoke—and a beat-up Plymouth Voyager appears!
And the pianist is, like, “I said ‘old man,’ not ‘old van’!”
And everybody laughs. And the pianist is, like, “Your genie’s hard of hearing.”
And the bartender says, “No kidding. You think I wished for a twelve-inch pianist?”
And as soon as the words leave his lips he regrets them. Because the pianist is, like, “Oh, my God. You didn’t really want me.”
And the bartender’s, like, “No, it’s not like that.” You know, trying to backpedal.
And the pianist smiles ruefully and says, “Once an accident, always an accident.” And he drinks all of his whiskey.
And the bartender’s, like, “Brian, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
And the pianist smashes his whiskey glass against the wall and says, “Well, I didn’t mean that.”
And the bartender’s, like, “Whoa, calm down.”
And the pianist is, like, “Fuck you!” And he’s really drunk, because he’s only one foot tall and so his tolerance for alcohol is extremely low. And he’s, like, “Fuck you, asshole! Fuck you!”
And he starts throwing punches, but he’s too small to do any real damage, and eventually he just collapses in the bartender’s arms.
And suddenly he has this revelation. And he’s, like, “My God, I’m just like him. I’m just like him.” And he starts weeping.
And the bartender’s, like, “No, you’re not. You’re better than he was.”
And the pianist is, like, “That’s not true. I’m worthless!”
And the bartender grabs the pianist by the shoulders and says, “Damn it, Brian, listen to me! My life was hell before you entered it. Now I look forward to every day. You’re so talented and kind and you light up this whole bar. Hell, you light up my whole life. If I had a second wish, you know what it would be? It would be for you to realize how beautiful you are.”
And the bartender kisses the pianist on the lips.
So the guy, who’s been watching all this, is surprised, because he didn’t know the bartender was gay. It doesn’t bother him; it just catches him off guard, you know? So he goes to the bathroom, to give them a little privacy. And there’s the genie.
So the guy’s, like, “Hey, genie, you need to get your ears fixed.”
And the genie’s, like, “Who says they’re broken?” And he opens the door, revealing the happy couple, who are kissing and gaining strength from each other.
And the guy’s, like, “Well done.”
And then the genie says, “That bartender’s tiny penis is going to seem huge from the perspective of his one-foot-tall boyfriend.”
And the graphic nature of the comment kind of kills the moment.
And the genie’s, like, “I’m sorry. I should’ve left that part unsaid. I always do that. I take things too far.”
And the guy’s, like, “Don’t worry about it. Let’s just grab a beer. It’s on me.3”
This week I learned
English Football Pyramid Explainer
I’ve sat down to write this fucking thing a hundred times. I’ve been thinking my kid will be walking before I actually hit publish. Still might happen. They both keep growing expeditiously. So, buckle up with a second seatbelt. We’re going for a ride.
The Barclays Premier League
Just some stats for some comparisons across these divisions:
Average player salary - $3.1 million
Average attendance (pre-pandemic obvs) - 38,188
Let’s recap from a jillion months / life stages ago. If the Premier League season ended today, this is what the final standings would look like:
The fine folks at Manchester City would be your Premier League champions. A-fucking-gain. The top 4 would be City, Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham. Those 4 clubs would play in the 2022-2023 group stages for the UEFA Champions League.
For simplicity’s sake, Arsenal and Spurs head to the UEFA Europa competition.4
Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley would get relegated, which means they would get punted down to the 2022-2023 English Football League Championship.
EFL Sky Bet Championship
Average player salary - $2 million
Average attendance - 20,181
Current English Football League Championship standings look like so:
That means, Fulham wins the Championship, and they get a sweet, sweet trophy. They also get promoted to the 2022-2023 Premier League. Bournemouth finishes second. They get no trophy. They also get promoted to the 2022-2023 Premier League.
Teams three through six … well, hell, why not just copy wikipedia here to save time?
As of 2021, the play-offs comprise two semi-finals, where the team finishing third plays the team finishing sixth, and the team finishing fourth plays the team finishing fifth, each conducted as a two-legged tie. The winners of the semi-finals progress to the final which is contested at Wembley Stadium. The Championship play-off final is considered the most valuable single football match in the world as a result of the increase in revenue to the winning club from sponsorship and media agreements.
Whoever wins the final gets a trophy. (Sorry, second place team. No participation trophy for you.) They also get promoted to the 2022-2023 Barclays Premier League.
Teams 22, 23 and 24 get relegated to 2022-2023 SkyBet League One.
Sky Bet League One
Average player salary - $135,000
Average attendance - 8,741
League One’s current table looks like this:
Similar set up. Finish first? Get a trophy and a promotion. Finish second? Get a promotion. Finish third through sixth? Get a playoff where a win gets you a trophy and a promotion. Finish 21st through 24th? Get a relegation. Down to the 2022-2023 Sky Bet League Two.
Sky Bet League Two
Average player salary - $98,000
Average attendance - 4,467
Sky Bet League Two. Similar set up. Finish first? Get a trophy and a promotion. Finish second? Get a promotion. Finish third? Get a promotion. Finish fourth through seventh? Get a playoff where a win gets you a trophy and a promotion. Finish 23rd or 24th? Get a relegation. Down to the 2022-2023 Sky Bet League Two.
League Two relegates to and promotes from The National League. Just like its American counterpart, it also doesn’t use a designated hitter.
The Vanarama National League
Average player salary - A number I can’t seem to come by
Average attendance - 1,977
The National League is the lowest tier with a National footprint. The National League promotes from and relegates to the National League North and the National League South.
A quick visual to illustrate where we are:
So that might come off as total overkill, but it only covers the top 160 clubs in professional English football. That might seem like a lot. (And it probably is.) But, frame of reference, there are 152 teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS. Sooooo …
But, there are around 7,000 organized football clubs in England and Wales5. Seven thousand clubs comes to something like 175,000 footballers on rosters. It goes down to something like 24 tiers.
Further, a whole boatload of those clubs are eligible for the FA Cup (any club down to Level 10) and the Carabao Cup (open to any club down to League Two.)
And because of that, sometimes we’re treated to something like last year’s FC Cup, where Tottenham had to play at Marine AFC. Marine play in the 8th tier; the Northern Premier League Division One West. The North Premier League Division One West, as best I can tell, does not have a sponsor. Yet.
Marine play in a municipal park north of Liverpool.
Just look at this gushing:
Tottenham got dressed for this match in a local pub. The netting was put up especially for this match. On the telecast, you could see people in their windows. There was even a cardboard cutout of Jürgen Klopp in “attendance.”
And yes, Spurs won 5-0.
I’ve gone way too long on all of this. Just to get to this point:
It took me a while to really get this whole Football Pyramid thing. But thanks to this wacky system, the English football dream isn’t so much about the hometown boy making the big leagues … it’s about the hometown team making the big leagues.
And not getting that is exactly what DOOOOOOOOMED the Super League. By locking in the Top 6 from England, you’re cutting off 6,994 teams and all their supporters. And even though AFC Marine isn’t ever going to hoist the big silverware, damn it, by god, they want to believe.
Agent Rafa has completed his mission of getting Everton very nearly relegated. As such, he has taken an early vacation.
In the comments, I’ll post the answer to this (I genuinely don’t know) but I think he’s the 9th Premier League manager to get fired this season. Have I mentioned we’re just at the halfway point of this season?
I’m not sure, but I believe we’ve got to have at least 25 people who have managed at least one Premier League match this season. Let me know in the comments if you’re one of them.
Rumored replacements are guys named *checks notes* José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix, Graham Stephen Potter and Wayne Mark Rooney.
Phase 2 shall commence immediately.
Southampton has been taken over
Yes, they’re my second favorite club.
Derby County is a feel good story, of sorts
So, a fellow by the name of *checks notes* Wayne Mark Rooney is the manager of this club called Derby County. For now.
The Football League has fined them 21 points this season for what I’ll just call “financial shenanigans.” They’ve been prohibited from signing new players. Rooney has said he’s not leaving the club. For now.
And yet, Derby County are only 8 points away from fighting off relegation and staying up. It’s pretty insane. I haven’t parsed out what rooting for them really means. Like, is the League saying they can’t afford to be at this level? What will staying at this level mean for them if they do? I need to parse. Or you can help me.
A book I hope to finish
I am definitely biased as I too am a Liverpool supporter. But I think it’s a phenomenal book. And I highly recommend it to this entire group, knowing there are many other clubs represented in my readers. In fact, I almost wish it was about some other team.
BUT, the odd part is reading a history that takes place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Well, another odd part is one of the authors lives in Austin, and hangs out at a bar where I used to be a local. So he’ll say something about the bar’s owner, and I’ll say, “Oh, Steve would totally do that.”
Arsenal no more red campaign
Arsenal lost an FA Cup match to Nottingham Forest last week (or “Robin Hood,” as my wife called them.)
BUT. Arsenal wore all white uniforms in an attempt to combat knife violence. I gave them some stick … namely to a Forest supporting friend of mine, but that was mean. The Drum has a good write up about the knife violence efforts here. It seems like more than just the typical corporate PR crap so many of our corporate PR craps crap out.
I regret the joking.
The history of the handkerchief
My father has always carried a bandana in his pants pocket. When I started staring down the barrel of father hood last year, I bought quite a few and started carrying them. It started as a talisman, but holy hell they’re actually super functional.
The Rake did a short history of the handkerchief. Some interesting stuff there.
A Blanton’s Update
Well, a promise of a future update, maybe. But it looks like I might be driving to Sebula, Iowa to make a trade on Presidents’ Day weekend.
(Unless one of you is near Sebula, Iowa and wants a little adventure?)
Things might be getting to a good place around Castle Black. Our nanny started yesterday. She’s phenomenal. Longtime friend. Lives 5 blocks away. Has been a teacher, and her previous nanny family was aging out of her. A wonderful set up fell into our laps.
In fact, we know her because I met her husband watching Liverpool matches at the bar.
I think a lot about all the things the internet has given me. Like a career. And all the apartments I’ve found on it. Hell, I met my wife on it. I’ve connected to so many good and random friends on it. The internet is a horrible, cold place, but I also owe so much joy to it.
Becoming a football supporter is another one of those things that has given me so much. I won’t #blessed, but #trulyfortunate
Thrilling to think about having time / bandwidth / mental space again.
When I started this, it was obviously originally intended to keep me busy over my paternity leave. If it had turned out to be just that, I would have dropped it long ago. I’ve had a blast doing this. I feel like there’s some subset of people that get some value out of it. It’s just gotten hard to always fit it in in a timely fashion. I hope to start carving out time in my weekly schedule though to get the regular viewing previews out there. They do so much for getting my mindset grounded into what’s ahead in the football world.
As always, take care of yourself, and each other.
Sidenote: I just bought my first NFT. It’s the last play of last year’s World Series and I’ve gifted it to my cousin; the Earth’s biggest Astros fan. Update: I’ve rescinded the gift and re-listed it for a 50 percent profit.
Kevin is also most assuredly one of the inventors of the Industrial Shithouse joke.
The joke is by Simon Rich, and you can find it here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/11/18/guy-walks-into-a-bar
And by simplicity’s sake, I mean ignoring the outcomes of the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and this year’s Europa competitions. Please.
In fact, in researching this, I couldn’t even come up with a comprehensive list of all the tiers.
Things I actually left out: my new career as a sports gambler (hit me up for promo codes!!!!), Discovering the origin of the Mo Salah song, the low quality broadcasts of Africa Cup of Nations on beIN Sports, the hamfisted quality of the propaganda on beIN Sports and something else I am forgetting now because sleep deprivation is still a thing.