Maybe the only thing that drives more debate in the soccer world than the dreaded “p/r” words is Men in Blazers. Roger Bennett and Michael Davies have a passionate fanbase that has followed them through multiple networks and iterations. They also have a number of detractors who view their schtick as tired analysis and infantile.
As one of the few people squarely in the middle of the debate, I had the opportunity to review their new book, Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blaazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America’s ‘Sport of the Future’ Since 1972. Not surprisingly, like any good political hot button issue, the book will strongly appeal to one side but alienate the other.
The 224-page book is written as an old-fashioned encyclopedia, if that old-fashioned volume had a faux-tweed cover. The two hosts alternate writing entries in alphabetical order with most including their initials so you know from whose perspective the entry is written. The book contains expected soccer entries about events, players, and managers that from the perspective of the authors the audience should know more about. It also includes entries on sayings and clichés they use on their podcast and show, as a way of explaining to readers why they say what they say. If you have ever wondered what a GFOP is or why they have a George Michaels Sports Machine sign in their studio, this is the place to explain it.
My favorite part of the book was their few entries that took you behind the scenes of their television show recording. The book has numerous pictures of the subjects of the entries, and the sections detailing their recording have pictures of their set from the front and back. If you ever wondered why they record from the “crap part of Soho”, their tiny yet effective set-up may explain why.
While MiB are undoubtedly shills for their corporate overlords, and are unabashed about it, their consistency to their schtick is notable. This book reads like their podcast sounds and their show looks. The language, pacing, and style is exactly the same, full of their catch-phrases and self-deprecating humor. Regardless of how you feel about them, this book is honestly them.
That is why this book review may be the easiest I have ever written. Normally I angst over recommending things because different people have different tastes, so I spend much time thinking through how to best describe a book to make sure you, the reader, understands whether it would appeal to you. This book is much simpler – if you like Men in Blazers, you’ll love this book. If you don’t, you’ll hate it.
MiB start the introduction with three descriptions of their book. Two are “the final nail in the coffin of the long-floundering publishing industry” and “an ill-advised attempt to journey into the inky dark, unexplored depths of the Men in Blazers universe.” From the beginning, Davo and Rog lay out what the book is and how it will be received, so the potential reader will have no surprises on if they will enjoy it.
Author: Roger Bennett, Michael Davies
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Knopf (May 15, 2018)