Men in Blazers' Michael Davies in November 2023. Men in Blazers’ Michael Davies in November 2023. (Men in Blazers on YouTube.)

Since 2010, the Men in Blazers duo of Michael Davies and Roger Bennett has been a huge presence on the soccer scene in the U.S. and beyond. They’ve had that titular show as both a TV show and a podcast, and have had it on ESPN and NBC platforms as well as their own platforms. And they’ve grown it into the larger Men in Blazers media network featuring many other shows and personalities. But big change is ahead there, with Davies stepping back from weekly involvement.

Davies will remain as a consultant, and as an on-air presence from time to time. But he’s moving away from day-to-day and week-to-week involvement. He told AA this week that’s partly because of how Men In Blazers has grown to a point where his regular involvement’s no longer as key, and partly because of his increasing other commitments (he’s the executive producer of Jeopardy! and of Good Morning Football, he’s overseeing the latter show’s pending move to Los Angeles, he’s the president of the Sony-owned Embassy Row, and he has a large role in other Sony Pictures projects). He said with that combination of Men in Blazers’ growth into the full media network and the other demands on him, this was the right time to step back a bit.

“There are two things going on,” Davies said. “One, Men in Blazers is growing. And that’s thanks to Roger and [managing director] Scott [Debson] and [executive producer and head of production] J.W. [Jonathan Williamson]. The business has grown to such an extent, the numbers have grown to such an extent, the amount of work they all do has grown to such an extent.

“And as time’s gone on and my career continues to grow with Good Morning Football and Jeopardy! and everything else I do on the production side, everything else I do at Sony Pictures, my ability to truly stay on top of a growing business, one, becomes impossible for my schedule. And two, I think Men in Blazers has gotten to a point where it doesn’t really need me, its growth doesn’t rely on my presence.

“And so, it sort of felt like a good time to step back and give Roger and the whole team a chance to grow it. I’ll still be around. I’ll still consult with Men in Blazers, I’ll still pop in from time to time on a podcast or a show or anything they want me to do. But my day-to-day involvement and even my weekly involvement in the podcast will end.”

Davies told AA this move is emotional for him on several levels, but the chief emotion he feels is gratitude for the run he and Bennett have had with the weekly shows.

“I have a lot of emotions around it, of course. There are lots of things that are going on. But overall, it’s gratitude. Roger and I are so close. When you broadcast with someone from studios and sheds all over the world, literally, for so long, you become very, very close. And walking away from that is definitely very hard. But I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity, and that Roger and I ran into each other at a wedding in 2006.”

“And the gratitude is not only to Roger, but also the GFOPs, our viewers, our fans, who have just been so kind and so generous at every point of the show. I lost two parents during the course of the Men in Blazers era, and everybody you run into in airports or restaurants, places all around the world…it happened the other day in a restaurant in Los Angeles, I walked out of the restroom and there were three people waiting for me to come out, they wanted to say hi and felt it was better than doing it in front of everybody in the restaurant.

“People have been so lovely, and I’m just tremendously grateful for all of them. And it’s this relationship that we’ve established, we’re very open and honest with the audience. And I feel for [Roger] so much for everything that he’s going through with his own dad and his mom. And there are so many memories that are so special to me just in terms of the love of the fans, and I have great respect for how they’ve helped us through with all those things.”

Bennett told AA there’s a lot of emotion for him here as well.

“It’s a really emotional day professionally now that Davo’s going to step back from doing weekly podcasts. And yes, he’ll crop up in sporadic appearances, which I guess is whenever Cole Palmer leads Chelsea back to the promised land, or even when Chelsea do something mildly positive. But with all of his commitments to Jeopardy! and Good Morning Football, I think it’s a day that’s been long coming.

“But it’s still one I’ll raise a glass to, with gratitude and with so many memories, because he’s such a wonderful, singular bloke. He’s one of the last truly great English eccentrics. And I feel above all so much luck to have found him at an incredible moment. And early steps on the MIB journey, we began to cover football just as it began to surge [in the U.S.] in 2010. And also, to be honest, at the very second the podcast became more than just two people holding cans with a piece of string tied between them, which is what it felt like at the beginning.”

Here’s a statement Bennett put out on the MiB Twitter/X account:

Bennett told AA that combination of rising soccer interest in the U.S. and advances in digital technology paved the way for Men in Blazers to become what it has.

“Those are the two things that have driven the network, that surge in footballing wonder in America and digital technology, not just podcasts, but being able to deliver content by Instagram, by YouTube, by sea, by land, by air. That’s propelled the growth.”

Davies said it’s remarkable to think back on where they started from.

“For me, the biggest highlight is that when Roger and I started this podcast, we literally had seven listeners. We would get very accurate reporting from ESPN back in those days. And you could name all seven of them, because they basically told us who they were on Twitter. So to me, it’s the memory of just realizing as it began to take off.

“And it didn’t happen overnight. Whether it was the first live show we did at Joe’s Pub in New York City, or when we went to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and so many U.S. fans knew who we were, we started realizing how much we got across to viewers, and it was astounding.”

He said the show’s growth into the current media network has gone way beyond what he could have imagined.

“I think it’s absolutely extraordinary. I think Men In Blazers has become way beyond the scope of what I founded. It’s become a podcast and social media empire beyond compare in the world of football/soccer. And the inclusivity that lies at the heart of Men In Blazers, we talk about every league, the men’s game and the women’s game, and sort of include almost the non-league games. With Herc, we’re expanding towards the Mexican league and a more Hispanic-American view of the game. We have coverage from every angle.”

And Davies said Bennett deserves much of the credit for that.

“And the array of talent that Rog has added to the Blazers Cinematic Universe I think has been incredible. And it’s not something that I would have envisioned, I would have seen Blazers go into a lot more sports. But what Rog has done is just expanded all of these views into the game. And I think it’s been extraordinary.”

Bennett said the network’s grown well beyond just him as well, and some of that’s because of how soccer has grown in the U.S. and looks set to keep growing.

“It’s a remarkable time to be covering this sport in the United States of America, with the Copa America coming here, the Club World Cup coming here next year, the men’s World Cup coming in 2026, and please God, the Women’s World Cup in 2027, they’re about to announce that. So we’re living in this moment of just incredible growth. I feel often like Tony Hawk just skating towards the largest halfpipe of all time.

“So on one level, what this is has changed dramatically since we started; we started as a podcast, it became a television show, and we’ve become a full-throated media network with two billion impressions a year. We’re the biggest football platform in the United States that’s independently run.

“That’s ultimately what we’ve become, with multiple voices, multi-talented, multi shows, multi formats, covering every facet of football from men’s to women’s to club to international, domestic, global. That’s what Men In Blazers is now, a fully functioning media network that’s become so much bigger than either of the two of us.”

He said that change has been particularly notable in the past six years.

“I think 2018 really changed our reality. That’s when we began to grow from a podcast and a television show into a full-throated media network. …The amount of hours and content across our platforms, the number of voices, men’s and women’s, ultimately, it’s become something so much bigger than the two of us, which is joyful to acknowledge in this moment.”

Davies said another memory that stands out for him is the chemistry he and Bennett have always had, which he thinks has been key to the show.

“I think it’s two things: one is when it all started kicking off and we realized this was something real. And the second thing, this isn’t one moment, but moment after moment after moment after moment, whether it’s been in the panic room, or at Embassy Row, or in the little closet they put us in at the World Cup in Brazil, or the various closets and sheds we worked in when we did the Open Championship golf coverage for NBC, Roger and I have had that very elusive thing, which is chemistry with each other.

“And that chemistry in a co-hosting situation is very elusive in broadcasting. It doesn’t come along very often, it’s a very unique thing. And all of the chemistry with Rog, finishing each other’s lines, laughing at each other’s jokes, and marveling at his talent, those are the things I really think about.”

Bennett said part of what made their chemistry click was the joy they each had at finding a similarly-minded soccer fan at a time when that was less common in the U.S. than it is now.

“There’s a British writer, C.S. Lewis, a writer/theologian, and he said ‘Friendship is born at the moment when one,’ I think he says man, we’d probably say human being in the here and now, but ‘when one man says ‘What, you too? I thought that no one but myself…’ And back when I met Davo in 2006, we really were, there was like no one else. He was one of the first people in my life in America who talked about football, who cared about football, who knew about football. And I know that I was that for him.”

But he said the way that soccer conversation has changed, and the increasing numbers of people ready to have that conversation, is a big part of what’s let them build out this network.

“That has changed externally, and then some. To be a football fan back in 2006 was a lonely existence. [Now,] there is a Star Wars cantina of football fandom, complex, different audiences, men’s, women’s, Anglo, Hispanic, an enormous Hispanic audience, global, just of every kind.

“And to be able to cover all of that, it’s been the joy of my lifetime to be able to lean into that. To have Sam Mewis working with us, to have Herc Gomez working with us on the network, to have Brendan Hunt, to have Tyler Adams, the United States captain, to have Becky Sauerbrunn, the U.S. long-time women’s captain, Lynn Williams, World Cup winners, to have these human beings, Rory Smith…ultimately, it’s not one conversation, it’s conversations. And that’s been the focus since 2018, fostering that.”

Bennett said the regular show and podcast was key to what they’ve built, but it also was much less demanding to do back when they started.

“That was like the acorn from which everything has grown. But we started it at a time when to cover football, you had to watch one game a week, because that was all that was on television, and be able to talk about it. But it has become a wave. Watching football has just become a 24/7-level demand, which we’ve leaned into with all of our hearts and all of our passion for the game.”

And he credits Davies for always giving it his all, even with his many other projects.

“[He was] fostering that conversation, that’s ultimately what it became, a conversation with our audience. He’s a hard-charging gent, he is, he always has been, while he was in real life running television shows with dedication, with passion, with commitment that is James Milneresque, just an incredible heat map, charging back between L.A. and New York City and making the podcast happen.”

Davies said this is a moment of reflection for him, and one that comes with some sadness, but also some relief.

“This feels like a chapter in my life that’s sort of over. At the same time, there’s a little bit of relief. I launch Good Morning Football in Los Angeles starting this summer, Jeopardy is growing, Embassy Row, my company, continues to grow. So there’s some relief at the same time.”

But he said he’s definitely not exiting completely.

“I’m remaining a consultant with Men in Blazers, I will appear from time to time, I will be around. There’s nothing more than I want than for Rog and the team to be successful with all of this. And I know they wish me the same. It’s all done in sort of the best possible way.”

And Bennett said Davies’ continued involvement when he can make time will be not only valuable to keeping the network growing, but also just something the Men in Blazers team will be thrilled to have.

“He’s not going away, Davo. This is not an obituary. This is genuinely a gentleman whose life is so idiosyncratically wonderful, and we will just be getting less of him. This is not a goodbye, this is not an adieu, he’ll be coming on.”

[Image from Men in Blazers on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.