Sunday morning, 26th of July:
On five hours of sleep, I pull myself from my bedroom, cross the hall to the living room and land on the couch. It’s a journey of maybe 20 feet, but it feels like Stage 20 of the Tour de France. I am a zombie on NyQuil dragging bags of concrete behind me. Liverpool FC face Singapore in a friendly 7am: Eastern. Standard. Time. No sane person would get up after so little sleep merely to catch a match where nothing was at stake. But I am not a sane person. I am a football supporter.
As I said in a recent article: I am so football starved at this point in the summer, I’d watch Liverpool play eleven garden gnomes if it was on television… (or eleven crash test dummies… or eleven legless maniquins… or eleven Supreme Court Justices… you get the idea).
It can be hard to motivate myself for an early pre-season friendly (especially when my side haven’t exactly been winning them) but during the regular season the early kick-offs are plentiful and the early rise is as inevitable as death, taxes and bookings from Steve Bennett (I feel like I’ve been knocking him a lot lately: let’s go with Rob Styles). Devout stateside fans of European football are tuning into their favorite club while non-supporters enjoy a healthy weekend sleep-in. We’re not asking for sympathy: it’s the life we’ve chosen. (Or, rather, the one that’s chosen us…)
I’ve trekked to my favorite football pub in a blizzard to see Liverpool play Manchester United at 8 in the morning after closing the restaurant where I bartend the night before circa 1:30am. My beloved Reds lost that day. The same thing happened Easter Sunday (well, minus the blizzard) but I don’t regret it. In fact: I had no choice. The match was on Setanta which I don’t get at home. And it doesn’t have to be United. I’ll get up early for Wolves and Birmingham. Maybe even a cup replay with QPR or Notts County. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Fortunately, I only had to make it as far as my couch yesterday and Liverpool rewarded my devotion with five unanswered goals. Riera and Torres looked fresh and ready after a busy international schedule, scoring one each. Voronin hit one too. (Although his deflected effort made me cringe a little because now I’m afraid Rafa will keep him on and of course the Ukranian won’t score a League goal until April…) Youngster Krisztian Nemeth put two away, giving me hope for his first team future. And the ever-dogged Dirk Kuyt made more assists than a crossing guard outside an old-age home.
And the stadium was bursting with jubilant Singapore supporters.
It turns out, Singapore has its own LFC Supporters club. I can’t complain too much about my early football mornings when I think about them. If Singapore Reds want to catch Liverpool’s visit to Espanyol next week, they’ll need to tune it at 4am their time. Why even go to bed?
And this, my friends, is why I cannot move west. I’ve longed to move to the Bay area where it seemed every drop-dead gorgeous young woman I met had their arm around a geeky little guy… (I walked around the city mumbling: I could be that geeky little guy!) I’d love to live in Seattle, Washington surounded by more delicious varities of small-batch craft beer than a thirsty fool could ever drink… I’ve considered moving to Japan and teaching English and travelling around in a blur of sushi bars, temples and hot springs… but I’m already getting up at 7am to watch the earliest Premiership matches. I can’t talk myself into anything earlier, dammit!
If anything I yearn to move east. Those Amstel Light commercials (dah dah de dah! dah de dah! dah de dah de dah de!) could never make me want to drink watery beer, but they do make me want to relocate to the Netherlands for a year… or I could see myself thriving in Spain—I love a good siesta… or of course: who could forget… the football motherland: England! How great it would be to watch the matches on the doorstep of Greenwich Mean Time? Occasionally taking out a mortgage on some Liverpool tickets and seeing the match live!
Although, I must say: there’s something ever special about our stateside football breakfasts. That je ne sais quoi. When I gather with fellow supporters in our pub in Cambridge and everybody there is there for the same thing and people who pass by outside wonder what this noise is coming from a pub at 7 or 8 or 9am and the shades are drawn and the televisions are blaring… it feels like I’m part of an underground society. We’re in it. In the know. Pints and eggs. Songs and cheers. The heartache and the joy. Like it’s our secret. We can’t explain it to you if you don’t already get it.
Yes, I’ll wander east someday. Hopefully as a working writer. I’ll learn to love football at dinner time as much as at breakfast. I’ll stand in the Kop end and sing my favorite songs and learn some new ones to boot. But for those of us who can’t get to the stadium with ease: all we need is a television and a feed. Doesn’t matter where. Doesn’t matter when. It’s simple and silly to get so excited about such a thing. (Perhaps sillier to write 900 words about it.) But I’m a football supporter. I’m running on very little sleep today. It doesn’t take much to make my head spin.